Sixty Dollars.

The proposed cut to the car tax is extremely popular. But I'll bet you $60.00 I can change your mind about it.

Why Sixty?


$60.00 is the amount of the proposed cut, per vehicle. This has been sold as being about protecting the most vulnerable, but the tax cut is actually a flat one. Every person who owns a car gets $60.00 back (except if they own two cars-- then they get $120.00). The only people who don't get a tax cut are those who don't own a car. Super progressive, right?


If the goal of the tax cut is to help the most vulnerable, Mayor Elorza and Providence City Council aren't choosing a very efficient way to do that. They will give many people a tax cut who are poor (including us-- yes, we bought a car, and both our tax receipts for 2015 were under $20,000). But a lot of middle class people (and flat-out rich people) will get the same tax cut (or a greater one, if they own multiple vehicles).

But of course, while many people who drive do struggle to pay the car tax, those who don't drive are overwhelmingly poor. 25% of Providen├že households are car-free. For a neighborhood like Olneyville, that jumps to nearly 50%.

How Does the Math Work?

Providence car tax is currently set to $60.00 per $1,000.00 of value, but there is a $1,000.00 exemption. If your car is worth $1,000.00, you pay nothing. $2,000.00, you pay $60.00.  $20,000.00? $1,140 ($20,000.00 - $1,000.00 x $60.00).

Under the new plan,the exemption would go to $2,000.00. That does mean that only those at the very bottom of car value (below $2,000.00) would go to zero. But just as with the other exemption, that figure carries up the economic scale. The $20,000.00 vehicle owner would now pay $1080.00-- the same $60.00 tax cut as the jallopy owner gets). If the person owns two vehicles, whether they're Flintstonemobiles with rusted out floors, or $40,000.00 BMWs, they get twice what the person with one car gets: $120.00.

To Heck with Your Math, James. I Want a Tax Cut.

I'm not saying you should be against a tax cut. I'm saying you should want a different structure to the tax cut.

Let's give everyone a tax cut: $60.00 per adult taxpayer. No double-ups, as with the previous tax cut, but unlike the Elorza proposal, every household would benefit. If our goal is to get the poorest people a tax cut, then we have to include the households without cars.

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Spaceship University: Can Bryant Do It?

Meet Brown University (and neighborhood) in the top image, and Bryant University (and parking lots) in the lower one.

Brown University has over 9,000 students, and this image includes lots and lots of things that
aren't technically the "campus".
Bryant University has about 3,000 students, and a lot of its campus is taken up by hideous parking. 
The tools I use to do stuff like this are fairly imprecise. Let me give you the boring details, so that you can see I'm comparing similar things. The images are the same width, east to west, but appear to be different magnifications because the Brown University one is longer north to south (they're actually at the same magnification, but I wanted to be fair and include extraneous parts of Brown's campus in Fox Point and around its athletic centers to not compared apples to oranges). Blogger changes things up to get the best fit for the images, so it's not apparent that these are in scale, but when you realize that they are, the size of Bryant's parking becomes jarring: it's like a neighborhood of its own!

We got a car recently, so that Rachel can carry large masses of goods to and fro to farmers' markets, and so while we drive very infrequently, this is now something I go by fairly often. I've never been to Bryant University before, other than to look at its gates as I whiz by in the passenger seat of Rachel's car, but I got suddenly interested in it (because, basically, the themes of my blog posts are often based just on whatever I happen to go by in a given week). 

And I got to thinking: places like this are like Buckminster Fuller's Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth is a kind of hackneyed idea at this point. Fuller pointed out that we're all in space. Right. Now. We are all in space! Because the Earth is a moving body in space as much as anything is-- the moon, the sun, the stars-- we are cosmic wanderers. 

I was thinking about that in relationship to places like Bryant, because one's first thought is that Bryant is "in the country" or at least "in the exurbs/suburbs". Of course it has a lot of parking. People drive in the country, silly James! Brown doesn't have lots of parking because it's firmly planted in terra firma on the Earth, um, the city.

