NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – Some commuters who are used to taking the bus to Providence from a Park and Ride lot in North Kingstown are being moved to the underused Wickford Junction train station a half mile down the road starting Monday.
Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti said about 80 cars use the lot on a daily basis and they hope their relocation will boost ridership at Wickford.
“We’re trying to make changes here to increase the usage. How much that’s going to be I don’t know, we’ll see,” Alviti said. “But I do know that bringing the transits together with the rail and increasing the number of opportunities people have will help encourage things.”
In May, Target 12 revealed ridership at Wickford Junction commuter rail station was far below projections used to secure funding for the multimillion-dollar project and will likely fail to meet expectations.
Service started at the Wickford Junction station in April 2012. The latest ridership figures supplied by the R.I. Department of Transportation show 391 people used it on an average weekday as of last September, up from 338 a year earlier.
By comparison, the 2005 South County Commuter Rail Service operations plan – which was used to build support for the effort – forecast daily ridership at Wickford Junction would hit 3,386 by 2020. To meet those projections, ridership would have to increase by 776% over the next five years.
Alviti conceded they are unlikely to meet those projections, but combining the Park and Ride lot with Wickford is one of several steps they are taking to get more people in the door at the commuter rail station.
He said they are also exploring promotions to encourage increased ridership.
Signs posted at the Park and Ride lot up the road from Wickford Junction inform commuters about the changes, and fliers have been placed on the windshields of cars.
Alviti said they have not received any complaints about the change because the two locations are so close.
“It’ll be a lot more convenient because there will be parking inside, and they will be waiting for the bus inside instead of outside,” he said.
Construction crews are working to change the entrance of Wickford to accommodate RIPTA buses and they are modifying the inside the parking garage so riders can wait inside. Alviti said the changes are costing roughly $372,000.
He said they are putting the parking lot that is being closed – which is at the junction of Route 2 and Route 4 – up for sale and they hope to make $1.5 to $2 million.
A press release said there will be 64 RIPTA weekday bus trips – 34 inbound and 30 outbound – leaving Wickford and heading to Providence every 15 minutes. Alviti said it will fill in the gaps for the commuter trains that leave every hour and train tickets can be used for bus fare.
“Before if you missed the train you had to wait an hour,” Alviti said. “Now the most you’re going to have to wait is about 15 minutes.”
The Wickford Junction project cost taxpayers $44.7 million and was pitched in part as a way to relieve highway congestion. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, one of the project’s biggest champions and a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured nearly $33 million in federal funding for it between 1998 and 2009.