Mayor Scott Avedisian, RIPTA Chair, says proposal will be considered and could have an immediate impact.
Brett Smiley today proposed an immediately actionable, short-term solution to the three mile walk-to-school for many Providence children: allowing the Providence Public School Department (PPSD) to declare “Bad Weather Days” in which they cover the costs of bus rides for all students who live within 2-3 miles of their schools. Just as RIPTA grants free rides for all passengers on “Air Quality Alert Days,” they now will grant free rides for students beyond a two mile radius on all “Bad Weather Days,” which will include days with excessive heat or cold, rain, sleet, and snow.
Smiley commented, “Our public schools suffer from chronically high absenteeism, and foul weather and lack of transportation are two of the major causes. While I’m actively exploring options to permanently decrease the walk radius to two miles, any such proposal will take time to implement. ‘Bad Weather Days,’ on the other hand, directly address the root causes of absenteeism and can be implemented today.”
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, Chair of RIPTA, commented, “Currently, RIPTA does not have the fleet size to accommodate reducing the bus radius down to two miles. The City along with the School Committee will need to think creatively regarding school start times, school assignment policies and other options for bus fleets to permanently resolve this issue, but in the meantime, Brett’s proposal for ‘Bad Weather Days’ is one that RIPTA will consider and potentially could have an immediate impact.”
Under his proposal, the Providence Public School Department could declare a “Bad Weather Day” and would then provide RIPTA with a per diem payment based on the estimated number of additional students receiving free bus rides that day. This proposal would cover RIPTA’s costs and utilize its current fleet. Further, it would be significantly less expensive for the PPSD than a full revision to the current busing policy.
Brett Smiley has already met with officials from RIPTA and the Providence Public School Department to share this proposal and discuss long-term strategies to create a permanent, two mile radius. He looks forward to discussing this proposal further at tomorrow’s candidates forum sponsored by the Providence Student Union and Young Voices.