So, you want the train to drop you off at GE’s River Works plant? Hmm… Well, let’s see, why not build a platform there and restrict entry/exit to keycard access?
Now, to address the elephant in the room, no, I can’t actually go to River Works. This is because I’d quite literally be stranded for hours. This is because the train only stops here at peak hours, plus the near-midnight stop.
The platform is completely low-level, meaning zero accessibility whatsoever. Not even a mini-high?! Like, c’mon the rest of the Newburyport/Rockport line is high-level, so why not River Works? Do people with disabilities just simply not work there? It’s also largely barebones with a shelter more typical of bus stops than a train station.
The other side is pretty much…..nothing. Yeah. There’s also a road to cross the tracks. Yikes.
The good: It serves GE’s River Works plant!
The bad: If, somehow, you were able to get off and end up stranded, you’re here for a looooooong time. You can’t even walk to the main street as both sides are closed off. There’s also proposals to open it up to the public, but none have been acted upon yet. It’s also not ADA compliant. Yikes.
Nearby points of interest: None. Literally, nothing. Unless you count the GE plant.
Overall, the concept is good. But, like, just open one side up to the public. There’s an undeveloped lot and I’m sure the people in Lynn would be happy to have a train station. And put, at least, a mini-high! At least the ridership hints at the nature of this station – 27 as of 2019.
Footnote: If I get the chance to actually visit River Works, I’ll re-write this review and likely update the rating. But, since I have to do this from an outsider’s perspective, it’s a 3 for now.
So the 19 brought us to Walmart. But, what about its little, evil brother, the 17? Well, let’s get into that.
So both the 19 and 17 board at bus stop C at Kennedy Plaza, and they share quite a bit. What do they share? Well, let’s see. The bus leaves stop C and goes through downtown, following the same path as the 19. Even crosses the interstate and goes through US-6 twice. It also stops in Olneyville. However, that’s essentially where all the similarities end.
While the 19 continues down Plainfield St., the 17 instead goes straight down Pocasset Avenue. It was still largely urban businesses and housing as we kept going down the street. Eventually, though it became Dyer Avenue and we crossed into Cranston.
Of course, from here we passed a graveyard and a ballpark, marking the end of the 18, and a transfer point. We eventually reached Cranston Street, which was one of two transfer points with the 30 outside of downtown. The other one would be coming up soon. As we went down Dyer Avenue, we turned right onto Park Ave. However, shortly after it’d become Phenix Avenue. This happened after the intersection with Park/Phenix and Cranston St., the other transfer point for the 30. As such, we were passing through the neighborhood of Knightsville. However, we weren’t on Phenix Ave for long, as we then turned onto Atwood Ave. and deviated into Stop & Shop, marking the end of the journey.
The good: It serves a supermarket! And a half-decent one, at that! Yeah, Walmart has a lot but Stop & Shop generally is held to higher standards because, well, unions. It also coordinates with the 19 for high-frequency from Olneyville to Providence! There’s also a transfer point to the 18 as well.
The bad: I mean, if you want a faster trip into downtown, just take the 30 instead. Yeah it’s less frequent (every 50 minutes), but it runs express down US-6 and RI-10. With that, downtown traffic is just slightly more bearable.
Nearby points of interest: There’s Stop & Shop. I guess there’s also the various restaurants and businesses lining Park Avenue. As for Dyer Ave., I don’t know much. There’s also the stuff in Olneyville.
Overall, the route gets the job done. It serves areas that aren’t served (or are served hourly, e.g. by the 30 or 18). It’s nice how the Olneyville section is coordinated with the 19’s schedule for frequent service to downtown too. Ridership wasn’t bad, with a few people on my trip. 2019 stats have it at 1162 weekday passengers, which while still less than the 19’s, is still nothing to laugh at. But, if you’re in a hurry to get to downtown, just transfer to the 30 at either Park/Phenix & Cranston, or Dyer & Cranston. Rating: 7/10
So, you want a route that serves the park, eh? Why not just take the R Line or 20? Hm, what’s that? You want a route that goes into the park? Alright, alright. Let’s see…We could either make the 20 deviate into the park, or create a new route entirely. Let’s just make the 6. And let’s have it deviate into the Liston campus. And terminate at an apartment complex when the zoo isn’t open. And that’s probably how the 6 came to be. Let’s take a look.
