Train ridership up following first week of free service
It sometimes pays to make things free. A week after launching free train service from Wickford and Warwick to Providence as a means of building transit awareness, the average daily ridership rose almost 30 percent, going from 240 riders to 310, according to Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director of Communications, Lisbeth Pettengill. A celebration of the 6 months of free service was held at Wickford Junction on Monday. Those who attended where treated to bagels, muffins, pastries and coffee provided by Brewed Awakenings, and small merchandise being given out at table stands from RIPTA, Rail Explorers USA, and Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad. RIDOT Director, Peter Alviti Jr, opened the press conference talking about the service program and potential long term plans. According to Alviti, RIDOT spent a long time thinking about how to breathe new life into the facility. Alviti also said that the state of Rhode Island has the highest population density in New England, but is low in transit service.
“We started this promotion to let people know about the train station,” he said. Alviti also discussed long term plans to increase the number of trips per day, provide weekend services, and extending the ability to provide more easy to use & less expensive transportation to the state. There is no set date in mind for these plans.
When discussing the potential this service could provide, Mayor Scott Avedisian said, “It’s going to allow people to move more efficiently and effectively to T.F Green State Airport. Now you can bring your luggage on the train, to the plane directly to Dublin, Belfast, Shannon, Edinburgh, Bergen Norway, Cancun, in a really effective way in which you can go on vacation to your international destinations.” North Kingstown Town Manager, Ralph Mollis said, “This can help define and redefine North Kingstown. This can be an amazing transit hub, but the first step is promotion.” Mollis jokingly referred to Mayor Avedisian’s statements and said, “I think we found the new commercial, come to North Kingstown and before you know it, you’re in Europe.” Commuters and train riders were also in attendance for the event. Eileen Izzie and Bruce Bryan, who own a house in Warwick, said they always take the train to Providence. When asked about the free service, Bryan, who is a self proclaimed scholar of trains, said “free is nice but I’m going anyway. I’d take a ride just to take a ride.” Bryan still sees issue with the lack of weekend service and frequency of rides. “The schedule is at the convenience of the MBTA,” he said. Warwick resident, Andrew Jennings also said frequency and scheduling are an issue. “I support the train and what it’s trying to do, but the connections and frequency need to be fixed.” These commuters agree that free train rides are is a nice feature, but they would like to see further development of the trains scheduling and ride frequency, which is what Director Alviti would like to accomplish for the long term plan.