Governor Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) today announced that it is limiting the capacity on its buses to help ensure that there is enough room for proper social distancing during the current COVID-19 health crisis. Starting tomorrow, Saturday, April 11, 2020, no more than 15 passengers will be allowed on any fixed-route bus. It was also announced that starting next week, RIPTA drivers will step in to fill gaps on delivery routes for Meals on Wheel of Rhode Island.
At her daily press briefing today, Governor Raimondo noted the importance of allowing sufficient space for social distancing on buses and also said that the public is requested to wear cloth coverings when using public transit, and when out in public in general. “The bus drivers are out there every day helping people get where they need to be,” Governor Raimondo said. “That said, we need to take every precaution to keep our drivers and riders safe.” Regarding RIPTA providing assistance with Meals on Wheels deliveries, the Governor thanked RIPTA and its drivers for stepping up.
Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer, said he appreciated the fact that Meghan Grady, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island, let him know that they are experiencing increased demand on some of their scheduled delivery routes. Starting next week, vehicles and drivers from RIPTA’s paratransit division will be deployed to fill gaps in routes in the Pawtucket area. Drivers will be following the safety protocols that Meals on Wheels has already put in place.
“Meals on Wheels of RI is thrilled RIPTA is helping us meet an increased need for volunteers,” Grady said. “We are extremely grateful for and humbled by the generosity of these RIPTA drivers who are joining us to enact our mission everyday by providing our clients a nutritious meal, safety check and opportunity for brief socialization.”
The drivers will use smaller paratransit vehicles from RIPTA’s paratransit division (RIde Program), which normally provides transportation for persons with disabilities. RIPTA has vehicles and drivers available due to sharply declining ridership in both its fixed-route and paratransit divisions.
“We take the responsibility of providing essential service very seriously,” Avedisian said. “We are also aware of the need to be very flexible right now and to find opportunities to help people whenever we can. We are happy to be able to help Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island fulfill their vital role in our state.”
Last week, RIPTA announced that it was adding smaller RIde vehicles to augment service on busy routes to help ensure enough space on buses for passengers. The supplemental vehicles are being dispatched as needed on routes such as the R-Line.
The transit authority is also encouraging all passengers to follow the recommendation of the Rhode Island Department of Health by using cloth face coverings when out in public.
“We always say that the safety and security of our personnel and passengers is a top priority for us, and we can continue to refine our operations as more and more is learned about the best way to protect public health during the current crisis,” Avedisian said. “We do this knowing that we have to find a balance between taking the necessary precautions while also finding a way to continue our service which is a lifeline for so many people.” At this time, RIPTA has no plans to alter its service schedule and officials have noted that frontline workers depend on RIPTA to get to work at hospitals and nursing homes, while also helping others get their groceries and prescriptions.
Avedisian stressed that RIPTA’s main message that passengers ride only when necessary remains the same. “As our Governor and state health officials have said, people should be going out only when absolutely necessary and anyone who is sick at all should not be leaving their home under any circumstances,” Avedisian said.
People seeking more public health information can consult the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html or the Rhode Island Department of Health website at https://health.ri.gov/diseases/respiratory/?parm=163.
For continued updates on RIPTA’s response to COVID-19, visit ripta.com/covid-19.