Emergency Providence/Bristol Ferry (Seastreak & RIDOT)

ALRIGHTY! I was NOT anticipating this when a national emergency was declared over the I-195 bridge closure in December. Well, given it just got announced that it’s ending in two weeks due to low ridership, I decided, at 4:15 AM on the day of writing this (1/6/24), that I’m going to ride this ferry and see what it’s like. With that in mind, let’s look at the ferry, shall we?

Yep. There’s a shuttle.

Now, I WOULD ride the shuttle for the full experience. However, there’s one issue with that: I’m doing this on a Saturday – and the shuttles don’t run on weekends. This means, I’m at the behest of bus routes 35, 60, and 78 on the Providence end (& even then, the closest stop is right before I-195), and route 60 on the Bristol end. Yikes. That translates to a combination of (presumably) uncoordinated headways of 30, 90, and 45 minutes on one end, and 30 minutes on the other (fortunately it’s one route in Bristol!). Anyhow! I got on the second run of the 13, went all the way into Providence, and to the ferry dock. In terms of what awaited me? It’s basically the Newtonville of ferry docks: very barebones and next to I-195. Eww. 1/10 rating from me.

Yep. That’s the entire ferry terminal. Quite sad, to be real.

Upon boarding the ferry though, it was quite nice actually. You have restrooms, a lot of seating, provisions for food amenities (not used), and even television service on the boat I rode down to Bristol. In terms of comfort vs. things that I normally ride, I’d have to actually say this is about on par with an Amfleet. For context, I LOVE the Amfleets with how comfy the seats are and the legroom. Honestly, I’m not sure if the Ventures out west can beat them. Eventually, we got moving and were on the high seas for about 35-40 minutes, before we docked at Bristol’s ferry terminal. So, how was that?

I was the only one up here.
The Bristol terminal

The Bristol terminal was a different story. It’s a small parking lot, yes, but you also have an actual park in the area as well, with benches. You also have shopping in the area as well, which is nice. No sheltered waiting room, though, but meh. Rating: 4/10.

A park and the marina
Some shopping
Local charter tour bus
My return trip

So, why is RIDOT canning the ferry service? Well, I’ve seen many arguments online with people saying “it’s a waste of taxpayer money” and all that usual bullshit. And, to an extent, I might be inclined to agree. However, just saying that alone and not doing an autopsy isn’t good enough for me. While local ridership exists, it’s currently just too niche a thing for more people to use regularly. For one, it just isn’t convenient in comparison to RIPTA’s bus route 60. Take a look at this.

Would “paddle” be appropriate, like with bus runs?

There’s a 3 hour gap midday for servicing and the crew to take their breaks. I mean, I understand that these people need to take breaks legally (& I can’t fault them for wanting one), and the boats need to be serviced occasionally, but there really ought to be some way to mitigate the gap in service. Never mind this, it’s the middle of winter. Only the bravest of souls are going to sail the high seas at this time of year. And, most of all, PVD-Bristol isn’t really that big a commuter market. I mean, if anything, PVD-Bristol is a spring/summer/fall route, not something you’d run in the winter. Seriously, RIDOT, I’d WANT to ride this more if it ran in the spring or summer!!! Even if fares were $4 or smth, and it were under the RIPTA umbrella! Actually, if anything, I’d argue a case where RIPTA gets proper funding AND additional funding to take on the state’s ferry network, presumably contracted out to Seastreak. Also, shoutout to the friendly people working the boats at Seastreak.

With all that in mind, I’d actually have to give the ferry service itself an 8/10. I mean, it’s reasonably fast, or at least time-competitive with RIPTA’s 60, and the Bristol terminal is in a central location. The biggest issues here boil down to the Providence terminal basically being another Newtonville, and with minimal bus connections (& no references to the ferry on said buses). The midday gap is also bleh, I get it exists for servicing reasons, but it hinders the usability of the ferry. Overall though, it’s pretty good, and I wish RIDOT wasn’t prematurely killing it off.

Rating: 8/10

The Mt. Hope Bridge!

Author: chelsea

i own this site and write.

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