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Efforts to improve Rhode Island’s public transit system received a boost today as Providence Mayor Cicilline, Lincoln Senator Connors, the Sierra Club and other supporters held an event at Waterplace Park calling for approval of financing and citing a major new report on oil savings and other benefits from public transportation across the country. The RIPIRG report, A Better Way to Go: Meeting America’s 21 st Century Transportation Challenges with Modern Public Transit, examines the challenges faced by America’s transportation system and the benefits of existing rail and bus projects in Rhode Island and other Southern New England states.
According to the report, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) saved 1 million gallons of oil in 2006, a fuel savings then worth $2.6 million and which avoided 4,874 metric tons of global warming emissions. [Transit in the metro-Providence region additionally saves rush our commuters 976 thousand hours of traffic delays, a savings that amounts to $17.3 million.] Around the country the RIPIRG report found transit saves 3.4 billion gallons of oil each year, prevents 541 million hours of traffic delay and reduces global warming pollution by 26 million tons. Demand for public transportation is booming nationally, with transit trips far outpacing the growth of auto miles or population since 1995.
“This report shows why we need to move forward with the recommendations of the Transit 2020 Working Group” said Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline. “It puts clear numbers on how public transit reduces oil dependence, traffic congestion, and global warming pollution . Investing in a more robust public transit system will help us address critical challenges and promote the economic growth of our region.
In 2006, Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline brought together stakeholders in Providence and surrounding cities to craft a plan that will build upon an approved commuter rail with an efficient, attractive local transit system. The Transit 2020 Working Group’s recommendations were made to inform a regional public transit study that the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is now in the process of creating. During that same time, a special legislative commission to study public transit in the state, co-chaired by State Senator Daniel Connors and Representative Edwin Pacheco created a new mission for RIPTA as the state’s mobility manager.
The current project to extend the commuter rail line to South County, which will connect commuters from southern Rhode Island and the T.F. Green Airport with the Providence and Boston metro areas has been approved for nearly two years.
National public opinion polls that 53 percent of commuters would prefer to use more public transportation if it were available near their home and workplace. A similar poll in Rhode Island was conducted in 2006 with similar results. An overwhelming majority of the public, seventy-five percent, tell pollsters that transit is the best way to fight traffic congestion.
“Moving ahead with growing our public transit system is a key step toward 21 st century transportation in Rhode Island,” said State Senator Daniel Connors of Lincoln. “This report shows that transit saves Rhode Islanders energy, time, and money. With rising gas prices and increasing traffic projected for the future, we can’t afford not to invest in popular projects like this that meet our country’s long-term needs.”
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