Well, the bus is a trolley replica. That’s a good start, but it’s normal for a route that serves a place like Roger Williams Park. So, we started moving and largely followed the same path the 20 and 22 does through downtown. However, we took a turn down West Franklin Street to run parallel to 95. From here, we took a turn down Point Street, then Prairie Ave. We followed the road, although while we were going to deviate into CCRI’s Providence campus, the road to it was closed, so we pressed on further. As such, the driver phoned dispach at this point as he was letting a person in a wheelchair off and notified them of the closure of Blackstone Street.
We kept going down Prairie Ave., with houses on both sides. Occasionally, we’d pass a business, community facility, or a playground. We did, however, pass by some schools after Thurbers Ave, being Roger Williams Jr. High and Woods Elementary. Soon enough, though, Prairie Ave. came to an end.
When we reached Broad Street, we just went straight and crossed the interstate. We then turned right into the park and soon enough we were done. We would’ve ended at the zoo’s front door, but I guess the driver didn’t feel like it. From here, began my relatively long trek to what I thought was the nearest R Line stop to get back downtown.
The good: It serves the zoo! It’s also the only direct route into the park. It also serves a low-income part of the city! It also runs somewhat frequently (half-hourly!) to Roger Williams Zoo during weekday hours.
The bad: However, it falters majorly. Want to get to the Colony House complex? You’ve either gotta take an early morning or late afternoon/evening bus. Otherwise, you’re heading to the zoo. Even then, night buses just terminate at the CCRI Providence campus. Speaking of which, this is the only route that services it. So, if you need to get there and Blackstone St. is closed, you’re doomed unless you’re able to walk. Heck, the route doesn’t even serve Colony House on Sundays!
Nearby points of interest: The zoo, and CCRI’s Providence campus. That’s pretty much it.
Overall, the route does as it should. But, it falls horrendously with the sometimes deviation to Colony House, which should be an always deviation. Also, why doesn’t it serve it on Sundays? That seems weird. Ridership was plentiful though on my trip, with it clocking in at 334 people on average though. This puts it between the primary West Warwick/Coventry route (the 13) and the 32. But, if every trip serviced Colony House, I’m sure it’d be higher. Rating: 5.5/10
Normally, you’d have the expresses that run down the interstate for most of the route, or if it’s in no man’s land, it’s for a short while.
Then there’s the 9X.
This route runs for miles and miles into the hinterlands, about as close to the CT/MA tri-point as a RIPTA fixed route will bring you. So, what does this route have in store? Let’s find out.
First off, this route is a bit special in the scheduling department. Every outbound trip has an inbound counterpart just before it. This equals out to three inbound trips in the morning, a midday inbound, and an evening inbound. It also equals two outbounds in the morning, the midday outbound, and three evening outbound. We good?
So, what does the route itself entail? Because we boarded at Kennedy Plaza, we got to skip the whole Downcity Loop bit and pull right out onto US-6. From here, we expressed all the way down US-6 and interstate 295 until we reached US-44 and Smithfield Crossing. However, unlike the 58, we didn’t deviate into it, instead serving the street outside. Also, the morning and evening rush trips deviate into the Citizens Bank call center on Greenwood Ave. But, since I was on a midday trip, the bus didn’t deviate. Eventually we deviated into a Stop & Shop????? Yeah, someone even got on here, which I guess means there is demand for a fixed Chepachet/Pascoag-Smithfield Crossing route.
After the deviation, we turned right and then took another right. This time, it was to serve a small park & ride lot. We did, eventually, make it back to US-44. From here, we just booked it through the sizable village of Greenville, which doesn’t have full bus service for some reason even though it looks big enough for at least an extension of the 58.
Interestingly, the first announcement for each village along the route has the village name announced, with the dot-matrix headsign reading “Welcome to (village name)”. Weird, I don’t think it does it for any other route. In fact, it doesn’t. Nevertheless, we went back into the woods for a bit, passing by an antique mill and an old person home. Eventually, we reached Chepachet.
The route then took a right down RI-102 as we pressed through the woods further. However, instead of going straight, we instead took a right down a random side street then a left down Victory Highway. Eventually, we reached Mapleville Village.
Fortunately, we kept pressing on further. As we turned down Central St., we reached RI-102 again but kept going straight. We’d then be in Harrisville and, soon enough, Pascoag. Among the things found here were the town commons, a library, a gas station, a graveyard, some local businesses, and eventually the route’s terminus at Sayles Avenue.
