Public Transit Advocates Testify for Increased RIPTA Funding


PROVIDENCE — For a second year in a row, dozens of public transit riders and advocates are calling for additional funding in the state budget for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

At a House finance subcommittee hearing Wednesday night, about 60 people submitted written testimony or spoke in favor of increasing RIPTA funding. The agency faces a fiscal cliff in the coming year.

“I see that the governor has graciously given you $10 million,” Rep. John Edwards, a Democrat representing Portsmouth and Tiverton, said during the hearing. “And I guess the elves are going to deliver the other eight?”

Gov. Daniel McKee’s proposed budget allocates $10 million in federal funding to the agency to help eliminate its deficit, but still leaves an $8 million gap.

RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian explained to the committee that the governor also allocated money for an efficiency study to be completed by next year, which could suggest cutting more from the agency’s budget.

RIPTA officials have also previously said a budget deficit would likely lead to cuts in service.

“The challenges that RIPTA is facing are shared by many transit agencies throughout the country,” state Office of Management and Budget director Brian Daniels said at the March 20 hearing. Ridership decreased during COVID and has not rebounded back to pre-pandemic levels, while federal spending that had been keeping RIPTA’s operations afloat is nearly depleted.

Advocates who wrote letters and attended the meetings said they support the partial funding but want more.

Many suggested supporting several bills currently in the General Assembly, including H7774, which would give $78 million to RIPTA to avoid the fiscal cliff, improve driver wages and benefits, and fund some Transit Master Plan projects.

Rep. David Morales, a Democrat representing parts of Providence, also spoke at the subcommittee hearing for a bill he is sponsoring that would reallocate some of the ride-share sales tax to RIPTA.

In testimony and letters, members of the public described the importance of RIPTA in their everyday lives and how they could be negatively impacted by service cuts caused by a funding gap.

“You will receive many emails from people whose lives will be violently disrupted by cuts in service — unable to access jobs or school,” Jane Arnold, a Pawtucket resident, wrote to the committee.

Terry Wright, who said she was a lifelong Rhode Island resident and bus rider, explained how cutting service would be like “cutting off a lifeline.”

RIPTA has already postponed until June service cuts that had been proposed because of an ongoing driver shortage, after the agency increased wages for operators and saw the rate of applications double.

The agency’s board is scheduled vote on modified schedule changes that will start in June at its March 28 meeting.


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  1. Don’t need and “Efficiency study” to know that if you want to operate buses efficiently you provide exclusive lanes, queue jumps, signal priority and efficient straight routes. Nothing is less efficient than paying drivers to waste time stalled in traffic caused by cars!

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