But it's not really that way at all. Both campuses are hubs of activity, and in a sense, a campus is a planetary body of human activity floating through the "space" of the rural world. Bryant could surely reduce its parking-- not all at once, because that would cause a kerfuffle, but certainly a little at a time. Imagine how differently the "city" or "village" of Bryant would be if this happened, piece by piece. Travel between the "planets" of Brown and Bryant would now happen with mutual recognition that each was a place. The waste-of-funding last resort bus that is currently running between Providence and Bryant would probably be much better used. The campus could get carved into bike routes, so that the splayed out buildings along the huge green would be more connected internally. Maybe more student and faculty housing could gradually be added to where parking had been-- the zoning could be left really open to allow mixed-use, like a town or city. 

Learn from Rural Places
Our trip passes through Slatersville too, which is another place I never gave much of a thought to, and have only been through a few times en route to something else. But you can really get the Spaceship Earth feeling going through Slatersville. You're visiting another planet-- a village that is surely a Pluto to Providence's Neptune-- but one that has the same general form. It's a place. 


Rural places are interesting, because the ones we actually like have a lot more in common with cities than they do with suburbs. They're often just much smaller versions of cities. Market Urbanism recently wrote a good piece about the lessons we can learn from trailer parks:


Trailer parks are looked down upon by many. My uncle lived for many years in a trailer park, and though it was a very different life than the one I was used to, in many ways I always liked his trailer park. You could walk around in it on narrow lanes. My uncle and cousins always seemed to know their neighbors, and to have informal recreational spaces right in their community.

Market Urbanism's post reminds us that the rarity of this form (along with the rarity of other kinds of low income housing) isn't accidental:
Any discussion of trailer parks should start with the fact that most forms of low-income housing have been criminalized in nearly every major US city. Beginning in the 1920s, urban policymakers and planners started banning what they deemed as low-quality housing, including boarding houses, residential hotels, and low-quality apartments. Meanwhile, on the outer edges of many cities, urban policymakers undertook a policy of “mass eviction and demolition” of low-quality housing. Policymakers established bans on suburban shantytowns and self-built housing. In knocking out the bottom rung of urbanization, this ended the natural “filtering up” of cities as they expanded outward, replaced as we now know by static subdivisions of middle-class, single-family houses. The Housing Act of 1937 formalized this war on “slums” at the federal level and by the 1960s much of the emergent low-income urbanism in and around many U.S. cities was eliminated.
Says Market Urbanism:
By combining these liberal land-use regulations with narrow streetsshared by all users, we ironically find in many trailer parks a kind of traditional urban design more common in European and Japanese cities. With functional urban densities and traditional urban design, the only thing missing in most trailer parks is a natural mixture of commercial and industrial uses. Many urban trailer parks likely bypass this zoning-imposed challenge by locating within walking distance of commercial and industrial uses.
So mixed use is key, as well as learning from the other lessons all around us in successful rural places.

Making a Planet out of the Nebula of Bryant University
The suburban retrofit is a concept that has gained currency. I agree with parts of what proponents say, as well as some of the things said by detractors. But universities, as places that should be villages or cities of their own, are good examples of where retrofitting can happen, in my opinion. How could Bryant move forward?

*Start charging for parking-- parking is currently "free". If students, faculty, and staff don't like the idea of paying for parking (who would?) then offer them lower tuition and/or raises using the parking revenue raised. This is called a parking cash-out, and it will reduce the demand for parking. Also, free parking isn't free. It's just included in tuition or salaries right now. Make it a la carte.

*Make a plan to gradually reduce parking, with the end goal being a large reduction. The first spots to be eliminated should be easy pickings: choose the ones that are less occupied now that people are paying to park.