The good: It serves a grossly underserved part of the state. It’s rural, too, at that! It also gives Burrillville residents a link to downtown directly, and via a partly-on-foot transfer to the 58! There’s also the 282 Flex, which serves as an unofficial Woonsocket link. It’s a shame that the route has a commuter-only oriented schedule, as I’m sure more people would use it if it ran, say, even every hour and 15 minutes (or hour and a half). Hell, even if there was a local variant that ran up to Smithfield Crossing and deviated into the Stop & Shop that ran hourly (and timed in a way to transfer to the 58 comfortably), I’m sure people would use it. I mean, the fact someone got on at Stop & Shop of all places shows there’s some demand for a local Pascoag/Burrillville route.
The bad: I guess the worst thing is….probably the fact that the schedule is a little weird, even verseus the standard express affair (3 one-way trips during the morning and evening peaks). Like, I get it’s commuter-oriented and noone rides the route, though that could be a midday thing (for reference, as of 2019 the route had 93 weekday riders on average). Also, for a commuter route, why does it deviate into a Stop & Shop instead of looping around to get to the park & ride? And, what’s with the lack of park & rides? Still better than the 10X, which claims a freakin’ fire station is a park & ride.
Nearby points of interest: There’s a Stop & Shop in Smithfield, and Smithfield Crossing. Also, the things in Greenville, Chepachet, Mapleville, Harrisville, and Pascoag as well as in between the villages.
Overall, it’s an express route. It does what it needs to. And given where it goes and how often, it does a good job. But, like, there can’t be a fixed route between Pascoag/Burrillville and Smithfield Crossing at least? Or, from Pascoag to Woonsocket? It’s not bad, but it’s a headscratcher. Also, for an express, there’s not many park & rides along it. Rating: 6/10
Oh, I guess I forgot to mention I’m not just doing RIPTA or RI-based reviews here! Whelp, here we go. First Commuter Rail line, and it’s the most accessible one for me. Let’s get into it.
I started my journey at Wickford Junction, bright and early. The ride to Boston South Station would be powered by a MPI HSP46 engine with a top speed of around 80 miles per hour. After boarding, and going to the backmost car, the train started moving. From there, and for the whole journey, the tracks largely follow the Northeast Corridor. The train went through North Kingstown and along Greenwich Bay in East Greenwich and Warwick at near-max speed. However, soon enough we started to slow down for the next stop.
We eventually came to a halt at T.F. Green and picked a handful of people up. From here, it was a mostly straight shot to Providence. After a few minutes, we started moving again and we largely went parallel to Jefferson Boulevard. It was also largely industrial in nature from here to Providence. However, Jefferson Boulevard turned towards the interstate and we were soon met by Wellington Avenue. The engineer honked the horn several times to alert the workers at the Park Ave. bridge of the oncoming train, and we passed some freight stuff. We then hooked a left, passed an Amazon facility, alerted more crews of our presence, and went through Olneyville. Soon enough, we went under the interstate and Providence Place Mall.
After dwelling for about 10 minutes, we departed from Providence Station. From here, we passed some businesses and apartments, the Pawtucket layover yard, and the Pawtucket train station that’s still being built (as of 5/12/22).
From here, we booked it parallel to the state line, and we passed South Attleboro with no regard because the station was closed. From here, it was largely not scenic as it was mostly trees with the occasional house. We’d pass Attleboro and its town center, and Mansfield, going over Chauncy Street. It would also be here that we split from the Foxboro special event line.
Now that we passed the Mansfield split, we went right towards the next pair of stations. Namely, they were Sharon, and Canton Junction, where the main line splits from the Stoughton branch. It was still largely the same from here.
We kept pressing on past Canton Junction, and eventually we reached a major park & ride. Namely, Route 128/Westwood. Not many people got on though, so after that we pressed into Boston proper.
We then entered the Southwest Corridor after trucking through some woodlands and now we were running parallel to the Orange Line. However, we still had one stop from here before downtown Boston, and two before South Station. Our first stop? Ruggles.
Not many people got on or off here, so we kept going. It was still much of the same, passing various Orange Line stops along the Southwest Corridor. Eventually, however, we reached Back Bay. This station is notorious for bad air quality and smelling like diesel fumes, and it was easy to tell. The smell permeated through the train car quite easily and made both my partner and I gag. A lot of people got off here, while not many got on. After a bit, we went down the final mile and made it to South Station, after two hours of riding.
