North End to Easton and Sachuest beaches will have a RIPTA shuttle
Editor’s Note: With the unofficial start of summer on the horizon, The Daily News examines issues with beaches on Aquidneck Island. This is the third in a four-part series to get you ready for the season.
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority plans to set up a beach shuttle between the north end of town and Easton’s Beach in Newport and Sachuest Beach in Middletown on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from June 19 to August 22.
While the service is well received by Newport officials, the same cannot be said for the reception it received from some members of Middletown City Council.
“This is a giant leap for the North End as it provides access to our waterfront,” said Newport City Councilor Angela McCalla, who represents Ward 1 of the North End. “The community is very enthusiastic about this. Historically there was access to the beaches by bus, but at one point this was removed. It had a total impact on our neighborhoods. Bringing him back is a great achievement. “
“I don’t want this to be the wrong way, but at the end of the day we are charging our residents to go to the beach,” said Paul Rodrigues, chairman of Middletown City Council this week. “Allowing buses full of people to come for free – I don’t think that’s true.”
Rodrigues knows that residents or non-residents who walk to the public beaches of Aquidneck Island are not charged for beach access. People arriving by car pay for the parking lot. “But it could be buses full of people coming from Providence, or where they’re from, to Newport,” he said.
Part 2:Middletown, Portsmouth offer residents the edge of beach parking. But does this limit access?
RIPTA did a slideshow via Zoom on April 29, when the agency explained why it was adding bus service.
The shuttle bus “would ensure better health outcomes for the North End’s majority minority communities with access to outdoor recreation on the beaches,” the agency said. “Up to 19% of North End residents do not own a car and depend on the bus service.”
The beach shuttle route leaves Middletown
The bus would make two trips in each direction on weekends and holidays, and there would be only 10 stops on the route in either direction: Hillside Avenue to Eisenhower Street, which is next to Miantonomi Park; Sunset Boulevard to John Chafee Boulevard; Maple Avenue at John Chafee Boulevard; Girard Avenue at Festival Field Apartments; Admiral Kalbfus Road at the Admiralty; Third Street in Bayside Village; the Gateway Center on America’s Cup Avenue; Memorial Boulevard at Freebody Street; Easton Beach; and finally, Sachuest Beach.
Part 1:Easton’s Beach faces a shortage of lifeguards. This is how Newport is trying to change that.
There would be two one-way trips to the beaches on Saturday morning and two one-way trips on Sunday and the July 4 vacation and Victory Day August 9, mid-morning and shortly before noon.
Return trips to the North End would be in the late afternoon around 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays and around 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
“It’s not like the bus is picking up people from Middletown,” Rodrigues said. “If it was to pick up people from Middletown, that would be a different story. I think it’s fair and whatever we want to be is fair.
“I get the piece up and running,” he said in an interview. “But it’s different when you have one or two people dropped off versus buses loaded with people being unloaded. I wonder if it’s really busy and if it’s backed up (with a line of cars)? This bus is allowed to go through everyone in the line and drop people off, that’s not fair.
Divergent views of elected officials and residents
It’s a different view from what McCalla sees.
“All Newporters are going to have a great summer,” she said. “It’s amazing. It’s going to be awesome, a great convenience for the whole community. Anyone can get on the bus and go to the beach. We should all be applauding that.
Rodrigues was contacted by the Daily News this week to see if his position has changed since a May 3 city council meeting where he made similar arguments and was supported by other council members.
“When I looked at the RIPTA thing, if the residents of Middletown get on the bus and come here, it’s great,” Middletown City Councilor Thomas Welch III said at the May 3 meeting. “But when I looked at the loop it grabbed all of the Newport people. They could go down to First Beach, but they could continue to Second Beach.
“I don’t see how that’s fair. If it was me, I would go to Second Beach, but Middletown isn’t on the pickup loop. I didn’t like it.”
“Our residents are paying to go to the beach,” Middletown councilor Theresa Santos said on May 3. “Why should RIPTA take passengers, say in Newport, and go all the way to the beach and leave them without paying?”
After comments like that, there was a backlash on social media.
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“The town of Middletown didn’t want our kids in Newport to go to school with the kids in Middletown and now they don’t want them to go to their beach… too bad! shame !!! ”wrote Kevin Michaud of Newport on his Facebook page.
“Access to water is a right granted to all Rhode Islanders in the state constitution,” he wrote.
Michaud had a strong showing when he ran for city council last year and is now a member of the Newport Planning Council. He is also the Deputy Beach Manager at Easton’s Beach, in addition to having a full time job at TF Green Airport in the Department of Public Safety.
Michaud has made it clear that he is not speaking publicly about the matter as deputy beach manager when contacted this week by the Daily News.
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As a member of the Planning Council, he discussed the city’s comprehensive land use plan. “I think the addition of public transportation from the North End to the beach is in line with the city’s comp plan and meets several goals, including waterfront access for all residents,” said he declared.
His comments on Facebook elicited a range of reactions, generally depending on the respondent’s place of residence.
“It’s a public beach at the end of the day,” Newport’s Aly Oakley wrote in the discussion. “How to get there shouldn’t matter. Car, bike, feet, Uber, Lyft, taxi, boat or bus. People pay to “park” in a lot – not to go to the beach. “
“There’s no more of those Newport parking stickers lying around so we the folks of Middletown can go downtown in the summer and hang out in restaurants and shops ????” wrote Brian Ernest from Middletown. “I did not mean it.”
The beach shuttle is not a new idea
“There was a regular fixed route that connected the Gateway Center to Easton and Second Beach between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s,” Barbara Polichetti, RIPTA’s director of public affairs, wrote in an email. “The old route was canceled due to low ridership and occurred at a time when RIPTA was making service changes statewide.”
As for the new route, “RIPTA will be monitoring traffic throughout the summer,” she said. According to Rodrigues, the chairman of the board, officials in Middletown have agreed to the bus line running this summer.
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“We’ll see how it goes at this point,” he said. “We’ll have to analyze it as this thing evolves. I thought some of us had raised some good points.
McCalla is counting on the continuity of the bus line. “As far as Middletown is concerned, the deal is done,” she said. “There is nothing more to say about this.”