With the completion of the Hope Street road repair project last fall, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation painted large rectangular areas at most, if not all of the 12 the bus stops along the half mile stretch. While the intent of the boxes is to give bus drivers an area where they can pull to the curb, few are used properly.
“The (number) of bus stops is the same as I always remember them,” town council chairwoman Mary Parella said. “The busses don’t go over and come in for a landing like they’re supposed to.”
To comply with Rhode Island’s ‘Complete Streets’ initiative, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is making efforts to incorporate “pedestrianism” into its projects, said Mark Therrien of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. Bristol, he said, is the first community in the state where bus boxes are used.
Once the Hope Street road and sidewalk was completed in the fall of 2012, the number of bus stops within the half mile stretch became glaring, with white, rectangular lines taking up to three car lengths to mark the area where busses can pick up and drop off passengers. But while the ‘bus boxes’ are designed to keep traffic flowing while busses safely service passengers, bus drivers continue to angle in, blocking traffic flow.
“I admit, we need to train our drivers so they get off the road,” Mr. Therrien said. “The first month they weren’t pulling in at all. Now they’re pulling in half way.”
Despite the drivers’ improvements, town councilman Nathan Calouro would just as soon see the spots used as parking spaces to benefit businesses.
“Every parking spot is valuable. If we’re not going to use them for one thing, let’s use them for another. It’s clear to me that they could use it, but they choose not to,” Mr. Calouro said.
In an effort to comply with the complete streets mandate and be sensitive to the parking issue in the downtown area, Mr. Therrien asked for six months to ensure that RIPTA drivers receive instruction on bus box use. After walking the area with Town Administrator Tony Teixeira and director of community development, Diane Williamson weeks ago, Mr. Therrien also conceded that “maybe there are too many bus stops” in such a small area. Instead of having six stops in each direction, RIPTA will trim that number to three in each direction, keeping the stops at and Franklin Street, State Street and Constitution Avenue.
“I think it’s fair to give six months as a study to see if your drivers are using them,” Ms. Parella said.
Mr. Calouro, however, seemed unwilling to give any more than six months.
“I say, in six months if we’re still not pulling in, we’re wasting our time. Let’s reclaim some of these spots,” he said.