McKee calls for action as RIPTA service disruptions continue to affect Providence students

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Gov. Dan McKee is calling for action as the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority continues to be plagued by a driver shortage that’s affecting Providence students.

In a letter sent to RIPTA’s board of directors Thursday, McKee said the current situation is unacceptable and that he has serious concerns about the agency’s ability to deliver on promises to address the district’s need.

“Every day, Providence parents anxiously wait until 6 a.m. to see if their child will have bus transportation to school,” McKee wrote in part in the letter. “This is unacceptable and unmanageable on several levels.”

Last month, RIPTA said it met with the governor’s office and Amalgamated Transit Union Division 618 to “discuss how to resolve recent bus service disruption for Providence Schools students.”

During that meeting, according to the letter, “it was discussed that a temporary solution would be put in place until the issue is resolved with a schedule on October 22nd.”

That temporary solution is not working, wrote the governor.

Matt Sheaff, a spokesperson for McKee, said the governor is now exploring the transfer of school transportation services to a private provider.

The letter comes after more routes were canceled this week, causing student to find alternative transportation to school.

Sheaff said RIPTA is a quasi-public agency that has its own board of directors and does not report directly to the governor.

A spokeswoman for RIPTA confirmed the agency received McKee’s letter and issued the following statement:

“We have received Governor McKee’s letter and we appreciate his input.  We understand the disruption and inconvenience this is creating for families and students and we can affirm that RIPTA is committed to moving as quickly and thoughtfully as possible to finding a workable solution to this situation, knowing that we may be dealing with a driver shortage for some time.  We believe that we are all in agreement that having a solid plan that allows our system to accommodate school trips regularly will benefit the  Providence Public Schools and also allow us to equitably serve all passengers.”

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