21 (Reservoir/Garden City/CCRI)

Ah, my first non-express route review. So, what’s on the docket for today? Oh, RIPTA’s route 21. This route is one I’ve been using for a while, actually, but that’s because of how the routes were before the 2021 service changes. In the before times, when I lived in Warwick, this was (aside from the 62/66) the only bus from CCRI to Providence, as the 22 and 30 didn’t get re-routed until late August ’21. So, likewise, I have a bit of experience with this route. Let’s get into it, shall we?

So we begin our adventure at CCRI’s Warwick campus (which, I might say as a student, REALLY sucks as a bus hub for Warwick/Cranston-based routes as current guidelines prohibit entry without a negative COVID test and/or proof of a booster. This means ‘good luck’ if you need to take a bathroom break while waiting to transfer). COVID policies aside (as of 4/10/22), this building is really friggin’ ugly. Take a look!

Look at it! Ain’t it ugly?!

Anyways, enough of me rambling about how CCRI itself is a bad place for a regional hub. The journey begins with us going around the parking lot and exiting out to East Ave and turning right on Bald Hill Road. However, we have our first deviation on this route – the old RI Mall! For those not from Rhode Island, we like to call places by their old names. So RI Mall? That’s just a Dick’s, Planet Fitness, atHome, and Kohl’s. The other side has Walmart and Burlington Coat Factory. Also in the same general area is BJ’s Brewhouse, a Sketcher’s outlet, a hair salon, and a seafood restaurant by Walmart and Burlington, while the side with Kohl’s has a BJ’s Market (not open as of writing this, supposedly slated to open in May ’22 according to Google Maps) along with Wendy’s and a Chuck E. Cheese. Nevertheless, it was here that quite a few people got on, and for all intents and purposes this stop is essentially a secondary transfer point for the 13, 21, and 29.

A salon and a dress store in a small plaza, with a Chase Bank next to it. Bald Hill is notorious for bad traffic.
A poor-quality shot of the deviation from East Ave., after leaving it.

After that deviation, we’re back on East Ave., heading towards CCRI again but this time we went past the school and over I-95. It was still businesses primarily as we turned left onto Greenwich Ave., joining up with the 22 and 30. No deviations were made into Stop & Shop, and we past a Centerville Bank and Starbucks (not one trying to unionize, that one’s near Market Basket on Bald Hill Rd./Pace Blvd.) and someone got off at the Salvation Army. After this, we past Metro Center Blvd. and crossed I-95 again. From here it was graveyards, a church, some apartment buildings, and the Nylo Hotel. Then, deviation #2.

Warwick Mall, why must your bus stop be SOOOOOOOO FAR AWAY?! Okay, maybe there’s a good chance that’s not on RIPTA but rather property management. But this deviation was a long one due to the awkward positioning of the bus stop. Where is it? Pick your options. Is it:
1. at the front door of Warwick Mall itself
2. at the front door of Target in the back
or 3. all the way in the middle of nowhere near Villa del Rio Apts.?

If you chose #3, you win absolutely nothing! But seriously though, why is this stop all the way in the middle of nowhere? And this used to be the place where the 13, 22, and 30 all terminated before the Fall ’21 service changes! Even worse, the 29 deviated here too! Fortunately, someone at RIPTA’s planning department decided this stop wasn’t good and CCRI was better (plus, from what I understand, CCRI was more eager to work with RIPTA hence why it’s one of their regional hubs). Which, to be fair, despite the major pitfalls with getting into CCRI currently, it’s still a better place than this mess. Anyways, moving right on, we did the long trek back out of the mall and eventually made it back to Greenwich Avenue. From here, we went past a few more shopping plazas, including one that has a Dollar Tree, and took a right onto Mayfield Ave.

A not so good quality picture of an apartment complex

From here, it was primarily residential as we booked it down Mayfield Ave. as the 30 left us. Nobody got on or off here, but eventually the scenery changed…..and kinda drastically, too. Eventually, we reached Howard Ave., where things became slightly unsavory and we reached where the most unsavory of the unsavory people of Rhode Island were housed – the state prison. And yes, we passed where THE worst of the worst are housed, being Harrington Hall. If you know, you know. If you don’t, let’s just say they were involved with “cheese pizza” (for the lack of a better way to put it). Soon enough, as the announcements read the addresses of various buildings in the prison, we eventually reached the DMV and traffic court, being deviation #3.

