Transit users criticize proposal to spread bus routes among three Providence hubs

THIRD TRY THE CHARM? The state would create three hubs for buses in Providence, moving many out of Kennedy Plaza. Two previous proposals were eventually dropped by the state./ COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

PROVIDENCE Transit advocates, including people who regularly ride the R.I. Public Transit Authority buses, say the state is making a mistake in dividing bus routes among three distinct hubs as part of a new transportation proposal.

The R.I. Department of Transportation project — called the Providence Multi-Hub Bus System — would move most routes out of Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence, and divide them among new hubs being created on Dyer Street near the Garrahy Courthouse and at Providence Station.

In moving those routes, the plan will make it less convenient for many bus riders, said Patricia Raub, the coordinator for Rhode Island Transit Riders, a group that includes bus and train passengers.

Based on the routes released as part of the transportation plan on Thursday, 47% of the bus routes that now stop or start in Kennedy Plaza would be moved to the Dyer Street location, which would require passengers to get on another bus to go to the center of downtown or the train station, Raub said.

- Advertisement -

“That’s … an extra ride for people who have children with them, who are elderly. For anyone who goes from a two-ride transfer to a three-ride transfer [this] is inconvenient,” she said.

The bigger issue, both she and John Flaherty, deputy director of Grow Smart RI said, is that transit passengers were not asked for their input on the plan before it was released.

She said she first learned of the new proposal last week.

“The fact that we weren’t invited to these meetings early on means it’s going to have some problems that probably could have been anticipated,” she said, including which buses go where and what routes connect at which hubs. The Dyer Street location for a hub, she said, is probably a mistake if it’s going to have the majority of routes, because it’s too remote.
“I think bus riders would have flagged [that],” she said.


Flaherty, who rides transit daily, said statewide transit planning and execution should be handled by RIPTA – not RIDOT.

“This is the third time RIDOT has failed to engage with people who actually use transit in the development of the plan,” he said.

In its original incarnation, the transit hub was intended to move most of the buses from Kennedy Plaza to a new central transportation center near Providence Station, where the Amtrak and MBTA lines stop in the city.

That plan, which was to include a public private partnership and significant private development, never got off the ground. RIDOT came back with a plan for multiple hubs and a “tunnel” that would move buses away from Kennedy Plaza, but that plan was dropped as well.

The new proposal would leave 28% of the passenger routes at Kennedy Plaza, but put 47% in the new Dyer site and another 25% at Providence Station.

State officials say the design will allow greater use of Kennedy Plaza, while providing a cohesive transportation network using the downtown connector, a system of frequent buses moving between employment centers downtown.

State officials say it will also provide integrated transit to the Interstate 195 Redevelopment District, now growing with new companies and residential buildings.

The hubs will primarily be financed through the $35 million voters in Rhode Island approved for transit improvements in a 2014 bond referendum.

Based on the design, Flaherty said property owners who want to see the buses removed from Kennedy Plaza seem to have had more influence than necessary. The hub system would move most routes to a site on Dyer Street that will not have a large enough facility to work as a true hub, he said.

“There is more than transit that is motivating this,” Flaherty said. “There are a lot of people who feel we can do better when it comes to Kennedy Plaza, myself included. I don’t think the status quo is great. But there is a very small subset of people, powerful people, who simply want to get the buses out, period.”

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at

No posts to display