*Reducing parking can go alongside really nice things: added green space, new university buildings, or students and faculty housing. And why not invite some businesses on campus? I caution that I haven't been to Bryant, so perhaps the internet is just lying to me, but from what I gathered online, the food situation sucks. And consider allowing, or even nudging, to have development be mixed use, sot that restaurants or grocery stores are on the bottom floors of new buildings, with housing on the top. America is not nearly as mixed-use as it has been, but the one place that never has trouble holding together a mixed-use marketplace is a college campus.


*Work to get better frequency and span to the 52 bus. Students go on message-boards and complain about what a lousy student experience they're having because this hasn't been done. If I were the university, I'd want my image to get better treatment online. Fix it!

*Biking is all-important. The bus routes can only solve so many problems. Don't make the mistake of putting together some kind of circulator route (by the way, I love the magic coincidence of this link referring to a solar system metaphor!) between things in the campus and surrounding community, because those routes always take longer to get to their locations than just driving. Instead, connect near points using bike paths. You already paved the bike paths. It's the parking lot. What you need is attractive buffers of green space so that people using those paved areas are visually and physically separated from cars. Put some hedges in, or some flowerbeds. Make it so that someone  isn't even tempted to get in their car on one side of campus and drive and park on the other side. 

*Intra-campus bike-share would make sense too. If General Motors can do it, you can. 

We're going on a trip on our favorite rocket ship. It's time for Bryant University to come back to Spaceship Earth and take some action.

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Land Taxes Just Begging for a Shot in Providence

Pittsburgh uses its 40% parking tax for revenue. But maybe we should refund
some of ours.
Dan McGowan suggests reports on several ways that Providence could close its structural deficit. I agree with several of them: taxing Brown and the hospitals more and changing the formula for pay-as-you-throw on trash collection are both great ideas. Some of the others I'd like to think about: what does it mean to have a private firm control the maintenance of Roger Williams Park? I want to see details before I pass judgement.

Two caught my eye especially: #3 (pass a parking tax), and #9 (increase street-cut fees, i.e., when the sidewalk or street are cut for piping or electrical repairs). 

Both of these, at root, are about land value and a land value tax. These are common in some places. My home state of Pennsylvania has been using a "dual tax" system (part land tax, part property tax) for the better part of a century.

Pass a Parking Tax
The parking tax that McGowan proposes is at a 5%. The highest parking tax in the country (viewed as a great success for land use and revenue collection) is Pittsburgh's, at 40%. I think McGowan's proposal to go gradual is a great idea. Let's do things a bit at a time.

When I wrote about the parking tax proposal in The Projo a little over a year ago, Projo editor Ed Achorn gave my piece a title I strenuously disagree with. He described the plan as "shifting the tax burden to city commuters." Achorn has a habit of changing titles to reflect his editorial biases, rather than letting writers describe their proposals in their own terms (talk to Jared Moffat some time, if you want a more harrowing example). In actual reality, garage* parking in cities is one of those items that is generally priced as high as the market will allow according to work published in Greater Greater Washington. It's true what commuters say: the garage owner is screwing you six ways to Sunday. Because parking prices can't really go higher without a serious backlash in demand, and because garage owners generally make a huge amount of money on a relatively low overhead business, taxing parking means lowering the profit margin of garage owners rather than costing commuters more money.

I proposed using 100% of the parking tax funds to lower property or commercial taxes. Given that Pittsburgh raises more money off of parking taxes than it does off of its local income tax, this seemed like a good opportunity to me for the city to encourage business growth and good land use at the same time.

Then I saw this:

I think this is really sad.

I don't really understand why the Providence Place Mall doesn't consider turning this space into apartments or condos. It's located right next to the train station, meaning that workers who have high-paying jobs in Boston would be well placed to take the lower rents (lower compared to Boston, that is). The occupancy rate in high rises near the train station is near 100%.

