RIPTA Holds Off On Service Cuts


PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority will not implement service cuts it proposed last month.

At its meeting Thursday, RIPTA’s board of directors decided not to vote on cuts which were meant to help curb service issues caused by an ongoing driver shortage and instead reconsider the situation later this year.

The agency had already paired down the number of line cuts and service reductions after the board voted to increase driver wages, spurring an influx of applications.

Interim CEO Chris Durand recommended that the board vote against the cuts.

He said he was confident the current driver shortages, about 20 vacant positions, could be filled by the summer, though he noted that not implementing the cuts would likely lead to late or lost services before then.

Paul Harrington, RIPTA’s executive director of transportation, said the agency needs about 395 drivers to fulfill fixed-route service, but only has 377 operators currently.

“We all feel it was in the best interest of the authority to do it this way,” he said. “I’d rather take a shot in losing particular service here and there than cutting the service for people who need a bus.”

There are about 200 applications into the agency, according to Kathy Nadeu, RIPTA’s chief of human resources. But many of those applicants still need to get commercial driver’s license (CDL) permits.

Durand explained that RIPTA is working on putting a training program in place to help those applicants through the permitting process, so they can retain more people through the hiring process. Capturing 25% of those current applicants would cover the schedule, he said.

Director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and RIPTA board chair Peter Alviti spoke positively about the authority’s progress toward fixing the driver shortage.

“This is moving in the direction that everyone wants to move it in,” said Alviti, adding that he believes the progress could also help RIPTA secure the funding it needs by showing the authority’s efficiency and efficacy.

RIPTA faces an $8 million deficit in the coming fiscal year. Several bills in the General Assembly would try to cover that deficit, sustain better operator wages, and help pay for the Transit Master Plan.

If RIPTA’s deficit is not covered, the authority would likely need to propose further cuts, RIPTA staff have said.

“That’s the other thing facing us down the road,” board member Normand Benoit said.

The board did not take a vote on the cuts but instead told Durand that he and RIPTA staff had more time to solve the problem, which it would evaluate again later this year.

Rhode Island Transit Riders co-chair Patricia Raub said she was delighted that the board decided not to implement the cuts.

“‘It’s exciting in terms of them going back and rethinking,” she said.

Durand said he would give an update on the agency’s progress at the next board meeting, scheduled for May 23.


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