Greater City Providence

State Sen. Tassoni calls for removal of RIPTA CEO


State Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. apparently thinks RIPTA’s CEO, Charles Odimgbe, hired in November 2010, should be able to work some sorts of miracles with the lack of funding the agency receives from the state.

Odimgbe arrived in Rhode Island to find an agency whose annual budget crisis had morphed into some kind of sad joke. As we know, as gas prices go up people drive less, and rely on RIPTA more, and that driving less equals less gas tax which means less money for RIPTA. Instead of addressing that issue, the Assembly continues to blame RIPTA’s budget woes on poor management, even though a report commissioned by the Assembly found the agency to be well run.

RIPTA has been forced to cut staff to attempt to avoid service cuts and fare increases which would only lead to less people using its services. And now instead of addressing the agency’s budget issues head on, Sen. Tassoni calls for the outer of its leader because Kennedy Plaza is too dirty.

I’ve recently joined the board of Greater Kennedy Plaza, an organization seeking to improve the public space at Kennedy Plaza and it’s parks. At both the Board meetings I’ve attended, Mr. Odimgbe has been there, enthusiastically supporting the work of Greater Kennedy Plaza. He’s committed to ensure the Plaza become a better place both for the operation of RIPTA and for the enjoyment and economic health of Providence as a whole.

Instead of calling for people’s ouster, let’s see if the Assembly, RIPTA, and the Governor can actually work together to address RIPTA’s budget problems and build a better system. Ousting Mr. Odimgbe will do nothing to address the real problems, and will just leave a potential replacement being blamed for mismanagement in the future.

Sen. Tassoni’s Press Release:

Sen. Tassoni calls for ouster of RIPTA CEO

STATE HOUSE – Kennedy Plaza in Providence is a mess, said Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr., and it’s RIPTA’s fault.

Armed with pictures showing piles of debris scattered around the RIPTA bus waiting area on Kennedy Plaza, Senator Tassoni (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield) said the situation is further indication that “the person that was hired to fix the problems at RIPTA is not doing a very good job of handling day-to-day operations, and that makes me wonder how qualified he is to address much bigger problems at the bus company.”

The upkeep of the bus waiting and transfer area at Kennedy Plaza is the responsibility of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, said Senator Tassoni. “Apparently, in a rush to appear as if he was getting a grip on RIPTA’s budget problems, CEO Charles Odimgbe eliminated a number of employees, including those responsible for maintenance of the authority’s facilities, including Kennedy Plaza.”

“The result of that decision may have saved a few dollars, but it has left no one to do the job of cleaning up Kennedy Plaza,” said Senator Tassoni. “That is certainly not doing anything to improve the reputation of RIPTA and I’m sure that the Providence mayor can’t be too pleased that Kennedy Plaza is starting to look like a dump because RIPTA is not doing its job of cleaning up after itself.”

Senator Tassoni said it’s become obvious to him that the RIPTA CEO “is not making the hard decisions necessary to address the serious and ongoing budget problems. Rather than making cuts by trimming the ranks of the well-paid middle- and upper-management personnel, he eliminates a lowly position and Kennedy Plaza is left to become a mess. Rather than implementing serious efficiencies, he testifies before the finance committee that his only options are to raise rates or cut bus routes.”

“I think it is clear Mr. Odimgbe is not up to doing the job for which he was hired and that it is time for the governor to replace him with someone who can,” said Senator Tassoni.

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.


  • i’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that he’s never actually ridden on a RIPTA bus and that he’s never walked around other parts of Providence.

    he probably just stepped on some gum when walking by Kennedy Plaza on his way to eat at McCormick & Schmick’s and had a hissy fit.

    prove me wrong Tassoni.

  • “I think it is clear Mr. Tassoni is a knucklehead not up to doing the job for which he was elected and that it is time for the governor to replace him with someone with an ounce of wisdom,” said Eric.

  • Perhaps Tassoni should take lesson in cause and effect. For example it is clearly stated that RIPTA had to lay off staff and I can tell you they laid off some of their maintenance guys. Therefore trash might not be getting picked up on a regular basis as it was before.

  • It’s certainly a tough situation. It’s even more unfortunate that Odimgbe does not have the ATU behind him.

  • I’m told at their Board meeting on Monday, the ATU union head attacked the RIPTA CEO along the same lines as Senator Tassoni, and apparently they plan a rally tomorrow (Thurs) to make the same point.

    Bus passengers deserve reasonably clean conditions at the Plaza and on the buses, but I think the attacks on Mr Odimgbe are a bad strategy for the union and for transit advocates. RIPTA cannot print money to make payroll, and even if any incompetent or overpaid managers could be properly identified and dealt with, it is unlikely to have much financial impact. The solution has to involve getting more paying passengers and getting the Assembly to fix the funding stream, but both are made more difficult by the public dispute that emphasizes bad conditions.

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