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Sound Off: Is Wickford Junction a Good Investment?

About 200 people use Wickford Junction daily.

 

The trains have been running through Wickford Junction (South County's only commuter rail stop) for almost seven months now and ridership has remained stayed at just shy of 200 daily passengers. For a project that cost $45 million and included a 1,100-space parking garage, that figure is a bit lower than what taxpayers would hope to see.

In a segment that ran on WJAR-TV last week, Channel 10's news team looked into the future of the project. By their estimates, the "total cost of the project compared to its use works out to about $225,000 per passenger. (Check out Channel 10's full segment on Wickford Junction here)

According to RI Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis, the station is an "investment for decades to come." The parking garage, he said, was built with 2020 projections in mind – which estimates the station will see 1,500 daily passengers by then. Lewis added that RIDOT is working on a marketing campaign to raise awareness about the station.

Many have criticized the station's scheduling, calling for stops at night and over the weekend. In an interview with North Kingstown Patch in June, DOT Chief of Intermodal Planning Stephen Devine said that department is waiting to grow daily commuters before adding new routes.

“We only had about 150 to 200 people per day for a couple of years when we first opened Providence,” said Devine. “Today, we now have over 2,000 riders per day and many more trains.”

Do you think Wickford Junction will boom in the coming years or bust? What do you think would help improve ridership at South County's only commuter rail location?

Jeff Crawford November 19, 2012 at 01:02 PM
I would seriously consider riding the train to Providence daily if more trains were provided in the afternoon between 3pm and 5pm, cut the cost for the ticket and provide free parking. I can currently ride the RIPTA Bus for $62.00 month unlimited riding, park for free and ride between Providence and North Kingstown in about 35 minutes.
Mike Burt November 19, 2012 at 01:06 PM
The issue is that there are no weekend trains. When I first heard about the train I thought it would be a great way to get to Boston on the weekend for the day, a ballgame, etc but as we know, thats not the case.
Scott Madison November 19, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Your tax dollars at work: * $3.2 Million to Cioe for the land * $44 Million for the station and parking garage ($36 Million Federal/$8 Million in state bonds + the bond interest), * Cioe's company will also be paid to operate the facility. The state (your tax dollars) is paying Cioe's company a $15,000 per month management fee. * It is also paying a $15,300 monthly parking "operator fee" (how much goes to Cioe?) * $8,400/month electric bill. * Trash and snow removal, landscaping and other costs and the bill to maintain the facility comes to $56,000 a month. **** That's $672,000 a year just in operating costs. *** Cioe really made out.....that was a sweet deal. The taxpayers lost, again. Even if you could fill the parking garage in 10 years (extremely doubtful)....1100 cars. Is $50 million dollars of your taxes plus interest, by 2022, worth saving 1100 cars from being on the highway everyday? If you do the math and to put into perspective, that is $45,500 per car. You could buy each of the 1,100 potential riders TWO Toyota Prius's for that expense. Was it worth constructing a 1100 car parking garage, the 5th largest out of all the 134 MBTA commuter rail stations? Did North Kingstown need such a huge garage? I like the fact there is a train station here in NK, it "could" be useful. That being said, what we got for the money we spent as taxpayers is completely ridiculous, in my humble opinion.
Greg November 19, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I call it the Rhode Island Waltz - One step forward, three steps back. It's a shame.
Joanne Naumann November 19, 2012 at 08:48 PM
It would seem that they could have bought the land, put in a parking lot and then built the garage later. Weekend service and some later evening runs would boost usage I suppose if I carpooled to Providence I might consider parking the car there for the day, it's covered I wouldn't have to clean off snow!
MeanE November 19, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Scott - I agree with many of your arguments. However, how many jobs were created by this project? Enough to justify the costs, probably not, but it is one thing to consider. Another question, how was the $36 million in Federal money earmarked? Was it specific to Rail service? Because if it was, then it makes sense to use that money now, for the future. I understand that it looks pretty bad right now on paper, but there may be some reasons why it was built. Is NK, whether it be the chamber or Town Council promoting the fact that we have a commuter rail available? Would NK not be attractive to Boston Employees that want what NK can provide? Can the fact that we have a commuter station increase property values? Can it help the unemployed in NK and south county broaden their job seeking radius? Just some observations and questions that still need to be answered to determine if it is a good investment and for whom. As everybody else has stated, I have no use for the station right now, but if weekends were included, and an AMTRAK terminal were added, it would be a useful proposition for my family.
Homie K November 19, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I think you raised some great points MeanE. This has not even been operational for a year. As a life long Rhode Islander who works part time in NYC, I absolutely see the value of this as a long term investment. In NYC, public transit is second nature. And those areas that have the easiest, nicest commutes into the city are also the most valuable propertywise. This is a lifestyle and mindset change for RI that will take time. But if we ever want to move this state forward, I see this as a step in the right direction. And this is about much more than just the parking lot and number of riders.
Govstench November 20, 2012 at 01:58 AM
This would make good sense if it was tied into the Boston-New York schedule. So you add another stop after Kingston station - what is the big deal? AND, you would also have weekend service to Boston and New York!! Why this state decided on just having the MBTA on this line is boggling - you have two US Senators who could have intervened on this! What were they doing beside following Obama around?
NK Parent November 20, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I've had about 4-5 instances where I looked into taking the NK train as a viable transportation option and not once was the schedule accommodating. Like many others I thought this would be a great option for day trips up to Boston over the weekend. As a commuting option to Providence it seems like the bus is so much cheaper I'm not sure who would consider the train. Lastly, I go to NYC about 2-3 times a month for work. The lack of a regional Amtrak station in NK was a H-U-G-E oversight. I hate having to continuously drive down to the South Kingston station when there's another station 2 minutes from my home.
Just your ordinary NK resident November 26, 2012 at 09:23 PM
working in the travel/tourism industry I see the call/need for more services out of Wickford. Having the first stop out of wickford be at the airport why in the world is there not over night parking?? People would park here to head to PVD or Logan airport if this was the case. I have used the T out of Wickford twice, once for a short trip to providence and the other was a same day travel/flight from TFG. if you could park overnight I think that more tourists might venture to Providence-Boston and beyond.
observer January 18, 2013 at 01:00 PM
Let's be honest. This was a pork barrel insider deal that epitomizes government waste of tax dollars. All the pols showed up to take their bows, where are they now? They are giving away free parking and train tickets in a futile attempt to create interest in this government white elephant. The logistical compactness of RI does not lend itself to the same mass transit ideas that fit into a large metropolitan area. As many have noted the schedule of trains is woefully lacking. This is just another monument to bureaucratic smoke and mirrors waste. Scott's post above is right on point. "...built with 2020 projections" are they kidding RI is losing population. Hello all you government wizards of prognostication. Let me throw a thought at you, maybe this wonderful edifice can be converted into a nice rest home for all of you who thought it up, so that you can live in the midst of your foolishness. As a taxpayer my level of frustration with this type of waste is beyond mere words. Every time each and everyone of you tax paying citizens passes by this ghost, give a thought to how the tax money wasted here could have been used in a more positive project. The bang for the buck here is simply a hollow thud!

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