‘Advocate for Better Bus Service’ Urged at RIPTA Hearing on Proposed Cuts


Newport Mayor Xay Khamsyvoravong advocated for keeping lines in his community from being on the chopping block at recent a public hearing hosted by RIPTA. (Colleen Cronin/ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — Riders who attended Monday’s public hearing on Rhode Island Public Transit Authority service cuts discussed how the changes would negatively impact their lives and urged fellow advocates to call for increased funding for the agency.

RIPTA held the April 8 hearing on a winnowed series of service cuts and reductions that were meant to ease an ongoing driver shortage.

After raising driver wages in February, the rate of driver applications coming into the agency doubled, but agency officials cautioned that it will take time to onboard new employees who must receive a commercial driver’s license to operate RIPTA buses.

RIPTA configured the new cuts to “mitigate the impact on passengers,” but several speakers talked about how the current plan would make it hard for them to get around and access important public transit services.

“I can tell that community feedback was considered and really tried to be incorporated. But I still want to stress that these cuts are still very extensive and will still have a significant impact on Rhode Island’s communities,” bus rider and transit advocate Cedric Ye said.

Charlie Feldman, from the Oasis Wellness and Recovery Center, spoke about how crucial taking public transit can be for people dealing with mental health issues.

Feldman spoke with ecoRI News last year about how he stopped driving after a schizophrenia diagnosis and hasn’t driven since even though he’s now in recovery.

RIPTA’s current plan would cut Saturday service on Route 18, which runs between Providence and Cranston, the bus Feldman uses to get to the grocery store.

“I just encourage in general for everyone to advocate for better bus service,” Feldman said. “Hopefully, this will reverse itself.”

Newport Mayor Xay Khamsyvoravong also spoke at the meeting about how the cuts would impact his community.

Proposed cuts would disrupt the transit connection between the north end of Newport and the rest of the city, he said, and cut service to the University of Rhode Island on weekdays and the Kingston Train Station on the weekends, something he called “nonsensical.”

Khamsyvoravong didn’t blame RIPTA staff for the problem. “You’re not the ones creating this funding crunch.”

On top of a driver shortage, RIPTA also faces a $8 million deficit in the coming fiscal year as federal pandemic funding that was keeping the authority’s operations afloat runs out.

Randall Rose of the Kennedy Plaza Resilience Coalition blamed Gov. Daniel McKee for the gap. 

“It’s not RIPTA’s fault,” he said. “Gov. McKee … decided not to fund RIPTA adequately.”

John Flaherty, deputy director of Grow Smart Rhode Island and another frequent transit rider, said the driver shortage issue is tied into RIPTA’s historic underfunding. He urged those in attendance to support bills in the General Assembly that provide different funding options.

“I hope that folks will turn out,” he said, leaving some reading material behind for those interested in learning about the proposed legislation.

“I may not be able to stick around much longer,” Flaherty said, “because my next bus will be leaving shortly.”


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  1. Hire a person with extensive experience in public transit systems and end political appointments. It’s time we get with the program and work towards getting a first class public transit system.

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