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Ashland Daily Tidings

The average Ashland household spends more than 28 percent of its income, about $10,000, on transportation annually, the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group says.

April 14 marked "Transportation Freedom Day" for Ashland and Medford, the day an average family earned its transportation costs for the year.

"Transportation Freedom Day is an eye-opener," said state Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, at a press conference Wednesday at Southern Oregon University. "It shows the need for greater investments in more efficient ways to get around, such as public transit."

Americans spend 17 percent of their income on transportation, which is more than what they spend on groceries, health-care and tax-returns, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2008, the average American household spent more than $8,000 on its vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"People may not recognize how much they pay for transportation," said OSPIRG field organizer Jenn Lavelle. "We need long-term solutions that make it possible for Oregonians to drive less and get around more efficiently."

Based on census data, the date of "Transportation Freedom Day" varies by region. OSPIRG worked with the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago to develop and present TFD data, said Lavelle.

Communities with more accessible public transit typically spend less on transportation, OSPIRG said in a press release. Families in Portland's Pearl District, for example, spend about 14 percent of their income on transportation, while auto-dependent Talent residents spend 17 percent.

OSPIRG hoped the data would raise awareness about the issue of public transportation. SOU's OSPIRG chapter Transit Coordinator Cymry Reardon will circulate a petition for "better" transit among local businesses later this month.

"Better, like more frequent runs, expanded routes and a more affordable rate," she said.

Established in 1978, Rogue Valley Transportation District has eight routes running twice hourly, two of which run through Ashland, said RVTD General Manager Julie Brown. The last bus leaves Ashland at 7:23 p.m. Commuters between Medford and Ashland pay $2 fares both ways, unless their transfer is within 40 minutes.

RVTD recently re-established its East Medford route that stopped at Rogue Valley Medical Center after receiving a state grant of about $288,000 for elderly and disabled transportation.

The Transportation Reauthorization Bill going before Congress in January 2011 proposes additional federal funding for public transportation, said Brown.

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