Providence Station Renovation Plans Fail to Keep Up With the Times

Plans for a $3 million renovation of the Providence rail station aren't urban enough, say local advocates. Photo: Greater City Providence

The city of Providence was recently awarded $3 million to renovate its 26-year-old train station. But our friends at Greater City Providence are “less than thrilled” with the plans.

Blogger Jef Nickerson argues that Providence is a much different place today than when the station was built in the mid-80s. But the renovation plans are merely a sprucing up of the same uninspired design that’s been in place for a generation:

This plan is nothing more than ripping out what has failed to be maintained since 1986 and replacing it more ticky tacky, insipid, suburban inspired dreck that will again not be maintained. And no one will care that it is not maintained because it will only ever be used by people moving as fast as they can through it because there is no there, there.

It is not visionary, and it is not urban. Remember 1986 and its 93¢ gas and the remoteness of the idea that there’d ever be a huge passenger base at the station? Well it is 2012 and 1986 was wrong, there is demand. Maybe some sad plantings and some benches scattered about worked in 1986, in 2012 we need a station that people use, we need an urban station. The plan is all mall style pavers, curved planters, flag poles, banners slapped on the building, and random cafe tables. There’s no thought for retail, where does a hypothetical Friday afternoon farmers market go in this plan, where are the food trucks, where is the seating for the hundreds of people who use this station now and the thousands that will be using it years to come, where’s the covered secure bike parking?

In 1986 when we built a station because it simply seemed like a thing a city needed to have, we were on to something. A city does need to have a train station, but a vital city needs that train station to be one of its great public venues, it should be one of the beating hearts of the city. Let’s not screw this up, because the Federal Government does not hand us $3 million for these type of things every day.

Elsewhere on the Network today: UrbanVelo reports that if one third of Americans replaced one mile of car travel per day with cycling, we would save a combined $17 billion. The Tulsa Bicycle Examiner is dismayed that a local cyclist was ticketed for the patently legal act of cycling in the street. And Spacing Toronto shares the news that a forward-thinking local college has moved to close a roadway to car traffic to give students more space for walking and cycling.