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NARRAGANSETTâ€”The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) has developed a cost-saving plan which will drastically reduce service to the smaller towns of South County. RIPTA representatives were available on Tuesday evening at Narragansett Town Hall to listen to the publicâ€™s comments and concerns regarding the bus cuts.
A group of of approximately 30 community members attended the eleventh of 12 public hearings present by RIPTA across the state. Mark Therrien, Assistant General Manager of Transit Development at RIPTA, first explained that public transit is facing significant financial obstacles in the foreseeable future.
â€śWe are a shrinking organization, and investment is going down,â€ť said Therrien. â€śLast year we had a one-time opportunity to use federal stimulus funding, but that $3.7 million was a one-year band-aid.â€ť
The RIPTA budget for the fiscal year 2011 stands at $99.1 million, and in 2012 funding will drop to $97.8 million. Rising fuel costs, the loss of stimulus aid, and contracted wage increases were all cited by RIPTA as the main financial problems today and for the future.
â€śWe get less per penny as the years have gone on because the consumption of gas has gone down since 2006,â€ť said Therrien.
The proposed solution is a five-year plan which will eliminate underperforming route segments, shut routes down earlier in the evening, and streamline administrative employee positions and vehicles. RIPTA initiated this plan in the past year by hiring new CEO Charles Odimgbe, who is responsible for its successful implementation.
In years one and two, seven out of 137 ranked routes will be eliminated, primarily those which are the lowest performing. The transit system will be shut down at 9 p.m. instead of the current 10 p.m., and route segments, such as the flex ticket routes, will be reduced. In South County, the 66 URI/Galilee bus route will have its Saturday and Sunday service reduced by 50 percent.
Year four through five will see further cuts, as all Park Nâ€™Ride services will be eliminated along with all holiday service. 10 weekend routes will be eliminated in year three and another 10 weekday routes in year four, while frequency reductions will take place on 17 urban routes.
Residents of Narragansett and Wakefield will be particularly affected by the elimination of the 203 Narragansett flex route, many of whom ride the bus because they are disabled or of a low-income bracket.
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