The Transit Forward RI program is large and comprehensive and will be implemented over time. The plan must be flexible to react to funding opportunities and cost constraints. In the short-term, it would focus on improving and expanding existing services in a cost-effective manner using available funding. This will include, among other things, more frequent service for longer hours and facility improvements.
Simultaneously, planning will begin for more intensive high capacity projects the be implemented in the medium to long-term. It is anticipated that there will be an incremental build-up to many proposed plan elements, and the full implementation of the plan will take twenty years.
During the summer and fall of 2019, the public was asked to rank potential transit improvements. The top priorities were:
Short-term efforts will be directed at delivering these types of improvements.
The most desired improvements are for more frequent service for longer hours. This input is consistent with the desires of transit riders everywhere. Based on this input, the logical starting point for improvements will be the development of the frequent transit network as well as more frequent service for longer hours on other routes. These improvements will also be expensive in terms of operating cost increases, and as such, initial implementation efforts should focus on the routes that serve the greatest number of passengers.
RIDOT believes that it is close to completing an agreement with Amtrak for the use of MBTA commuter rail passes on select Amtrak trains. This agreement would provide access to more frequent rail service between Providence and Boston.
The plan recommends four new crosstown routes to make non Providence trips easier. The development of four new routes could be accomplished quickly and at relatively low cost.
Rhode Island transit riders desire faster service, particularly for Rhode Island – Boston rail service and in primary bus corridors. Proposed improvements that will provide faster service include the development of Rapid Bus, Regional Rapid Bus lines, express bus on shoulder service, and LRT and/or BRT. The MBTA is simultaneously planning for the future of commuter rail via its Rail Vision process which focuses on increased speed and frequency.
The development of Rapid Bus, Regional Rapid Bus and LRT or BRT lines also present the greatest opportunities to leverage federal New Starts/Small Starts funding. To be eligible for these funds, the development of these projects needs to follow a prescribed FTA project development process. This process will also provide the mechanism to determine whether the Central Falls-CCRI/Warwick line should be developed as LRT or BRT (or Rapid Bus) and similar decisions on other lines. Because federal funding will be essential to the development of this plan, the initiation of project development for the highest priority High Capacity Lines should begin in the short-term.
An additional early effort to make service faster will be the development of the highway improvements needed to implement express bus on shoulder service. It is possible that RIDOT could incorporate those improvements into upcoming highway projects.
Development of Providence-Boston commuter rail improvements will be led by the MBTA with RIDOT as a participating stakeholder. The MBTA has direction from the Fiscal Management Control Board (FMCB) on broad goals for improving commuter rail service, including a Phase 1 effort involving the Providence Line. As MassDOT and the MBTA work to advance a funded implementation plan, RIDOT vremains poised to assist and facilitate necessary changes in Rhode Island to accommodate for the potential new operations. All future improvements along the entire Northeast Corridor are coordinated by the Northeast Corridor Commission and its 15-year Northeast Corridor Service Development Plan process currently underway, and its ongoing 5-Year capital planning process. RIDOT, MassDOT and MBTA, along with Amtrak, are active members and participants in these Commission planning efforts.