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More Public Transportation Can Have Positive Effect On South Florida's Environment, Say Experts

Transportation has become the leading source of carbon emissions in the U.S., according to the latest data.  Trucks and SUVs account for 66 percent of those emissions. This is causing experts to rethink the role of public transportation in the region. 

On Wednesday, experts took part in a panel discussion at the Regional Climate Leadership Summit in Miami Beach. The group spoke about the benefit public transportation can have on the environmental issues South Florida faces. 

Since 2016, the total miles vehicles travel in the U.S. have skyrocketed according to Bill Cross, executive director of Broward County's Metropolitan Planning Organization. 

He advocated for new modes of transportation as South Florida’s population continues to grow. 

“You know, we’re not getting people entirely out of their cars," Cross said. "But we need to address it...As a region, we’re looking at adding 1.7 million [people], and it’s not really a stretch to believe that could be 2 million by 2045.”

Panelists pointed to the high-speed rail system, Brightline, as an example of how public transportation ought to be used.

Jose Gonzalez, vice president of Brightline, said its station in downtown Miami has the ability to revitalize the area by making it more accessible. According to Gonzalez, the area is expected to become a hot spot for real estate as more people stay within the city, reducing carbon emissions and overdevelopment.

“You’re taking that pressure off development on the western fringes of our county,” Gonzalez said.  

Gonzalez said half a billion people drive to South Florida every year. He hopes Brightline’s efforts can take 3 million cars off the road.

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Andrew Quintana is a senior at Florida State University pursuing degrees in Communication Studies and Editing, Writing, & Media. Before entering WFSU's newsroom, Andrew worked with V89 Radio's News and Continuity department and interned as a staff writer for Haute Living Magazine. He enjoys Razzie nominated films and collects vinyls that are perfect for ultimate frisbee. Follow Andrew Quintana on Twitter: @AndrewLQuintana