Governor Dan McKee announced that the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) will be launching a Request for Proposals on January 17, 2023, for the joint development of a new, modern Transit Center on Dorrance Street in Downtown Providence. RIPTA is seeking the expertise of private developers across the country for bold, innovative ideas to guide the design, construction and operations of the new facility.
Qualified and experience entities from the private sector were asked to submit proposals to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Transit Center through a progressive joint development project delivery model. Responses were due April 17, 2023 and a winning bid will be selected in the spring. From there, a robust period of public dialogue and input with the selected partner will begin the process of creating designs for the new center.
PublicMeetings and Presentations
RIPTA and RIDOT held virtual and in-person meetings for the public to submit their input on the development of this new transit facility.
Videorecording of 02/24/22 Public Meeting on Proposed Transit Center
RIPTA Dorrance Street REOI Industry Event Recording
RIPTA is a growing agency that is focused on improving bus service, including adding frequency to routes and expanding our hours of operations. When combined with the fact that RIPTA has outgrown Kennedy Plaza, we cannot provide any additional service during weekday peak hours because of the challenges of the current space. Our passengers deserve improved service, more amenities, bus connections that do not require walking through a park at night, a spacious indoor waiting area – things RIPTA cannot offer in Kennedy Plaza.
Additionally, RIPTA does not own property in Kennedy Plaza; we are a tenant. Having control of our own property in downtown Providence is something the Authority has never had. Having that would give RIPTA the ability to build better infrastructure for transit passengers. This is a real opportunity to move our system forward.
A transit center in the middle of a public park and skating center is an odd dynamic that has created tension between the varying uses. A public park encourages people to hang out in green space. As a transit agency, RIPTA is interested in getting people in and out of the city to their destinations. RIPTA does not want to create a space that stigmatizes people. We understand that there is a highly vulnerable population that relies on transit to get around; we do not want to negatively affect them. RIPTA is committed to protecting this population as we transition to a new transit center. This includes clear communication and outreach efforts, as well as coordinating with social service providers throughout this project.
No. The dollar amount does not matter – Kennedy Plaza is ultimately a public park with limited opportunities to improve transit within the plaza. This severely limits RIPTA’s ability to expand transit in Kennedy Plaza; there is a limited amount of available transit space. Additionally, RIPTA does not own property in Kennedy Plaza; we are a tenant. RIPTA does not own or have a right to that space beyond the terms of the lease.
No. In 2014, voters approved a $35M bond to improve transit infrastructure. RIPTA’s primary motivation for proposing a new transit center location is to improve the transit network and to prepare for growth. RIPTA has always discussed some level of moving out of Kennedy Plaza and building a better transit center for our passengers.
Climate controlled indoor waiting area – Yes
Covered outdoor waiting area – Yes
Cell phone/ laptop charging stations – Yes
Accessible restrooms – Yes
Improved wayfinding – Yes
Seating – Yes
Real-time bus information – Yes
Fare vending machine – Yes
Secure parking/storage for bicycles – Yes
Bicycle repair station – Yes
Heat lamps for outdoor waiting areas – Yes
Public access to WiFi – Yes
Electric charging stations for bicycles – Yes
Kid’s play facilities – to be considered as part of project development
Lactation room – to be considered as part of project development
RIPTA will explore how feasible it would be to include social service resources.
No. RIPTA is committed to keeping important passenger amenities from being value-engineered out of this project.
DORRANCE ST. TRANSIT CENTER
Yes. RIPTA will own a portion of the transit center so that we have control over our own property and will be able to ensure a high level and continuity of service to our passengers.
The project will be delivered using a progressive contracting structure. During the first phase, the selected Project Company will work with RIPTA and the public to scale, design and price the Project to ensure that it reflects community values, while still being affordable. It is only after the designs have been advanced to approximately 60% that we will know the price, but pricing will be determined on an open-book basis to ensure transparency.
In 2014, voters approved a $35M mass transit hub infrastructure bond that would allow the State of Rhode Island to fund enhancements and renovations to mass transit hub infrastructure throughout the state. RIPTA will need additional monies besides this to complete the transit center.
RIPTA can utilize these funds as a state match to apply for other federal grant opportunities.
In addition, a public-private partnership will enable RIPTA to tap into expanded private capital opportunities.
RIPTA will work on designing a building – and the environment around it – that prioritizes safety as the project moves forward. This includes adequate lighting, strategically placed emergency callboxes, an emergency evacuation plan and an emphasis on pedestrian safety. We want to create a transit center that does not require riders to cross many streets. Passengers will be able to transfer in an environment that is as safe and controlled as possible.