The trolls on The Projo, of course, are unhappy that this will be yet another place where they might have to pay $3 (So low!) the park. I have a hard time believing that $3 covers the costs of maintaining the parking, and think it's more likely a lead-loss hedging on the idea that suburban shoppers don't like paying for parking and would be more likely to come to shop if the cost was secretly hidden in the cost of the goods they buy. Why not charge a higher price for parking that reflects the real value of structured parking, and start gradually converting the spaces that are left over into places for people to live? (Maybe you can add your own take to this, by putting a polite comment to the contrary. #AlwaysReadTheComments).

A Frontage Tax
A frontage tax is a kind of land tax as well. The premise is that if your business takes up a larger portion of the road and sidewalk, you should pay more towards the maintenance of that road and sidewalk. Makes sense, right? A storefront on Thayer Street, for instance, is on a very small street and takes up a tiny portion of that street. It pays a much higher per-acre tax to the city than a Walmart or Home Depot. These larger businesses appear to be large taxpayers, but because they consumer a much larger share of public resources (road, sewer, sidewalk, transit, etc.) they actually are taking more from the city than they appear to.

I used Thayer as my initial example to raise your ire. Tax Walmart, but lower taxes on Thayer? Elitist! But actually, this general pattern cuts across the city. Smaller storefronts in areas like Cranston Street also punch far above their weight class when looked at on a per-acre basis. These businesses are often mixed-use, meaning that they provide housing and business rentals all in a tiny area. The space taken up by one of these businesses is often around 0.1 to 0.2 of an acre, so they're giving the city way more, and costing the city way less.

A Budget Crisis
The reality is that the city needs taxes. While I would propose my changes as revenue neutral if that was possible, I would argue that having taxes go up on parking and frontage would be more equitable and more business friendly (that is, both better for liberal reasons as well as conservative ones) than raising taxes some other way. I would propose raising the parking tax to 10% rather than 5% as McGowan suggests (still far lower than the 40% Pittsburgh rate) and putting 60% of the revenue into lower property or commercial taxes. The same for frontage. 60% of the tax revenue raised should go back to taxpayers through lower property tax rates, while 40% goes towards the immediate budget concerns of the city.

As the city figures out its situation, we should gradually increase that give-back until we hit the 100% point. We'll match growth with lower taxes.

Of course, if we find a better source of revenue, I still support passing a parking tax and a frontage tax, but I would then call for the full 100% return that I previously asked for.

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*As opposed to street parking, which is often free or artificially underpriced.

A Douglas Ave. Protected Bike Lane?

On Wednesday at the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, Providence Department of Public Works brought a proposal for a short painted bike lane between Eaton Street and Orms Street. A recent executive order by the mayor requires all projects to get viewed by the BPAC before they proceed through other city bodies, so that the public can comment on changes that might improve the plans. I commented that 1/3 of a mile was a fairly paltry distance (basically walking distance rather than biking distance), and that the proposal didn't do much to meaningfully address bike access to much of anything (the proposal was that this 1/3 of a mile of bike lanes would help Providence College students access downtown, but of course Orms Street is a frightening nightmare, so nix that!).

Instead I proposed that the full length of Douglas be looked at for a protected bike lane on one side of the street, which could be put where parking currently is. Much of Douglas has parking on both sides of the street, but the parking is very empty in my experience. Today I ventured out and took a count, and there were 47 cars between Orms Street and the city line with North Providence. That's about 16 cars per mile, between both sides of the street. Many of the houses have driveways, and many businesses have small parking lots. I did not do a careful count, but anecdotally observed that most of the parking lots we passed (at driving speed) were a good bit of the way towards empty. So I think a protected bike lane here is very feasible.

The BPAC voted yes on my proposal (that never used to happen!). So the city must now consider this as an option, discuss it with neighbors, and do all the planning work to think through whether this makes sense.

In order for Douglas to get heavy bike traffic, Orms Street needs to be addressed, because a significant number of trips are downtown trips. I recall talking to a young, car-free person who worked near the Statehouse saying that she took Uber (!) to work because "biking is scary, and RIPTA is infrequent". Luckily, I think fixing Orms would be relatively doable. This is the intersection of Orms and Douglas:

Douglas as it reaches Orms Street.

