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Opponents of latest AR state tax cuts say they benefit wealthy Arkansans; Julian Assange agrees to a plea deal that would allow him to avoid imprisonment in US; Tech-based carbon-capture projects make headway in local government; NV nonprofit calls Biden's student debt initiatives economic justice.

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Charges against fake electors in Nevada are dismissed, Milwaukee officials get ready to expect the unexpected at the RNC convention, and the Justice Department says Alaska is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

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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