PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Low-income seniors and people with certain disabilities will soon have to pay to ride RIPTA, but not as much as initially proposed.
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority Monday voted to eliminate no-fare bus passes and to implement a 50 cent fare.
RIPTA Chairman Scott Avedisian said the free ride program had become unsustainable.
“For the elderly program we get about $3.5 million a year but with no Medicaid reimbursement its about a $20 million expense,” Avedisian said.
RIPTA was originally considering charging a half fare, which is $1 per trip, for those who use the program. However, the agency lowered that amount to 50 cents at the urging of Gov. Gina Raimondo.
“When it comes to our most vulnerable riders of public transit, we must make sure we are weighing all options because mobility is an important part of being able to live independently,” Raimondo said. “I am grateful to the leaders at RIPTA for working with our health and human service agencies to find a solution that balances the needs of these riders with RIPTA’s fiscal constraints.”
Advocates for the poor and disabled – who estimate that more than 13,000 riders will lose free passes – said the 50 cent fare is not ideal, but it’s better than the $1 increase.
“Loss of independence is both a critical issue for these individuals’ quality of life and also impacts the state budget directly,” said Charlie Fogarty, the director of the Division of Elderly Affairs. “If an individual on Medicaid needs to move into a nursing home from home-based care, the cost to the state is thousands of dollars annually.”
The RIPTA board said the new 50 cent fare will go into effect on July 1.