The good: It links up Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts in a direct manner. It is also quite affordable relative to driving.
The bad: However, it takes a LONG time if you’re riding the whole route. My trip took two whole hours, while on the Northeast Regional and Acela it would’ve taken around 1 hour at most on the Regional (from KIN), and 40 minutes on the Acela (from PVD). Hell, even TO Providence, it’s still faster to pony up $2 for RIPTA’s bus route 66 – and THAT deviates twice! It’s also got some weirdness with fare zones vs. similarly-distanced stops on lines fully in Massachusetts. Why is Wachusett a zone 8 fare while T.F. Green, being about the same distance, a zone 9 fare?
Nearby points of interest: Well, you have the various towns along the route and whatever they offer. I can’t speak for between South Attleboro and Ruggles, but you have varying things like a Walmart in Wickford, T.F. Green at T.F. Green (duh), and downtown Providence.
Overall, it’s not that bad a route. However, it is annoying South Attleboro is closed (even if for legitimate reasons, as safety is no joke). Also, what’s with the mini-highs everywhere? One thing I’d change here, is to extend the line to Kingston/URI. But overall, not bad despite being the longest Commuter Rail route. Rating: 8/10
Whelp, here we are. My first Flex post, and also my first time using RIPTA’s Flex service. I suppose I should preface this with the whole “what is Flex” thing.
So, what IS Flex? Flex is what is known as demand-response transit, or also referred to as microtransit. The idea behind it is that you can either walk up to a designated Flex stop like a normal bus stop (sometimes), or you can call ahead at least 1 day in advance (referring to Monday-Friday here). From there, you can reserve a pick-up and drop-off point in a designated Flex zone. Yes, that includes dedicated deviations in places that your standard 40ft city bus otherwise wouldn’t/can’t deviate into. In many ways, it’s similar to a standard fixed bus route in that fares are essentially the same (on RIPTA, anyways). However, unlike paratransit services like RIde for RIPTA or Dial-a-Ride for GATRA, anyone can use it. Now, how was my journey via RIPTA’s Flex? Let’s find out.
To even get to the 282, I boarded the midday 9x express trip and went all the way through the hinterlands and into Pascoag. Then, after a short trip into Brigidio’s Market to buy a quick drink (coffee milk, for the curious), I went back to the bus stop. One lady waiting asked me if I was all set or if I wanted to board the 9x back. I said I was fine. Then, about halfway through my small bottle of milk, the other lady that was with me said “LOOK!”. I looked behind and there was the Flex van. The lady driving opened the door, and asked “North Smithfield?”. I then confirmed with her if she was referring to Walmart (the transfer point with the 54) and I said yes, and boarded. Fare was your standard affair, with both cash and Wave being accepted. From then, I took my seat…..only to quickly discover that there was a stop request push strip instead of a cord. Whoops. I apologized upon noticing it (after hitting it from leaning my elbow against the wall) and we kept going.
As one would predict, it’s largely a rural ride. Trees were everywhere with the occasional house or business. Sometimes there’d be a village center. We pressed on down RI-102. Eventually though, we reached the other Brigidio’s Market. But, unlike in Pascoag, this one served as the terminus for the 59X.
We crossed over 146 and it was still much of the same. However, it got denser soon enough. At this point we were unofficially outside the Flex zone, however we still had more to go because it officially connects with the 54. But at this point, we were largely following the 59X’s routing.
Soon enough, we ended up reaching Dowling Village, where the end of the line was (for me). The driver asked if I was heading to Lincoln or Woonsocket, and then if the bus stop or store itself was my preferred drop-off. I told her the stop was good and that I was heading to Lincoln. From here, I then was let off at the bus stop as expected and then the driver went to do a layover (I think).
The good: It provides (somewhat) regular service to the people in northern RI, which otherwise has no fixed routes other than the 9x and 59x. It’s also comfy, I will concede that RIPTA definitely got the comfort factor going for the Flex fleet that won’t be seen on their 40ft fleet any time soon.
