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OH Groups Tout Greener Transit as Escape from Rising Gas Prices

March 1, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Analysts say a recent 5-cent jump in gas prices was the biggest rise in almost four years and a grim look at what's to come. They are predicting more dramatic increases, with some price estimates up to $5 a gallon.

As Ohio leaders debate the state budget, conservation and transit groups agree they will need to consider this "jump at the pump," and that investments in cleaner, cheaper modes of transport are needed to help the state's economy. These include passenger rail, public transit and bike paths.

Art Arnold, Ohio Railroad Association executive director, says freight rail is another great option.

"A freight train can move one ton of freight 457 miles on a single gallon of fuel. Trains, railroads are four times as fuel-efficient and have one-fourth the emissions as freight that moves by truck."

Additionally, Arnold says with increased freight rail, highways will be safer and easier to maintain, resulting in more savings for taxpayers.

Ohio ranks 40th in the nation in spending for public transit, but is the seventh most populous state, according to Jen Miller, conservation program manager with the Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter. State spending in this area continues to decline, she adds.

"So, at the very moment that more people need public transit or more people are interested in public transit, Ohio is spending less on it. That puts the burden on local economies that are also struggling."

Miller says policies are needed that will move Ohio toward a 21st Century transportation system. Meanwhile, opponents of public transit claim it does not typically generate passenger revenues that are sufficient to cover operating costs.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Ohio spent almost $12 billion on oil in 2009.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH