Cost and benefits

RIPTA currently carries approximately 52,600 passengers per day, and 4,700 commuter rail passengers ride to, from, and within Rhode Island. This ridership would increase to 83,600 to 84,900, depending upon whether BRT or LRT is selected for Central Falls-Pawtucket-Providence/CCRI/Warwick service, and 8,300 on commuter rail. Total ridership would increase up to 63% from 57,300 passengers per day to 91,900 to 93,200.

Longer Hours of Service

At present, only 22 RIPTA routes operate past 10 PM and only five operate past midnight. Transit Forward RI will increase these numbers to 32 and 19, respectively.

Frequency of Service

At present, RIPTA services operate – on average – every 29 minutes, and commuter rail between Providence and Boston operates at an average of every 60 minutes. Transit Forward RI will reduce RIPTA service frequencies to an average of every 19 minutes. On the Providence line, the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board (FMCB) resolved in December 2019 that service in its densest corridors should operate every 15 to 20 minutes. Accounting for less frequent early morning and late night service, this would reduce average commuter rail frequencies to an average of less than 25 minutes.

Travel Times

average trip times will be reduced by five minutes. On longer trips and where premium services are developed, savings will be higher. Transit Forward RI set a goal of reducing commuter rail travel times between Providence and Boston to less than 60 minutes. The FMCB’s December 2019 resolution includes a number of actions to reduce travel times.

Today, service is provided within 1/2 mile of 69% of Rhode Island’s residents and 86% of its jobs, but most is infrequent and operate for hours that are short. Thus while service is technically available, it does not provide an attractive option for most people. Transit Forward RI will provide a much higher quality of service.

Total Residents Served by Frequent Transit

Today, only 8% of Rhode Island’s residents have access to service that operates at least every 15 minutes. Planned improvements will increase the number of residents served by over fivefold to 49%

Low-Income Residents Served by Frequent Transit

Improvements for low income residents will be even greater. At present, fewer than 20% of Rhode Island’s low-income residents have access to frequent transit. This will increase to over 70%.

Minority Residents Served by Frequent Transit

Increases to minority residents will be higher still. At present, 22% of Rhode Island’s minority residents have access to frequent transit. This will increase to over 86%.

Younger Residents Served by Frequent Transit

Rhode Island, like all states, needs to retain and attract younger residents to ensure future success, and younger people want to live in places with excellent transit. At present, only 11% of residents aged 20 to 39 are served by frequent transit. This will increase to 56%.

Older Adults Served by All Transit

Transit forward RI will help older residents live independently. The percentage of elderly residents who are currently served by all forms of transit (within 1/4-mile) will increase from 60% within 1/4-mile of transit to 66%.

Today only 20% of jobs are within 1/2-mile of frequent transit. This will increase to nearly 60%. A combination of frequent transit to 49% of Rhode Island’s residents – and even higher percentages to disadvantaged residents – and 59% of jobs will greatly increase job opportunities.

Total Residents and Jobs Served by Transit

As described above, nearly half of residents will have access to frequent transit. An additional 20% will be served by other forms of transit. The total percentage of residents served by some type of transit will increase from 69% to 78%. The total number of jobs within 1/2-mile of some type of transit will increase from 86% to 90%

Transit Forward RI represents a major investment in Rhode Island’s transit services, its people, and its economy. As such, associated costs will be much higher than what the state spends today.

Operating Costs

Total operating costs, in $2020, would range from $230 to $237 million, with the difference depending upon whether or not Central Falls-Providence-CCRI/Warwick service is developed as LRT or BRT (with the higher cost for LRT). This would be an approximate doubling of current operating costs of $112.9 million for both RIPTA and RIDOT.

Note also that these costs do not include any increases for faster and more frequent commuter rail service between Boston and Providence, as that process is being led by Massachusetts. The costs do, however, include the cost of additional commuter rail service between Providence and TF Green Airport.

Capital Costs

Total capital costs, also in $2020, would be $1.9 to $3.1 billion over the next 20 years, with the differences again on choices made between LRT and BRT. Average expenditures would be $94 to $154 million per year. This would be a significant increase over RIPTA and RIDOT’s current expenditures that average approximately $32 million per year. However, a large proportion of these cost could likely be funded through federal sources.

As with operating costs, the difference will be driven by choices between light rail and BRT. Also as with operating costs, the capital costs do not include costs to upgrade Providence Line service between Boston and Providence.

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