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The 72: An Illustration of What's Wrong with RIPTA

Central Falls is RI's densest location. On top of that, Central Falls is part of an archipelago of contiguous, dense places like Pawtucket and Providence. But there's no good transit to Central Falls from Providence, which mystifies me as someone who works there and does not drive. 

To the right is the route 72 map, which is a wonder of the world in terms of its ability to connect two transit-oriented places in a way that spells failure. This map is actually incomplete, because the route starts in Pawtucket center, goes north on Dexter Street, turns, comes back down Lonsdale, and continues looping through the southwestern part of Pawtucket and into the North End of Providence before (eventually) coming to Kennedy Plaza. Some of the territory it traverses is indeed reasonably dense, and deserves transit, but other parts of the route (particularly once it gets to Providence) go past pedestrian-unfriendly areas with lots of parking and low density housing.

Our transit routes should be as linear as possible. This route tries to serve everything, and serves nothing. For instance, Dexter Street should probably have 2 minute frequency back and forth to Pawtucket center during peak hours, and no more than five or ten minute frequency even at the oddest hours of a Sunday night, not only because there are lots of people who need a bus, but because these are short, linear, dense places that can be connected efficiently in order to eviscerate people's need for a car for those trips. Instead the schedule for the 72 looks like this:

For those of you who drive, but consider yourself supporters of transit, remember that while a half-hour wait doesn't seem like a big deal, in reality it is, because it means that this route can only be used with a schedule. It also means that if one misses the bus by one minute, it's twenty-nine minutes until the next bus. That's a huge amount of time to impose on riders, who are already going to take a very loopy ride through town. There is no other option in Central Falls except to walk to Pawtucket and take the R-Line or 1 bus. This is in fact usually what I do on days like today when the weather/RIhole* driver combination makes biking impossible. 

And remember, this is the densest place in Rhode Island next to the two other densest places in Rhode Island, within a few miles of one another. There is no fucking reason for this kind of ineptitude, except underfunding/mismanagement of existing funds.

I created this image a while ago and never wrote an article about it. This is the area of Providence that is the Bermuda Triangle of not being a driver. I had to traverse to the North End to go to a mayoral outreach meeting once, which brought me a mile from my house as the bird flies, but required me walking some very unpleasant, awful routes. The 72 goes past this area, around the Walmart/Home Depot, and so this is my proposal for making transit work better here. We need bike share stations here, particularly to connect with the R-Line, we need some safety improvements to these streets, and we need to increase frequency on the R-Line rather than having a roundabout crappy transit route to offer lifeline service to this area. The bridge coming off of N. Main is already free of highway entrances/exits, which makes it one of the best places to cross in the city. Adding some beautification, protected bike lanes (the bridge is really wide and underused by cars), etc., would help with this. This area, back near the Post Office, etc., is not dense enough to require additional transit in and of itself, but could get much higher transit use from existing lines if we combined bike-share to it. In a lot of cases, this is what we need to do all over Rhode Island. Good bikeways serve as safer places for at-risk people to connect to buses, and higher frequency, centralized buses make for better service. We're using the wrong tools for the wrong things, only serving a few people, and not giving any of the people we serve a sense of dignity.

It's a remarkably saddening thing to behold the smallest, second-densest state doing things this poorly, especially when 50% of the already small state lives within a few miles of Kennedy Plaza. Central Falls deserves better than this, and so do people who live in Providence but might need to get to Central Falls.


RI-hole (trademark-pending) is my reuse of the term Masshole for Rhode Islanders. Enjoy.

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