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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

CT lawmakers consider bills to boost public transit

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Thursday, April 18, 2024   

Two pieces of legislation in Connecticut could bolster public transportation if they make it through the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 277 would restore funding to Shore Line East to increase rail service. Ridership plummeted during the pandemic, though it's been growing modestly since then.

But as more people opt to work from home instead of commute, some question whether there's a need for more rail service.

Jay Stange, coordinator with the Transport Hartford Academy, said state investments can help transit lines attract the riders they need.

"Ridership on the Hartford Line, which has been supported by state investment, is up every year," said Stange. "We also are seeing huge increases on the Waterbury Line in Connecticut, where those service investments have been made. The bottom line is that if you don't have the service, you won't have the riders."

The 2023 budget cut funding for Shore Line East to 44% of what was required for pre-pandemic service.

The bill received wide support at a public hearing, but some residents don't agree that funding cuts cause low ridership.

Stange said restoring this funding would provide economic benefits through growing jobs and tourism.

Another bill incentivizes transit-oriented development.

House Bill 5390 would provide water and sewer funding for land-use planning and other developments, making it easier to build housing where transit and rail services exist.

Stange said it's time for the state to build better.

"Connecticut is starting to see," said Stange. "that the development pattern of the last 70 years - where we build new interstate to green-land development that's mostly single-family homes - is a money-losing proposition, in the long term."

Studies show transit-oriented development reduces air pollution and uses large plots of land to accommodate growing populations.

The bill faced opposition from communities concerned about the need for local control for developing these projects. The new version of the bill allows communities to "opt in" for these incentives instead.




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