Elderly, disabled rally to save free RIPTA rides

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority will build new mobility hubs at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown and the Community College of Rhode Island’s Knight Campus with $8,040,000 in federal funding. The grant was announced by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, who helped secure the funding for the state.

The investment, which includes funding for additional buses, will enable RIPTA to better serve the two higher education campuses while improving overall bus service to the southern portion of the state.

The federal funds, which are administered by the Federal Transportation Administration through the Buses and Bus Facilities grant program, will help make capital improvements to establish new mobility hubs at the University of R.I. and Community College of R.I. and purchase four new buses. These two locations will serve as operational hubs for RIPTA service in the southern portion of the state and will allow for a significant redesign of bus service to better serve RIPTA passengers and communities south of Providence with increased connections and frequency of service.

Currently the two schools serve nearly 35,000 students a year and generate nearly one million RIPTA trips, roughly six percent of RIPTA’s annual ridership.

The new bus hubs and fleet acquisitions will help meet the growing need for more transit service at CCRI and URI. In addition to addressing parking and congestion challenges, this investment will make these educational institutions more accessible, improve intermodal connections, and better align RIPTA service to meet ridership demand. RIPTA’s current hub at Warwick Mall is the transit authority’s sole gateway to the southern portion of the state and many of those passengers are students at Community College of R.I. Creating a new hub at the campus will better serve those students and provide better connections to other destinations. Major destinations that will benefit from the new hubs and improved transit connectivity in the southern part of the state include: T.F. Green Airport, the MBTA commuter rail station at Wickford Junction in North Kingstown, South County Commons, the Amtrak train station in Kingston, and ferry connections at Galilee in the town of Narragansett.

The federal Buses and Bus Facilities grant requires an 80/20 match, which means the federal government will pay for up to 80 percent of the cost. The project is estimated to cost $10.8 million.

Specifically, the federal funds will be used to help RIPTA and University of R.I. construct a mobility hub on the campus near the Flagg Road parking lot that will allow for improved regional connectivity and access within and around the campus via bus, bike, car-sharing or foot. This hub will include the following elements: five to eight bus berths; passenger facilities, including shelters, real-time display screens, and bicycle racks; building with interior waiting space, restrooms, and ticket vending machines and green infrastructure, including solar panels.

In addition, RIPTA will make improvements to the Community College of R.I. Knight Campus in Warwick to allow for a mobility hub at that location. Work at the Warwick site includes: two to four bus berths and passenger facilities, including shelters and real-time display screens.

— Sun staff

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