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2010 State Budget Signed With Greater State Funding for RIPTA

Transit advocates applaud General Assembly and Governor Carcieri for boosting RIPTA budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 30, 2009                                                               

CONTACT: Chris Wilhite (401) 521-4734

[Providence, RI] – Today, the New Public Transit Alliance praised Governor Carcieri and the General Assembly for passing a state budget that provides the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority with roughly $11 million worth of new gasoline tax revenues. These new revenues were created through the Fiscal Year 2009 Supplemental Budget, passed in April, and the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Bill. This is the greatest increase in transit funding seen in Rhode Island in years and will help to ensure that the current transit service in Rhode Island will continue.

However, the new revenues for RIPTA were appropriated to help the Authority address loss of revenues from other sources. Rising fuel costs and lower gasoline tax yields have significantly impacted RIPTA’s operating budget. The loss of Rite Care funds, which were previously used to finance transit, recently helped create a $9 million budget hole. Last year, RIPTA was forced to consider sweeping service cuts in the face of skyrocketing fuel prices.

While this year’s budget bills significantly supported transit, the reliance on the gasoline tax to fund transit is not a permanent solution. As more people use public transit and therefore purchase less gasoline, revenues for RIPTA decline – forcing the impossible scenario in which transit service is forced to decline with spikes in demand.

 “This was a really strong first step by the General Assembly and Governor Carcieri to invest in our state’s transportation choices,” said Chris Wilhite, Director of the Sierra Club Rhode Island Chapter. “Robust public transportation uses less energy and pollutes less than automobiles. As we move forward into the new energy future, we will need to ensure that our public transit system is able to grow with demand as we become more energy independent.”

Currently, two major transportation studies are underway in Rhode Island. The Providence Metropolitan Transit Study, headed by a firm that specializes in modern streetcar design, is expected to present a comprehensive plan to connect commuters to the Providence area through rapid transit and modern streetcars. The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission is heading a multimodal transportation study for Aquidneck Island that include public transit technologies. These two major studies are expected to call for significantly expanded public transit in the two economic engines of the state.

“We can’t have the kind of world class transportation choices that attract employers and young, creative entrepreneurs without a significant investment,” said Dan Baudouin, Executive Director of the Providence Foundationn. “We need those transportation choices that give us greater energy independence and that ignite a strong, thriving local economy.”

Rhode Island’s per-capita investment in public transit is considerably lower than its peer states. At $36 per-capita, Rhode Island invests less than half of what Delaware invests in transit. New Jersey’s, Massachusetts’, and Maryland’s per-capita investments in public transit are several times higher than Rhode Island’s. However, the American Public Transit Association points out that every dollar taxpayers invest in transit generates six dollars or more in economic benefits.

The New Public Transit Alliance is a coalition of organizations in Rhode Island that advocate for a renewed public transit system. The Alliance includes Sierra Club, Grow Smart Rhode Island, The Providence Foundation, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 618, Rhode Island Commission on Occupational Safety and Health, Clean Water Action, Conservation Law Foundation, Rhode Island ACORN, Environment Council of Rhode Island, Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living, American Lung Association in Rhode Island, Working Rhode Island, City of Newport Energy and Environment Commission, Recycle-A-Bike, and Ocean State Action.

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