Arghhhh, the 21 is a hard one to sit through. It has a ton of deviations, it takes over 40 minutes to ride, and…blech. Let’s just get it over with.

Coming into CCRI.

Unlike the other Warwick Mall to Providence routes (the 22 and the 30), the 21 begins past the mall, at CCRI. We left the brutalism capital of Rhode Island (seriously, it’s a really ugly building)…two minutes early? Woah, RIPTA buses never leave early! Usually they get so much time that if anything, a driver would want to leave a little late so they don’t have to wait places! What was going on?

A rather empty parking lot.

We turned onto the wide East Ave, then we made a right onto Bald Hill Road. Clearly, we were going to use this to get up to the Warwick Mall…oh, or we could deviate into the Rhode Island Mall. Come on, the stop “inside” the mall is barely closer, and saves pedestrians a total of 1 minute of walking over if they were to just use the stop on the street!

The mall, as seen from East Ave.

Okay, now time to go onto Bald Hill Road to the mall, right? Oh…okay, no, we’re going back down East Ave. This took us over a monstrous interchange between I-295 and I-95, then we turned onto the very wide Greenwich Ave. We passed a Stop & Shop and a Lowe’s (probably the reason the route is routed this way), then we went over I-95 again.

Going over the Pawtuxet River.

There were some apartment buildings, a cemetery, and a church, then we crossed the Pawtuxet River, bringing us to the entrance of the ginormous Warwick Mall! But of course, the stop is wayyyyyy down on the south side of the mall, so we had to travel the length of the parking lot to get down there. This is the only route that goes through the mall (the other ones terminate here), so it made the deviation feel doubly painful because we had to do it twice. Also, geez, we were six minutes late! And we had left two minutes early! They give this thing no time!!!!!!

Coming into the mall.

We left the mall on Lambert Lind Highway, which was lined with suburban businesses with parking lots. Once we entered Cranston, we turned onto Mayfield Ave, which was entirely residential – a big change from before. It turned into East Street, but then the area started to get industrial. We soon turned onto Howard Ave, which went through a campus full of various municipal buildings.

A side street within this strange land.

We went by a hospital, which seems like it would warrant a deviation, but instead RIPTA decided to have the route deviate to…the DMV and Traffic Tribunal Center. Okay, I get it that a lot of people probably take the bus to these places, but do you really have to deviate for them? Just because someone doesn’t have a car doesn’t mean they can’t walk for three minutes!


We made our way onto New London Ave, which went through a big cloverleaf interchange with Route 37. On the other side of that interchange, we…deviated again??? This time, it was to serve the Garden City Center, and it required that we go down Sockanosset Cross Road and turn onto Midway Road. Now, this deviation makes more sense when you look at it on a map: Garden City Center is a “lifestyle center” that was built in this really weird self-contained way that makes it super hard to get to from the main road…but it was still annoying to have to deviate to it.

One side had the mall, one side had apartments. Guess which one I was on.

We turned onto Garden City Drive, then we made our way back onto the main road, which was now called Reservoir Ave. Garden City Center was luckily our last deviation, so it was now a straight shot past endless ugly businesses with dense houses on the side streets. I’m serious, it was like that until our next turn, which was an unexpected one, to say the least.

A typical side street.

We turned onto Pontiac Ave, then headed for an on-ramp to, yes, an express section. Man, RIPTA loves its express routes, huh? Yes, we were now on Route 10, and we were sailing past a bunch of industrial buildings. We entered Providence, and it got more residential as we came close to Olneyville Square, where the highway became Route 6.

An apartment building.

We came up alongside the Northeast Corridor as we headed around the north side of Federal Hill. Finally, we passed through a huge interchange with I-95, and the highway was done. We made our way around downtown Providence on Memorial Boulevard, then we turned onto Kennedy Plaza, and that was that!

Wow, lots of people going back!

RIPTA Route: 21 (Reservoir/Garden City)

Ridership: The route seems to get good ridership: my Saturday trip got 20 people, and just look at all the passengers waiting to leave the city in the photo above! Interestingly, most people started boarding our bus north of the DMV, with very few coming from the malls or CCRI. Maybe that’s an anomaly.

Pros: The route serves a dense corridor in Cranston, and thanks to the express section, it can get to Providence quickly. The schedule seems to make sense: every half hour on weekdays, every 40 minutes on Saturdays, and every 50 minutes on Sundays.

Cons: Although then again, look at that crowd up there…I wonder if the route could stand to be a little more frequent on weekends. Other cons include the annoying amount of deviations, the long layover times at CCRI, and the fact that the route does not get nearly enough time! I mean, we stayed at a consistent three minutes late past the Warwick Mall, but keep in mind that we left two minutes early. The route’s schedule needs an adjustment, and it would be so easy just to take some time off that 25 minute layover.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Garden City Center seemed like a decent place, even though it’s designed awfully as far as the road network goes.

Final Verdict: 6/10
The 21’s saving grace is that it gets a lot of people. Clearly, there are many that rely on this route. But man, it has a lot of problems! The deviations are annoying, the buses lay over for a ridiculously long time at CCRI, and the route is always late! They’re all fairly simple fixes, but it’s enough to drop the score to a 6.

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