Public Transit Cut Again

I had to take my car in for repairs yesterday and I caught a bus back home. I’d never taken the bus from Taunton Ave., and was pleased to find that the service is good. The bus was full.

One of the passengers was a disabled little girl in a wheelchair. Taking RIPTA saves somebody (state, feds, family or all three) over a hundred dollars each trip.

So I am bummed and frustrated to see this in today’s paper…

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority plans service reductions affecting more than 15,000 riders per year to help cover an estimated budget deficit of $3.7 million.

The cutbacks would take effect Aug. 28 and could affect as many as 18,000 riders, depending on how they are counted.

This is exactly the wrong thing for RIPTA and our state’s long-term economic health. People are using the bus to go to school and work, and night shift workers in nursing homes, college students, people who can’t maintain the expense of a car will be stranded.
We all pay taxes to smooth the highway in some town we’ll never visit and no one sees that as an entitlement. Why is public transit not given priority?

Anything ‘saved’ with these cuts costs in other ways. Increased burdens on working families, more rustbucket cars on the road, more congestion, pollution, accidents.

One reason elderly drivers won’t hand over the keys is because there are no good alternatives for transportation. And every extra five minutes you have to wait at the bus stop makes it less appealing to change old habits.

It’s also a matter of national security.

Just at the moment when the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill has generated two months of non-stop headlines about the dangers of oil dependency and the federal government in America finally has something of a platform to call for Americans to wean themselves off oil dependency, cities, counties and states across the US are decimating their public transit systems and forcing people, willy-nilly, to return to their cars.

The huge public works program to re-route the highway along the waterfront is ongoing, and I hope will pay off. Public transit needs to take a higher priority if we are going to keep people employed and achieve energy independence.