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

How Deadly are Your State’s Roads? | Sean Doyle

A new report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows which states have the safest and most dangerous roads.  Here's how the states rank and what we can do about it.

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News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

Transportation Deal Wasteful, Misguided, Environmentally Irresponsible

WashPIRG is calling on state representatives to reject the transportation deal, as wasteful and full of misplaced priorities.  WashPIRG has opposed previous iterations of the transportation package because they would increase taxes to pay overwhelmingly for highway expansions that are largely unjustified, and would worsen pollution and climate change emissions – all while shortchanging funding for the repair and maintenance of our existing roads and bridges.  The deal crafted by state leaders will worsen the state of repair of Washington’s transportation system – reducing the ratio of funding to bridge repair and maintenance and doubling down on funding for questionable projects such as the Puget Sound Gateway.  

> Keep Reading
News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

Highway Expansion Projects Stall Under Growing Scrutiny

As part of a pattern of costly highway expansion proposals stalling under increased scrutiny, a federal court in Wisconsin made history last week by forbidding the use of federal dollars to build a highway because no need had been demonstrated. The court put an abrupt halt to Governor Scott Walker’s plans to spend $146 million widening state Highway 23, holding the project ineligible for federal funding. The court cited inadequate evidence in state travel forecasts or recent traffic counts, adding doubt whether other highway expansion proposals around the country are really needed.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

Sierra Club, WashPIRG Urge Legislators to Reject Both House and Senate Transportation Packages

The Washington chapter of the Sierra Club and WashPIRG are calling on state leaders to reject both the senate and house transportation committee-approved transportation revenue proposals.  Both proposed packages increase taxes to pay overwhelmingly for highway expansions that in many cases are wasteful and unjustified, and that could worsen environmental pollution and climate change emissions.  Meanwhile, they shortchange funding for the repair and maintenance of our existing roads and bridges.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

House Transportation Package Not a Gift for Taxpayers on Tax Day

The House Transportation Committee approved a transportation revenue and spending package on April 14 that increases taxes to pay overwhelmingly for highway expansions that in some cases are wasteful and unjustified, and that could worsen environmental pollution and climate change emissions.  Meanwhile, the package shortchanges funding for the repair and maintenance of our existing roads and bridges.  

> Keep Reading

Pages

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.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Stimulus checks spent at gas station, study suggests

In a study released Wednesday, the Washington Public Interest Research Group said a family of a single parent with three children, or a couple with one child who filed joint tax returns, would have spent the equivalent of a $1,500 stimulus check between the week of Feb. 11, when the stimulus legislation was enacted, and this week.

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Blog Post

 

Seattle was bracing itself for "Viadoom" when its main highway was set to close. Instead, residents saw an unprecedented drop in the number of cars on the road.

Blog Post

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

Blog Post

The Trump administration is making some pretty outlandish claims to justify its roll back of the nation’s most effective program at fighting climate change. Asserting that stronger fuel economy standards make our roads less safe, the administration moved last week to weaken Obama-era clean car standards -- but their claims just aren’t true.

News Release | WashPIRG

Washingtonians stand to breathe more polluted air as a result of a rollback announced today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed to roll back the “Clean Car” fuel economy standards, which, if left in place, would eliminate more than 2 billion metric tons of emissions.

Report | WashPIRG Foundation

America's infrastructure is in rough shape. Many of our roads, bridges, and transit systems are aging and in need of repair. Yet, year after year, state and local governments propose billions of dollars' worth of new and expanded highways that do little to reduce congestion or address real transportation challenges, while diverting scarce funding from repairs and 21st century priorities. This report profiles nine highway projects that epitomize the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending, including the proposed $1.5 billion North Spokane Corridor.

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