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New Law Makes Bus Travel Faster, Transit more efficient

Transit advocates applaud General Assembly for passage of Transit Signal Priority

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 1, 2009 
CONTACT: Chris Wilhite (401) 521-4734

[Providence, RI] – Today, the Rhode Island Secretary of State posted* a new law that allows Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) buses to use transponders to extend green light signals as they approach. House Bill 5010 was sponsored by Representative Edwin Pacheco of Burrillville. The Senate version (S 160) was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Daniel Connors. The bill actually became effective on June 19, 2009.

The technology, called Transit Signal Priority, is intended to reduce bus idling time at traffic lights and improve bus schedule performance and reliability. In addition, the Transit Signal Priority will make RIPTA operations more efficient by reducing the number of buses needed to serve a route through the more efficient use of thoroughfares.

“This new law brings us one step closer to realizing a world-class rapid transit system in Rhode Island,” said Chris Wilhite, Director of the Sierra Club Rhode Island Chapter. “In order to solve global warming and become energy independent, Rhode Islanders need viable, convenient and clean transportation choices. Quicker, more efficient bus trips are an excellent addition to our transportation options in the Ocean State.”

The cost of the technology will be paid for through federal dollars that come to Rhode Island through various federal programs, including the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is cooperating with RIPTA in establishing the technology.

“Getting healthy air depends on availability of better transportation choices,” said Molly Clark, Manager of Health Promotion and Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Rhode Island.  “This legislation will also help fight the asthma epidemic in Rhode Island.”

Transit Signal Priority, recommended by the Aquidneck Island West Side Master Plan and the Providence Transit 2020 Working Group, lays the ground work for Bus Rapid Transit in Rhode Island. Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, is a form of rapid transit that uses buses, rather than trains or streetcars. It is generally cheaper to build than rail transit and is expected to be an important feature of the future of public transit in Rhode Island.

“This new law is a win-win-win -  it will improve bus service, save money and reduce air pollution” said John Flaherty, research and communications director for Grow Smart Rhode Island, adding that “this is among the first of several future improvements that will make public transportation a more viable option for more Rhode Islanders”.

* The status of the new law can be found by typing in “5010” in the “Bill Status and History” tool on the General Assembly web site, http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Genmenu/.

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