Public Transit






What are the Benefits of Public Transit?

Public transit is a key building block for a livable city, and plays a major role in Providence by providing economic, social, and environmental benefits to the city and its residents. Transit contributes to livability in Providence by:

  • Providing a viable alternative to the automobile for residents who cannot or choose not to drive an automobile

  • Reducing traffic congestion, energy consumption, and automobile emissions

  • Strengthening neighborhoods and business districts and supporting civic events by making them more accessible

  • Reducing the need to create additional parking facilities

  • Providing access to jobs and services for low-income residents

  • Supporting the mobility of pedestrians and bicyclists

  • Supporting the independence of the elderly and the disabled


Public Transit in Providence

Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is the principal transit provider for Providence residents. RIPTA is a quasi-public agency operated with funding from the State of Rhode Island. At present, RIPTA’s Providence service accounts for 92% of its total service. Although there are several other public transit providers, RIPTA is the most used system because of its frequent and accessible circulation throughout the city and state.


Existing RIPTA Programs

  • Senior/disabled pass program: reduced passes for seniors and disabled persons.
  • Call 784-9524.
  • Ozone Alert program: free rides on hot summer days with poor air quality. Call 1-800-244-0444 or 781-9400 for more information.
  • Express Travel: alternatives to the single occupancy vehicle commute (RIPTA bus, carpool, Park ‘n’ Ride, Vanpool; Express Travel participants are offered a guaranteed ride home). Employers call 1-888-88RIPTA or 784-9500 x101.
  • RIte Care Transportation Program: Improves access to health services for low-income residents. Call Department of Human Services RIte Care Info Line at 1-800-346-1004.
  • RIde Program: Paratransit service for people with disabilities who are unable to use a regular bus wheelchair lift or travel to and from bus stops. Call the RIPTA Paratransit Division Coordinator at 784-9500 x153 or TDD at 784-9524. For information in large print, Braille, or on audiotape, call 784-9500 x153.


Transit 2000

RIPTA is in the process of implementing Transit 2000, a 5-year plan for the restructuring and redesign of RIPTA’s services to respond to customers’ needs. Transit 2000 plans affecting Providence include:

  • 200 new bus shelter sites and new shelters installed at all existing sites
  • Replacement of aging buses
  • New "international" bus stop signs
  • Kennedy Plaza improvements: Secure, heated and cooled passenger waiting area, public restrooms, electronic information with real-time updates, intermodal connections between RIPTA, Greyhound, and Bonanza buses
  • System-wide route map

Changes to service planned through Transit 2000 include:

  • Reduced trip times by eliminating deviations on routes
  • Providence Link: frequent downtown link service with compressed natural gas (CNG) trolleys
  • New cross-town trips between Olneyville and the South Side
  • New flexible-routing service to better connect riders with their destinations
  • Tripled service to hospital district
  • Doubled service to Brown University area
  • Newport-Providence Ferry
  • "Reverse commute" (urban residents accessing suburban jobs) facilitated by new fare rate structure
  • Shuttle service into Providence from satellite parking sites

A January 1998 survey of non-riders state-wide conducted for RIPTA identified several factors that contribute to the use of automobiles instead of transit. These include:

  • Overwhelming presence of free parking
  • Relatively short commuting times to non-riders’ places of employment
  • Belief that little or no personal benefit would result from transit use

Perception of loss of autonomy of movement


Public transit agencies nation-wide require government subsidy to operate. RIPTA recovers 26 cents on every dollar spent system-wide, and RIPTA’s most successful line, Providence’s Broad Street, recovers just 60 cents on every dollar. Because riders’ fares do not cover operating expenses, an increase in demand for service does not translate into adequate additional funding for increased service.

In 1999 RIPTA requested that the state legislature allocate an additional ˝ cent of the State’s existing 28 cent gas tax to public transit. When this request was denied, cuts in service were made. In Providence, RIPTA cut the Prairie Avenue route, but plans to recover this route through new cross-town service. Some late night trips (after 11:30 p.m.) were also cut.

Rhode Island Public Transit Authority

Phone: 784-9500