The bad: The scheduled stops probably won’t do anyone any favors. What’s with the stop out at Zambarano Hospital, anyways? I mean, I’m sure someone uses it, but there wasn’t anyone else on my trip. Speaking of which, why can’t Flex in general be on-demand via the Wave app or something similar? Although, there are plans to address that with a proposed pilot program for the 242 Flex (which has no scheduled stops). Furthermore, I’m sure most people who would be likely to use Flex, would much rather have a direct connection to Woonsocket via Slatersville anyways.
Nearby points of interest: Well, let’s see what’s in the Flex zone. There’s the Zambarano Hospital all the way near the tri-point. There’s Pascoag Village. There’s also Harrisville Village. Out east you have Slatersville with its points of interest (basically just Brigidio’s) and Dowling Village, which has Walmart. There’s also Wright’s Farm just outside the Flex zone.
Overall, it really isn’t that bad a route. My main gripes is with how Flex is executed. Like, I like the concept. I really do. And if it wasn’t limited to calling in a day or two in advance, I’d probably be more eager to use Flex locally (the 242). In terms of the route itself, it’s definitely up there as it serves an otherwise grossly underserved part of RI, being rural in nature. Hell, I’d even say it’s an 8 for that. But, the way Flex is executed as a service in general with all the drawbacks stated above brings it down to a 4. I will, however, shout out the driver for being incredibly helpful and understanding. Rating: 4/10
This one’s gonna be a little weird. So, we have a RIPTA route…..but it terminates in Massachusetts. Well, I suppose it could be worse. Let’s get into it.
The trip starts with the bus departing Kennedy Plaza and going down South Water Street. You’d think it’d be an East Side route, with the initial path the bus takes, but it isn’t. It used to be, though, but at some point it got rerouted. Nevertheless, the bus goes down South Water Street, and crosses Wickenden Street and the interstate. However, we then go express onto 195 eastbound.
However, the express section was short-lived, as we got off at the next exit onto Taunton Ave. in East Providence. From here, we went straight, and most of the way through the bowtie junction and onto North Broadway. It was primarily suburban businesses and housing from here, and for pretty much the entire route. However, we did go over the Henderson Expressway (or what remains), and then took a left turn down Roger Williams Ave. Down here were some relatively nice houses, an old arch bridge for the former railroad line, and a right turn down Wilson Ave. that was much of the same. From here, we joined with Pawtucket Ave. briefly before going down Newport Avenue. We were joined by the 78 on this section as we passed many a business and house.
Soon enough, however, we parted ways with the 78 at Beverage Hill Ave. We kept pressing on, passing Slater Park, and eventually Armistice Boulevard and Central Avenue, at which transfers can be done with the 80and 76, respectively. We pressed on further, eventually going uphill to cross the Northeast Corridor. Soon enough, we were in Massachusetts and the announcement played: “Approaching: South Attleboro Train Station…..connection available to M.B.T.A. Commuter Rail” …except the train platform was out of service. Yeah, that’s weird. But we made it to South Attleboro and I was let off outside near Market Basket.
The good: It gets people across the various towns it serves (excepting South Attleboro, obviously). For commuters, it’d be a great option for a slightly cheaper rail fare to take the bus up here and then take the Commuter Rail. Or, one could use trips the other way into Providence for work commutes, as the parking lot at South Attleboro Station is a park & ride (paid, though). It also largely bisects the northern sections of eastern Pawtucket and East Providence. In a way, it’s also a better crosstown route than the 58. It’s basically what the 58 aspires to be. Plus, it’s pretty much the only RIPTA-GATRA connection point. But why would you want to ride GATRA?
The bad: Every 45 minutes, this thing runs. I mean, okay, maybe the ridership doesn’t justify it. It did have an average of 441 people on weekdays in 2019. It also doesn’t help that the 1 is just as infrequent in this section of its route, likely for the same reason. It is what it is, though, as most people probably aren’t using this route for commuter purposes. I can’t help but think, though, that a Providence/Pawtucket-South Attleboro express should be a thing in both directions during peak hours. But, like, is the demand there because Market Basket, or is it there because of the train station that’s now slated to undergo major renovations?
Nearby points of interest: Market Basket! Before the service changes in Winter’22, it was the only route to directly service a Market Basket (along with the 1). There’s also Slater Park along the route!
