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A RIPTA bus leaves Salt Pond Plaza in Narragansett after making a stop Tuesday afternoon.

Two flexible bus route zones that serve Narragansett and South Kingstown have been merged into a single zone, a change the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority said would improve the service.

The changes, announced by RIPTA on June 30, went into effect July 3.

“Combining these two zones allows us to use our resources more efficiently and provide better service to residents in both Narragansett and South Kingstown,” Greg Nordin, RIPTA’s Chief of Strategic Advancement, said. “These are busy zones, and we are always looking for ways to serve our riders better.”

The combined single Flex service zone, which will be regularly served by two vehicles, will be called Route 203, Narragansett/South Kingstown Flex.

Its chief advantage is new weekend service for the Narragansett area and longer service hours in South Kingstown, Nordin said.

Service in the new unified zone will be available from 5:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., marking increased service hours for South Kingstown. The previous URI/Kingston Flex zone operated from 7:50 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The new zone maintains the boundaries of the current zones, so all stops and locations served will be maintained.

Points of interest covered by the service include Narragansett Beach, South County Hospital, South County Commons, South Kingstown High School, the South Kingstown Housing Authority, the Kingston Library, the University of Rhode Island Library, and the Ryan Center on the URI campus.

Flex is a community-based service RIPTA offers in areas that have little or no regular, fixed-route bus service. The name Flex is short for “flexible service,” because passengers have the option of boarding the Flex van at scheduled stop or by calling ahead to choose their own pick-up or drop-off point within the designated zone.

Like all RIPTA Flex Zones, there are connections to the transit authority’s statewide public transportation network.

The merged flex zones are part of a larger statewide plan to improve public transit service. The changes revolve around the formation of two new transit centers in the West Bay area, which RIPTA will build over the next two years with financial assistance from a Bus and Bus Facilities grant from the Federal Transit Administration. One is located at the Warwick CCRI campus, and the other in South Kingstown at URI.

To use Flex service, passengers can either make a reservation 24 hours in advance by calling (401) 784-9500 ext. 1220 or boarding the Flex vehicle at any of the scheduled time points within the zone. The fare is the same as RIPTA’s fixed-route service at $2 per boarding. There are five other Flex Zones in the state: Westerly, Woonsocket, South Aquidneck, West Warwick/Coventry, and Pascoag/Slatersville.

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