Only six percent of all Rhode Islanders regularly take the bus, and I am one of them. While many people have no other choice since they can’t afford a car, I take the bus because I want to.
I take the bus because it is often more convenient than driving. Like most Rhode Island residents, I live less than a ten-minute walk from my bus stop. Instead of having to cope with heavy traffic, take a wrong exit, get hopelessly lost in an unknown neighborhood, or search for a parking space, I can board a bus, sit down, and read a book or catch up on my messages.
I take a bus because it is safer than driving a car. Studies have shown that riding the bus is more than twice as safe as traveling by automobile, even when factoring in the level of pedestrian safety while walking to and from bus stops. As a person in my 70s, I know that my reaction times are slower than they were when I was younger, and my eyesight is not as good. Pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists are also safer when I’m not behind the wheel.
I take the bus because it helps the environment. According to a recent state report, “Transportation is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, producing 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island. Over half of these emissions come from private passenger vehicles and light trucks. One person driving a medium size car generates 404 grams of CO2 per mile. That same person riding a bus carrying 20 people would generate 134 grams, or 67% less.” Without cutting down on the number of gasoline-powered vehicles on the road, the state cannot hope to meet its Act on Climate targets.
Furthermore, vehicle emissions adversely affect the health of those living in neighborhoods near our interstate highways. These communities are mostly inhabited by lower-income residents, creating environmental inequities throughout Providence.
Lastly, I take the bus because it saves money. Two-car families that downsize to one car and one-car households that give up driving altogether save substantially on fuel, repairs, state inspections, and, especially, car insurance, which is higher in Rhode Island than in most other states.
Although bus service is adequate, it could be better. Buses on some routes run infrequently, and it can be difficult to coordinate bus schedules in order to transfer quickly from one line to another. RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority) does have an ambitious, publicly-vetted plan to address these issues by undertaking substantial improvements in bus frequency and expanding service into areas not presently covered. However, the transit authority needs additional funding from the state to fully implement this Transit Master Plan, and the RI General Assembly has not yet approved the monies needed.
Check here in The Providence Eye for more on the Transit Master Plan and how you can support it.
Check here to learn more about the RI Transit Riders.
Patricia Raub is co-chair of RI Transit Riders, an independent, volunteer-led, grassroots group that was formed to preserve, expand, and improve public transportation in Rhode Island.