Overall, it’s quite an interesting route. Not many crosstown opportunities going north/south, and this is probably the best one. It serves many of the suburban businesses people would want to visit, most of which are local, it serves a train station directly allowing single transfers between RIPTA and the MBTA (assuming the station is opened up), and it also runs express to Kennedy Plaza. Not a bad deal, if I say so myself. However, the deteriorated train station does bring it down. Rating: 6/10 (would be a 7 if the train station was open)
A route that services North Providence via Mineral Spring Ave. and Putnam Pike, eh? I wonder what’s in store here. Let’s take a look at the 58.
To even get up here to start with, I took the 9X’s midday trip from Kennedy Plaza and rode it up to just outside Smithfield Crossing. The 9X used to deviate into Smithfield Crossing, however, but it got axed because the property owners didn’t want to host a park & ride lot anymore. So, instead, anyone wanting to get here via the 9X has to get off at the stop on US-44 and walk down. For this route, though, the route terminates in the shopping center itself. There’s three whole stops in this plaza, being one by Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, and the gazebo. Once we left the shopping center, we made a left turn and crossed the interstate.
However, after crossing 295, we took a left turn again, this time onto Esmond Street. Along this street were primarily suburban buildings in nature, some businesses but predominantly houses. A few people got on the bus as well. Eventually, the road ended and we turned right onto Waterman Avenue. From here, it was a straight shot into Centerdale Village, where transfers to the 27and 57 can be made.
Now, while the 57 goes down US-44/Smith St., and the 27 goes down George Waterman and Woonasquatucket, the 58 instead goes down Mineral Spring Ave. From here, traffic was horrible. It was essentially stop and go, with the occasional bus stop. Fortunately, after about 15 minutes, we made it to Douglas Ave. and turned right. From here, the route largely followed the 50, complete with the Shaw’s deviation. There was also a Dollar Tree in this plaza. 🙂
We eventually, however, turned back onto Douglas Ave. and kept pressing on. Soon enough, we turned down Branch Ave. and things got quite urban on one side and green on the other. Soon enough, we passed an old mill and went under RI-146, Charles St., and Silver Spring Street. We also went over the Northeast Corridor, but not the interstate.
Instead of going down Branch Ave. further, we took a right onto West River Street. It was down here that a Stop & Shop can be found, however we did NOT deviate into it. We then turned onto Corliss Street, passed a USPS facility, and turned onto Charles St. However, we then banged a u-ey onto Ashburton St., as Charles St. was one-way at this section. From here, we kept going down Charles and Canal Streets, turned onto Park Row, and deviated into Providence Station. This would then begin the Downtown Transit Corridor section of the route.
DOWNTOWN TRANSIT CORRIDOR BLITZ TIME!!! LETS GO!
Alright, blink and you’ll miss the stops! – Kennedy Plaza, stops B (south) and G (north) – Dorrance and Pine St., near the Garrahy Courthouse and JWU – Dyer and Ship St., as well as Dyer and South St., near the Nursing Education Center – Lastly, RI Hospital. However, this doesn’t deviate into the front door like the 1.
With that out of the way, that’s the entirity of the route. The bus driver did, however, turn down Allens Ave. and let me off at the layover area instead. Probably just forgot I existed.
The good: It serves an otherwise unserved part of the state, and serves a major shopping center. It also serves a few major local roads (e.g. Mineral Spring Ave. and Branch Ave.).
The bad: I really want to like this route, but it tries waaaaaay too hard to be a crosstown route. But if we must have a crosstown Mineral Spring route, it should instead largely replace the 73. And, I don’t know if it’s just due to the time of day I rode this route (near the 3/4pm hour), but it seemed to be running quite late, too.
Nearby points of interest: There’s Smithfield Crossing, Centerdale, and the Shaw’s deviation. There’s also a Stop & Shop and Saver’s along the route. The southern terminus is at RI Hospital, and it also stops near JWU and at Providence Station.
Overall, I really want to like this route, but I just can’t give it that high a rating. It’s mostly the lateness factor that kills it for me, as well as the fact it tries and fails somewhat at being a crosstown route. At least, that’s the feeling I got. At least it’s definitely used, unlike the 49. In terms of ridership, how about 517 daily passengers on average. This puts it between important arterial routes like the 78, 55, and 35, as well as between a few crosstown routes like the 29, 63, and 71. Rating: 6/10
The big daddy of RIPTA routes. The behemoth. THE RIPTA route. Yup, it’s the R Line. This post I’ll be taking a deep look into the R Line. So, let’s get started analyzing this beast of a route, shall we?
