Proposed transit cuts go right to the bone, but RIPTA really has no choice. On the one hand, RIPTA is beset by high fuel prices to run the buses. On the other, the money to pay for that fuel comes from a fixed per-gallon sales excise, which accounts for 70-80% of RIPTA’s revenue, yet does not automatically adjust for price rise. When gas prices go up and people drive less, RIPTA loses vital revenue, both to cover their own rising fuel costs, and to accommodate the added demand of people hoping to ride instead of drive.
Already on the brink, RIPTA now faces a severe shortfall — right when we need them most. With no love from the state, and having already shaved costs to the bone, RIPTA now has no choice but to cut the bone itself, and soon. Current proposed cuts will eliminate a fifth of all service, starting with service to those riders who are known to have cars: park-and-rides and far-flung daily commuter services are first on the block, eliminating service to four towns, including all of Burrillville. Next up are local routes past the city line, infrequent route spurs and detours, and lower-volume night and weekend service.
RIPTA has planned a number of local charettes to discuss planned cuts, but anyone who thinks that service will be maintained anywhere near current levels is dreaming: RIPTA has to erase a lot of red ink, and severe cuts are assured. All that’s left to debate is the details.
What can you do? Contact your state representatives — right now — and let them know how important transit is to you. The state created this mess, and only they can fix it. And remind them that it’s not just about you and your needs and wants: Rhode Island’s economic future depends on adequate transit. What benefits riders benefits everyone. If they get testy about it, you might also remind them what’s good for constituents is good for incumbents.