Providence, RI (STL.News) Governor Dan McKee and Scott Avedisian, CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), announced today that public restrooms are reopening at three transit facilities in the state. Restrooms at the Newport Transportation and Visitors Center and the Pawtucket Transit Center reopened recently, and the restrooms at Kennedy Plaza in Providence are scheduled to reopen tomorrow, June 23, 2021. Reopening the facilities, which were closed during the pandemic, is the result of collaborative work between RIPTA and the communities it services.
“Reopening public restrooms at three busy transit facilities in our state is a necessary step to address public need as we re-emerge from the pandemic,” said Governor McKee. “From the start, I urged all parties to come together to find a solution. I am glad to announce a plan that ensures publics access to restrooms, and allows drivers to continue providing essential transit service on schedule. I want to thank RIPTA and the City of Providence for their collaboration as we move forward.”
Avedisian said that RIPTA and the City of Providence have agreed on a plan that will accommodate the public need for the facilities while also making provisions for RIPTA operators and the Authority’s need to enforce a federal mask mandate for people using transit infrastructure. Starting tomorrow, the Kennedy Plaza restrooms will be open from 8 am to 5 pm daily. There are currently no other RIPTA services in the building as the transit authority assesses its photo identification and customer service operations.
“We are happy to be moving forward on this issue,” Avedisian said, “and we appreciate the steps the City is taking. Enforcing the mask mandate in such a busy public space will be a challenge, but we understand the importance of public access to the restrooms. It is also important is that our drivers have access to facilities where they do not have to wait in line and worry about not staying on schedule.” Under the plan, the City of Providence will retrofit restrooms at the nearby public skating rink for the use of RIPTA bus operators. The City also stated that its future plans for the Plaza include RIPTA remaining active on the property.
Last week, in a joint statement with Local 618 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Avedisian said he would like to create separate facilities for drivers and reconfigure the public restrooms, but that the plan was hindered by the fact that the City had indicated that it might have other uses for the property.
In a letter sent last Wednesday to Avedisian, Providence Planning Director Bonnie Nickerson stated that the City’s future plans for Kennedy Plaza include “an active RIPTA presence, both in the existing building and with multiple bus berths serving the Greater Kennedy Plaza area.” She said that plans also envision other public uses on the property, such as informational kiosks.
Avedisian said that RIPTA worked with Newport and Pawtucket recently to reopen public restrooms at transit facilities in those communities. “We recently reopened the restrooms at the Newport Transportation and Visitors Center (formerly known as the Gateway Center) and at our Pawtucket hub building,” he said. “In Newport, we are receiving support from the City and Discover Newport, and in Pawtucket we are we are working with both the City and the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.”
In her letter, Nickerson said that the City remains committed to creating “viable options that will serve the needs of residents of RIPTA riders, and adequately address the needs of RIPTA drivers.”