One of the signs on the prison campus
You don’t wanna end up here.

Of course, after this deviation, we turned onto New London Ave., which quickly became Reservoir Ave. after Garden City. Speaking of which, deviation #4! To get to this one, we went down New London Ave., skipped Chapel Hill and its Shaw’s Market, took a right onto Sockanosset Cross Road, then hooked a left into Midway Road. From here, one person got on, though I must wonder something. Why doesn’t the 21 deviate INTO Garden City? Does it have to do with property management? Anyways, we passed two parking lots, a few apartments, and a third on the other side which RIPTA seems to treat as a park & ride lot, given the QX also stops here. After that, we hooked a left on Garden City Dr., and onto Reservoir Ave.

We would deviate to serve the backside of this shopping center.

From here, it was essentially a clean shot to the end of the section, as we bolted across the road, occasionally stopping to pick someone up. As we booked it, it was basically all businesses and houses on the side streets. However, like all things, it had to come to an end. And for this section, it was with us crossing RI-10 and turning onto Pontiac Ave. However…..

Two shots: A McDonald’s and a CVS on Reservoir Ave.
RI-10. We would then turn onto this very highway.

WE WENT EXPRESS, BABY! The bus turned onto RI-10 and booked it past the industrial sections of Niantic Ave., the shopping sections of Garfield Ave. and the Brewery Parkade, and jaunt over Cranston St. and under Union Ave. and the US/6 interchange. From here, it was quite urban as we booked it through the freeway. We even passed a cannabis farm! Lastly, we exited off the last exit, which dumps all traffic straight into Memorial Boulevard.

Texas Roadhouse off Garfield Ave., and a Wendy’s billboard!
Some old/run down industrial buildings off US-6 in Providence, next to the Northeast Corridor and MBTA tracks

From here, it was just a matter of two or so right turns onto Fulton Street, as the bus dropped us off at Kennedy Plaza. In the meantime, it laid over for a short bit, and then began the return trip.

Kennedy Plaza, home to some interesting figures.

The good:
– It’s the most direct route from CCRI’s Warwick campus to Providence
– It serves some places that benefits greatly from public transit (the prison and the DMV)
– It runs somewhat late into the night (last bus leaves CCRI at 10:15pm on weekdays)

The bad:
– So many deviations. Like, I get how all four or so deviations are ridership generators, but couldn’t the DMV’s at least be cut short by approaching via RI-2 instead of Howard Ave.?
– I get this one isn’t at the fault of RIPTA but it’s still a nitpick I have. What’s with the property developers of the Warwick Mall and Garden City not wanting the 21 (and 22/30 in the Warwick Mall’s case) not being more direct and serving the front door?
– It runs a very real risk of being chronically late due to US-6 being congested during peak hours. Again, not a fault of RIPTA necessarily, but it’s still a problem point that this (and other routes with express sections) has.

Nearby points of interest:
There’s the old RI Mall with the few shops it has, along with Walmart. Warwick Mall is also along the route, with the Apple Cinema that just opened up. The DMV? More a necessary evil. Garden City also exists. Oh, there’s also a hot weiner joint on Reservoir Ave. that’s a 10/10. As for anything that largely sticks out vs. the rest of the route, it’s mainly just Garden City, CCRI, and the malls as well as the DMV and prison.

Overall, it’s a pretty decent route. It’s largely direct, gets the job done, and attracts quite a few riders in my experiences. Ridership is also pretty decent normally, with my trip getting about 10-15 people total. Overall, as of official 2019 statistics, the ridership clocks in at 1287 passengers daily. This could be attributed to the fact it was the only CCRI-Providence route that ran locally until this past fall. However, I do have some criticisms, mostly boiling down to the fact that (in theory, anyways) the DMV deviation could be shortened. Although I do understand that the prison should have bus service and such a reroute would basically be suicidal. One other thing I’d change, given the fact RIPTA treats the Midway Rd. stop (@ Garden City Dr.) as a park & ride, is maybe to have some commuter-oriented route 21 trips in the morning and evening peak hours. Of course, I’d also make non-express 21 trips be more straightforward with Garden City, and move the Warwick Mall stop to the front door of the food court, but that’d involve property management for both (and they probably aren’t willing).
Rating: 6.5/10


Author: chelsea

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