The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) announced today the extension of its year-long “Ride Free Central Falls” pilot program through August 1, 2023. The program, which launched in March 2022, is testing the effectiveness of using geofencing technology to promote the use of public transportation.
Under the “Ride Free Central Falls” pilot program, RIPTA used software to create a geofence – or virtual boundary – around the City of Central Falls. Starting today, that boundary will be extended to include the two RIPTA bus stops at the new Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center.
The software communicates with RIPTA’s Wave smart fare technology and knows to automatically waive the fare when a passenger is boarding with a Wave smart card or mobile app in Central Falls or at the new Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center.
The “Ride Free Central Falls” pilot offers free fares for only those trips starting in Central Falls and now, the Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center. Trips originating outside of Central Falls or the new intermodal center are required to pay the full fare.
RIPTA was one of 25 recipients nationwide to receive grant funding under the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) “Accelerating Innovative Mobility” (AIM) initiative. The goal of the federal initiative is to support the use of state-of-the-art technologies to improve transit services and transportation options for the public.
“Improving transportation involves more than just acquiring new electric buses or adding new routes; it also includes introducing new innovative measures to enhance public transportation,” said Scott Avedisian, RIPTA CEO. “Expanding this geofencing technology to include the new multimodal transit center does just that. We are excited to be able to offer free fares with Wave at the new Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center as of this pilot.”
“I’m so excited for the momentum we’ve made to bolster public transportation. It’s clear that affordable, accessible transportation makes a difference,” said Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera. “I’m thrilled we are extending the free bus ride program through this summer, and expanding its radius to include passengers boarding a bus from our Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center. With easy access to RIPTA routes and free rides starting in our community, more residents have been able to utilize public transportation, and I hope to see this trend continue.”
“Providing access to free public transportation, especially in our densely populated cities, brings prosperity to the community,” said Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien. “We are already seeing so many of the new benefits the Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Hub has brought to both Pawtucket and Central Falls, and I know that by expanding upon this initiative, that success will only just continue.”
RIPTA officials noted that Central Falls is an ideal test area because it covers a small geographic area but also has a high population density. RIPTA is monitoring the effectiveness of the pilot program through surveys, focus groups and analyzing travel trends. The results of this pilot will help RIPTA shape future policy and program initiatives.
RIPTA received $244,000 to partner with the City of Central Falls to test the effectiveness of using geofencing technology to help create targeted promotional partnerships that would benefit transit and the public. The City of Central Falls is contributing approximately $50,000 to the project and RIPTA is contributing $11,000. The project funding includes covering lost fare revenue for RIPTA.
More information is available at RIPTA.com/CentralFalls.
Geofencing uses the GPS (Global Positioning System), cellular networks and other technologies to define a specific area. It is rapidly becoming a powerful marketing tool worldwide, allowing companies to zero in on their target audiences and also to specify where people are when advertisements show up on computers or mobile devices.
For RIPTA, geofencing is of interest because it could open the door to targeted marketing partnerships that will increase use of public transportation. The technology could allow entities such as universities, business associations, or social service agencies to sponsor ridership in a specific, limited area. For instance, a city’s business district might decide to partner with RIPTA to offer free transportation within a certain area to make a retail area more accessible to customers.
Launched in September 2020, Wave gives passengers the option of paying their bus fare with either a reloadable smart card or a new mobile app and is already being used by thousands of RIPTA customers. More details, including an instructional video, are available at RIPTA.com/wave.