RIPTA votes on controversial fare hike

By Rebecca Turco

No more free RIPTA rides for the elderly and disabled as board members voted unanimously to charge them up to 50 cents a ride, a quarter of the fare price.

"I personally am outraged. I’m outraged morally," said one RIPTA passenger.

"It’s a hardship because the only ones that ride the bus are the poor," says another.

Those affected spoke out Monday at a board meeting. Originally, the proposal was to charge the riders half price, or a dollar a ride. Advocates argued that would’ve been a disproportionate burden on the low-income.

"Many elderly and disabled people aren’t able to walk. This is going to have the effect of making them virtual shut-ins," said one advocate.

About 25 percent of RIPTA riders are people who qualify for this low-income program. RIPTA gets Medicaid reimbursements for the majority of non-emergency medical transports, but even so, RIPTA is still facing a deficit of around 2 million dollars for next fiscal year.

Officials say the money has to come from somewhere.

"I would advise people who’ve been engaged in this process to please, don’t go away, stay involved. See what updates we have from the board because maybe the 50 cents could be less," said RIPTA Spokesperson, Barbara Polichetti.

As it stands, the fare increases are set to begin in July. Prices are also going up for monthly passes for full price customers. Those take effect in March.

© WLNE-TV 2015