RIPTA Battle Continues: Will Services Be Cut?
Monday, August 22, 2011
Advocates protesting against cuts to public transportation plan to rally again this afternoon outside of RITPA Headquarters during a board meeting for the organization as they continue to call on the state to find a more reliable funding source for the buses.
Facing a $4.6 million deficit for the new fiscal year, RIPTA has announced plans to cut or reduces services of 39 bus routes, which the organization says will affect 35 communities.
Eight routes, including the 8, 29, 32, 53, 73, 75, 80 and the 203, would be eliminated entirely. The rest would face a reduction in weekend service, an end to park-n-ride programs or they would stop running after 10:00pm.
But advocates call the cuts irresponsible and say thousands of riders who rely on the busses will have no other options when traveling to work, doctor’s appointments and school. They are calling on the General Assembly to stop using the gas tax to fund RIPTA because it hasn’t proved to be an effective source of income.
State Senator Opposes Cuts
RIPTA has held public meetings across the state for residents to voice their displeasure with the cuts. Following a recent hearing, State Senator Paul Fogarty called on legislative leaders and Governor Chafee to step in and find a new funding solution that will prevent service cuts proposed by RIPTA.
It is estimated that close to 10 percent of RIPTA’s services will be cut and 40 employees will lose their jobs, according to Fogarty, who represents Glocester, Burrillville and North Smithfield. He said one of the routes targeted for a reduction in service is Route 9 between Providence and Pascoag, which is the only bus route through northwestern Rhode Island. He said the “9” bus has been targeted for reduction or elimination several times in the last decade as RIPTA has been forced to make cuts.
“I cannot adequately express the detrimental effect these service cuts would have on the many elderly and lower income residents in my district who count on this service as part of their everyday lives,” Fogarty said. The state does not support RIPTA from general revenue, rather their funding from state resources comes from a portion of the gasoline tax. I am asking your office to work with the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Governor to come up with a more practical funding solution that would support RIPTA’s continued operations and avoid any more cuts in service.”
Cuts At The Worst Time
It is believed that no decision regarding the cuts will be made at today’s board meeting, a sign RIPTA is at least considering other options following the outpouring of support the busses have received since the cuts were announced in June.
John Joyce of the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project, has said if the cuts do take place, they will hurt the neediest Rhode Islanders heading into the worst possible time of the year: Winter.
"Where are people going to go if they can't get around?" Joyce asked during a rally early this month. "How will they get to shelters? Where are they going to stay? This is going to hurt a lot of people."
Tassoni: Address Operating Efficiencies
State Senator John Tassoni agrees that cuts to RIPTA could affect thousands of Rhode Islanders. He has called on RIPTA to properly address its finances rather than threaten to make cuts every year.
“Any and all operating efficiencies should be addressed first, before anyone even talks about the possibility of service cuts,” he said. “Those cuts aren’t going to have any impact on the men or women who drive to work, but they are going to be extremely painful to the many people, especially the elderly and disabled and students, who have no other way to get around.”
Tassoni said RIPTA’s yearly “scare tactics” must come to an end.
“The answer is not cutting service, it is cutting fat, especially at the management and mid-management levels,” he said. “The answer is providing good service in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible. And if the RIPTA executives and board members cannot find a way to do that, perhaps it is time for the Senate Committee on Oversight to do a thorough investigation of the authority and find the answers to ensure RIPTA serves the public as it is meant to do.”