Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) today announced today that effective Monday, April 19, 2021, RIPTA will be providing free transportation to people traveling to and from vaccination appointments.  

“This is a big win for Rhode Island’s vaccination efforts,” said Governor McKee in a statement. “We know that for many Rhode Islanders transportation is a consistent barrier to accessing a COVID-19 vaccine. Many of our State’s vaccination sites are already accessible by RIPTA bus service. I hope that no-cost trips will enable everyone who wants to get to a vaccine clinic to get there easily. Thank you to our partners at RIPTA and the Federal Transit Administration for breaking down this barrier. Together, we will vaccinate the Ocean State.”

The announcement comes as vaccine eligibility is scheduled to open to all adults over the age of 16 on Monday, April 19.

According to the Governor’s office, state vaccination sites and many pharmacy vaccination sites are located on existing RIPTA routes. Passengers who want to see if public transportation is a good option for them should visit www.ripta.com and enter their travel information in the easy-to-use trip planner on the homepage. It will tell them which routes will take them from their starting point to their destination, and what walking distances may be involved. The website also has detailed maps and timetables for every RIPTA route. 

“We know that getting people vaccinated is the top priority for our Governor and our State,” said Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer in a statement. “On Wednesday we received approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to use federal funding for this purpose. We are working out the reimbursement details with the FTA, but are excited that this will allow us to provide such an important service to the public.” 

Fixed-route passengers seeking free travel can contact RIPTA’s customer service team and provide their vaccination appointment information. Customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and can be reached by email at CustomerService@RIPTA.com or by calling (401) 781-9400. 

If individuals have an existing Wave smart fare card, $8.00 of value will be loaded on their account. If they do not have a card, they will be mailed a Wave smart card preloaded with $8.00 of value.  To board the bus, they just need to tap the card on the validators next to the farebox. Existing paratransit customers who use RIPTA’s RIde Division can book their trips as they normally do. More details on scheduling a trip with RIde can be found at www.ripta.com/ride-paratransit-program

RIPTA officials said that people who may be new to using public transit should know that real-time travel information showing when the bus will arrive at their stop is available either through the RIPTA website homepage on www.ripta.com (click on Where’s My Bus?), or on the Transit app, available free for both Android and Apple phones. 

Passengers are reminded that they must first make an appointment for their vaccine and follow all applicable rules and instructions that they receive with their appointment confirmation. People who are sick should not be leaving home. Face coverings are required on the bus. To make a vaccination appointment, visit www.vaccinateri.org. While state-run vaccination clinics, such as the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and the Sockanosset Cross Road site are one way to get vaccinated, there are additional options.

For more information on different ways to get vaccinated, what to know before, during, and after your vaccination, and to access COVID-19 vaccine FAQs visit C19VaccineRI.org.

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).