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New Century Transportation

An overwhelming majority of Americans think energy independence should be a top national priority. Leaders from across the political spectrum are offering solutions.We are extremely lucky here in the Rifle-to-Aspen region to have one of the keys to greater energy independence: great public transportation.According to a study by noted economists Dr. Robert Shapiro and Dr. Kevin Hassett about the role of public transportation in conserving energy, transit plays a substantial role in reducing our country’s dependence on foreign oil and can play an even greater role in the future.Every day, Americans use more energy in vehicular travel than they do in the production of all goods, the operation of all commercial enterprises, or the running of their homes.Public transportation saves more than 855 million gallons of gasoline a year, or 45 million barrels of oil. In 2004, 9.6 billion trips were taken on public transportation. Since 1995, use of public transportation has grown sharply, and faster than the use of private vehicles.If Americans used public transportation at the same rate as Europeans or Canadians – for roughly 10 percent of their daily travel needs – the United States would reduce its dependence on imported oil by more than 40 percent, or nearly the amount of oil we import from Saudi Arabia each year.Here in the Colorado and Roaring Fork valleys, more than 10,000 trips per day are taken on transit, about 11 percent of all daily trips. We have a remarkable rate of transit ridership for a nonurban area, and fast-growing regions throughout the West are learning from our transit experience.Transit service has been a fixture in the Roaring Fork Valley for more than 20 years. When service started to Rifle in 2002, there was skepticism that people would ride it. But ridership has grown steadily over the last four years, and currently an average of 220 people use the service each weekday, replacing approximately 500,000 vehicle miles and the associated fuel each year. A recent survey found that a majority of registered voters living in unincorporated Garfield County, Silt and Rifle support transit service and would like more frequent service, even though RFTA sales tax is not currently collected in these jurisdictions.The RFTA Board of Directors committed to continuing service to Rifle, known as the Hogback route, through July of this year. The Hogback will carry about 61,000 passengers in 2006. Over the next several months, the RFTA board will be discussing the future of this service and looking for additional funding sources to help maintain and improve it.Increasing our nation’s investment in public transportation is an important goal not only for transportation mobility, but also for our ability as a country to make significant strides towards reducing oil dependency and creating energy independence.For more information on public transportation’s role in energy independence, visit http://www.apta.com/research/info/online/preserving_air.cfm.Cathy Tuttle and Alice Laird are with the New Century Transportation Foundation. For more information, please contact the New Century Transportation Foundation at 704-9200 or e-mail ctuttle@newcenturytrans.org.


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