21st Century Transportation

Efficient public transportation like intercity rail and clean bus systems make our transportation system better for everyone by reducing traffic congestion and pollution, and increasing our options for getting around.

Moving Washington Forward

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 we also know they harm the environment around us. Americans want choices for getting to work, school, shopping and more. As lifestyles change, Americans — especially the Millennial generation — are changing their driving and transportation preferences.

We need a transportation system that reflects this century.

Consider:

Public transportation ridership nationwide is hitting record highs. This trend is greatest among younger Americans — who will be the biggest users of the infrastructure we build 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.

In 2015, more than half of Americans — and nearly two-thirds of Millennials, the country’s largest generation — want to live “in a place where they do not need to use a car very often.” Similar trends exist for older adults. Older adults in general put the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets and local investment in public transportation in their top five priorities for their communities.

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 its current aging infrastructure. Nearly 59,000 of the nation’s bridges are classified as “structurally deficient.” Instead of building newer and wider highways that will only make America more dependent on dirty fossil fuels, we need to be smart in how we invest in roads, 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 our decision makers recognize the need to invest in a 21st century transportation system.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Transportation

Testimony of Bruce Speight, WashPIRG Executive Director at a hearing on Senate Transportation Package, SB 5987, House Transportation Committee, 26 March 2015 | Bruce Speight

Despite changing transportation trends, our state’s own revised forecasts, and crumbling infrastructure, this bill significantly increases spending on highway construction and increased lane capacity, while giving short shrift to repair and maintenance and other modes, including transit and biking.

> Keep Reading
Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Report Shows Mounting Evidence of Millennials’ Shift Away from Driving

A new report from the WashPIRG Foundation and the Frontier Group shows mounting evidence that the Millennial generation’s dramatic shift away from driving is likely to continue even as the economy improves.

> Keep Reading
Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Millennials in Motion

Millennials are less car-focused than older Americans and previous generations of young people, and their transportation behaviors continue to change in ways that reduce driving. Now is the time for the nation’s transportation policies to acknowledge, accommodate and support Millennials’ demands for a greater array of transportation choices.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Study: Traffic Data Does Not Support Spending on Alaskan Way Viaduct Tunnel

A new report by the WashPIRG Foundation calls the proposed Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel one of 11 examples of wasteful highway spending based on outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study points to data showing that the financial risks of boring a massive tunnel to replace the damaged and unstable Viaduct hugely outweigh potential benefits. The study calls for the state to consider reprioritizing scarce transportation dollars to other options, including a cheaper combination of surface street and transit options to replace the old earthquake-damaged highway.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Report: Special interests threaten funding for bridges in disrepair

How much has been done to repair or replace ailing bridges? Not much, according to a new report from the Washington Public Interest Group that explores the nexus between transportation spending and special interest money.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Seattle PI Opinion: Will Senator Murray Speed Up or Slow Down High Speed Rail?

In the next few weeks, Murray and the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, which she chairs, will decide whether to heed or ignore calls from here in Washington and around the country for increased high speed rail investment when it finalizes its spending bill for next year. 

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Media Hit | Transportation

21st Century Transportation Deferred

Today marks the expiration of the nation’s surface transportation law. The five-year law spent nearly $300 billion in taxpayer funds to build and maintain the nation’s roads and public transportation. Looking at the results, it’s hard to see the money as well spent. 

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Media Hit | Transportation

Put stimulus money into transit

When roads and bridges are crumbling and public transportation systems are scrambling to keep up with booming demand, Obama and others are right to recognize the need for investment. But it is critically important how infrastructure money gets spent. It is not enough for Congress to simply spend money. In fact, poorly thought out transportation policy contributes to many of America's most pressing problems.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Build a bridge to safety

A year ago, Americans saw the horror of Minnesota's Interstate 35W bridge collapse, which sent drivers tumbling to their deaths into the Mississippi River. In marking the anniversary of this tragedy, it is important to understand its systematic causes in order to avoid future disasters.

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