New laws may increase use of mass transit

Efforts to expand mass transit locally may get a boost from federal and state laws designed to get people out of their cars, reduce energy consumption and cut down on greenhouse gases.

The Rogue Valley Transportation District has been planning ahead for the next 10 years, considering expanded hours, more routes and more frequent service.

General Manager Julie Brown said reaching the goals will depend on reauthorization of existing transportation dollars, and may get a boost if the federal government pushes for more mass transit.

"There are all these different things happening all around us that will push public transit forward," Brown said. Federal and state laws also could come into play that would force communities to increase their reliance on mass transit.

In Oregon, Senate Bill 1059 was signed into law by the governor this year, requiring state agencies to develop transportation strategies on greenhouse gases, particularly to reduce the reliance on motor vehicles.

The agencies will set targets to reduce greenhouse gases in Bend, Corvallis, Eugene, Salem and Medford. Portland is developing its own plan.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency also has been working on regulations to limit greenhouse gases. Brown said RVTD has been considering various ideas to improve bus service, but noted they would require additional funding.

In April, RVTD re-established bus service to east Medford along Barnett Road, where numerous medical facilities are located. The route, which has limited hours, is receiving funding from an Oregon transportation grant.

Other possible routes that are being considered for future expansion include a route in the White City area. Routes that would circulate within Talent, Phoenix and Ashland are also being considered.

Another possibility is an express bus from Eagle Point to Ashland for people who work in Ashland but live elsewhere in the county. The route would help alleviate some traffic on busy highways 62 and 99.

RVTD has devised long-range plans that could be quickly implemented if the opportunity presents itself, Brown said.

Damian Mann is a reporter at the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4476 or

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