Providence Spent the Most on Pedestrian Projects?



Providence Spent the Most on Pedestrian Projects?

I’m shocked.  According to a Providence Business News article:

The federal government spent more on pedestrians in the Providence metropolitan area than in any other urban region over the last three years, according to a study released Monday.

The government spent an average of $4.01 per person on bicycle and pedestrian projects annually in the Providence-New Bedford-Fall River region from 2005 to 2008, according to Transportation for America, a Washington-based coalition of transit, environmental and public health advocates.

So where has all this money gone?  With stats like this, I would think Providence would be a blissful paradise for pedestrians, yet I’ve certainly spent time in other metropolitan areas and can’t draw the same qualitative conclusion.  Certainly, Providence is far better than some areas, but how is it possible that Providence ranks safer than Portland, OR.  After all, Portland is the pedestrian and cycling mecca.

I’m still combing my way through the Dangerous by Design report conducted by Transportation for America, but my initial reaction is one of disbelief and disconnect.  One factor I’m really curious about is whether the data is normalized to reflect the number of trips made by foot or bicycle compared to the total number of trips made.  I can’t believe the study wouldn’t account for this, but off the top of my head, it’s the only quick answer I can come up with.

I’d welcome thoughts and comments of the community.  Please take some time, read through the report and see if it makes sense to you!


  • Steve Davis
    Nov 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    And feel free to get in touch with us if you have some questions like that you'd like answered. We'd be happy to help. FYI, the Providence metro area encompasses the entire state of RI, I believe. Census MSA.

  • Dennis
    Nov 10, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    A couple things stick out, to me.

    1. Define Pedestrian

    2. Providence seems to be a region (that includes a good chunk of Mass)

    3. Providence also ranks #4 in pedestrian traffic fatalities… something strange there.

    Some of the Transportation for America report seems to draw form polling, some from law enforcement data… and who knows what else. I think I'd like to see who did the study, who funded it and what questions it was designed to answer.

    There are three types of lies. Plain lies, damn lies and statistics.

    – Mark Twain

  • Steve Davis
    Nov 11, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Dennis, I'd be happy to get answers for any of your questions via email if you want to hit me up directly. There's no polling data cited, just the Census data on percentage of commuters walking to work (Census doesn't really qualify as polling.) The fatality information (and definition of pedestrian) all comes from the FARS database. There's much more about our methodology on this page, but I'll be happy to fill in any gaps.

    Transportation for America, the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, and a researcher from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (NY/NJ/CT) did all the work on the report. It was funded in general by our campaign (T4A) with time from Tri-State as well. It's a report that picks up where STPP's "Mean Streets" reports left off a few years ago (their last was in 2004, I believe.) It's intended to measure and analyze pedestrian fatalities, where they occur, why, and what we can do to end this tragic death of nearly 5,000 people per year.

    Anyway, feel free to get in touch with me if you have other questions we can answer. Would love to help out.

  • Ted Lewandowski
    Nov 11, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Most local municipalities in this state (RI) are not proactive about fostering any change when it comes to pedestrians or cyclists. Alternative transport to them means taking the bus.

    Until you get the type of people that govern and manage the City of Portland into Rhode island – nothing is going to change.

    Providence is 42 on the list (which includes Fall River and New Bedford for some unknown reason?) which makes it more dangerous than the City of Boston.

    It also doesn't help that RI finished LAST in driver knowledge test conducted by GMAC Insurance a couple of years ago. Drivers not knowing the proper rules of the road will create more accidents.

    Driver education my be the 1st place to start here!

  • Matt Moritz
    Nov 12, 2009 at 6:17 am

    Hrm, $4.01 per capita, population of about 1.5 million, over the course of 3 years, for a total of around $6 million on Pedestrians and Bicyclists. That's a pathetic dollar figure and frightening to think that even less was spent elsewhere.

    I can't find the FHA FMIS database to query to see what projects were paid for in the sample years. I would guess that items such as the Blackstone Bike Path paving would be included.

  • Nov 12, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Could the spending on the retrofitted pedestrian/bike path on the Washington Bridge skew the numbers significantly, depending on the definition of the costs?

  • Nov 12, 2009 at 7:32 am

    No significant money has been spent on the bike/ped path on the Washington Bridge yet. The real work has yet to begin. I'll have an update on this project in the next couple of weeks, once I learn the results of the concrete evaluation. This evaluation will determine whether work goes forward to revamp the existing structure or if an entirely new structure must be built.

  • Ted Lewandowski
    Nov 12, 2009 at 7:40 am

    This after they spent two years tearing down the lanes to the metal support beams on the Washington Bridge and repairing and resurfacing them in cement.

    Where is the public outcry over this mismanagement?

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