INTRASTATE COMMUTER RAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY: PROJECT OVERVIEW
Imagine the possibility of intrastate rail within Rhode Island! Supported by a Rhode Island Statewide Planning
Challenge Grant, The Providence Foundation collaborated with the City of Woonsocket, and communities
between Woonsocket and Warwick in 2009 to explore the potential to operate intrastate passenger rail service
between Woonsocket and TF Green Airport in Warwick.
Why It Works
High population density: Intrastate commuter rail service is expected to attract substantial
ridership. The study found that this line would serve 2/3 of Rhode Island’s population and most
major employment centers, including Providence, where more than 1/3 of employees within the
entire study area work.
Multiple markets in close proximity: Directly served communities would include Warwick,
Cranston, Providence, Pawtucket, Cumberland and Woonsocket. Four complementary travel markets
would be served: intrastate travelers to Providence and other communities, interstate travelers to
Boston, air passengers to TF Green and local airport employees. Studies have shown that 80% of
corridor residents currently drive alone to work. Rail will be an attractive alternative.
Use of existing rail infrastructure: The intrastate commuter rail will operate on two active lines: 14
miles of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) from Pawtucket to Warwick and 11 miles of the
Providence and Worcester Railroad’s (P&W) mainline from Woonsocket to Pawtucket. Therefore,
modest capital investments are needed. Three stations are in place or under construction in Warwick,
Providence and Woonsocket. A fourth station, in Pawtucket, is well along in the planning process.
High forecasted performance: Forecasted trip lengths on the Rhode Island intrastate service are
relatively short. In addition, the service is expected to compare favorably with other projects
receiving federal funds through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts process. In
comparison with the eight smallest commuter railroads currently operating in the United States, the
forecasted costs are much lower and ridership estimates are higher.
Passenger travel: 5,600 to 6,000 total boardings are expected per day. The 2030 forecast shows that
32 intrastate trains will arrive in Providence each day, and 16 intrastate trains will arrive in Warwick.
The intrastate service would increase daily train traffic in Providence significantly, expanding from 68
(MBTA and Amtrak) trains to a total of 102. With intrastate service, Warwick would see an
expansion from 16 daily trains to a total of 32, including 16 roundtrips between Woonsocket and
Warwick. All trains that arrive in Woonsocket also pass through Pawtucket, where passengers can
access future MBTA service to Boston.
Transit-oriented development: Transit can be a catalyst for economic growth, and several
development opportunities have been identified near new and expanded stations. With anticipated
mixed-use and residential development, passengers should be able to commute to work without
using cars, by biking or walking to the stations. Cumberland, Cranston, and other communities are
already planning for this type of development.
Environmental Impact: By providing transit alternatives, the state will follow Smart Growth
planning principles, reducing both traffic congestion and pollution.
Economic Impact: By increasing transit options, the state becomes more competitive for the 21st
Costs & Comparison
The relatively low forecast operating cost (and its associated metrics) for the Rhode Island intrastate service
reflects the relatively modest extent of the proposed network, small vehicle fleet, sharing infrastructure with
other carriers and operators, and serving multiple travel markets with a single service. Together, these factors
make the proposed service a potentially attractive transit investment.
Metric Rhode Island Peer Group
Estimated Capital Cost ($ millions) $149 Average $896
Annual Operating Cost ($ millions) (Option 2) $6.7 $24.9
Forecast Daily Ridership 6,000 17,760
Capital Cost per Weekday Passenger Boarding (000s) $25 $46
Operating Cost per Passenger Trip $3.96 $13.16
Forecast Passenger Revenue per Passenger Trip $2.45 $3.62
Farebox Recovery Ratio (Fares/Operating Cost) 62% 29%
Required Annual Operating Support ($ millions) $2.6 $16.73
Operating Subsidy per Passenger Trip $1.51 $9.54
Next Steps for Implementation
Integrating the service proposal into the state’s transportation development plans, with formal
inclusion into Rhode Island’s next Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
Completing the South County I project with associated NEC infrastructure improvements and rail
station at TF Green Airport (underway, with expected completion in 2011).
Reopening Pawtucket Station for passenger rail service to Boston (in process).
Continuing dialogue with P&W concerning its potential cooperation and support for operation of
passenger rail service along its mainline between Woonsocket and Pawtucket.
Continuing to plan for the service in the context of the Federal Transit Administration’s multi-step
New Starts process. This involves a formal alternatives analysis, followed by a formal environmental
study with preliminary engineering, followed by final design and construction.
Feasibility Study Sponsored By: The Providence Foundation, City of Woonsocket, Federal Highway
Administration, and Rhode Island Department of Statewide Planning
32 Trains per Day (2030)
32 Trains per Day for Providence
16 Trains per Day for Wickford
Up to 50 Trains per Day
To New York City