Adding Jobs to RI Economy Requires a New Approach to Transit

Guest Writer – Liam Blank

Governor Gina Raimondo is now pushing for the MBTA to increase its express commuter rail service between Providence and Boston South Station, which would help reduce commuting times and automobile congestion. With South Station already operating at capacity, the governor’s plan can only be implemented in part during off-peak commuting hours.

Strengthening rail service between Providence and Boston has many obvious advantages, but our options are limited until either the North-South Rail Link or the South Station Expansion Project move forward, both of which will take years to complete. Meanwhile, a growing number of Rhode Island commuters are tired of wasting hours in cars and buses that are stuck in traffic.

Fortunately, there is at least one mass transit project that could soon get Rhode Islanders moving again. The proposal, floated by a few local city planners over the last few years, is to use Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor for a local rapid transit shuttle to connect T.F. Green Airport, Providence and Pawtucket. While most of the infrastructure is already in place, the plan would involve adding a track and constructing a few new stations along the 13-mile route.

Serving as the spine of Rhode Island’s transit network, the shuttle could bring fast, frequent and reliable rail service and complement existing Amtrak, MBTA, and RIPTA operations. Aside from relieving congestion and reducing pollution, this project could also add many jobs to the local economy. Not to mention, Rhode Island can implement this service while Boston completes its expansion projects so that when all is said and done, the entire region can benefit from an efficient public transit network.

Throughout the next year, the governor will need to continue working hard to win over Rhode Island voters so she can win the next election. Although increasing express rail service to Boston is a necessary improvement that will help some long-distance commuters, far more would benefit from a project that helps locals move efficiently within the state.

Governor Raimondo has already taken an important step by showing her support for mass transit. However, we ought to make sure that whichever plans move forward are truly beneficial to the majority of Rhode Islanders.

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