SAVE RIPTA

Our Buses Need Your Help

Its the End of the Line for Public Transit in Rhode Island.

Support H7774 to Provide FULL FUNDING for RIPTA

H7774, the budget request bill to SAVE RIPTA filed by Rep. Karen Alzate (Pawtucket/Central Falls) was heard on April 10, 2024. It is now working its way through the political machinations of the State House. 

This is the real deal. Rep Alzate’s bill calls for the following to be directly funded in the FY25 Budget:

  • $8M to close the current deficit.
  • $24M to raise driver salaries.
  • $46 million commitment to expanding service and begin to implement the Transit Master Plan.

Why? First of all, Rhode Island has been underfunding RIPTA for decades. According to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database, Rhode Island ranks among the lowest in 2021 per capita state funding for transit at approximately $66 per person compared with other urbanized states in our region, including Connecticut ($80) and Delaware ($110).

Still, RIPTA provides more trips, across a larger area, at a more effective cost-per-trip than transit agencies serving similar populations anywhere in America. When the pandemic hit in 2020, fare revenue decreased, leaving transit agencies in jeopardy nationwide. The federal government gave emergency relief funding to RIPTA to fill the gap. This money will soon run out before full ridership recovery, resulting in critical budget shortfalls for transit systems nationwide. Next year in 2024, RIPTA will be facing a fiscal cliff of $33 million, quickly exceeding $40M in following years. There is no federal solution, and action on the state level is required.  RIPTA’s operating expenses are projected to increase due to inflation, while gas tax revenue will decrease as more people switch to electric vehicles. As a result, the budget gap will continue to increase, and RIPTA will need a sustainable, long term funding source.

What’s more, RIPTA is also facing a “driver cliff,” as 125 out of about 400 of our bus operators are eligible for retirement next year, and RIPTA – like transit systems nationwide – has not had much success recruiting new bus drivers to join the field. All of our bus drivers deserve a family-sustaining, competitive wage. If they all choose to retire, the bus system will grind to a halt. Recruitment has been unsuccessful because bus driver wages have not kept pace with the cost of living or inflation. The MBTA in Massachusetts recently raised their driver pay to $30 per hour and saw new applications increase dramatically.

Finally, in 2020 RIPTA published a bold, data-driven and publicly vetted vision and master plan for vastly improving service that will get more people where they’re going more conveniently, affordably and with dignity. That plan is now almost three years old with very little state commitment to its implementation. We will not achieve a robust public transit system or the legally enforceable emissions reduction goals in the Act on Climate without it.

This is a racial and economic justice issue. According to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s 2019 State of the System Report, a majority of RIPTA riders (53%) identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), even though they represent just 14% of the state’s overall population per the U.S. Census.  Also according to the State of the System Report, 80% of RIPTA’s existing ridership has a household income of less than $35,000 annually and 39% have a household income of less than $10,000 annually.  The highest percentage of Rhode Islanders without access to a private vehicle live in the urban communities of Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, North Providence, Woonsocket, Cranston, Warwick, West Warwick and Newport. 81% of RIPTA riders do not own a vehicle.

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Save RIPTA Coalition

Save RIPTA is a broad coalition of community organizations, labor unions, legislative champions and everyday Rhode Islanders who are calling upon our state leaders to save and expand RIPTA in our next state budget. Any group that is supportive of this mission can join – there is no set time requirement. Some, but not all members are also partners of the Providence Streets Coalition. The Save RIPTA Coalition includes:

Labor Unions/Groups:

  • RI AFL-CIO
  • Amalgamated Transit Union Local 618
  • Carpenters Local 330
  • SEIU Local 1199
  • Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health

Community Organizations:

  • Rhode Island Transit Riders
  • Progreso Latino
  • Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty
  • Climate Jobs Rhode Island
  • Central Providence Opportunities – Health Equity Zone
  • Providence Student Union
  • Conservation Law Foundation
  • Economic Progress Institute
  • Community Libraries of Providence
  • Providence Preservation Society
  • Climate Action Rhode Island
  • Groundwork Rhode Island
  • Providence Bike Collective
  • West Broadway Neighborhood Association
  • Trinity Square Together
  • Elmwood Neighborhood Association
  • South Elmwood Neighborhood Association
  • Washington Park Association
  • Rhode Island Environmental Education Association
  • Rhode Island Organizing Project
  • Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers
  • Young Voices Rhode Island

Contact us: Please get in touch with Nicole if you want to join or get involved in the campaign!

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Flyers

Print your own versions of our flyers, and hang them anywhere you think transit riders and decision makers will see them!

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A Transit Death Spiral:

Left unaddressed, the fiscal cliff will result in catastrophic service cuts, reducing your ability to move around the state. Service cuts mean fewer people will ride the bus. Less money will be collected in fares. Then more service will be cut.

RIPTA gives tens of thousands of people access to Rhode Island’s crucial services, jobs, and opportunities. Transit is an economic engine for our state, and a key part of the solution to climate change. Letting transit die would be detrimental to our state’s equity, economic, and environmental goals.

Please contact our elected leaders and tell them that we need a fully funded RIPTA!

How will this affect my bus route?

RIPTA is currently projecting the following changes, though they are not definite:

  • Elimination of routes: 6, 9x, 10x, 12x, 16, 23, 24L, 40, 58, 59x, 61x, 64, 65x, 68, 73, 95x, and Qx, resulting in:
      • Elimination of paratransit on these corridors
      • Complete elimination of fixed route service to towns of Burrillville, Gloucester, Foster, Scituate, West Greenwich, Richmond, Hopkinton, Tiverton, and Westerly
  • Reduced frequencies and span on routes 1, 20, 21, 22, 31, 54, 55, 56, 57, 60, 66, 67, 72, 78, 92
  • Elimination of ALL SUNDAY AND HOLIDAY SERVICE STATEWIDE
  • Elimination of all supplemental Providence school service
  • Elimination of the Beach Bus

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Follow any of these transit advocacy groups to receive future action alerts:

Save RIPTA: @SaveRIPTA

Rhode Island Transit Riders: @transitRI

Providence Streets Coalition: @pvdstreets

GrowSmart RI: @growsmartRI

Next March, the state legislature will hold hearings for RIPTA’s budget, and your voice will be crucial.