About a month ago, news swirled that RIPTA would be suspending its express bus service to the beach. I felt a pain in my belly immediately, and a wave of nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks.
You see, growing up with a single mom with limited financial means and a fear of driving on the highway – a fear continuing to this day – the only time I ever got to go to the beach as a teenager was by taking the RIPTA bus from Central Falls to Scarborough. On hot Saturday mornings, we would pack a small cooler with homemade sandwiches, chips and water and walk to the bus stop on Broad Street. I distinctly remember being in awe as the bus drove down the highway, since it was one of the only times we ever left our one-square-mile city.
Today, I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that my mom and I had the opportunity to do this. Our little tradition. Nothing fancy, just a cooler with snacks and a day under the sun.
This is why it was so frustrating to read about the possible suspension of these services earlier this spring. And while the governor has restored the RIPTA express beach bus for this summer, it does beg the question, why don’t we think this bus service is as important or necessary as others? How will we ensure that this service is sustained and possibly expanded in years to come?
Among urban residents, 27% of Hispanics-Latinos report taking public transit daily or weekly, compared with only 14% of whites. Foreign-born urban residents are more likely than urban dwellers born in the U.S. to regularly use public transportation (38% vs. 18%)
Earlier this year, RIPTA began a pilot program offering Central Falls residents rides when they board a bus in the city. This pilot is set to go through March 2023. This is an incredible initiative for our state and city, especially since so many residents struggle to afford gas or rising vehicle prices. Continuing to invest in different methods of transportation and access routes for Rhode Islanders should be a priority. Ensuring that families have accessible information for special routes and programs through RIPTA is also imperative.
Last week, my parents, now newly retired, asked me to help them figure out the best RIPTA route from Central Falls to the beach and Newport. When I asked them why they wouldn’t simply drive, their answer was simple: “the bus seems easier and also sort of an adventure.” Naturally, my heart fluttered, and I immediately helped them map out the best routes to the beach and Newport.
This is the sentiment we need to recall as often as possible. For many of our families, RIPTA represents a cost-saving measure, an easier option, and for some, even an important tradition.
Cover photo by Andre Gaulin from Unsplash
Marcela Betancur is the proud daughter of Colombian immigrants and currently serves as the director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.
Publisher’s Note: More than a bus ride was first published on The Valley Breeze.
LPI and RI Latino News; partners in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino communities.
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