RIDOT to hold hearings on three bus hub options

THE R.I. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION will present three options for a Providence bus hub in a series of public hearings. Pictured is RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. in Kennedy Plaza, where the bus depot is currently located. / PBN PHOTO/ELIZABETH GRAHAM
THE R.I. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION will present three options for a Providence bus hub in a series of public hearings. Pictured is RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. in Kennedy Plaza, where the bus depot is currently located. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ELIZABETH GRAHAM

PROVIDENCE – Once billed as the definitive plan for overhauling Providence’s transit system, the R.I. Department of Transportation’s proposal to create multiple downtown bus hubs is now one of three options for people to consider.

Alternatively, the central bus hub could be moved to an indoor transit center on a series of empty parking lots on Dorrance Street across from the Garrahy Judicial Complex. Or it could remain within Kennedy Plaza, unchanged except for “some enhanced security,” according to Lisbeth Pettengill, a RIDOT spokesperson.

RIDOT and the R.I. Public Transit Authority will present the three options for feedback in a series of public hearings, the dates for which have not been determined, Pettengill said in an email.

The upcoming hearings come more than a year and a half after RIDOT unveiled its Providence Multi-Hub Bus System, which would divide the main bus depot at Kennedy Plaza into three hubs, keeping some of the routes at the plaza and adding destinations at the Providence train station and a new hub on Dyer Street. While RIDOT initially insisted the plan was a done deal despite backlash from riders, businesses and community groups, it later tapped the brakes to allow for more review and public input. 

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THE PROVIDENCE MULTI-HUB BUS SYSTEM which would divide the Kennedy Plaza bus depot into three central hubs, is one of three options that will be presented in upcoming public hearings. PBN GRAPHIC/ANNE EWING

Whether RIDOT still favors its original plan over the two alternatives is unclear. Pettengill said RIDOT and RIPTA will review public comments and “incorporate those comments that are deemed relevant and useful” before working with transit experts to choose a plan.

Ahead of the upcoming hearings, support for the Dorrance Street alternative appears to be gaining traction, including from local developers. The single-hub proposal calls for a five-story building that would also include ground-floor retail, an indoor parking garage and a top floor of workforce housing apartments, complementing the commercial and housing development planned for the adjacent I-195 Redevelopment District.

A BUS hub in Providence on Dorrance Street across from the Garrahy Judicial Complex is one of three options that will be presented for feedback in upcoming public hearings. / RENDERING COURTESY OF UNION STUDIO ARCHITECTURE AND COMMUNITY DESIGN

While Gov. Daniel J. McKee, who has stressed the importance of public input in the process, has questioned the $77 million price tag for the Dorrance Street plan, some local developers are already looking for ways to make the numbers work through a public-private partnership. Among them is Marsella Development Corp., which worked with the state to design a bus hub on part of the State House lawn that would connect to the Providence Train Station.

Although that plan never came to fruition, the experience and expertise in design and financing could be applied to the new proposal on Dorrance Street, said Christopher Marsella, president of Marsella Development Corp.

For us, it’s the right scale, the right location and appears to have support from all key stakeholders at this stage, including, most importantly, the bus riders,” he said.

Marsella stressed that his company’s interest was still preliminary, with details of how the public-private partnership would work undetermined.

The housing component is crucial to attracting private developers and financing, including, potentially, one already prominent in the capital city. Joseph Paolino Jr., managing partner of Paolino Properties LP, said he hoped to work with Marsella on developing the housing component of the project.

Paolino had initially thrown his weight behind RIDOT’s multi-hub proposal, but now is backing the Dorrance Street plan.

“If the alternative option is going to have a component of housing, of parking, of social service agencies to help people, that’s a proposal I can support,” he said.

Paolino added that he recognized the Dorrance Street option appeared to be the one with the most public support and “I don’t want to be anti the direction things are going.”

But Paolino maintained that keeping the bus hub in Kennedy Plaza “simply does not work.”

John Flaherty, deputy director for Grow Smart Rhode Island, also questioned RIDOT’s decision to offer Kennedy Plaza as an option, especially given its conflict with the city’s own Kennedy Plaza redesign plans which are already underway.

Still, Flaherty welcomed the news of upcoming public hearings.

It seems like they’re really serious about engaging the public and moving forward on this,” he said.

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  1. I agree with Mr. Filarski, seeing the three plans would be nice.

    I also agree with Joe Paolino, the Kennedy Plaza Hub has to go. It has been nothing but a disaster since it was put in place. It has turned the former financial district into an unsavory ghetto.

  2. The only intelligent option is to keep it where it is and up security. If you have multiple hubs, the nightmare for people that need a transfer will have to take some shuttle to whichever hub has their desired bus/destination. That shuttle system of buses does not exist, so let’s create it, pay for it because riders don’t contribute enough to even cover the costs of running RIPTA. And building a new one at the beginning of dorrance? Many people use the buses to attend games at the Dunk, go to Providence Place Mall, convention center….so is it really a good idea to dump them blocks away from where they really need or want to go?