If you've followed the comic saga of #Paisleygate, you're aware of how confusing, time-consuming, and difficult it can be to obtain a state ID in Rhode Island as a non-driver.
I had to take several trips to and from the DMV, which got me unusually aware of Cranston/Warwick bus routes. On the final victory lap of my journey, temporary ID in hand, I took the Route 30, which runs from the DMV through the Garden "City" stripmalls and up Oaklawn before getting into Providence. It roughly doubles the route of the Cranston bike path/Washington Secondary.
One thing that just fascinated me about the journey was that I was the only one on the bus for much of the ride. At the very height of occupancy, the bus had three passengers. But as we approached the city line, I thought that surely the bus would pick up a lot more people on their way from Cranston Street to Kennedy Plaza, an area full of working class people and walkable destinations.
The bus does not go down Cranston Street, but instead turns onto Routes 10 & 6. This is a problem I've noticed about other RIPTA bus routes as well (I have the 54 from Woonsocket especially in mind).
Bus routes have to take into account many factors, and in RIPTA's poorly-funded state, having to balance the interests of an entire state must be very difficult. Getting on the highway is presumably a way of making the journey to KP "express". But on my trip, at 3:30 in the afternoon, the 6/10 Connector was already in a state of half-arrest from traffic congestion, so it's questionable whether it really saved me any time.
Moreover, it's odd to me how RIPTA prioritizes what should be included or excluded from routes. Returning to the example of the #54 Woonsocket bus route, the route takes riders on several suburban detours into the parking lots of locations like the Lincoln casino, the Lincoln Mall, and a Walmart before finally meeting its endpoint in Woonsocket. The "express" route has cut out what used to be a key feature of the route, which was service up and down Charles Street once it got into Providence. The detours, which have much less ridership potential and take a lot more time to make, remain.
The #30, all things considered, is a more direct route. It doesn't have the mind-numbing detours of the #54. But it goes through some pretty wealthy, low-density territory and appears to carry fewer people than it could. Adding Cranston St. back into the mix makes sense.
Another thing to explore might be merging several of these Cranston routes into one. Admittedly, with the level of walking and biking safety and sprawl that exists in parts of Cranston, this would cut some people out. But operating a more frequent bus that serves some places very well, while adding to bikeable routes to that bus, might be a better option if we want to get people to stop driving in some areas. Build success, and then push outward. Garden City shows some potential to be walkable (ish) if transit is frequent enough to allow further infill on its parking lots. Why not go for that?