PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — There may be no such thing as a free lunch, yet from Monday through the end of 2017, there will be free in-state commuter train rides.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is offering the free service among the state’s three commuter rail stations, Providence, Warwick’s T.F. Green or North Kingstown’s Wickford Station. Ridership numbers at Wickford have been much lower than projections since the service began in 2012.
State Director of Transportation Peter Alviti Jr. said in a statement that offering the free rides “will make more people aware of this great service and provide them an opportunity try it and use it on a regular basis.”
The fare between any of the three stations is normally $3.50 one way.
Transportation officials say the average daily ridership at Wickford Junction is less than 300. It’s 414 at T.F. Green, where service began in 2010. A 2001 report projected that more than 450 passengers would board trains in Warwick daily, with 3,000 more using a station in North Kingstown.
Average daily ridership at Providence Station is 3,058, according to DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin. The service is provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in an agreement with Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
“Development expected in and around Wickford Junction that would support increased ridership did not occur,” St. Martin said, when asked why transportation officials believe ridership is less than projected. “More recently, with lower gas prices, transit agencies across the country are seeing a reduction in ridership.”
St. Martin said they would use federal dollars specifically intended for transit, reducing congestion and cutting down on air pollution to pay for the six-month promotion, which is expected to cost about $102,000.