In Rhode Island, the Answer is Yes on Bond Issue #6

Jerry Elmer

On election day, Rhode Islanders will have an opportunity to address climate change by voting in favor of Transportation Bond Issue #6.

The “Transit Infrastructure Bond Referendum,” will help provide much-needed funding for enhancements and renovations to mass transit infrastructure throughout Rhode Island. This, in turn, will improve the public’s mobility and access to jobs, schools, and health care – and reduce carbon emissions.

Today Rhode Island has one of the most extensive and comprehensive suites of renewable energy legislation in the country. These renewable energy laws are effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector – and nationwide, the electricity sector is the largest contributor to carbon pollution. But here in Rhode Island (as in the rest of New England), it is the transportation sector that is both the largest contributor to carbon emissions and the fastest growing!

That means that unless and until environmentalists address the transportation sector, we will not be able to achieve the carbon-emission reductions we will need to stop climate change.

The surest, quickest way to reduce carbon emissions from transportation is to provide additional funds for public transit. That’s why in 2008, CLF helped to found, and has remained active in, the 49-organization Coalition for Transportation Choices (CTC). For years, CLF and CTC labored to get additional funds for public transit – you can see my prior blog posts about our unsuccessful efforts in 2012 and in 2013.

Luckily, stick-to-itiveness is the hallmark of CLF advocacy, and our efforts produced some modest success in 2014, when the General Assembly enacted Budget Article 21. This measure introduced indexing for the state’s gas tax, increased some motor vehicle inspection and licensing fees, and dedicated a portion of the additional money to improving and expanding public transit in Rhode Island.

In November, Rhode Islanders will have an opportunity to build on that success by passing Bond Referendum #6. Proceeds of the bond referendum will be used to help public transit in Rhode Island move away from the current single “hub” model to create a more robust system with direct, rapid connections. Improvements are planned for Providence and throughout the current RIPTA system. There will be a new intermodal hub at the Providence Amtrak station and enhanced commuter rail service.

The fight against climate change will necessarily involve a multi-pronged strategy. Renewable energy laws are important, but transportation is important, too. Reducing carbon pollution from the transportation sector requires expanding public transit through additional funding.

That’s why CLF is supporting a “yes” vote on Bond Issue #6.

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