Alrighty, the first of the Newport-centric routes! And, it’s also a new route and a crosstown, neat! Will this be a good route? Let’s find out.
So, a bit of history. It all started with a Newport Beach Bus pilot program, that served between the North End and First and Second Beaches in 2021. However, that came and went with no word on success. However, the summer 2022 service changes were then announced in March. When they were doing the public hearings for the new service changes, I attended all three of them, being the West Bay-centric one (focused mainly on the 13, 16, 23, and 29), the Pawtucket one (mainly around the train station), and the Newport one. This route was the main subject of the Newport workshop. Back when I was attending the Newport one online, someone raised questions about the original plan for the route, which was to deviate into Towne Center like the 63 and 64, to which it was brought to a vote. Most people voted, saying they wouldn’t see themselves using the 68 to go to Towne Center. And, it’s probably the results of that straw poll at that workshop, and RIPTA’s planning department subsequently realizing that the 63 and 64 is good enough for Towne Center that likely resulted in the routing we have today: a Newport crosstown that goes from Aquidneck Corporate Park, past First Beach, and up Miantonomi Park to CCRI. It was also at these workshops that they essentially announced that the 68 was, in a sense, the successor to the Newport Beach Bus pilot. Fast forward to about a month before the summer service changes, and two big announcements come out of RIPTA. The first pertained to the 67: a free fare program for the 67 sponsored by Discover Newport, the city’s tourism board. The other pertained to this route: Just like the 67, it’d be the subject of a free fare program, also aimed at tourism. However, it was funded by the local Episcopal diocese. I’ll get into my personal opinions on this later. But first, onto the route now that I’ve done all the historical context.
The route begins leaving the Corporate Park, going down Aquidneck Avenue. This quickly turned into Memorial Boulevard as we passed First Beach. However, First Beach is only served on southbound buses, due to the location of the stop and the fact that the road isn’t pedestrian-friendly. Going down Memorial Boulevard further, we eventually turned right up Bellevue Avenue, joining the 67. At this point, we were in downtown Newport, as we kept pressing on. However, since up ahead were a mess of one-ways, we instead turned up Kay Street and Mann Avenue, towards Marlborough Street. We then deviated into the Gateway Center.
After exiting the Gateway Center, we went up 3rd Street, past Bayside Apartments. Further on, we’d hook a right and go through the roundabout at Admiral Kalbfus Road. Who is Admiral Kalbfus? Don’t ask me, because I don’t know. We then turned left down a side street and past Mianotonomi Park. It would then be a straight shot into CCRI, and from here would be where I’d connect to the 63.
The good: It’s an important local route, between the DHS offices and the North End, via the Gateway Center! It also serves places tourists would be interested in, most notably the Cliff Walk’s northern end and First Beach. It’s also free (at point of use) until the end of October, courtesy of the local Episcopal diocese!
The bad: …it only runs from 8am to 5pm. I’m sure there’s gonna be at least more than a few tourists who’d prefer to be at the beach later than 5pm, especially on a hot day. Hell, even a few locals, for that matter. Also, it’s a pet peeve how First Beach is only one-way.
Nearby points of interest: A lot! CCRI’s Newport campus along with Mianotonomi Park in the northern area of the route, while the southern area has downtown Newport and First Beach primarily.
Overall, I like this route. It’s annoying to ride, and the fact it only runs during a standard 8-5 business day sucks, but it could be better. For one, I’d up the operating hours to around 7 or 8pm at minimum. 9pm even, with trips ending at First Beach instead of the DHS offices. It’s also nice how a local church is paying for free fares through the end of the tourist season, especially when fuel prices are skyrocketing.