2016 Senior Agenda Conference & Expo
The Senior Agenda Coalition took up the issue of restoring no-fare bus passes for low-income senior and disabled individuals in 2015, when the RI House of Representatives eliminated them at RIPTA’s behest. With Rhode Island Organizing Project, we formed a Coalition to Preserve No-Fare Bus Passes and were soon joined by The RI Coalition for the Homeless, Economic Progress Institute, RIPTA Riders Alliance, Mental Health Recovery Coalition of RI and the Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty.
The two year struggle to keep the passes included: generating thousands of postcards (designed by the Senior Agenda) and phone calls to the Governor and legislative leaders; turning out hundreds of people at public rallies, RIPTA Board meetings and General Assembly hearings; and generating Op-eds and letters to the Providence Journal. The final organizing effort occurred on April 10th when the Senior Agenda Coalition held its first-ever Legislative Forum where House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio pledged to the crowd of over 300 to restore no-fare passes.
On June 15 the House of Representatives enacted an FY 18 budget with a provision restoring the No-Fare Bus Pass Program and providing a $3.4 million annual RIPTA subsidy for the program for the next two years. It also mandated that RIPTA establish a commission to craft a permanent funding solution for the program. This was a huge victory for over 13,000 vulnerable Rhode Islanders, thanks to the power of community organizing and the hard work and persistence of our coalition members. The Senior Agenda Coalition thanks Speaker Mattiello and President Ruggerio for their leadership on this issue.
For a history of this issue and a more in-depth treatment of the organizing effort, see the June, 2017 issue of the Coalition newsletter.