For This Student, Public Transit is Easiest Way to Get to High School
September 11, 2023
Editor’s note: This story is a part of ecoRI News’ Rhody Riders series, a collection of stories about people who choose to live without a car and use a combination of walking, bicycling, and public transit to get around the Ocean State.
PROVIDENCE — Cedric Ye started taking public transit regularly when a school bus couldn’t easily take him to his high school.
Ye, 15, lives in Providence but attends high school in East Providence. He realized when planning out the different routes he could take with his parents that the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority might be the best option for him.
The RIPTA bus was “the most convenient and feasible option to get to and from school,” he said.
Using RIPTA not only allowed him to get to high school easier, but it also gave him freedom.
When he stayed after school with a teacher or hung out with friends, and they’d ask when Ye had to leave to catch a ride from his parents or the school’s late bus, he proudly answered, “When I want to.”
Although he needs to work within the route’s 30-minute intervals, taking RIPTA afforded Ye an “expanded independence” than other kids his age who don’t take the bus, aren’t old enough to drive, or can’t afford a car.
Ye also convinced his parents to start using RIPTA more often.
With his dad, Ye will travel around the city on the bus to explore different neighborhoods.
“Hopping on a route and riding it to the end” is the best way to really see a place, Ye said. Unlike driving in a car on the highway, taking public transit means “seeing Providence as what it really is and not what it wants people to believe it looks like.”
Ye’s mom works in South Kingstown, “which is quite a drive,” he noted, so after Ye started taking the bus and describing how much more relaxing it driving in a car, his mom gave it a try.
When Ye spoke to ecoRI News during his summer vacation, he said, “She’s actually riding [the bus] more than I am right now.”
Ye said he is not keen on getting his driver’s license any time soon. He said he will likely wait until after high school to get it, citing his love of public transportation, the environmental impact of driving, and high insurance rates and other costs associated with driving as a teenager.
“It’s definitely not like freedom as a car was meant to be, like the necessity to pay thousands and thousands of dollars just to participate in society,” he said. “And I didn’t even mention gas.”
Some of Ye’s classmates have been surprised to learn that he takes public transportation so frequently, and one person told him to be careful while he rode. But Ye found many of the stigmas around public transportation aren’t built on truth.
He has met many friendly people taking the bus from a variety of backgrounds, and became a member of the transit community in Rhode Island and an advocate for better buses in the state.
At several General Assembly hearings, Ye testified in favor of improving public transit. Often, he is the youngest person to speak.
Ye, whose love of transit started with trips on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s Orange Line trains, believes that better public transit is both an equity and an environmental issue. He said he chooses to speak up for more funding and more dependable service to keep elected officials accountable.
“If you make public transit more convenient and reliable and … a competitive option to driving, people will take transit,” he said.