Greater City Providence
New York Select Bus Shelter

RIPTA’s Rapid Bus

RIPTA Hybrid Bus

You may have missed it while you were stuffing your face with turkey or pepper spraying people for an Xbox at 3am, but the Coalition for Transportation Choices had a write-up last week about RIPTA’s Rapid Bus initiative. Good news; it is funded, in progress, and happening soon.

Rapid Bus is a service enhancement to existing services that RIPTA has proposed as part of their Five Year Strategic Plan. It will combine RIPTA’s two busiest routes, the 11 and the 99, into a continuous through-city route from Pawtucket to the Cranston line. Enhancements such as signal prioritization for buses, roadway improvements such as bus only lanes, and limited stops will help speed up the buses.

Passenger will see amenities such as unique branding and bus shelters as well as schedule/arrival information at stops.

The CTC’s post lists out the specifics, the project is expected to be completed late winter of 2012. The $2 million funding, including traffic signal and roadway improvements, branding, passenger infrastructure and other amenities, has been secured through federal sources. RIPTA and the City also have another $1 million grant to expand Rapid Bus to other high frequency routes throughout the city.

New York Select Bus Shelter

New York City Select Bus shelter and off board fare payment kiosks. Photo (cc) Adam E. Moreira from Wikipedia.

While not included in the current scope of the Rapid Bus project, further enhancements that could be added in the future include off-board fare collection. New York City’s Select Bus Service features this. Off board fare collection allows passengers to pay a kiosk at the stop and receive a ticket as proof of payment. Inspectors then periodically ask passengers for their tickets. This off board payment speeds the boarding process for the bus and reduces dwell time at the stop, in turn increasing the overall speed of the bus along its route.

RIPTA is investigating off board fare collection as part of the Core Connector (Streetcar) project. A system introduced for the streetcar could conceivably later be rolled out to the Rapid Bus lines.

Also, the electronic notification at bus stops will be achieved through GPS on board the buses, which RIPTA is currently implementing for internal use. Once through with installation and internal testing, RIPTA will be able to open source its GPS information allowing for the creation of bus tracking smart phone apps.

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.


  • The improvements can come fast enough. GPS tracking alone will make a huge difference for me. Negotiating RIPTA’s schedule tables is such a miserable experience.

    I don’t see the off-board fare collection as a priority for buses, but it’s probably a necessity for the streetcar.

  • Wasn’t the idea for fare free streetcar like Portland OR thrown around? That’d get people out of their cars if nothing else does.

  • I’ve heard they want to do the same with the 27 or 28 line. I don’t really see that one as sufficient though much of the infrastructure is in place with all the ITS traffic lights, etc.

    And the e-fare boxes are fast enough. Just prohibit cash on rapid routes. Problem solved, but make sure there are places to get the passes you’ll need.

    And how about bluetooth payment. Just wave your phone and you’re off.

  • Open Source GPS travel data from RIPTA? Really? The same RIPTA that hasn’t seen fit to open source its electronic route and schedule data even though they publish/provide it to Google for the transit directions service over the last ~4 years?

  • I think there has been reticence within RIPTA to move forward with open sourcing the existing data when they know the GPS system is in the works, and general reticence with higher ups about open-sourcing in general.

    I know from speaking to people at RIPTA that many within the agency are eager to be able to move forward with app development (both internal development, and open source to programmers). I think the new CEO has a much more modern view on such things. Just looking at the website of the agency he formerly headed up, Chatham Area Transit is like a breath of fresh air compared to RIPTA.

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