Rhode Island Senate president asks RIPTA CEO to resign
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has asked Rhode Island Public Transit Authority CEO Scott Avedisian to resign immediately because of “unacceptable” mistakes in management.
“RIPTA has been plagued by enduring challenges that have only grown more severe over the years,” Ruggerio began. “Despite federal funding that presented an unprecedented opportunity to make necessary reforms, there has been no change in direction.”
Ruggerio stated that numerous “unacceptable management gaffes” have been made.
In his statement, he explained that driver shortages were “left unaddressed until there was a crisis,” and a no-bid lobbying contract was granted to a political ally allegedly without the board’s knowledge.
In September, the transportation company had been under fire after high school students in Providence struggled to catch rides to class.
Due to staff shortages, RIPTA canceled some of their routes, leaving students to look for an alternative ride to school.
Ruggerio added that “no meaningful plan to confront the agency’s fiscal challenges has been presented to the General Assembly” and that the State is “again faced with putting band aids on a gaping wound.”
The senate president then said that it is vital to Rhode Islanders and the state’s economy to have a “quality, well-functioning public transit system.”
“The time has come to place the agency under the auspices of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, and I will be submitting legislation to that effect,” he said.
In addition to asking Avedisian to step down, Ruggerio is asking that Gov. Dan McKee conduct a national search for someone with expertise in transit to lead Rhode Island’s public transit office.
Lastly, Ruggerio said he asked Sen. Mark McKenney to convene the Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight to conduct an oversight hearing of RIPTA.
Shortly after this announcement, a RIPTA statement on behalf of Avedisian was released.
The statement began by noting that challenges at RIPTA “stretch back many years.”
“Since my first day here I have worked with the dedicated RIPTA team to make us better, and we have accomplished a great deal,” Avedisian said.
Avedisian noted that the agency budget had been balanced and capital funding was increased. New buses and paratransit vehicles were also added to RIPTA’s fleet. Additionally, the agency’s pension plan is in a “much better place.”
Further, Avedisian said that RIPTA was one of the few transit agencies in the nation to not cut service during COVID-19.
Avedisian added that he recognizes more needs to be done.
“I look forward to having the opportunity to speak with the Senate about their concerns, then working together with them to secure the resources it will take to address the remaining challenges RIPTA faces,” he concluded.