The 61x takes everything you would expect from a decent express bus…and throws it out the window. You’ll see what I mean, but when an “express” bus is only 5% express, you know there’s probably something wrong.
Sam and I boarded at the Rhode Island Convention Center, the start of the route’s Downcity Loop. That meant that we got to experience the whole local section, first running down Sabin Street and then turning onto Empire Street. Next, we headed up Weybosset Street, going by businesses this whole time. Also…the bus had luggage racks? Not as weird as the 59x using a tourist trolley, but it was definitely out there.
Weybosset Street curved to the left as we went through a financial district with office buildings, and then we pulled up to Exchange Terrace Stop X – where all the express routes board. Now, the reason the stop is placed here is because it’s super easy for buses to pull straight out and get onto I-95. Does the 61x do that? No, it…loops around onto Memorial Boulevard, going in the opposite direction. Uhhh…
We made our way over to Washington Street, going over the Providence River before entering…the East Side Transit Tunnel? We’re really going through there on this express bus, huh? Because, you know, the 60 (which parallels this route closely) just goes straight onto the highway. No? Okay, tunnel it is.
We came out amongst the many businesses of Thayer Street, but it turned to very nice houses as we made our way onto Waterman Street. A lot of the houses did have small offices in them, though. There was more retail when we hit Wayland Square, then it went back to being residential before we sailed over the Henderson Bridge into East Providence.
We stayed on Henderson Expressway until its bizarre, incomplete terminus at North Broadway, onto which we turned. This was mostly residential, but when we got to the “bowtie” of what is more or less “downtown” East Providence, we got to take Broadway’s underpass instead of having to loop around! That was a true adventure, let me tell you.
After going under I-195, we turned onto Warren Ave for a bit before…oh, miracle of miracles! We took an on-ramp onto 195! It was time for an express section, baby! WOOOOOOO! WAIT, WHY ARE WE TAKING AN EXIT…oh, and now we’re just on Route 114, which is just a faster-than-average road, running with the 60. Why does the 60 have a longer express section than we do???
We were more or less in the woods for a while, with only a few random houses and industrial buildings appearing alongside the road. At some point we passed into Barrington and ran alongside the beautiful Hundred Acre Cove. Across from the Barrington High School, we stopped at the White Church Park and Ride. Sadly, it did not get a deviation, as a bus would likely not fit into it.
From this point, the road became more of a real road, with actual buildings along it. They started out as houses, but soon we passed some businesses in Barrington Center. They were a little too car-oriented for my liking, but Maple Ave, a side street, looked a lot more pedestrian-friendly. There were just a few more houses before we went over the Barrington River…and then the Palmer River! They’re very close to each other. Now we were in Warren.
There were some dense residences, and then we were in Warren Center. This was awesome – there were tons of charming businesses along Main Street. Soon after the downtown, it was time for us to begin our independent section by turning onto Franklin Street. We went by the Warren Park and Ride (again, no deviation; very disappointing), and then it was mostly houses. Once we turned onto Metacom Ave, though, suburban businesses lined the road.
We entered Bristol, and in between a lot of houses lining the road, Metacom Ave just had whatever it wanted alongside it: more businesses, some industrial buildings, a gym. We even got to see some farmland before the street started to curve southwestward. There was a stretch of shrubby forest before we joined the 60 again at Roger Williams University, then we crossed over the BEAUTIFUL Mount Hope Bridge.
We curved onto the residential Boyds Lane after crossing the bridge, eventually going under Route 24 and finally deviating into a park and ride! And after that, there was an even better revelation: we left the 60 by curving onto a highway on-ramp! An express section!!! Even better, this one was for three exits instead of one! Wait…oh…that’s still not a very long express section, is it?
At least we got to cross another beautiful bridge, this time crossing the Sakonnet River into Tiverton. We took the second exit on the other side, taking a left onto Fish Road. After about a second, we arrived at the Fish Road Park and Ride, the final stop on the route. How were Sam and I going to get home from this desolate park and ride in the middle of Tiverton, RI? You’ll have to wait and see…
RIPTA Route: 61x (Tiverton/East Bay Park and Ride)
Ridership: So, the route got six riders in total. How many actually rode on the unique section? Just one. Hmmm…
Pros: Even though only one person rode to the Fish Road Park and Ride, the lot had a good amount of cars when we arrived on the first trip of the evening, so it seems like there’s some sort of market for a bus to Tiverton. Of course, the route only runs three times a day in each direction (three in the morning and three in the evening) with no weekend service, but the town probably doesn’t need anything more than that.
Cons: How useful is this route? Not very. In fact, unless you’re coming from the East Side (which two people on my trip did), it’s slower than the 60! Maybe the route is meant to serve East Side riders only, but it’s just hard to call it an “express” when it barely runs express at all.
Nearby and Noteworthy: I mean, it serves Warren Center, which is really nice, but…just take the 60! It’s so much more frequent!
Final Verdict: 3/10
It’s a decent way for East Side commuters to get down to areas served by the 60. Aside from saving those people a (admittedly hilly) walk, though, that’s about all the 61x does. Even if people are coming from Tiverton, they basically have to use the park and ride, but it’s only five extra minutes of driving to get to the Portsmouth Park and Ride, which is also served by the faster 60. And yes, that’s a small lot, but there’s plenty of existing parking space near it for expansion. This route isn’t useless, but it’s not all that useful beyond just a few people. Now, if it could be extended to Fall River, that would make it useful!
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