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SOUTH KINGSTOWN â€“ The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is proposing service changes to its entire operational system, to be implemented over the next two years.
RIPTA held two public hearings Monday at the South Kingstown Town Hall, two of 12 such sessions scheduled in all of the stateâ€™s five counties, as required by law when there are significant changes service.
The proposed changes in statewide service are the result of RIPTAâ€™s comprehensive operational analysis, which most recently occurred in February and March, according to Mark Therrien, assistant general manager of planning at RIPTA.
Therrien said the changes would not cost more money but will make better use of RIPTAâ€™s current budget and adjust services based on actual use.
â€śThereâ€™s no reduction,â€ť Therrien said Monday. â€śIt will be the same number of hours of service, but a more equitable redistribution of services that take place.â€ť
RIPTA is implementing changes in the areas of service design, scheduling, communication and technology. The company is also planning facility updates.
Changes to bus services include stopping at regular, evenly spaced times and adjustments to frequency based on rider use.
RIPTAâ€™s proposed services include rapid bus trips, which are frequent and fast trips with limited stops; key corridor service, which includes direct service on high-use roads; urban arterial service in downtown areas; cross-town/suburban/non-urban regional service, which would serve other cities and state hubs; express/commuter service, which would transport passengers to and from work at peak times; and flex service, which will offer pick up and drop off outside of regular routes.
Transportation hubs, including Kennedy Plaza in Providence, the Pawtucket Transit Center and the Newport Gateway Center, would also be upgraded. RIPTA is in the process of developing a new hub in Warwick, ideally at the Warwick Mall, which will offer new and improved connections throughout Warwick and points south, including Route 66 to the University of Rhode Island.
â€śYou shouldnâ€™t have to stop in Providence for everything you want in Warwick,â€ť Therrien said, as is the case now for riders traveling from the southern part of the state.
A â€śsuperstopâ€ť would also be implemented at URIâ€™s Memorial Union.
Therrien said that URI pays for service on campus and for flex service from URI. He also indicated that there is a need for more buses, especially when school is in session during peak times, but that is something RIPTA presently cannot afford to do.
Superstops, which are proposed to be located at a host of locations including Garden City Center, Cranston and East Providence would provide comfortable waiting locations for riders and serve as important locations where riders can transfer to many routes.
RIPTA plans to improve bus/rail connections, including implementing express bus service at the Wickford Junction to â€śsimplify using RIPTA in one direction and the train in the other.â€ť
Updates are also planned for the Providence station and the Warwick Interlink. RIPTA also hopes to expand service to the South Attleboro station from Pawtucket and East Providence in the future.
RIPTA also plans to develop a Smartphone application for real time bus information.
As part of the service updates, RIPTA will combine routes and make fewer stops on bus trips, make route names and numbers more rider friendly, including assigning unique numbers to Park and Ride service such as Route 95X Westerly Express. RIPTA will also offer better maps and scheduling information and make the system easier for riders to use.
Routes with significant changes primarily include routes in the northern part of the state, but more minimal changes impact routes 64 Newport/URI, 65 Wakefield/Narragansett Express, 66 URI/Galilee, 90W Westerly Park-Ride/95XWesterly Express.
Route 64 will be reconfigured to provide more convenient and more consistent all day service, according to RIPTA. All service would operate via Jamestown and the first two and last two weekday trips would operate to and from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. The route would also be realigned to operate via West Main Street and Broadway to improve service within Newport. The routeâ€™s weekday span of service would be extended from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and service would operate every 60 minutes during peak periods and every 90 minutes during the midday. On Saturday, service would operate every 120 minutes. Timed-transfers would be provided with other Newport routes at the Gateway Center.
In January 2013, Route 66 was rebranded as Route 65 Wakefield Express. Route 65 would be consolidated with Route 14 express trips between Narragansett and Providence and rebranded as Route 65X Narragansett/Wakefield Express. All trips would also operate via Wickford Junction Station so that transit riders could take the commuter rail in one direction and Route 65X in the other.
Route 66 would be reconfigured under the new plan so that all service would operate consistently to and from Galilee, URI, the Kingston Amtrak Station, CCRI-Warwick and the new Warwick Mall Transit Center, according to RIPTA. In addition, to better balance weekday service with passenger loads, a combination of long and short trips would be provided. Weekday service between Providence and URI would also be increased to every 30 minutes to relieve crowding and long trip service to Galilee would operate every 60 minutes. Weekend service would operate the full length of the route, every 60 minutes, during the day and every 120 minutes at night.
Route 90W Westerly Park-Ride service would be increased to three morning inbound and three afternoon/evening outbound trips. The route would be rebranded as Route 95X Westerly Express.
The next public hearings on the proposed changes will be held today, June 5, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Community College of Rhode Island Newport Campus.
For more information visit, www.ripta.com/featured-project.
Comments on the proposed changes will be accepted until June 10.