RIPTA does not have jurisdiction over the road network, but RIPTA will coordinate with the City of Providence and RIDOT to work towards this.
Kennedy Plaza is a sprawling space – there is the plaza proper that RIPTA operates which includes bus shelters, the area next to Burnside Park and the bus stops on Exchange Terrace. There is no way to consolidate all of those things into that one area – there is a public park and skating rink there. You cannot make that footprint smaller. However, RIPTA can fit more into a smaller footprint because we do not have to work around unmovable existing assets; more can fit into a smaller space by design. RIPTA is working with RIDOT and its planning team to ensure that we can fit into what we are proposing here. We are confident there is enough space at this proposed site to accommodate future transit growth.
Yes. RIPTA is committed to clear, accessible signage.
The building will be open during transit service hours, and will have customer service representatives available.
RIPTA recently conducted a rider survey that looked at the beginning and ending of passengers’ destinations. RIPTA will analyze that data as we go through this process. The goal is to minimize the walk distances for people if they are going somewhere other than Kennedy Plaza.
TRAIN AND INTERSTATE CONNECTIONS
Yes. The DTC, and other select routes, will run directly from this new transit center to the train station. It will be coordinated in a way that makes sense for passengers.
RIPTA will work with RIDOT traffic engineers to make sure this project does not create gridlock in downtown Providence.
We do not anticipate there being sufficient space to accommodate interstate coach buses at this facility, but it will be explored during the design process. Passengers can ride Routes 27, 28 or 92 to the RI Convention Center to make this connection.
Yes. RIPTA put a lot of effort into looking at building a transit center at Providence Station. Unfortunately, the development and usability for that space is extremely limited.
PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS (P3)
A Public-Private Partnership is a way to deliver a project that allows a public agency (RIPTA) to coordinate directly with a private developer to both construct the facility and provide for the long-term operations and maintenance of the facility. This arrangement allows RIPTA to focus on what it does best – providing transit service – while ensuring that the building is maintained at a high level.
Yes, Kennedy Plaza is mixed-use space. The primary difference is that there is a historic public park in the middle of Kennedy Plaza. Bus stops are not convenient to get to – passengers have to cross Exchange Terrace or Washington Street or walk through the park. In the new transit center, restaurants and retail will be designed around transit services. Transit comes first. Everything else would be co-located.
RIPTA is aware that there are risks that need to be considered and mitigated through the design of this project. RIPTA will bring in the right expertise to create a beneficial arrangement, which includes commitments for accessibility, workforce, daily maintenance, retail management and more.
A P3 would provide RIPTA with access to private capital, as well as the private-sector partner’s skills and assets, that can help bring additional resources and revenue so that RIPTA can build the transit center that its passengers deserve.
RIPTA is committed to including housing that will be affordable. As the project develops, RIPTA will continue working with partner agencies and groups that specialize in housing to ensure the housing element is consistent with best practices in that area.
The TMP calls for increased frequency and span of service, new modes of transportation, and better connectivity. This facility will be designed will all of those goals in mind.
Yes. A recurrent theme RIPTA heard during outreach for its Transit Master Plan was that passengers do not want to transfer downtown when it does not make sense to. RIPTA is looking into implementing cross-town routes.
Yes. RIPTA is committed to making this a seamless transition for all passengers – especially vulnerable riders. RIPTA has consulted with our Accessible Transportation Advisory Committee (ATAC) on this project to date and will continue to engage them and consult as many groups as possible to make this transition a smooth one.
RIPTA will plan for extensive outreach once the transit center is open. This includes helping passengers find their bus stop location and access amenities.
RIPTA has set an aggressive, but attainable goal of delivering a reliable Transit Center by 2026 or 2027 (Transit Master Plan, “Transit Forward RI 2040”). In January 2023, RIPTA invited industry leaders to respond to an RFP for the project. Responses are due April 17, 2023 and a winning bid will be selected in the spring. From there, a robust period of public dialogue and input with the selected partner will begin the process of creating designs for the new center.
This will be updated as RIPTA has more information available.
Yes. The many comments and suggestions provided to date by the public, including improving the rider experience with climate-controlled indoor and covered/heated outdoor waiting areas, seating, improved wayfinding, information and ticketing systems, bicycle storage and repair stations, have all been incorporated into the RFP. Once a bidder is selected, we will launch a robust period of public dialogue and input with the selected partner to inform the creation of preliminary designs for the new center.
Dorrance Street Transit Center Conceptual Route Redesign
See the proposed bus routing to and from the proposed transit center.