Sen. Harold M. Metts and Sen. Juan M. Pichardo are calling on the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to cancel a plan to replace a no-fare program for low-income elderly or disabled Rhode Islanders with one that charges them $1 per ride.
RIPTA currently allows riders who are elderly or disabled and whose income is no higher than 200 percent of the poverty level to receive a pass that allows them to ride the bus for free. Under a proposal now under consideration, that population would instead pay half of the regular $2 fare each way. (The plan would not affect elderly and disabled riders who are not considered low-income, and who can ride the bus during off-peak hours for half-fare.)
The Providence senators say the plan targets those who are most in need of public transportation and are least able to afford it.
“The poor and handicapped need public transportation to buy food at the grocery market, keep their doctor’s appointments, etc. This population is struggling as it is; and price increases for those on limited fixed income should never have been considered,” they wrote in a joint letter to Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian, who is chairman of RIPTA’s Board of Directors.
“The elderly and disabled who are also poor are the last people who should be made to shoulder the burden of RIPTA’s budget shortfalls. It’s hard enough for them to put food on the table and keep their heat on. They don’t have money to start paying every time they need to go anywhere. This is going to have a devastating effect on their households, health and quality of life,” said Senator Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
Said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), “Not only is this going to hurt the most vulnerable people financially, the result is going to be that these folks simply can’t go anywhere. Many elderly and disabled people aren’t able to walk very far, so this is going to have the effect of making them virtual shut-ins. This will isolate them on top of adding to their financial struggles. The effects of this plan are morally unacceptable, and RIPTA needs to identify a way to fund its services without doing so much harm to those least able to take the impact.”
In addition to the letter to the RIPTA Board of Directors, the two senators also wrote to the state Office of Management and Budget to urge rejection of the plan.
“The sustainability of RIPTA should not be at the expense of the poor, handicapped and most vulnerable,” they wrote. “People on fixed incomes don’t have options….the most vulnerable will be severely and negatively impacted.”
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