RIPTA delaying controversial fare hike until February

Madeleine Wright | WPRI-TV

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Following public outcry from riders, RIPTA will be delaying fare increases until February, the agency announced Monday night.

Earlier this year, the agency said that senior, disabled, and low-income residents would no longer receive free fares.

The increase was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, but RIPTA issued a one-month delay to give riders more time to adjust.

“RIPTA claims that it has budget issues, but I don’t think they should balance their budget problems on the backs of poor seniors and disabled adults,” said Ray Gagne of the RI Organizing Project.

RIPTA will then start charging $0.50 per trip and $0.25 for transfers under the reduced fare program, which Gagne says some won’t be able to afford.

“I met with a man the other day. He lives in a group home. He has $5 a week in spending money. How is he going to afford the bus?” he asked.

In a statement, RIPTA said:

“There are about 13,000 low-income seniors and low-income persons with disabilities in our program. Those passengers took about 5.7 million trips on RIPTA in Fiscal (Year) 2016. That means that we received no fare for one in every four passengers. This is not sustainable.”

“Everybody ought to be able afford to ride the RIPTA bus. In some cases, it’s the only way people can get to the doctor,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo. “We’re doing everything we can. We’d love for it to be 0, but we have budgetary constraints.”

“The governor and RIPTA needs to find a permanent funding stream for the program,” added Gagne. “I think it will cost the state more in the end because if elders get isolated, they get depressed. If they get depressed, it can lead to dementia. That can lead to nursing home care. So it’s at odds with the broader healthcare policies of the state.”

State law required RIPTA to give free rides to low-income seniors and disabled passengers, but in the spring of 2015, lawmakers allowed the agency to start charging a fare, as long as it was no more than half the price of a full fare.