RIPTA: New multihub bus system increases transfers for 1% of riders

RIDOT's Multi-Hub Bus proposal would increase transfers for 1% of downtown riders, according to new information shared at the RIPTA board of directors meeting on Wednesday. / COURTESY RIDOT

 PROVIDENCE – A proposal for a new, decentralized bus system in Providence will have little effect on the number of transfers riders have to make, according to information shared at the R.I. Public Transit Authority Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday.

The adverse impact on current riders has been a central source of criticism over the Providence Multi-Hub Bus proposal introduced by the R.I. Department of Transportation in July. Opponents have said that splitting the current Kennedy Plaza bus hub across three locations – Kennedy Plaza, the Providence Station and a new hub at the gateway to the Interstate 195 Redevelopment District on Dyer Street – would increase the time, cost and number of transfers for current RIPTA riders to reach their destinations.

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But analysis of the new routes shared by RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian at the meeting shows that just 1%, or 447 riders in downtown Providence, would have to take an additional bus under the new proposal. Under the current bus route plan, 15% of the 48,000 daily riders in downtown Providence have to transfer buses once. As proposed, 14% of current riders would continue to transfer one time, and 1% would have to transfer twice rather than once.

The data is based upon 2018 ridership and reflects riders who purchase transfer tickets. When including riders who transfer using multiride or monthly passes, the transfer rate rises to 29%.

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Avedisian acknowledged this increase in riders subject to multiple transfers was a “slight issue” but represented “huge progress from where things stood earlier this year.”

Opponents, who voiced a series of concerns with the plan during a heated public comment period, were not satisfied, though, and continued to call for RIDOT to withdraw its plan and start over with more input from the public.

Patricia Raub, coordinator for RI Transit Riders which represents RIPTA riders, called the information misleading in comments to the board. Liza Burkin, organizer of the Providence Streets Coalition, also noted that the difference between 15% and 29% of riders making transfers – depending on whether those using passes are included – was significant.

John Flaherty, deputy director of Grow Smart RI, said he was denied a prior public records request for the data collection used for the new transfer analysis.

“I have no confidence in the transfer data that I have seen,” Flaherty said.

RIPTA and RIDOT, which say they are working jointly on the project, have pushed back their original timeline to allow more time for stakeholder outreach. The new timeline calls for public weigh-in through October before beginning design services and analysis. Construction of the Dyer Street hub is still slated to start in the summer of next year, with all three hubs completed by the summer of 2023.

Sharon Steele, president of the Jewelry District Association, pointed to the changes between the plan presented Wednesday and that unveiled in July as evidence of the lack of transparency in RIDOT’s approach.

“How can someone react to something they have not seen in a matter of minutes?” Steele said.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com

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1 COMMENT

  1. This headline is INCREDIBLY misleading and irresponsible. As the article itself even states, “the data is based upon 2018 ridership and reflects riders who purchase transfer tickets. When including riders who transfer using multi-ride or monthly passes, the transfer rate rises to 29%.” It seems preposterous to think that an increase in transfers isn’t FAR more impactful on those who DO USE multi-ride or monthly passes, because they likely depend on buses much more. That aside (since the actual data has not been made fully available it’s hard to tell just what exactly the full impacts on riders will be–obviously part of the problem, just because RIDOT and RIPTA would clearly like to pretend that 1% is the appropriate number to consider here, doesn’t mean that journalists should oblige and parrot that false and misleading narrative.