PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Two state lawmakers believe Rhode Islanders should be able to ride Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) buses free of charge.
Sen. Meghan Kallman and Rep. Leonela Felix introduced a bill Wednesday that would provide free transportation to Rhode Islanders via RIPTA buses.
Right now, it costs $2 to hop on a RIPTA bus. Felix said the legislation will make public transportation accessible to everyone, even those who can’t afford it.
“Public transportation is a significant part of the fight for racial and social justice,” Felix said. “We know that low-income and people of color use public transportation up to twice as frequently as white Americans. One of the most significant barriers to equitable transportation for low-income people is cost.”
“This legislation ensures that everyone — regardless of race, ethnicity, or class — has a safe way to get to work or school, and to access critical services like health care or food. This will help employers as well, giving them access to a wider pool of workers,” she continued.
The program has a roughly $25 million price tag, which Kallman said would be paid for with revenues from the gas tax and the Transportation and Climate Initiative, though the latter has yet to receive authorization from state lawmakers. If approved, TCI would require certain fuel suppliers to pay for the pollution their products create and could generate roughly $276 million in its first year.
Kallman also said their legislation is in line with Rhode Island’s climate and environmental goals, one of which is for the state to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“Public transportation is one of the most effective ways to conserve energy while also growing local economies,” Kallman said. “Switching from a 20-mile commute alone by car to public transportation can reduce annual CO2 emissions by 20 pounds per day; and keeping fare money in people’s pockets — especially during a recession — can help stimulate the economy.”
R.I. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has expressed support for Kallman’s legislation, calling it “an innovative and intriguing proposal.”
“I share her goals of increasing ridership and removing barriers to access, and I look forward to reviewing the details of the legislation,” he said in a statement.
12 News reached out to RIPTA regarding the proposed legislation but hasn’t heard back.