For the last 10 years, Brian Sullivan has taken the RIPTA route 32 bus to and from work in Providence. The Roberta Plat resident hasn’t driven a car in 10 years following a trio of accidents.
Mr. Sullivan, however, could be facing a much longer walk to the bus stop every morning. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is proposing a number of service alterations around the state as part of a comprehensive operational analysis including an elimination of route 32’s service to West Barrington. Should the change take effect, Mr. Sullivan is facing a walk to the White Church on County Road or, under another scenario, a walk to Maple Avenue.
“That’s a long walk twice a day,” Mr. Sullivan said Wednesday night.
“And tomorrow’s going to be miserable.”
Mr. Sullivan’s comments were among several raised during a public forum held at Barrington Public Library with RIPTA representatives including assistant general manager Mark Therrien, who said meetings such as Wednesday are the latest step in what has been an extensive process. RIPTA has surveyed riders and non-riders alike along with looking at ridership information to try and determine the best way to efficiently offer public transportation around the state. The study, Mr. Therrien said, is revenue neutral so while some areas may receive less service others may receive more.
Mr. Therrien said receiving public comments is an important part of the process. The public has had a chance to weigh in at numerous forums like the one in Barrington and online where RIPTA has posted studies and recommendations on each route.
Barrington town councilor Kate Weymouth agreed that a cut to service in West Barrington could have big implications, especially considering the route’s proximity to Sweetbriar. The Washington Road-Bay Spring Avenue affordable housing complex is the largest in Barrington. Mr. Sullivan expressed similar concerns.
“There’s going to be tons of people coming out of that plat and once you take the bus away, getting the bus back five or six from now is going to be impossible,” he said.
Anne Galbraith, assistant general manager for planning with RIPTA, said the agency has considered using the route 33 bus to help alleviate the situation. One proposal for route 33 is that it extend into Barrington center. It currently ends at Shaw’s on Willett Avenue in Riverside.
Ms. Galbriath said the 33 could use Washington Road and Lincoln Avenue as a way of reaching town center, a proposal Ms. Weymouth said would he helpful.
Many of those on hand had questions about other communities around the state. Paula Ramos is the manager of Bay View Estates in Portsmouth. She heard RIPTA was proposing an elimination of service to the facility.
Mr. Therrien said part of RIPTA’s plan is to eliminate variants that take buses off straight routes, such as special stops for housing developments though Bay View will continue to receive service because of a safety concern. Ms. Ramos said the facility previously lost residents to accidents.
Ms. Ramos was happy to learn service is slated to continue and she thought the forum was helpful. Going forward, Ms. Ramos said she wants to keep working on ways to keep ridership numbers up while trying to address safety issues along West Main Road.
Betsy Dees wanted to know why RIPTA doesn’t service the Rhode Island Department of Human Services office on Valley Road in MIddletown, especially because so many of its clients utilize public transportation. Mr. Therrien said the agency didn’t consider transportation when making its move and the property owner even put up blockades to keep buses out.
Ed Tanner wanted to know what could be done to save service to Metacom Avenue, in Bristol. He proposed putting a park and ride along the route, something Mr. Therrien said would be a long way to keeping service.
Paul Delpape relied on the RIDE service when living in Pawtucket. He moved to Tiverton 14 years ago and while he can get service for medical appointments, RIPTA doesn’t have a corridor near his house and regular service for anything else isn’t offered.
“I’ve been fighting this for the last 14 years,” Mr. Delpape said.
“When I’m in my grave I’ll be fighting this. I’ll be moving the earth.”
Mr. Therrien said the Department of Human Services contracts RIPTA to offer rides, the cost of which is covered through Medicaid. He also said RIPTA isn’t required to offer service anywhere more than three-quarters of a mile off of an artery.
Several members of the Rhode Island Coalition for Transportation Choices also turned out for the meeting. Molly Clark read a message praising RIPTA for its examination of its routes but advocated that the service also needs to be enhanced through additional funding.
Riverside resident Steven Michael Schuman had ideas on how to keep service flowing to Willett Avenue, The route 32 proposal could cut service to that part of town along with West Barrington. Mr. Therrien said ideas like this are very important to the process.
The RIPTA Board of Directors is expected to receive all public feedback on proposed changes around the state this month and April. Any reductions in service will be accompanied by a public hearing. Mr. Therrien said it will likely be a year and a half to two years before all changes take effect.