Jules rode RIPTA’s new 24x route recently. Here are his thoughts:
If you caught Miles’s recent post about the fall changes at the RTAs in southern New England, you may have been surprised to learn that RIPTA was tacking on an interstate express route connecting Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, to touristy Newport through the old Massachusetts mill city of Fall River with six round trips every weekday. Well, the 24x is real, it’s here, I’ve just ridden it, and I think you should, too.
For starters, it was nice to see the signage at Stop X in Kennedy Plaza was updated to include the 24x along with a dedicated sandwich board telling would-be riders of the new route!
I wasn’t the only one learning the route that day — the driver brought an associate on board to train him on where to turn and which roads to take, so he was writing directions down on a notepad. Meanwhile, I have Google Maps and my own memory to work this out.
We turned south off of Exchange Terrace over to Dorrance Street, slogging it out with construction-induced traffic all the way through Downcity to the district court. Thankfully, we left that mess as we merged onto Dyer Street, passing by the new Providence Pedestrian Bridge along the way. Shortly after Dyer became Eddy, we hung a left onto the Point Street Bridge, then swung right onto South Water Street, crossing under Interstate 195 to join the highway heading east.
The 24x does make local stops within Providence city limits in either direction. It does not do so anywhere else, though.
In any case, it was full speed ahead right through the border of the Commonwealth and past Seekonk, Rehoboth, and Swansea right up to Exit 4 to reach the first stop in the neighbor state, the rather small Somerset Park & Ride which, other than the 24x, gets one round trip to Boston via Peter Pan every weekday.
The bus whipped around the small lot before turning right back onto I-195 and traversing the Braga Bridge into Fall River. We left the speedway again at Exit 6 to hit Hartwell Street, then took a left onto 5th Street before hooking into and even berthing at the Louis D. Pettine Transportation Center, SRTA’s Fall River hub. The driver said that people here have been giving the bus strange looks every time one has come in. I wouldn’t blame them — it’s still quite a foreign concept to see RIPTA come to town.
After nearly plowing into the bollards, the driver pulled into reverse gear and headed out of the terminal with a right turn onto 4th Street, another right on Borden Street, then a slight right to get back with Hartwell. We made a left turn at Rodman Street and another one onto Plymouth Ave to get back onto I-195 South.
It was only a short jog before we drifted onto Exit 8A to head south on the route’s numbersake, MA-24 — also known as the Fall River Expressway. After a couple of miles wedged between South Watuppa Pond and SouthCoast Marketplace, MA-24 turned into RI-24 and just like that, we were back in the land of Roger Williams. We also lost exit numbering for a moment, too, but we don’t need no numbers to head to the Fish Road Park & Ride in Tiverton!
After that diversion, we were on our way to our last stop. We got to the end of RI-24 through rocky cliffs, the Sakonnet River Bridge and the northern half of Portsmouth by S-curving down onto RI-114, better known as West Main Road, to join the local 60 service — but not to behave like it. We continued express to breach Middletown, but then swerved right onto Coddington Highway to avoid heavily-trafficked Broadway. To finish things off, we vaulted a left turn though a roundabout, then on-ramped to the last bit of RI-238 before it turned into Farewell Street. All it took was a slight right to America’s Cup Avenue and a couple of other turns before we slid into Newport Gateway Center.
RIPTA Route: 24x (Newport/Fall River/Providence)
Ridership: No official numbers for a new route, but the driver did say that ridership was pretty good for its first week. Having arrived for the last southbound trip of the morning at 9:00, though, I only saw 6 elderly passengers get off in Providence while I was the only one across the entire journey to board the return to Newport — I feel like I’m missing out on a prime peak direction trip.
Pros: I don’t think there’s much of a time savings against the 14 or even the 60 in many cases, save for summertime traffic clogging up Broadway and the Jamestown Bridge — and that ain’t nothing. All three routes are billed to take 75 minutes and I can see why: the 24x might have highways, but it uses a very indirect route while the other two use local streets oriented right toward their destination. The biggest pro here is probably the largest expansion of affordable mass transit access to southeastern Massachusetts from points north and west!
Cons: The 24x does make sense as a commuter-oriented express with three round trips for each rush period, but I feel like the lack of weekend service prevents it from achieving its full potential. There are plenty of connections to be had for a number of day trip destinations. Also, I’d like to see at least a couple of other local Newport stops made, at least in the northbound direction.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Uh, pretty much half of Rhode Island and all of the south coast of Massachusetts. Well, the places that matter.
Final Verdict: 9/10
I apologize in advance, but beg your patience for my indulgence here.
I was one of the few people to have been alerted before the rating was published thanks to a hankering for the almighty Chow Mein Sandwich from Mee Sum Restaurant… and a chance at appearing in a video for Great Big Story (blink at 1:54 and you’ll miss it).
Coming from Boston, it takes a train to Middleborough/Lakeville and four buses through Wareham and New Bedford to get there by lunchtime — there’s no coach bus run direct to Fall River before 2pm! And while the food was cheap, filling, and delicious, it left me with the conundrum of how to head back home.
Why, the solution was simple albeit dangerous! Just walk the 3 miles down from the end of SRTA’s FR 1 through heavy vegetation, blind drives and without sidewalks across state lines to the Fish Road Park & Ride in Tiverton and take the one odd reverse commute run of the 61x. After getting out of the early August drizzle and into the bus, I got into quick conversation with the driver about where I was coming from, how difficult it was to connect two cities in the same metropolitan region and, more importantly, economic region. It was then the driver revealed that RIPTA would be bringing on the 24x for the fall season to replace an agreement it had with, of all vendors, Peter Pan to provide beefed up Fall River-to-Providence service during rush hour.
Consider that a one-way Peter Pan trip costs $14 and that a 10-ride ticket is priced at $65. Now compare that to the $2 RIPTA charges for any of its buses. That’s cheap enough, my 24x driver told me, to let a working-class aunt from Fall River visit her nephew and other relatives in Providence way more often.
And that, my friends, is enough for me to encourage you to use this bus and make it clear that there is a great demand for this essential bistate link.