Ghastly.

The slipways actually could be an opportunity in disguise. If the city repurposed one lane of the street as a two-way protected bike lane, that would still leave three lanes on the Orms Street bridge (perhaps two lanes with a turn lane? Or perhaps two in one direction, one in the other, paired with another bridge, that could get the reverse?). The slipway lines up with the parking lane of Douglas, so it would be a natural connection. No paving needed here to change anything.

In order to keep people from parking in the bike lane, some bollards are needed. Luckily, these are cheap. I found a quote from the Traffic Safety Store which puts them at $3.50 per bollard.

I think Park Street (adjacent to I-95) makes the most sense beyond that. I would like to see Charles Street get some kind of infrastructure at some point in the future, but a lot more attention would have to be put there to figure out interactions with big box stores and highway on- and off-ramps. The Park Street cut-through was closed for some time for construction back when I first lived here, and there seemed to be no difficulty. I would propose that this street be made local access only (so one side would be closed with bollards to cars, creating a cul-de-sac that only bicyclists and pedestrians could come through two-way). That would allow drivers to access things that they need, but would cut down on the speed and volume of traffic.

The Wanskuck neighborhood is a beautiful one, adjacent to Providence College, and full of the kind
Park Street used to be closed, and there were no problems. How
about making it a cul-de-sac for cars, and a throughway for bikes?
of dense triple-decker housing that could truly support strong biking. It's amazing to me how unlikely I am to travel to this neighborhood. According to Google Maps, the lower end of this neighborhood is just a mile from my apartment. I really enjoyed the things I saw and would like to visit more often, but quite frankly I am unlikely to do so until the city makes it more comfortable to bike and walk here (having a bus system that isn't totally hub-and-spoke would also make it more likely). Considering that this is a university neighborhood, it's odd to let the businesses languish without easy student access, and bike infrastructure is just the way to fix that.

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Signaling Compromise

I've been thinking about signals a lot, both for some bike projects I'm looking at, as well as for the 6/10 Connector project.

I'll probably make other posts about "green wave" signaling, but this post is going to focus on designalizing intersections.

I wrote a bit about S. Water Street, and how the nominal bike path on the sidewalk doesn't work. The biggest issue (besides occasionally very high use by pedestrians) with having the "bike path" there is the fact that signaling on either end doesn't allow convenient crossing. For instance, crossing Point Street to where the East Bay Bike Path picks up is a nightmare because it requires waiting through two signal cycles to cross each way. This is the kind of detail that RIDOT gets wrong because it's not used to thinking of bikes as an important mode of transportation, and it's one of the reasons you rarely see anyone use the so-called "bike path" or the dangerous parking-adjacent bike lane on S. Water.


Being able to cross would be easier with a "pedestrian scramble". The other day when I was passing through this area, I got thinking about how that might mix with the idea of designalizing the intersections entirely. 

There's a real debate over how best to use (or not use) signals for traffic. Here's a video I've posted before, which I know has also been featured on Greater City Providence, about the city of Poynton in the UK.


Designaling intersections lowers people's peak speeds through those intersections, but because people can pause momentarily and move on, it also improves their overall travel times (think: "Slow and steady wins the race."). This has a big safety improvement effect for many users, in addition to being better for traffic.

There are a bunch of contrary facts to this theory, though.

The first is that although slower speeds are better than faster speeds for people on bikes and pedestrians, traffic volumes have a huge effect on the perception (and reality) of safety too. I know this from first-hand experience from having lived in Philadelphia. Many streets have four-way stops, and this does encourage more biking, and slower, more deliberate behavior from drivers. But if you're in a narrow lane biking in front of even the most conscientious driver, you still feel uncomfortable. So separated areas are good, especially for bicyclists. David Hembrow* made a good video talking about how to create separate crossings for bike paths that are away from traffic circles:

The other issue is that although some disabled people have testified their opinion that shared space and designalization works for them, many others are uncomfortable with it. There is a real movement among blind people in the UK to object to shared space proposals.


