PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After more than 20 years, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is nixing its seasonal express bus service that directly connected several of the state’s inland communities to the beach.
The reason, according to RIPTA, is because of low ridership and a lack of staffing.
“Last year, it averaged nine passengers per trip,” RIPTA spokesperson Cristy Raposo Perry told 12 News in an email.
It costs RIPTA approximately $85,000 to run to express bus service annually, according to Perry.
The Express Beach Bus Service provided direct access to the state’s beaches for six communities: Central Falls, Cranston, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket.
Perry said the express bus service had limited trip times and only provided rides to and from Scarborough, Salty Brine and Roger Wheeler state beaches.
“The beach service we offer now allows passengers to come and go as they please throughout the day,” Perry continued.
RIPTA has a number of routes that can get Rhode Islanders to and from the beach year round, though some require riders to switch buses.
Joe Cole, vice president for the union that represents the majority of RIPTA employees, is worried how the public is going to react to the change.
“Three buses to get the beach,” Cole said of one of the routes. “How long are you going to be [at the beach] before you have to take three buses home?”
Perry acknowledged that the majority of RIPTA’s routes require passengers to transfer at a central hub to get to their final destination.
“While we sympathize with families that have to make multiple connections to go to the beach, we are unable to run this special supplemental service,” she said.
Cole argues now isn’t the right time to make this change.
“Gas is hovering around $5 a gallon,” he said. “We have people in certain low-income areas that rely on the buses to get where they’ve got to go.”
Cole remains hopeful that there’s still time to change RIPTA’s mind. He believes that if more people knew about the service, more people would use it.
“We’re the Ocean State,” Cole explained. “If we can’t get to the beach, it makes no sense.”
Below are several RIPTA routes that can get Rhode Islanders can take to get to the beach:
- Route 68: A new route scheduled to start this summer that will serve First Beach in Newport.
- Route 69: This route provides access to beaches in South County seven days a week every hour.
- Passengers traveling from Providence can ride Route 66 to URI and transfer to Route 69.
- Route 14: This route provides regular, year-round weekday and limited Saturday service from Kennedy Plaza to Narragansett Town Beach.
- Route 3: This route provides access to Oakland Beach in Warwick seven days a week.
- Route 54: This route provides access to Lincoln Woods seven days a week.
- Narragansett/South Kingstown Flex Zone: This route provides service to Narragansett, Roger Wheeler and Salty Brine beaches.
- South Aquidneck Flex Zone: This route serves Easton’s Beach in Newport Monday through Saturday.