Sadly, last night’s RIPTA public meeting wasn’t anywhere near as fun that Hollies song.
Last night the Elmwood Community Center provided the setting for the first of about a dozen public meetings and forums about proposed bus cuts that are scheduled to happen over the winter. I left about an hour-and-a-half into the proceedings, and more or less everyone was frustrated.
RIPTA explained the cuts to the forty or so people that showed up; a dozen or so lines would be cut altogether, some would be reduced and pretty much all of them wouldn’t run after 7 PM. Then RIPTA asked for help, but sort of didn’t have anything really specific to tell people, since the projected budget in their deficit isn’t easily solved. So the Cranston Street mother whose son played football at Hope, the woman who worked at the dialysis center whose patients all take the bus, and the girl in foster care who wouldn’t be able to meet with her case worker were all left without answers.
Though I’ve sat through many meetings of an organization that likes to constantly claim it’s broke for no reason, I don’t think that’s the problem with RIPTA. Cutting service on 50 of the state’s 58 bus lines doesn’t benefit anyone, and eliminating lines to Jefferson Boulevard, Zambarano Hospital and Prairie Avenue doesn’t make any sense. As more and more people take the bus as a means to deal with the miserable economy, RIPTA’s actually making less and less money.
Why? The gas tax. Rather than taxing a percentage of gas prices, a flat fee of 7.25 cents a gallon goes to RIPTA. Since gas prices have gone through the roof, people have bought less, which translates into less money for public transportation. Which means cutting all bus service after 7 PM. Which is ridiculous.
Annoyingly, the state doesn’t seek the money for public transportation that it should. People in Delaware pay twice per capita what people do in Rhode Island; Massachusetts residents pay four times as much. The Sierra Club’s presented some interesting ideas to raise money–my favorite is to tax suburban parking lots–but I doubt any of those ideas would actually be implemented anytime soon, particularly when things are left in the hands of Governor Hatchetface and elected officials like State Rep Thomas Slater, who thought that this meeting would be a great time to yell at length about pencils and the fact that the landfill people gave somebody a grant once. (He also said that the state had to give tax breaks to the wealthy, because otherwise the wealthy would move away and then who would pay for everything? He really said that! To a roomful of people who take the bus, no less!)
Anyway, if you’re up for another excruciating meeting, there will be two next Thursday at the the DaVinci Community Center on Charles Street. 2PM and 6 PM. You can take the #54 there, though if the proposed cuts were to take place you wouldn’t be able to get home after.