Officials from the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), Grow Smart Rhode Island, and Mayor Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma, Washington will join RIPTA Board Chair Mayor Scott Avedisian to announce RIPTA’s major initiatives for the coming year, including capital projects, service improvements and enhanced customer information. Like Mayor Avedisian, Mayor Strickland is chair of her local transit agency and a notable leader in promoting transit and economic development. Tacoma has one of the three operating modern streetcar systems in the United States; under Avedisian’s leadership, Providence is vying for federal funding to be one of the next.
The ceremony will take place in Burnside Park, located in Downtown Providence adjacent to Kennedy Plaza on Monday, June 10, 2013 at 11:00am. Mayor Scott Avedisian will highlight major projects underway as mentioned in RIPTA’s Strategic Plan, first released in 2011. The Plan outlines RIPTA’s vision for a statewide transit network that will be more attractive to riders, and will help Rhode Island achieve desired economic growth and environmental objectives in a rapidly transforming economy. Two years since the Plan’s release, with new leadership in place, RIPTA is making progress in its efforts to maintain a strong bus system and improve its services in a fiscally responsible manner.
“On behalf of RIPTA’s board and staff, I am very pleased to announce these initiatives, which are the result of thoughtful, careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses in existing programs,” said Mayor Scott Avedisian, chairman of RIPTA’s Board of Directors. “These projects will further our goal of providing more convenient, cost-effective and reliable service to our riders while taking steps to reduce impacts on the environment. I think our customers will be pleased with the improvements RIPTA’s new CEO, Raymond Studley, will see through.”
Highlighted projects include:
Bus Stop Realignment Project
The Bus Stop Realignment Project launches this summer and will consolidate bus stops statewide. RIPTA will be removing and moving bus stops to meet newly adopted guidelines. Fewer stops equal faster buses that can operate on a more reliable schedule. The Bus Stop Realignment Project will reduce energy consumption and emissions, while reducing operating and maintenance costs.
Roof Replacement/Solar Panel Project
This summer, RIPTA will complete the Roof Replacement/Solar Panel project at the Transportation Building located at 269 Melrose Street, Providence. Funds for the project are a combination of Federal ARRA funds, a competitive Federal grant for green investments, funds from the Attorney General’s settlement of an environmental lawsuit, and RIPTA revolving loan funds. The Authority expects to save $30,000 annually as a user of solar energy.
First Phase of Implementation of Major Service Changes
RIPTA is about to complete its statewide review of transit services. The study has undertaken a detailed review process to identify where people live and work, how each bus route is performing today, and where changes might possibly be made to better serve riders. Proposed changes are designed to work within RIPTA’s existing budget, and the intent is to direct transit resources where they would be most effective. These changes include proposed new routes and express services, scheduling improvements to better coordinate routes operating in the same corridor, modified route alignments, frequency changes to better match service with demand, and the discontinuation of certain routes and route segments. Beginning September 2013, RIPTA will start implementing proposed changes in service statewide.
New Bus Schedules
As service changes are implemented, RIPTA will debut a new bus schedule design with each route. The new bus schedules will be easier to understand and will include major stops along the route, and easy-to-read timetables. All route maps will be made geographically correct and to scale. RIPTA will clearly mark express trips and Park n’ Ride service schedules in order to make them more user-friendly.
Launch of the R-Line – RIPTA’s Rapid Bus Program
RIPTA’s Rapid Bus program will provide a premium-level service to both improve RIPTA’s operational efficiency and the passenger experience. The R-Line will provide bus service on RIPTA’s highest ridership corridor, which carries approximately 10,000 passengers per weekday over the course of 7 miles of routing. This route will run from the southern terminus on Broad Street at the Providence/Cranston city line, along Broad Street to downtown Providence. Once downtown, the R-Line will stop at both Kennedy Plaza (RIPTA’s primary bus hub) and Providence Station (direct connections to Amtrak and MBTA service). The R-Line will continue north along North Main Street into Pawtucket. Once in Pawtucket, the R-Line will continue along Main Street to its northern terminus in downtown Pawtucket. The R-Line also includes RIPTA’s first implementation of Transit Signal Prioritization. The R-Line will incorporate both way finding and local artwork as part of its development, and is designed to complement the neighborhoods it serves. The R-line will feature 25 new shelters 7 Ticket Vending Machines and 20 wayfinding totems. Also, additional benches, enhanced signage and bike racks will be installed as part of the project.
• R-Line Bus Shelters RIPTA will install 25 shelters on the R-Line to provide additional amenities for their passengers. The shelters will be larger in size to accommodate more passengers while also utilizing solar technology to light the shelters.
• Ticket Vending Machines (TVM) As part of the Rapid Bus Program, RIPTA will install 7 TVMs along the R-Line. This customer-friendly initiative will improve efficiency by reducing dwell time at bus stops. Purchasing RIPTA bus passes will be more convenient than ever with optional debit and credit card payment methods. By encouraging cash passengers to purchase preloaded fare media, boarding times will decrease significantly. Utilized in conjunction with other changes on the R-Line, RIPTA will see a reduction of up to three fewer buses needed to provide the same amount of service. RIPTA will closely monitor how often TVMs are utilized. If they are extremely successful, they will eventually be placed in other high-traffic, high demand locations around the state.
• Wayfinding Totems Wayfinding totems and enhanced bus stop signs will create greater confidence in passengers as these items will provide users with knowledge of RIPTA’s system as well as information about the surrounding areas.
Funds for the project are a combination of Federal ARRA funds, HUD Office of Sustainable Housing Community Challenge Grant, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Grant, Transit Enhancement funds, and a City of Providence Community Development Block Grant.
Automated Transit Management System (ATMS)
RIPTA’s new Automated Transit Management System (ATMS) will offer many operational and customer benefits, including automatic bus stop announcements, video surveillance, and real-time location reporting. In addition to providing smart bus benefits, this project will also leverage the Authority’s investment in technology in two vital areas: cutting edge customer service delivery and enhanced communications to better manage RIPTA’s fleet.
• Automated Stop Announcements RIPTA will implement an automated stop announcement system on-board its fleet. This system, which offers both audio and visual notification of the next scheduled stop, will be beneficial for individuals with disabilities, tourists, seniors, students and new residents.
• Video Surveillance Video surveillance cameras will be installed on RIPTA’s fixed-route and paratransit fleet. These cameras will aid in protecting and reassuring passenger and driver safety by reducing vandalism and other criminal activity. Cameras will also provide RIPTA with a clear accident record, protecting the company against fraudulent accident claims.
• Real-time Information This program is the latest initiative to alert riders to the status of their commute in real time, with planned future availability of actual bus locations available on the web, by text message and email, and on your Smartphone. This system will take the guesswork out of waiting for the next bus ride through enhanced global positioning system (GPS) devices that triangulate bus locations in real time. Accessible through cell phones and other electronic devices, all passengers have to do is text us a code that will be prominently displayed at their bus stop. They will immediately receive a return text with the real-time locations of the next several buses. All major transit hubs will feature LCD signs that will display bus arrivals and departures in real-time, so you’ll know when the next bus is coming. Every bus on RIPTA’s system will have this new technology by 2014. This project is funded with 80% federal funds matched by RIPTA’s Capital Revolving Loan Fund, to be paid back over the useful life of the equipment.
RIPTA’s major projects have been carefully designed to produce a better system that is easier to use and understand, convenient and faster. For more information on these projects, please visit ripta.com/projects. For schedule information, passengers may call 401-781-9400, or visit www.ripta.com.