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Addressing transit deserts with self-driving vehicles

“The project will provide valuable data for states across the country as we move beyond conventional transit services to provide better, cleaner and more accessible transportation for all.” 

– Gina Raimondo, Governor of Rhode Island


The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) sought to understand community attitudes, sentiments, and behaviors surrounding the launch of the first public Autonomous Vehicle Transit service, ‘Little Roady.’ The service was implemented as a year-long pilot that ran through the Woonasquatucket Corridor in Providence, linking the densely populated neighborhoods of Valley, Olneyville, and Smith Hill. RIDOT and other City partners see transportation and mobility as a critical part of an integrated and comprehensive system of communities, infrastructure, land-use planning, technology, and the natural environment. We explored how the potential for autonomous vehicles to grow partnerships, build economies, reduce negative environmental impacts, and benefit the health and wellbeing of neighborhoods.

Community-centered approach

3×3 led the community research using a mixed-methods approach that included community surveys, interviews, observations, focus groups, and pop-up events, as well as stakeholder alignment and engagement across City and State partners. We also coordinated the engagement of a team of local advisors and researchers, four government partners, 20+ policy-makers and planners, and 2,000+ residents.



– Stakeholder interviews
– Community Surveys
– Focus groups
– Community engagement pop-up events
– Landscape assessment (4 neighborhoods)


Community insights

The AV pilot currently transports over 150 riders per day along the Woonasquatucket Corridor, helping to fill a major transportation gap between downtown Providence and its surrounding neighborhoods. The research team is in the process of finalizing its findings that will apply lessons learned to a larger transportation and policy strategy within the State and City.


– Interactive data dashboard highlighting qualitative and quantitative insights over time
– Policy memo to guide future transit planning strategy at the state and city levels
– Public research report (pending publication)

Project team

Kate Fisher, Priyanka Jain, Paula Kawakami, Megan Marini, Troy Simpson, Jakob Winkler