Barry Schiller: Car-free in Rhode Island? It’s possible!

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There are many, especially in the UpriseRI community, who are aware how the drive-everywhere culture has eroded the quality of both cities and the countryside, that transportation emissions are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, that always driving contributes to obesity and ill-health as well as the outflow of Rhode Island dollars to out of state oil interests, and supplying gasoline often pollutes the air and water and plays a role in our military adventures overseas. And there are some who simply want to save money, as a car can cost about $10,000/year. Even eliminating a second car can save much money over time.

So those wondering about real alternatives to car travel here might note that in many cases, RIPTA bus service is much better than non-users think it is. For example, the Providence-Newport #60 runs at least 47 trips/day each weekday, each way, and even on weekends has 30 round trips Saturday and 21 on Sunday. Similarly RIPTA has very frequent service to TF Green Airport (14 express trips weekdays on Route 14 between the Airport, Providence and South County or Newport, plus many local trips on the #1 and #20 lines, plus the commuter rail.) Many of RIPTA’s core routes have such levels of service and RIPTA goes not just downtown but to just about all the community colleges, colleges, and universities, hospitals, the Roger Williams Park Zoo, Slater Mill and most big shopping centers. The South County beaches can be reached by the #66-Galilee, #14-Narragansett, and on weekends from June 22 through August 25 on special beach bus expresses from all the metro area centers. Check it all out at www.ripta.com or call 781-9400. By the way, despite some well publicized rare accidents, bus travel is about 24 times safer per passenger-mile than car travel.

The MBTA-Providence commuter train line runs 20 trains between Providence and Boston each way weekdays. MBTA’s off-peak trains carry bikes at no additional charge though weekdays. The earliest off-peak train that carries bikes leaves Providence at 9:50am, but gets to Boston in time to have much of the day to ride around. For example, Back Bay Station is just a few blocks from the Charles River bikeways. On weekends, though service is reduced to 9 round trips on Saturdays and 7 on Sunday, all MRTA trains take bicycles. The earliest train on Saturday leaves Providence at 6:25am. The Sharon station accesses the wonderful Mass Audubon Moose Hill Sanctuary. Note the MBTA still has a $10 all-weekend unlimited commuter rail pass that can take you to destinations such as Plymouth, Wellesley, Salem, Rockport, Concord, and more. Visit www.mbta.com for complete schedules. Also note RIPTA’s #1-Hope and 35-Rumford serve the South Attleboro commuter stations.

Another option are Amtrak trains. Though not cheap, they are already electrified, fast, and comfortable, and besides traveling to New York or Boston, also provide an option to travel between Westerly, Kingston, and Providence. That is supplemented by RIPTA’s 66 and 95X routes.

Another alternative to car travel is the zero-emission bicycle whose power to get around is supplemented, for no additional charge, by the bike racks on all the full size RIPTA buses, those off-peak MBTA commuter trains, and from now through October 14, the Providence-Newport ferry. Most days the ferry is scheduled to leave Providence at 9:30am, 12:30, 3:30, and this summer, on the weekends the first and third trips will also stop in Bristol. See www.seastreak.com for complete schedules. It should be noted the ferries are supplemented by frequent Providence-Newport Route 60 RIPTA service that provides a lot of flexibility for a round trip. RIPTA also has connecting service between downtown Providence and the ferry landing.

Don’t forget that for biking in the Providence area, Jump Bikes are a new option, see www.jump.com/cities/providence.

Remember RIPTA can take you to the bike paths. For example that #60 line connects to the East Bay bike path at multiple locations, and the #32, #33, #34 also access that path. Use the #14 to reach the Quonset Point path, the #13 Washington, #17 Dyer, #30 Oaklawn, and #31 Cranston St, all access the West Bay path, while #71, #75 go to the Blackstone, and #64, 66 the South County path. These routes may make interesting one-way bike rides possible.

But biking is not the only form of “fossil free” travel, don’t forget walking. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk a mile, a frequent trip length, and it is healthier, and cheaper, than driving!

Though not everyone can always avoid driving, many of us can, at least sometimes, and, we might benefit from doing so. So please give this some thought!


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About Barry Schiller 9 Articles
Barry Schiller served on the Board of the Transit Authority 1995-99. He can be reached at bschiller@localnet.com

1 Comment

  1. Excellent article, Barry. I can attest to the many benefits of public transit as I am a regular RIPTA rider who has not used a car since 2004. Part of my commitment to the environment involves reducing my personal use of fossil fuels. Taking transit allows me to walk and be outdoors everyday. I have a stress-free commute on the 92 line which runs every 20 minutes during the day. I live on the East Side and it’s only a 10 minute ride to work. I then walk just a few minutes to my job downtown. I work as a teacher and enjoy seeing my students riding RIPTA also. It means a lot to them that I ride the bus just like they do. I have several friends who also live a car-free lifestyle and we use RIPTA to get to all our destinations. The R-line, which runs late, can take us to several weekend hotspots for entertainment. Not everyone is able to live this lifestyle, but I highly recommend it! It’s great for urban millennials like myself.

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