GLOCESTER — Town and state leaders representing Glocester and Burrillville are vowing to fight the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority’s (RIPTA) preliminary proposal to reduce the frequency of bus trips along Route 9, which runs between Providence and Burrillville, through North Providence, Smithfield and Glocester, and is the only public transportation route through northwestern Rhode Island.
Sen. Paul W. Fogarty and other lawmakers are holding a public hearing for residents Aug. 1 to hear concerns and prepare their battle plans.
The proposed reductions of Route 9 bus trips are among a wider service reduction plan being proposed by RIPTA. The proposed cuts, announced this month, are caused by a $4.6-million deficit in RIPTA’s budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.
They would affect 35 communities, 39 bus routes, Flex zones and Park ‘n’ Ride service, and include eliminating routes or route segments; decreasing service frequency; ending service at 10 p.m. on weekdays on many routes; and shutting down service at 10 p.m. on weekends on many routes. As a result, RIPTA said in a news release, no service would operate past 10 p.m.
RIPTA is also proposing to eliminate all holiday bus service, all flex service in Narragansett and some Park ‘n’ Ride service. Pawtucket weekend service also will be sharply cut — five of the city’s routes may be shut down on Saturdays, and four on Sundays.
Additionally, because paratransit RIDE service for people with disabilities is offered within a ¾-mile corridor of fixed-route service, that service may also be reduced wherever there is elimination of a route or segment of a route.
In previous years, RIPTA has threatened on at least three occasions to eliminate a segment of the No. 9 bus route that services Burrillville, Glocester and Smithfield in an attempt to address annual budget deficits. Each time, residents and town officials, along with their legislative delegates, managed to fight off the proposals.
Three years ago, RIPTA wanted to eliminate the segment of Route 9 which runs through Greenville, Glocester and Burrillville to Eleanor Slater Hospital’s Zambarano unit. Burrillville and Glocester town officials and residents found themselves in an identical battle with RIPTA a few years before that when the agency, which was facing a deficit that year as well, tried to eliminate the No. 9 bus to cut costs.
This year, RIPTA is facing a $4.6 million budget hole and considering cutting up to 10 percent of its service, affecting 39 of its routes in 35 cities and towns, along with layoffs of about 40 employees. Changes to routes could occur as soon as October.
Fogarty (D-Dist. 23, Glocester, Burrillville, North Smithfield) says he and other legislators are concerned about the latest plan to reduce the frequency of bus trips along Route 9, which runs between Providence and Burrillville, through North Providence, Smithfield and Glocester.
“The route has been targeted for reductions or elimination several times in recent years, and each time has been met with significant objection from the public and local leaders,” Fogarty said this week. “In this time of sustained high unemployment and recession, we believe that eliminating public transportation could devastate the ability of those in the northwest corner of the state to find or maintain a job, and would also leave many without transportation for shopping, doctor’s appointments or other vital needs.”
Foagrty said he and other lawmakers are hosting a public hearing for area residents on Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Glocester Senior Center, 1210 Putnam Pike, Chepachet, to discuss RIPTA’s plans for the Route 9 bus route.
Scheduled to attend the hearing are Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield); Rep. Thomas Winfield (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester); Rep. Cale P. Keable (D-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester); Rep. Peter J. Petrarca (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Smithfield, Johnston); Minority Leader Brian C. Newberry (R-Dist. 48, Burrillville, North Smithfield); and Rep. Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry).
RIPTA's public hearings on the proposed cuts began Tuesday on the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority proposed service reductions.
The remaining hearing schedule is as follows:
• Thursday, July 28, Warwick City Hall, 3275 Post Rd., Warwick, 2 to 4 p.m., 6 to 8 p.m.
• Monday, Aug. 1, University of Rhode Island, Feinstein Providence Campus, 80 Washington St., Providence, 2 to 4 p.m., 6 to 8 p.m.
• Tuesday, Aug. 2, Narragansett Town Hall, 25 Fifth Ave., Narragansett, 2 to 4 p.m., 6 to 8 p.m.