First off, we have to take a look at the historical context. The year is 2013, and RIPTA’s proposing service changes as they usually do. However, the biggest change of the year involves their two highest-ridership routes at the time, the 11 (Broad St.) and the 99 (North Main). Their plan was to merge the two routes and convert it into a “rapid bus” setup. What was “rapid bus”? Well, it’s not full-blown BRT. RIPTA makes that abundantly clear. However, it does have some BRT-like perks like dedicated buses, 10 minute headways in each direction during weekdays, and traffic light manipulation. Not even the MBTA’s Silver Line is that fancy! However, unlike the Silver Line, there’s no dedicated right of way for the R Line, as it still runs in mixed traffic, and as such unlike what the MBTA does, RIPTA does NOT claim that it’s BRT. So, the end result? The R Line. With the historical context out of the way, let’s get into the route itself.
The journey itself begins at the intersection of Broad St. and Montgomery Avenue, near Eddy St. Quickly, you’ll realize that the lispy female announcer will get a bit annoying announcing every stop. However, that didn’t deter me – or anyone else from riding this route. The bus wasn’t busy at this point, although it very much did get busy the closer to downtown we got. We quickly went past Eddy Street, and from here we past a Taco Bell, Roger Williams Park, and some locally owned restaurants and clubs. We then crossed over the interstate.
So, we cross into South Providence, and the neighborhood really becomes lively. As in, there were people walking around everywhere and businesses everywhere, ranging from local markets, to a CVS, some clubs, phone stores, and even a computer repair shop. From here, we kept pressing through the neighborhood with people getting on and off at the various stops. Eventually, the bus started getting a little crowded.
Eventually we went past St. Joe’s Hospital, and entered Elmwood Avenue. From here, it was effectively a straight shot to Kennedy Plaza, passing by many more local businesses. We’d also cross the interstate again, this time entering downtown Providence and serving Dexter Manor.
Eventually, we entered downtown Providence. Passing by the usual assortment of businesses and restaurants along Westminster Street, we made it to Kennedy Plaza soon enough. It was here that mostly everyone got off. There was only one other person other than me who stayed on the bus all the way to Pawtucket.
Now, the R Line is advertised as being deviation-free by design. And, they’re mostly right about that. However, there’s one deviation it DOES do. And, what is it? To answer your question, Providence Station. Now, this is probably the only realistic deviation the R Line could do that’d actually get ridership. And, in fact, it does. Usually there’s at least a handful of people getting on or off here. However, I’m not here to rant about that. From here, we head down Park Row and onto North Main Street.
We chucked a left at North Main and book it past Roger Williams Memorial. However, I was on the wrong side of the bus for that. However, there were a few houses and apartment complexes over here, and even a shopping center we stopped outside of.
From here, it largely got a little more suburban, passing mostly businesses. Among them were Subway, Gregg’s, Dunkin’, and a short walk away was a Job Lot (complete with a 71 transfer!) and Miriam (with its useless 49 transfer!).
More housing appeared, though, as the ride went into Pawtucket and split off from US-1. From here, there wasn’t anything of note other than Hope Artiste Village, which as far as I can tell is…an apartment complex? (EDIT 10/2/23 from a commenter and my own mother: there’s also a few event venues and local businesses housed here as well. I’ll have to take a look some time.)
We turned right to stay on Main St. and eventually we crossed the interstate yet again. Soon enough, we reached Collyer Park (@ Main & Conant St.’s), however the more exiting sight was just beyond. Yup, I’m talking about the Pawtucket/Central Falls train station.
We took a turn down Goff Avenue by where the bus and train stations are going, and kept going on down. Eventually we took a right down Roosevelt Avenue and made it to the Pawtucket visitors’ center. Alas, the R Line journey was complete.
The good: It bisects the busiest parts of Providence and Pawtucket! It’s also very frequent, enough so to where the route pamphlet even touts you don’t need the timetable. But, if you are wondering what the number is for frequency, how about……every 10 minutes on weekdays? It also gets a lot of ridership, as in the highest ridership route in the whole system. It also serves a lot, both in the sheer amount of places nearby and the people that would realistically use it.
The bad: I guess, the inconsistency in the types of stops? The only real negative I can think of is that buses can end up bunching together in bad traffic.
Nearby points of interest: A lot! There’s downtown Pawtucket and Providence. If you’re into the local stuff, South Providence is sure to have you covered there, too, even though it’s not very tourist-y.
