Last week, the Rhode Island chapter of the National Federation of the Blind (NFBRI), sent an email blast to folks around the state, which contained the first two paragraphs of a press release issued by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority on June 30:
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) will hold public hearings on proposed service reductions in all five Rhode Island counties on July 26th-July 28th, August 1st, and August 2, 2011. The Authority announced that the reductions in service statewide are due to a $4.6 million shortfall for FY 2012 (which begins on July 1st) that is caused principally by a reduction in revenue from the state gas tax and the high cost of fuel to operate the system.
The proposed cuts would affect thirty-five (35) communities, thirty-nine (39) bus routes, Flex zones and Park 'n' Ride service and include the following changes: eliminating routes or route segments; decreasing service frequency; ending service at 10 pm on weekdays on many routes; and shutting down service at 10 pm on weekends on many routes. RIPTA is also proposing to eliminate all Holiday Bus Service, all Flex Service in Narragansett and some Park n' Ride service.
The notice on the RIPTA website required a download of a PDF to get the details about which routes and the frequency or number of trips that are being considered for cutback or elimination.
Here are some of the specifics: All holiday service will be terminated (that means the bus I rode into downtown on the 4th of July would not have been running); eight routes will be completely eliminated (#8, #29, #32, #53, #73, #75, #80, and the Narragansett Flex route #203); the Park n' Ride service for Chopmist Hill, Exit 7/Rte 117, and Westerly will be axed; Saturday and Sunday service on a number of routes (no Sunday service for #34 East Providence or #35 Rumford, for example) will be eliminated; and service will end at 10 pm on weekdays on more than 20 routes. And this is not to mention the numerous reduction of service on many other routes.
Why not just get rid of the entire RIPTA system?
As a regular RIPTA bus rider, I can tell you what this will mean for some very specific groups of people. People who work at low-wage restaurant jobs will not be able to get back or forth to work on weekends. People with disabilities will be screwed and here's why: as the NFBRI notes, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) service is offered within a -mile corridor of fixed-route service. In short, if there are no regular routes in the vicinity, there will be no RIde routes.
Blind and visually impaired folks who utilize the non-profit I work at, In-Sight in Warwick, will be screwed, because In-Sight is on Jefferson Boulevard and the #8 Jefferson Blvd. bus is slated for total elimination.
Another interesting angle on this is, because the RIde program is tied to the regular routes, the blind/visually impaired staff members who work at In-Sight (and there are quite a few) will not have a way to get back and forth to work. They lose their jobs and In-Sight ceases to exist.