RIPTA says it needs to hire 30 drivers

RIPTA leadership on Friday finally answered questions about recent problems.

The public transportation agency announced Thursday it would run about 20 bus routes less frequently.

The move follows the sudden cancellation earlier in the month of some morning buses that left Providence students struggling to get to school.

RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian blamed a driver shortage, saying RIPTA is 30 drivers short of the number it wants, which is more than 420.

RIPTA is 11 drivers down from how many it had at the start of the pandemic.

NBC 10 News first reported nearly two months ago about the driver shortage, and drivers have told NBC 10 News that the problems are because of management, not numbers.

Asked by NBC10 about that claim, Avedisian replied, “No, we need the staff. We’re 30 drivers short. If we had 30 more drivers we’d be able to make every run that’s out there.”

The bus slow down on about 20 routes starts Oct. 22.

RIPTA says it will not change the frequency of buses in the early mornings, nights, weekends, or holidays, but has not said what the new schedule will be and how much slower the buses will arrive compared to now.

Avedisian says it’s better than an alternative.

“The thing that we didn’t want to do, is strand people who have no other option by cutting out full routes. So by changing the frequency, we’re still putting all the service routes out there, it’s just not as frequent as normal. And so that’s a better option than just saying there will be no service,” Avedisian said.

In the face of recent problems, Avedisian faced reporters for the first time Friday.

NBC 10 News made repeated attempts this week to question someone from RIPTA leadership.

Avedisian said he was away at a meeting with other transit leaders in Virginia.

Republican candidate for governor Ashley Kalus showed up at the RIPTA news conference to criticize Gov. Dan McKee, arguing he should be spending on things like RIPTA and raising pay for drivers, instead of taxpayer funded deals like the Superman building and Pawtucket soccer stadium.

“The governor’s inability to plan and mitigate this crisis is really a failure of leadership. There should have been more support for this. There should have been more communication about what was happening, and quite frankly we should not get to this point,” Kalus said.

McKee told NBC 10 News on Thursday that staffing is a broader challenge around the state, and said he would meet with Avedisian.

Avedisian said pay raises are part of ongoing contract negotiations with RIPTA’s drivers.

He also said RIPTA has been holding monthly job fairs in hopes of hiring more drivers.

The routes that will be affected by service reductions are:

  • 13 Coventry/Arctic/CCRI
  • 17 Dyer/Pocasset
  • 19 Plainfield/Westminster
  • 21 Reservoir/Garden City/CCRI
  • 22 Pontiac Ave.
  • 27 Broadway/Manton
  • 28 Broadway/Hartford
  • 29 CCRI Warwick/Conimicut
  • 31 Cranston St.
  • 50 Douglas Ave./Bryant University
  • 51 Charles St./Twin River/CCRI
  • 54 Lincoln/Woonsocket
  • 55 Admiral/Providence College
  • 56 Chalkstone Ave.
  • 57 Smith Street
  • 60 Providence/Newport
  • 63 Broadway/Middletown Shops
  • 65X Wakefield Park-n-Ride
  • 67 Bellevue/Mansions/Salve
  • 72 Weeden/Central Falls
  • 87 Fairmount/Walnut Hill
  • 92 East Side/Federal Hill/RI College