PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Issues with staffing at RIPTA have left some riders stranded, sometimes for hours. Some frustrated riders have allegedly verbally assailed or physically endangered RIPTA workers, according to the drivers’ union, ATU Local 618.
The union tells 12 news a passenger smashed the driver’s side window of one of the busses with a rock after the driver told them a different bus wasn’t coming.
“It’s very frustrating for the drivers to take the heat on this,” said union president Nick DeCristofaro. “It’s unjust.”
RIPTA is asking passengers to be patient and courteous to drivers and fellow passengers as they navigate what they call an “unprecedented time.”
Meanwhile, the advocacy group RIPTA Transit Riders said the shortage has caused people to get stranded at night or even lose their jobs from being late to work.
“Sometimes the buses just don’t come at all,” said Mary Lind, a frequent RIPTA rider.
Lind says she’s been stuck twice in the past month waiting hours for busses. “I completely get that people are short-staffed right now, but you have a website, they have a pretty responsive social media team, why not put it out there?” she said.
RIPTA told 12 News it will update its website every morning and night with impacted routes. It’s also considering various solutions to the problem, including a plan to implement the union’s recommendation to use former operators who are now working other RIPTA jobs to cover those routes.
RIPTA is considering that same plan to tackle a shortage of buses normally used by Providence Public School students, though a spokesperson for the transit authority told 12 News they haven’t been able to implement that solution yet.
It’s unclear how many students have been impacted by the problem, since the school department said a supply issue prevented RIPTA from issuing bus passes at the start of the year. Roughly 4,500 students usually request bus passes in a given year, according to a district spokesperson. RIPTA is allowing all students to ride the bus for free in September.