Rhode Island’s Ghost Train


Tim White and Ted Nesi have checked in on the ridership of the newish Wickford Junction:

Service started at the Wickford Junction station in April 2012. The latest ridership figures supplied by the R.I. Department of Transportation show 391 people used it on an average weekday as of last September, up from 338 a year earlier.

By comparison, the 2005 South County Commuter Rail Service operations plan that was used to build support for the effort contained a forecast that daily ridership would hit 3,386 by 2020. To meet those projections, Wickford Junction ridership would have to increase by 776% over the next five years.

The study used to project ridership was done in 1995, and an update has missed its deadline.  U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D, RI) argues that ridership at the Providence station was low once, too.  ““Now it’s one of the most popular stations along the whole route, about 2,300 passengers a day,” he says, and it’s interesting to note that 2,300 passengers a day in Providence is more than 1,000 fewer than was projected for Wickford.

To modify a saying, if it looks like a boondoggle and costs money like a boondoggle…

  • Warrington Faust

    I have always wondered if politicians failed get Lionels as kids. When I was a kid, I frequently took the “milk train” home from New York. It left Manhattan at about 1 AM, and stopped in North Kingston around 4:00 AM. I never noticed anyone get on, or off at North Kingston.

  • Mike678

    This Money Pit brought to you by our State Planners–the people that know better than yourself what you need–see Rhode Map RI.

    If the State wants to increase ridership there are ways. The first, increase the gas tax 800% or more. Second, pay people to take the train, and.finally, just exaggerate the ridership statistics with a knowing wink and nod.

    • Justin Katz

      You missed an option: The state and local governments could get out of the way of the economy and permit Rhode Islanders to thrive, which will increase demand for transportation. When I used to commute, I would have loved the option of a regular train, and that was even before smart phones, tablets, and cell phone-based wifi.
      It’s like the planners and politicians only see the part of a comprehensive solution that gives them more power and money.

      • Mike678

        You are an optimist :)

      • Warrington Faust

        ” permit Rhode Islanders to thrive”
        I heard a great idea on the radio, which began at MIT. It is called a “Fab Lab”, as in “fabrication”. It is a work space open to all to produce working models of planned ideas. It has the usual machinery, lathe, drills, mills, etc plus some high tech such as 3D printers and soldering machines. Costs run from $20,000 to $100,000 for a very well set up shop. There are about 500 of these around the world. Is it “too cheap” an idea for RI? I suppose AS220 provides some of this, but is not really geared toward business uses. The speaker mentioned there are two in the Worcester area.

  • RITaxpayer

    Whenever I read the word ‘boondoggle’, I think of those off shore wind generators.

    Wickford station would be busier if it was promoted better. How about free parking Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a few months to entice riders?
    What good is a train leaving Wickford at 7:45, when you have to be at work in Providence at 8:00?
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad or schedule. There should be a LED sign near the station with the daily schedule for drivers to see.

    It’s as if no one is in charge.

    Oh well, there’s my two cents.

    • Max

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding your comment and I am in no way supporting these stations but there are earlier trains…right? Is this schedule wrong?


      • RITaxpayer

        Your right. Thanks for setting me straight. Those two earlier trains would get you to Providence in plenty of time for 8:00 start time.
        When I first heard about this station, I thought it was a great idea and would get many drivers off of rte 4 N in the morning. If I worked in Providence, I think I’d be one of the few riders on the train.
        We certainly didn’t need a parking garage of the size that’s there though. That’s the multi million dollar boondoggle.