PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is now giving free rides to passengers on its busiest bus route.
For one year, passengers won’t have to pay to ride RIPTA’s R-Line, which runs from Pawtucket to Cranston via Providence.
The pilot program “presents a unique opportunity to study the benefits and potential drawbacks of fare free transit service in Rhode Island,” according to RIPTA.
The R-Line stops at Kennedy Plaza, the Providence Station and the Pawtucket Transit Center. RIPTA estimates that the bus route accounts for nearly half of its passenger traffic.
RIPTA plans to also offer free paratransit service through this program for passengers making trips that begin and end within 3/4 mile of the R-Line.
The pilot program, spearheaded by Sen. Meghan Kallman, was made possible by $2.5 million set aside in the state budget.
That funding, according to RIPTA, will be used to replace lost fare revenue, purchase “Automatic Passenger Counters” and cover other necessary expenses.
“Having free public transit across our state will help rid our streets of congestion and give a boost to businesses,” Kallman previously told 12 News. “Scrapping the bus fare would be a windfall to many of the families who spend a good part of their income on transportation. I believe that residents should be able to move freely around this state, regardless of income bracket.”
RIPTA plans on studying the impacts of the pilot program and will take several factors into account, such as ridership impacts on the R-Line, other RIPTA routes and paratransit services.
The study will also collect data on service reliability, environmental impacts and financial impacts to both RIPTA and riders.
This is not the first time RIPTA has offered free rides. RIPTA launched the “Ride Free” pilot program in Central Falls back in March, which allows residents to ride for free for one year.