Another one rides the bus: Commuter transit returning to Foster

Bus extension brings RIPTA service to 37th Rhode Island municipality

By: - March 17, 2023 4:59 am

This land across the street from the Foster Police Department on Howard Hill Road was recently cleared to make way for a Park-n-Ride. (Photo by Chris Baxter)

Since 2006, if residents from the rural town of Foster wanted to rely on public transit to get to Providence, they’d have to travel to nearby Scituate in order to catch a ride.

“[Having the bus is] a resource for a town which is otherwise pretty much shut off from civilization,” said Republican House Minority Leader Michael Chippendale, who represents Foster. “It’s a right that should be afforded to every town.”

Seventeen years later, commuter service is set to return to the western Rhode Island town.

Beginning April 3, commuter service will return to Foster as part of an extension to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s (RIPTA) 10x route. The extension was formally approved by RIPTA’s board of directors during its March 15 meeting.

The route will now begin at a newly-constructed Park-n-Ride across from the town’s Howard Hill Road police station at 7 a.m. and proceed to Chopmist Hill Road in Scituate and reach Kennedy Plaza in Providence at 7:48 a.m. Return service is scheduled to arrive back in Foster at 5:45 p.m.

RIPTA bus services cost $2 for one hour of unlimited rides, $6 for a day pass, and $70 for a monthly pass. Seniors can ride for $1. 

Bus drivers do not have change, so riders must use exact change or use the RIPTA Wave mobile app, smart card, or a bus pass.

Paratransit service will also be available, RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian said. The estimated cost of the extension is $24,000.

Patricia Raub, the co-chair of RI Transit Riders, said the route extension is something her advocacy group is very happy about.

“This is going to make a big difference,” said Patricia Raub, the co-chair of RI Transit Riders. “This really makes it possible for people who are in an outlying area to get access to bus services.”

RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian is shown at far left during the March 15 board of directors meeting. (Photo by Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

The Foster stop was pulled years ago after the church where it was located no longer wanted it there, Avedisian said. RIPTA officials had difficulty finding a replacement site.

“It was a very difficult transition,” he said.

The decision to revisit Foster, Avedisian said, came about after he took over RIPTA in 2018. He said one of the first calls he got was from someone asking why there was no service in the town.

From there, Avedisian said it took many meetings with Chippendale, Republican Sen. Gordon Rogers and Foster officials to find the right site. They eventually settled on the new Park-n-Ride location.

“We had to do a lot behind the scenes to figure out what did and didn’t work, but it all came together,” Avedisian said.

Another reason was that there were only a handful of riders coming from the town of around 4,600 people. Ridership is still expected to be low, but Chippendale said it would be “more than made up” with commuters from Connecticut and stops in more densely populated municipalities.

The route has stops in Scituate, Johnston and Providence at the convention center, the Turk’s Head building, and Kennedy Plaza.

A map of the new Route 10x extension to Foster, RI. Buses will go from Foster Center up to Route 6 and then to Scituate.
The extension of Route 10x will take effect April 3. (Map courtesy of Rhode Island Public Transit Authority)

Chippendale added that it makes sense to have this stop return, especially when the agency offers commuter services to people living in Fall River, Massachusetts.

“It just rubbed me the wrong way that people in my town weren’t able to get a bus, but people in another state were,” he said.

Having this service return to Foster, Chippendale said, is a “move in the right direction” in modernizing rural towns such as Foster.

Since taking office in 2011, Chippendale said a number of residents have reached out to him requesting a stop in town, making this stop one of his top priorities for his constituents.

Though there may not be too many commuters from Foster itself, he said it’s important 

Most important, he said, it gives residents who do not have access to a way to get to Providence — particularly those that can’t afford to have a car or those who don’t have a license.

“Now that person’s choice is either to hitchhike or walk to work, which no one does in Foster because it’s so isolated,” Chippendale said.

The Foster Republican recalled a constituent whose drivers license was revoked but wanted to continue working. Chippendale said this man told him he was still going to drive so he couldn’t lose his job.

“That sort of calculus is not healthy for people to be making,” he said. “There are valid reasons to revoke someone’s driving privileges — but we have to make sure we don’t damn that person to a life of suffering while they try to take care of whatever it is they need to take care of.”

With the reinstatement of this route, Avedisian noted that the agency now has service in 37 municipalities. By the end of the year, Avedisian told the board that RIPTA plans to get community vans in Little Compton and New Shoreham.

“We will be, finally, meeting our mandate to be the statewide mobility manager by being present in all 39 cities and towns,” Avedisian said.

Charlestown, which has a population of  around 8,100 residents, also has no RIPTA connections. Park-n-Ride lots are located nearby in Westerly, Hopkinton, Richmond, South Kingstown and North Kingstown.

According to the town’s Comprehensive Plan approved in 2021, there are no intentions to seek public transit as “there is not sufficient ridership to justify the establishment of a bus stop or passenger rail station.”


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.