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

News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

Transportation Bill is a Step Backwards

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, WashPIRG’s Senior Transportation Analyst, regarding the disappointing federal Transportation Bill as released from conference committee today.

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Report | WashPIRG | Transportation

Fix-It-First

One out of every twenty bridges in Washington is likely to be deficient, for a total of 394 deficient bridges. An unacceptable 5.1 percent of bridges statewide are rated structurally deficient. According to 2009 inspection data and costs, Washington would need $2.31 billion to bring all of our bridges into a state of good repair. By comparison, Washington spent $93 million total on bridge repair and replacement in 2008. There’s a clear need for robust investment in repairing and replacing our bridges.

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News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

New Report: Hundreds of WA Bridges Structurally Deficient

With President Obama calling for robust investments to repair America’s crumbling roads and bridges, the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG) released data today documenting the number of “structurally deficient” bridges in Washington State.

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News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

Report Examines Whether High-Speed Rail Should Be Public, Private or Both

The report comes at a time when Congress and state officials are debating future funding for high-speed rail, including upgrades to Amtrak’s 467-mile “Cascade Corridor” which connects Eugene, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Meanwhile, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure chair has proposed privatizing Amtrak with the hope of garnering private financing for new bullet trains along the Northeast. California is seeking private funds as part of a planned route connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

Report: Most Aging Baby Boomers Will Face Poor Mobility Options

The first baby boomers turn 65 years old this year and seniors in the Puget Sound area are in danger of being unable to get around. The largest generation in history, Boomers are also the most dependent on automobile travel. Yet by 2015, many seniors ages 65 and older in the Puget Sound area will live in communities with poor options for people who do not drive, according to a new report. Many metropolitan areas in Washington state will see over a 70% increase in the number of seniors without adequate access to transit since 2000.

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