Overall, it’s clear this route is a lifeline for the communities it serves, and RIPTA knows that too with how often it comes by. It serves a lot, including two major transit hubs (Providence and Pawtucket) with connections to RIPTA routes in both areas, as well as MBTA connections to Boston and Amtrak connections, though the Amtrak connections are only in Providence. It may not be very touristy in nature, but sometimes the very not-so-touristy routes end up being the best in the system, and for that: Rating: 10/10
The venerable Providence Station, the supplementary piece to Rhode Island’s transit core in downtown Providence. What do you hold for today’s post, Providence? Well, let’s dive into it.
Well, for one it isn’t the prettiest station. It’s essentially a brutalist slab of concrete with train platforms underneath. But hey, a good station doesn’t need to look pretty inherently. Anyways, I digress. This place has two entrances, a north and south entrance. The north entrance is facing the State House and is serviced by RIPTA bus routes 50, 55, 56, and 57, while the less exciting-looking south side is at the end of Exchange Street. This side is serviced by the R Line, 3, 4, 51, 54, 58, 66, and 72. Meanwhile, there’s platforms for tracks 1, 2, 3, and 5 down under with services from Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela as well as the MBTA Commuter Rail. However, that isn’t the only sight you can see from the platform as sometimes you might see a Providence & Worcester train passing through on track 7. As for parking, it’s there. I don’t know if it’s paid though or not, as I didn’t bother checking. (It probably isn’t)
Alright, time for the station itself. It can get a bit crowded during peak hours in the morning and afternoon, and it can also get REALLY busy if there’s a convention either in Providence or Boston (e.g. Anime Boston, PAX, or ComiCon). There’s an in-house restaurant, Cafe La France, which is quite nice. I heard the food and drinks are nice too, albeit a little on the pricey side, but I’m still going to have to try it some time and edit as necessary. This is also where you would buy your MBTA Commuter Rail tickets. So, if you arrive without a ticket (or the mTicket app), buy it here so you don’t incur an avoidable $3 fee. There’s also an Amtrak QuikTrak machine to buy tickets or print out e-tickets. Furthermore, there’s also the Amtrak information kiosk that usually has at least one person staffed, if you need any further help. Lastly, baggage checks can be done here, and is found next to the vending machines. There’s also a small gift shop, Oakwells. Just don’t get any water or stuff like that here as it’s going to be overpriced. From here, accessing the platforms when the boarding call is made is easy enough, as there’s entrances on both sides as well as elevators in the event you need accessibility. Speaking of which, all of the platforms are also full highs (rather than the mini-highs that the MBTA loves retrofitting old stations with).
And with that, I’ve reviewed every MBTA station outside of Massachusetts……..for now. (stay tuned – Pawtucket/Central Falls post coming later this year!)
The good: It packs everything one would need in a small space while still being a major transit hub for Rhode Island.
The bad: It’s a little (1/4 mile) out of the way from Kennedy Plaza. If the Dorrance St. Transit Center becomes reality, then it’s more out of the way (over half a mile!) and the argument can be made for incorporating it into the Downcity Loop. Also, the fact the northbound bus routes only get a lousy stop that’s not even advertised well, is a definite “yikes”. Hell, it’s hardly even advertised! It can also get quite crowded during rush hour…
Nearby points of interest: Providence Place Mall, for sure. If you need any snacks/quick drinks, there’s a CVS here. There’s also Kennedy Plaza and bus connections to Oakland Beach, URI, Pawtucket, Roger Williams Park, and Twin River Casino. There’s also rail connections to Boston and other areas served by the Providence/Stoughton Line as well as to Connecticut and points south via the Acela and Northeast Regional.
Overall, it’s not a bad station. It’s got some shortcomings but those are inherent with pretty much any train station. Ridership here is pretty much as you expect: The most used station in RI, and the highest ridership stop on the Commuter Rail outside of the MA-128 ring. My only real complaint has to do with the fact it isn’t at Kennedy Plaza directly, although there’s not much one can do about that without interfering with the Northeast Corridor. Lastly, why isn’t this part of the Downcity Loop? It just feels weird that none of the express routes stop here whatsoever. Yeah it’s part of the Downtown Transit Corridor, which I guess is alright, but it just feels weird that the expresses don’t touch here.