Greater City Providence

You can’t get there from here


Bad news, RIPTA’s Providence/Newport fast ferry service will end October 16, 2008, for good. RIPTA reports in their January 31st Destinations eNewsletter that the service will end do to the expiration of federal funds.

Federal Funding Made Ferry Possible

“We’re proud that we were able to secure federal funding for three consecutive three-year grant cycles, $575,000 annually for a total of $5,175,000.00,” said RIPTA General Manager Alfred J. Moscola in a recent letter to community leaders.

This funding came from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act/Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Program (CMAQ), allowing RIPTA to provide this service for almost a decade.

Under the terms of its federal funding, the ferry was to serve as a demonstration project whose purposes were to test, measure and determine the demand for water ferry transportation, help reduce the pollution caused by automobiles and encourage economic development. These terms will be fulfilled in 2008.

Service Helped Reduce Traffic Congestion and Air Pollution and Boost Economic Development

“We’ve been very pleased to see the positive reception with which RIPTA’s Providence/Newport ferry service has been greeted over the years by residents and tourists as well as by community leaders,” said Moscola.

“Ferry ridership increased every season and communities up and down the state’s coastline sought to have the ferry add stops in their towns. Pollution and traffic congestion were reduced as people chose to take the ferry rather than their cars over Narragansett Bay. And economic development was encouraged because the ferry helped strengthen tourism,” he explained.

“We were also proud to receive the Governor’s Tourism Award for Newport County in 2001, in large measure due to our Providence/Newport ferry service,” added Moscola.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to renew our federal funding for the ferry service and without it there’s no way we can continue this terrific service,” says Moscola.

So this announcement seems rather abrupt and matter-of-fact. One has to wonder why there was no plan for the end of the demonstration period. The funding was to test, measure, and determine demand for water transportation, ridership was up year after year… OK, so it seems there is demand and 9 years should have given us plenty of time to measure it and figure out how to provide it. Indeed the state budget is in the toilet, but there is no way to come up with $575,000 to continue service? Did anyone even try? Is this again RIPTA using the media to lob a bomb at the Governor (that’s getting really boring)?

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • “Is this again RIPTA using the media to lob a bomb at the Governor (that’s getting really boring)?” What are you referring to?

  • RIPTA and the Governor battling every year over budgets. The battle ends up in the papers with threats to drastically cut services and raise fares. Usually neither happens (at least not as drastically as predicted in the papers) and a way is found to continue funding RIPTA. It seems no one, RIPTA, the Assembly, the Governor, can find a path toward full and proper funding of RIPTA. And we, the riders, have to worry every year that the dire threats will come true. This abrupt announcement that the ferry is gone, no use trying to fund it, seem a lot like that.

  • It is too bad that the RIPTA/New England Fast Ferry’s Providence-Newport Ferry run will be shutting down. Back in 2004, when I was on it as well as the other ferry, before it, the Interstate Navigation Company’s Providence-Newport-Block Island Ferry run (now the Newport-Block Island Ferry run), were to two good ferry runs down Narragansett Bay.

Providence, RI
5:31 am8:12 pm EDT
Feels like: 72°F
Wind: 4mph SSE
Humidity: 89%
Pressure: 30.13"Hg
UV index: 0
75°F / 68°F
81°F / 63°F
82°F / 64°F