‘We Make It Work’: Providence Resident Talks Transit


Wendy Thomas, an avid volunteer and Providence resident, relies on the bus to get around. (Ray Gagne/Rhode Island Organizing Project)

Editor’s note: This story is 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 — Wendy Thomas hasn’t driven a car in about 15 years.

“I don’t think it’s the smartest idea with my medical problems,” the 64-year-old said. With a hip replacement and four heart attacks under her belt, she said, “I’m just leery of it.”

Living in Providence, Thomas has better access to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s bus service than most. Occasionally, she gets a ride from her daughter, but otherwise, she told ecoRI News, “I take the bus to get to most everywhere.”

Physically, getting around on the bus can be a challenge for Thomas. She has to walk up and down a hill to get from her apartment to her stop. Navigating the bus after shopping is particularly difficult for Thomas to manage with shopping bags.

Because her bus is sometimes late or doesn’t show up at all, she also tries to build in extra time in her schedule. “I plan at least an hour to get pretty much anywhere,” she said.

Thomas is an avid volunteer, working with groups like the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, which also requires a lot of RIPTA travel.

“It’s easier now because a lot of stuff’s on Zoom, so I don’t have to go here, there, and everywhere,” Thomas said, but she still frequently works downtown doing outreach.

Thomas got into volunteering because of her own experience being unhoused. She found herself without a home after hers burned down twice, about five or six years apart, she said.

Sometimes, volunteer events aren’t easily accessible by bus. “They’re a bit out of the way,” she said, “but we make it work.”

Despite the challenges of getting around without a car, she doesn’t miss the cost of owning one. Her daughter and granddaughter have put plenty of money into car repairs, she said. “It’s craziness.”

“My bus pass is $10 for two years,” said Thomas, who qualifies for a free fare card because of her disability. “You can’t do any better than that.”

Although Thomas said there are ways she would like to see RIPTA improve, she makes do and makes it work.

“They take time,” she said of the buses, “but we can get where we need to go for the most part.”


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