This evening I spoke at a public meeting for the The Rhode Island Long-Range Transportation Plan and Bicycle Mobility Plan. My comments to the committee are copied here. The plan documents are available at planri.com.
I’m a Providence resident. In non-pandemic times I commute to Boston, via RIPTA or bicycle, to the Commuter Rail. I live in a low-car household and I’m always looking for ways to get around without having to drive.
As a bus rider, I strongly endorse the transit plan’s proposal for increased service levels for core RIPTA routes. I feel that the 10-minute headways proposed for many routes are critical to a good commuter expreience.
As a bike commuter and recreational cyclist, I also appreciate the bicycle plan’s goal of connecting disparate bike paths throughout the state to stitch together a comprehensive network. I’m no stranger to riding on unprotected roads, but it’s not always a pleasant experience, and there’s a clear need for a safer and more welcoming environment for riders.
I think the state’s goal should be for every Rhode Islander to be able to walk out of their home and quickly find a local bus stop or protected bike lane that they use, not just to commute to their workplace, but for shopping and recreational destinations as well. I think these plans share that goal, and that’s admirable.
I would like to see more recommendations for zoning changes and adoption of transit oriented development, particularly along corridors where light rail or BRT are proposed, such as Reservoir Ave in Cranston and North Main Street in Providence. I think adding density is a key factor in the success of these services. I think TOD helps make the argument that better transit can be part of a strong economic policy despite the investment overhead.
I’d also like to see the state engage in more outreach to help improve public perception of the benefits of good transit and cycling infrastructure. There’s a lot of bad faith arguments out there against bikes and buses. I feel that the success of this plan hinges, in part, on countering bad arguments by presenting the facts clearly and concisely. Additionally, many Rhode Islanders can barely concieve of traveling anywhere in this state without driving. I know haters are always gonna hate, but hopefully we can find a way to minimize excuses for ignorance and apathy.
I share the concern of other commenters that we have an uphill battle in terms of finding clear sources of funding. I think if the state wants to prove that it takes these plans seriously, we need to put our money where our mouth is.
Thank you to everyone involved in these plans for the work they’ve put into them. As someone who grew up in Rhode Island, moved away, and came back, these plans were part of what attracted an urbanist like me away from bigger cities and back to my home. I look forward to seeing them implemented!