I've been thinking a lot about this issue. I have a proposal that I think takes the best from both worlds:

*Set up two-lane-meet-two-lane intersections so that they have a default setting of blinking red lights in both directions. This means that traffic would flow more smoothly, but at lower speeds, and for many users would provide more safety (objectively and subjectively). 

*Maintain the ped "beg buttons" but set them to allow for "pedestrian scrambles". A pedestrian scramble is when traffic stops in all four directions. By having the ped scramble be an option by request, people with special needs, like the blind, would be able to access an enhanced crossing.

A big downside to this proposal is that beg buttons and signals still cost a lot of money. One of the advantages of four-way stop signs is their markedly lower cost. In many cases, Dutch cities have reduced the amount of signals they use, but this has been by reducing traffic volumes along certain corridors. So we should consider all of these options.

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*David Hembrow HATES HATES HATES any kind of designalization or "shared space". So fair warning.


Fountain Street to Get Protected Bike Lane

The City of Providence proposes using the extra width of Fountain Street to create bike facilities protected by parking. However this is done, this is an improvement, and should be applauded.


I have tweaks. 


I propose parallel parking on both sides, because angled parking tends to slow traffic. You say, "But don't you love slow traffic, James?" Not necessarily. Fountain St. in my experience is not too fast for comfortable crossing, but it is uncomfortable to bike on. We're solving that with separated facilities. Letting traffic flow for cars is a fair compromise in return. 

I also don't want people to assume that slower traffic is caused by the bike lane (which it's not). The angled parking will have that effect, but people will never blame the parking. They'll blame the cyclists.

The other reason I propose a much wider footprint for the protected bike lane is this:

Fountain Street is a core area of the city, and it's going to have slow cyclists, fast cyclists, and people in wheelchairs or rascals, all of whom have different needs. Having the capacity to pass one another is important. The bike lane I propose above looks monstrously huge by American standards but is pretty close to average for the Netherlands (they push for 4 meters, which is 12 feet; I did 15).*

The other advantage to a wider bike lane is this:


There was discussion of needing to fundraise for the flexposts (the plastic poles that keep the parked cars from parking in the bike lane), and despite that, there's still a need to remove those posts each fall in preparation for snow plowing. This is an unnecessary maintenance cost that would be obviated if we just made the bike lane wide enough for a vehicle.

Why else should we make the bike lane wider?


I would hope there'd be no need for it, but if there should be need for a fire or ambulance crew to come through, having wider bike lanes gives them a priority lane that they can circumnavigate traffic congestion through. This is a real thing that is done in the Netherlands, and as I explored, cities in the Netherlands save a lot of money by having fewer fire stations for the same number of people. Getting better response times to fires or medical emergencies also means that there will be more success with those incidents.

So please help us get the word out: Providence Planning's Fountain Street plan is a real step forward, but we need to improve it more still.

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* In fact, as an addendum, another part of the conversation about disabled people was the fact that Providence is required to fix wheelchair ramps whenever it repaves a street. As a means of getting around this, the Planning Dept. intends to only pave certain sections of the street where there are no ramp issues. This isn't out of malice to people in wheelchairs, and in fact the Planning Dept. is looking for funding for ramp fixes in the future. It also partly stems, as I'm told, from the fact that certain streets and sidewalks are imminently going to be torn up again, so redoing the ramps doesn't make financial sense. But if we focused on wide protected bike lanes that had room for rascals, we could do fewer curb cuts, because there would be less urgency to get rascals or wheelchairs up ramps at certain locations (e.g., It's a real harm to a person in a wheelchair if they can't get to a ramp that's right on the corner, faced the right way to cross a particular crosswalk. But if the protected bike lane could scoot them along safely to the next curb cut, then that would be less of an issue).

