Officials from the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) were in Newport yesterday to thank the community groups that were instrumental in advocating for the free beach shuttle pilot program that launched this summer. Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer, said that he wanted to especially thank the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island which recently stepped forward to help support the program.
He noted that the City’s Episcopal churches – Trinity of Newport, Emmanuel of Newport, and St. John the Evangelist on the Point – have ministered to the people of Newport for a total of 649 years. “Today,” he said, “they are ministering in a new way – by bringing access to the beauty of Rhode Island’s shore to all.” Avedisian also credited Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano for “always being a champion of all residents of Newport.”
Avedisian thanked Episcopal Bishop the Right Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely for his vision in supporting the pilot program and also for taking the unusual step of creating a church-transit collaboration. “This is a unique and exciting partnership,” he said.
RIPTA decided to launch the free, weekend shuttle service in response to concerns about some residents being precluded from accessing the natural beach resources they live so close to simply because they do not have transportation.
Speaking at Friday’s brief press event, Bishop Knisely said that providing equal access to the beaches is an important equity issue that affects people’s quality of life. Both Mayor Napolitano and Natalie Harris of the Newport Health Equity Zone noted that there are many local residents who have not had a summer day at the beach because they can’t get there. “Thank you for listening to us,” Harris said.
Also in attendance were other community groups that have helped advocate for better beach access for residents: Bike Newport, Newport Mental Health, and Clean Ocean Access.
The shuttle pilot program began on June 19 and will run through August 27, 2021. It connects neighborhoods in northern Newport with local beaches by providing morning and afternoon trips on weekends and holidays.
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