A devastating fare hike for Rhode Island’s most vulnerable seniors and disabled people is the focus of a new budget fight. Although Rhode Island has long had a program where seniors and disabled people who have trouble affording bus trips ride free, the last year has seen efforts to end this program and charge more to those who can least afford it.
Things are now coming to a head.
The recently revealed House budget includes money to put off the fare increase for six months, until January, but doesn’t quite put in enough funds to stop the fare increase altogether. RIPTA Riders Alliance is working to fight this, and there are several easy things people can do to help. When the budget comes up for a House vote Wednesday, there will be a proposed amendment to add a small amount of funds to RIPTA ($800,000) and stop the fare increase. Many disabled people and seniors have said publicly in the past year that they cannot afford to pay what RIPTA wants on their limited income, and RIPTA admits that they expect steep drops in how many bus trips disabled and senior Rhode Islanders will take. Fortunately, there are ways to make this better.
- One way people can help is by signing our online petition — it automatically sends messages to the State House when you sign. Please also share the petition link with others — we need people to respond quickly.
- Another thing you can do to help is to contact your state representative and state senator and ask them both to support budget amendments: $800,000 more for RIPTA to stop this attempt to squeeze more money from RI’s limited-income disabled and seniors who are already facing challenges. Go to vote.ri.gov to find your elected officials’ contact info — you can call them and/or email. RIPTA Riders Alliance has been distributing a flyer about this.
- Finally, RIPTA Riders Alliance will hold an event at 1:30 this Tuesday at the State House to talk about how important this is. We are sending the message that if Rhode Island’s senior and disabled people can’t afford to travel, they will be stuck at home, less able to shop, volunteer and visit loved ones — and isolation is deadly for seniors and the disabled. Protest makes a difference sometimes! Please come at 1:30 on Tuesday at the State House — and let people know about the Facebook event page.
Ironically, we’re facing this terrible fare hike on the most vulnerable because of a sneaky General Assembly move last year. When the House debated the budget last year, the House Finance Chair at the time, Raymond Gallison, put in a last-minute amendment to allow (that is, encourage) RIPTA to charge more to limited-income seniors and disabled people. Since then Gallison has had to resign. But it’s fitting that what began with one last-minute budget amendment is now leading to another, this time to save the most vulnerable who have been targeted as budget victims in the past. An amendment will be proposed in the House for Wednesday’s debate, and we are hoping to get an amendment in the Senate, too.
More useful information is available on RIPTA Riders Alliance’s Facebook page.