21st Century Transportation

Efficient public transportation systems like intercity rail and clean bus systems would make America’s transportation future better for everyone by reducing traffic congestion and pollution and increasing our options for getting around.

Advancing transit infrastructure for our future

Changing Transportation: U.S. PIRG's series of reports on the dramatic changes underway in how Americans travel.

In the 20th century, Americans fell in love with the car. Driving a car became a rite of passage. Owning a car became a symbol of American freedom and mobility. And so we invested in a network of interstate highways that facilitated travel and connected the nation.

Now we're in a new century, with new challenges and new transportation needs. We still love our cars, but they remind us of our dependence on foreign oil. Americans want choices for getting to work, school, shopping and more. With gas prices up and lifestyles changing, Americans — especially the young — are driving less.

We need a transportation system that reflects and supports the way we want to travel now.

Consider:

For six decades, the number of miles driven by Americans was on the rise year after year after year. Since 2004, Americans reversed the trend and have been driving less. Meanwhile, public transportation ridership nationwide is hitting record highs. This trend is greatest among younger Americans — who will be the biggest users of infrastructure built today. Since the 1950s — despite knowing that buses and rail use far less energy and space — we have spent nine times more on highway projects than on public transportation. 

By reducing traffic and pollution and increasing our options for getting around, efficient public transportation systems like intercity rail and clean bus systems would make America’s transportation future better for everyone.

But America also needs to repair and maintain our current aging infrastructure. Nearly 70,000 of the nation’s bridges are classified as “structurally deficient.” Instead of building ever-wider roads that will only make America more dependent on oil, we need to be smart in how we invest in highways, and fix them first.

The good news is that the public is in many ways ahead of Congress in leading the way toward reform. Help us make sure government recognizes our need to invest in a 21st century transportation system.

Issue updates

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A New Way to Go

Early evidence suggests that new innovations in technology and social networking are beginning to change America’s transportation landscape. New transportation services are providing people with an abundance of new options, helping to overcome barriers to the use of non-driving forms of transportation, and shifting the economics behind individuals’ travel choices. Collectively, they are also opening up the opportunity for more Americans to adopt “car-free” and “car-light” lifestyles with dramatically less driving.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Young People Driving Less, Embrace Other Transportation

U.S. PIRG is featured in USA Today, and shows how young Americans are changing the nation's transportation landscape. They drive less, want to stay connected as they travel, embrace car-sharing, bike-sharing, ride-sharing.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New Study Finds Technology Enabling Americans to Drive Less

In a first-of-its-kind study, U.S. PIRG compiled nation-wide evidence on transportation apps and vehicle sharing programs, and found that these advanced new tools have made it easier for Americans to drive less. Real-time apps and on-board wi-fi for public transit, as well as carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing have spread rapidly in recent years while driving has declined. The report examines new evidence on how these practices are changing travel behavior.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Study Reveals Driving on the Decline in 46 States

Americans have cut their per-person driving miles in 46 states plus Washington, D.C., since the middle of the last decade. The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Moving Off the Road

Forty-six states plus the District of Columbia witnessed a reduction in the average number of driving miles per person since the end of the national Driving Boom. The evidence suggests that the nation’s per-capita decline in driving cannot be dismissed as a temporary side effect of the recession. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Senate Transportation Bill Misses Opportunity for Historic Change; Includes a Mix of Positive and Negative Measures

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, U.S. PIRG’s Senior Transportation Analyst, regarding the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s draft transportation two-year bill.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Data Shows One out of every Nine Bridges in America Remain Structurally Deficient on Eve of Obama Bridge Speech

With President Obama calling for robust investments in repairing America’s crumbling roads and bridges today, State PIRGs released data today documenting the number of “structurally deficient” bridges in seven states.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Obama: Put People to Work Rebuilding America

President Obama was right to call for bold new investments in our outdated transportation infrastructure. Fixing our roads and building new railways won’t just put thousands of unemployed construction workers back to work now; it will allow America to meet the demands of a competitive 21st century economy.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

President Obama Calls for Smart Infrastructure Investment to Create Jobs

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Dan Smith on President Obama’s Rose Garden address on infrastructure and job creation.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Campaign Contributions Greasing the Wheels for New Highway Construction?

U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s new report, Greasing the Wheels: the Crossroads of Campaign Money and Transportation Policy looks at the 2008 transportation appropriations bill using data never before available, laying out the details of Congress’ earmark requests. The report, released on Thursday, also examines the campaign contributions from highway construction interests to both state and federal candidates.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Transportation

Finding Solutions to Fund Transit

The public need and demand for transit will grow sharply in the future and transportation funding must become better targeted to future needs. This paper explains why lawmakers should turn to new dedicated revenues to provide long-term solutions while increasing market efficiency and reducing social costs. Legislators should avoid short-term band aids from the general budget or one-time gimmicks such as road privatization.

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Report | TexPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Six Public Interest Principles for Considering Private Toll Roads in Texas

Plans for the state of Texas to sign concession deals for privately operated toll roads present a number of dangers for the public interest. Giving long-term control of our roads to a private operator and granting them future toll revenues is a huge commitment that should not be taken lightly. Regardless of whether a deal is with a public or private operator, no concession should be approved that fails to uphold any of six basic principles.

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Report | NJPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Caution on New Jersey Turnpike and Parkway Deal

A deal to “monetize” the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway should not be signed if it violates the public interest. No deal should be approved that fails to uphold any of six basic principles: public control, fair value, no deal longer than 30 years, state-of-the-art safety and maintenance standards, complete transparency and accountability, and no budget gimmicks.

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