Rate of RIPTA Driver Applications Doubles After Agency Raises Pay Rate

Planned service cuts delayed until June


Increased pay for bus drivers lured many applicants to a RIPTA job fair last week. (Colleen Cronin/ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — An increase in driver pay at the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority could save the agency from cutting bus service.

Since the authority’s board voted to improve wages last month, the number of driver applications coming to RIPTA has doubled, according to the agency.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21, RIPTA received 76 applications for drivers, according to agency spokesperson Cristy Raposo Perry, which translates to about 10 a week. After the board vote and pay-increase implementation on Feb. 22, the agency received 78 applications (as of March 14), or about 25 applications a week.

Raposo Perry cautioned that applications do not immediately translate to drivers on the road. Many of those applicants still need to receive training for a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which is required to drive both paratransit and fixed-route buses.

Despite that delay, RIPTA announced last week that it would postpone proposed cuts to June to see how the wage increases could impact an ongoing driver shortage.

The announcement also noted that the agency is modifying its initial service change plans, which would have reduced the frequency or altogether eliminated more than a dozen lines, to “mitigate the impact on passengers.”

Among potential new drivers at a RIPTA job fair on Friday, increased wages topped their list for reasons to apply.

“Always that’s a big thing,” said Sivlie Johnson, explaining why she attended the fair and applied to be a paratransit driver.

Johnson works at Rhode Island Hospital and already has her CDL, something a patient’s family member overheard her say last week before encouraging her to attend the March 15 fair and apply.

Although Johnson has worked in health care since 1996 and would likely still do some work in the field even if she is hired by RIPTA, she said the appeal of working at RIPTA is the ability to help elderly residents, who she usually sees injured and unable to drive at her current job.

“It would be a big change,” she admitted. But it would also come with a pay boost and better benefits.

A 22-year-old applicant who preferred not to be named said he had always wanted to drive a big vehicle and was finally making the leap to apply because the wages had gone up.

Entry-level driver positions at RIPTA will now make $25.33 an hour; the agency previously paid $21.71.

The applicant said he currently works as a GrubHub driver without benefits and called the chance to work at RIPTA with a pension and insurance “a good opportunity.”

“This is going to be my career for the next 15, 20 years,” he said.


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  1. RIPTA should still look at cutting busses on routes during times which are little used. i ve made a point of looking at busses in south county which are running in the wee hours of the weekend and at night. i ve yet to see a bus on Rt One in NK or Narr or Jamestown running at (7 pm on a Sunday night for an example) with anyone on the bus. what a waste of money when those costs could be used to increase availability for routes in demand.

  2. The problem is that the more they cut service, the less people can rely on it, and then they find alternatives which may well have negative impacts on their lives. It will take a while of good frequent service for people to trust it again. One possible help that’s been mentioned is to use smaller buses for routes less frequently traveled.

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