The good news is that we Brown students get to take full advantage of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus system for free. The less good news is that this privilege does not mean much. While there are students who would argue that the RIPTA is very convenient once you know how to navigate it, most of us never bother learning. To the majority of the Brown community, RIPTA is a service that sounds great in theory, but ultimately ends up being more of a hassle than an effective mode of transportation.
The main problem is that — due to the lack of convenient routes stopping through College Hill and the unpredictability of when the buses will actually show up — taking the RIPTA often becomes too time-consuming to be practical. Lately, more and more students elect to split the cost of a 10-minute Uber ride rather than spend 45 minutes making the same journey for free via RIPTA. The convenience of Uber easily trumps any financial advantage RIPTA might have.
Even beyond College Hill, RIPTA does not seem to be particularly efficient. Commuters who need to get to their jobs in Providence do not have much flexibility, as many routes only have one stop per town, if any at all. This means that before they can even get on a bus, commuters have to find a way to the nearest stop. Additionally, many lines only operate at hourly intervals, which can complicate transfers and make the journey slow.
We propose that RIPTA increase both the number of stops and the number of routes it operates. But we also recognize the financial difficulties of doing so. RIPTA’s financial struggles were especially evident in December when the company voted to raise the prices of weekly and monthly passes and begin charging elderly and disabled riders, who previously rode for free. There is no way to guarantee that adding lines would also increase the number of riders. This makes these potential changes a huge financial gamble.
At the same time, the risk may be worth it. Considering that the decision to charge elderly and disabled customers only served to alienate the demographic that needs simple, accessible public transportation the most, RIPTA should request feedback from and listening to the residents it supposedly serves.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Emma Axelrod ’18 and Emma Jerzyk ’17, and its members, Eben Blake ’17 and Leeron Lempel ’19. Send comments to email@example.com.