Thin crowds at Warwick's InterLink facility; commuter interest growing

About 15 passengers had their pick of seats as they entered the Mass. Bay Transportation Authority’s 7:15 a.m. train, departing the new InterLink facility at Warwick’s T.F. Green Airport for Boston on Jan 10. More

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Thin crowds at Warwick's InterLink facility; commuter interest growing

ON TRACK: Standard Parking’s Bill Powers, right, greets a commuter boarding an MBTA train. He said each day he sees several new passengers.
MISSING LINK: Warwick resident Lawrence Cohen settles in for his commute to Cambridge, Mass., departing from the InterLink facility in Warwick. The number of commuters is slowly growing, officials say.
Posted 1/17/11

About 15 passengers had their pick of seats as they entered the Mass. Bay Transportation Authority’s 7:15 a.m. train, departing the new InterLink facility at Warwick’s T.F. Green Airport for Boston on Jan 10.

The crowd is thin most days, says Bill Powers, a parking administrator who greets commuters at the platform each weekday. Powers, who works for parking-garage contractor Standard Parking, has a front-row view of the action at Rhode Island’s newest commuter rail station.

Imbedded in a $267 million facility that also includes a commuter parking garage and space for rental-car companies, state officials herald the MBTA station as a potential catalyst for economic development.

Trains started rolling on Dec. 6 with three trains departing each weekday morning and three arriving in the evening. The MBTA also operates two trains in the morning from Providence to Warwick and three trains in the evening on the reverse route.

How many people board the trains is unclear. The MBTA was able to provide ridership figures only for some trips. According to the limited data available, ridership has varied between one and 56 for the trains to and from Boston. The trains moving between Warwick and Providence typically have just a handful of passengers, if any.

But Powers said interest is growing.

“Every day I see three, four or five new customers,” he said.

Powers said he typically watches about 20 passengers board the earliest train to Boston – departing at 6:13 a.m. About 40 people board the next train – at 6:52 a.m. – and another 15 or so the last train at 7:15 a.m. Those numbers closely match official figures the MBTA provided for a smattering of trains.

The passengers, Powers said, tell him they come from as far south as South Kingstown to as close as 10 minutes away. Most are headed to jobs in Boston, taking the train in lieu of a car or as an alternative to hoping on at Providence or South Attleboro.

Commuters pull into the 640-space, commuter-parking garage – largely empty on a recent morning visit – or are dropped off at a driveway a few feet from the platform. Some scurry to machines to pay for parking while others hustle onboard or stop to chat with Powers.

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“What we’re seeing is there’s a good level of demand and I fully expect that demand to continue to grow, and grow quite a bit,” said airport corporation President and CEO Kevin Dillon."

Parking garage needs to be totally full by June 30th to meet bond underwriting requirements. RIAC is probably paying more for the Interlink advertising bill boards on I-95 and I-295 than it is collecting in parking revenue. These billboards do nothing to promote commuter parking. They do nothing at all as far as I can tell. A total waste of money.

RIAC and the RIDOT need to climb out of their fox holes and start promoting commuting as a solution to our chronic unemployment problem. So the jobs are in Massachusetts. The people still bring money back to spend on Bald Hill etc.

Promotion of the facility is the only way it will grow enough to pay the $7 million plus per year operating costs and debt service.

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