Wednesday, March 28, 2018

RIPTA: URI Services (211 Ram Line, 69 Hill Climber, & 70 Engineering Line)

Time for a gauntlet-style review of all of RIPTA's URI services! Spoilers: they're not too useful.

Shh...it's trying to camouflage with the trees!
A well-timed 66 from the 210 took Sam and I up to Fairgrounds Road. We got off here and walked down to Schneider-Electric, the starting point of the 70. This is the site of temporary lab spaces for engineering students while a new engineering building is being built on campus, so this route may only be temporary. There was also a sign for university parking here, though, so maybe it'll stick around as a parking shuttle.

"70" occupies a whole slide to itself? Come on!
We headed up Fairgrounds Road, which had some industrial buildings along it. We then turned onto Kingstown Road, going over the Amtrak tracks (and Kingston Station) and passing a few houses. It was forest from there until we entered the URI campus, and we soon turned onto Lower College Road. This led us to Memorial Union, the final stop of the short route.

That's better.
RIPTA Route: 70 Engineering Line

Ridership: No one on our trip. My guess is that this is a "peaky" route, only getting people when engineering classes start and end.

Pros: It's a free link to Schneider-Electric, so it's a necessity for anyone taking an engineering class. It's a direct route with no frills or deviations, and I like that it leaves right from Memorial Union.

Cons: The route comes "every 20-30 minutes" weekdays only. Okay, you can't play the headway card when the route is that infrequent! This kind of thing works when a bus is every 15 minutes or less, but "every 20-30 minutes" could mean anything! I guess you could always use URI's awful tracker, but...ew! Also, of all routes, why is this the one that runs until 8 PM while the others end at 7?

Nearby and Noteworthy: Schneider-Electric, and nothing more!

Final Verdict: 3/10
This is the one URI route that truly goes somewhere, so I'll give it some credit for that, but the schedule drags it down a lot. When a route is as infrequent as this one, there needs to be a schedule to look at! And I'm not saying it should be more frequent - on the contrary, the route would be much more efficient if it just timed with classes. That would give it a lot of layover time where it's not doing anything, but it could go onto the 210 during those times.

Is there a stop here?
From Memorial Union, Sam and I walked up to the library to get a 69. We thought we could cut through the building, but...turns out that's not possible. So we had to go around, but then we couldn't find a stop, so it took some extra time to locate the sign. Clearly, URI is investing a lot to make sure its students know where the shuttle stops!

The bus coming down the narrow, twisty road.
The driver asked us where we were going. Since the 69 runs in a loop, we said the Pharmacy, which would more or less get us around the whole thing. "That's right up there," the driver said. "Oh well, I have nothing better to do than just drive around anyway." Huh? We went down West Alumni Ave on the regular route, but then we...turned onto Butterfield Road. And headed onto Flagg Road. And turned onto Greenhouse Road. So we completely ignored the route, which isn't supposed to take Butterfield or Greenhouse. And we only did, like, 10 percent of it. But...I think I've learned what I need to know.

Okay, bye...
RIPTA Route: 69 Hill Climber

Ridership: Well...no one on our ride. We saw a bus later that had three people on it.

Pros: This route loops around the north side of campus, serving mostly...parking lots. The route runs every 6-12 minutes weekdays only, which is a big difference in headway, but it's fine, I guess.

Cons: So...this is basically a taxi service, huh? Tell the driver where you want to go, and he'll take you there directly? This is furthering my theory that URI should just use an on-demand system. Also, the 69 may serve all these lots, but why is it just a loop around the north side of campus? The whole thing has this useless air to it.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Just...URI stuff. Yeah.

Final Verdict: 1/10
"Oh well, I have nothing better to do than just drive around anyway." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Finally, the 211!
I'll say that the 211 seems to be more useful. It's way more deviatory than the other two routes we've seen, but it actually serves stuff. We began at the Library, and from there, the bus took a left onto Butterfield Road. We were passing lots of dorms and dining halls, and they continued as we turned onto Campus Ave. However, then we turned onto Fraternity Circle, and...of course URI has a whole circle dedicated to frats.

A curvy road.
We did a deviation to the Kearney Road parking lot and the Ryan Athletic Center before returning to Fraternity Circle. We came back up to Memorial Union, and this is where Sam and I got off to catch a 62 to Providence. From here, the bus goes by some more dorms before returning to Alumni Ave.

See ya!
RIPTA Route: 211 Ram Line

Ridership: Okay, okay, this one actually got 5 people, so it's not awful!

Pros: This makes more sense as a college shuttle. It connects dorms and frats to Memorial Union, athletic facilities, and classes. It runs every 8 minutes until 1:30 PM, and then every 15 minutes until 7 PM. I don't know why that is, but it's fine.

Cons: So I did the walking test on Google Maps: the two furthest points on the route (Kearney Lot to the Fine Arts Center) are a 15 minute walk away from each other, meaning that if you just miss a bus after 1:30, it's faster to walk. But the thing is, most people aren't going between those places - they're most likely coming from the dorms, which are in the middle of the route. That means that even in the morning when the 211 is more frequent, it's probably still faster to walk.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Frats, dorms, athletics, classes...

Final Verdict: 2/10
It's better than the 69 as far as on-campus shuttles go, but I still don't see much use for the 211. It's often faster to walk, and the route is twisty and all over the place.

The problem with this system overall is that URI is just a small campus. Does it have much need for a fixed shuttle system, barring the 70 when it's needed? If a fixed system was kept, I would have Memorial Union be the hub for everything, rather than the current system where the 69 is just running around on its own to the north. Ideally, though, this should be replaced by an enhanced 210 service with an on-demand app that people can use to request a bus. Ridership seems like it's low overall, and if all these buses were put onto the 210, you would have an efficient system that would serve the needs of everybody. Also, this is such a party school - shouldn't service run later?

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