Robert I. Burke
Robert I. Burke is owner of the Pot au Feu restaurant in Providence and founder of the Independence Trail.
The bus hub hubbub has taken a turn in the right direction with the new proposal put forth by a coalition of urbanist innovators (“Advocates pitch new bus-hub plan,” News, Nov. 11).
While much of the issue has to do with the mechanics of getting from here to there, we have a chance to now do something more.
The new hub can be a gateway to Providence, a gateway to Rhode Island and a gateway to New England.
Bus stations used to be called terminals — a place where something ends — instead, we need places where something begins.
Our new hub can be a place where the excitement of travel starts instead of being where the joy of travel goes to die.
The concept of a hub naturally includes spokes, which connect to the hub. As the design develops, we need to think hard about those spokes and tie as many into the hub as possible.
RIPTA routes converging into a welcoming destination or comfortable transfer point are paramount.
The hub should also serve regional buses that connect us to other cities and make it easier for Providence to be a destination. The current mishmash of unsafe, scattered sidewalk bus stops is not a way to welcome anyone to our great city.
Just across the street from the proposed site is a little used dock on the river that could become a water transport link. Other waterfront cities make extensive use of ferries for commuters and tourists.
The proposed hub site is practically on the shore of the river. Why not provide space for kayak rentals that could be paddled on the river? Or buy a ticket for a boat tour or a gondola ride that starts at the hub.
The hub should include a place for commuters to park their bikes for the day, with space available for rental bikes and scooters. Bike paths also link up nearby, providing more spokes, literally and figuratively.
There should be room for car sharing services to conveniently drop off and pick up. The hub could consolidate car rentals and offerings such as Zip cars that can serve downtown residents who do not own but occasionally need a car.
New relationships can be formed by a properly designed hub. Bus to work. Bus to bus. Bus to bike. Bus to ferry. Bus to car. Bus to foot. Bus to kayak. Bus to gondola.
The facility should also have facilities — the great bugaboo of public toilets needs to be solved. Travelers and commuters need toilets. It is a challenge other cities have solved and it is time to solve the issue in Providence.
The hub should be a place where tourists can mingle with residents and both can find a vibrancy our COVID-wounded city now lacks.
There are many more spokes that can be connected to our new bus hub. Let’s make it a destination for commuters, tourists, cyclists, drivers, walkers, kayakers and others.
Let’s make it an exciting destination, not a terminal where the joy of travel goes to die.