My (Unprinted) Projo Op/Ed


It's not clear to me why the Providence Journal has not decided to print this, but I've waited a reasonable interval for them to take action, and they have not. I think the coverage of the 6/10 Connector in Projo has recently suffered quite a bit, with no real effort to help voters understand the differences between the RIDOT proposal and Moving Together Providence's.

~~~~~

RIDOT has dubbed its proposal for a 6/10 Connector Big Dig a "highway-boulevard hybrid", but the 6/10 Dig is sharply at odds with the Moving Together Providence proposal for a genuine 6/10 Boulevard. Like the "cooler and warmer" scandal that has captured the public's attention and revulsion, highway-boulevard hybrid is state-government-speak for nonsense.  But the mistakes embedded in RIDOT's 6/10 approach are orders of magnitude more expensive than the $4.5 million Reykjavik excursion, and its failure will stay with us for decades.

It's pretty obvious why the 6/10 Connector has segregated Silver Lake, Olneyville, and the West End from each other, and not hard to understand how it made Providence's "second downtown" its poorest neighborhood. Less obvious, but vital, is for suburbanites to understand how RIDOT's policy fails them, and to join in a statewide movement for a genuine boulevard.

Urban highways funnel traffic and collect it into a few chokepoints, instead of allowing it to disperse naturally. Olneyville has next to no job centers that would draw outsiders, and the neighborhood itself is almost 50% car-free. But 11:30 on a Wednesday in Olneyville Square feels like let-out time for the Newport Jazz Festival. How can a place with so little economic activity and driving be so congested? 

The answer is the Connector itself, that might as well be called the Disconnector. While in theory it speeds up traffic along its corridor, its limited-access ramp system also cuts off the smaller streets that could grid together traffic. That means that local and through traffic is pushed together, and since traffic is non-linear in nature, even a smaller push in that direction can be the tipping point that stops everything. Of course, in addition, the Connector itself also becomes congested at rush hours, when it's actually needed, and fails commuters trying to somewhere quickly.

Imagine the urban highway approach applied to one of the state's most job-heavy neighborhoods: the East Side. There's no doubt that affluent university staff are able to afford cars and often drive to work. Yet the traffic is absorbed in a grid of mostly small, two-lane streets. Between Main and Butler, fifteen two lane streets add up to thirty lanes of traffic. East Providence commuters might cheer an Angell Street Expressway if RIDOT proposed one, but they would find over time that the proposal would make their commute worse. The RIDOT 6/10 approach, if brought to Angell Street, would tie up traffic by blocking that grid with a limited-access freeway. It would also require sacrificing our most productive places for additional on- and off-ramp space. The disaster it would create would seem to justify the expense, as people who sat in the new traffic would never grasp that the highway itself caused their misery. The reason this tragedy never befell the East Side was because its residents were well enough connected to fight it, but Olneyville too deserves fair treatment.

Doesn’t decking the highway make things nicer? Yes, but only in a very limited location, and at very great expense. It precludes improving the whole corridor, and puts us on the hook for long-term debt, without the benefits of development or traffic mitigation.

A surface boulevard-- not 6/10 Dig, but the Moving Together community vision--allows bridges to be shortened to cross just the Amtrak corridor, allowing for more numerous bridge connections to re-weave the grid. In opens up 70 acres of development that the RIDOT plan leaves tied up in on- and off-ramps. It prevents the state from needing to deck a highway, which would be an expensive liability. A boulevard will reawaken our city just as Waterplace Park did, but by lowering rather than adding costs. 

We call on Gov. Raimondo to trash the RIDOT highway-boulevard "hybrid" and build a real boulevard, before 6/10 Dig becomes the next Icelandic embarrassment. 6/10 Dig doesn't create the warmth of community, and it's certainly not cool. 

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James Kennedy is part of the group Moving Together Providence. You can follow him on Twitter at @transportpvd.