On February 1 the RIPTA‘s planned elimination of the no-fare bus pass goes into effect. More than 13,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities will suddenly be facing fees of 50 cents and 25 cent transfers for each one way trip. Many are on fixed incomes and subsist on less than $700 a month.
A protest held in Burnside Park the day before the fare increase goes into effect is a last chance effort to reach those at the State House, including Governor Gina Raimondo, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President M Teresa Paiva-Weed and prevent this.
The RI Organizing Project, the Senior Agenda Coalition of RI, the Economic Progress Institute, the RI Coalition for the Homeless, the RI Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, the Mental Health Recovery Coalition and the RIPTA Riders Alliance has repeatedly asked Governor Raimondo and the RIPTA Board to rescind the rate increase, to no avail.
Instead, a plan has been rolled out from the the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs (RIDEA) and Office of Veterans Affairs (RIOVA) to distribute free ten bus ride passes to some seniors and verterans who qualify for the no-fare bus pass program. Interfaith coordinator Emily Jones called the program “woefully inadequate.” She noted that RIPTA’s own numbers indicate that riders need many, may more rides than ten.
Pastor Linda Forsberg holds services in Burnside Park as Church Beyond the Walls. She led a prayer.
Diana Burdett of PICA (Providence In-Town Churches Association) emceed the event.
“Governor Gina Raimondo’s solution only includes seniors and veterans,” said Emily Jones, “What we have is an inadequate solution.
Christine Tate is a senior who makes receives $700 a month. She is only strong enough to carry one bag of groceries home at a time. She needs to take multiple bus trips simply to shop for food every week.
Wendy Thomas has had 3 heart attacks, a hip replacement and a dislocated collarbone. She can carry less than 5 pounds and must shop daily. Also, instituting the bus fare increase on the first of the month means that she can’t receive and cash the check she needs to pay the fifty cents.
Felicia and her boyfriend are both handicapped and it will be hard for them to get back and forth for their daily appointments.
Amanda Carr spoke on behalf of Yaseen Kafar, who is disabled. At one point he had zero income. “A society is judged by how it treats the least among us,” said Carr. “This is a small amount of money. I expect this from a Trump administration, not from a Democratic Raimondo administration.”
Paul Tavares uses the no-fare bus pass to get to his substance abuse treatment meetings. These meetings are not covered by Medicare.