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

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
News Release | WashPIRG | Transportation

Misplaced Priorities in Senate Transportation Package Draw Stiff Criticism

WashPIRG, Sierra Club Transportation Chair Tim Gould, and members of the community released hundreds of petitions and dozens of opposition letters signed by members of the community, local elected officials, small business owners, and students, calling on state legislators in the House to cut wasteful highway spending on projects like the Puget Sound Gateway.  The petitions and letters will be delivered to legislators in the House over the next few days.

> Keep Reading
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

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. 

> Keep Reading
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. 

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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.

Report | WashPIRG Foundation

A new report shows that a full transition to electric buses in Washington State could avoid an average of 89,567 tons of climate-altering pollution each year -- the equivalent of taking 17,291 cars off the road, and highlights King County’s leadership in transitioning to an all-electric bus fleet.

News Release | WashPIRG Foundation

The authors of a new study that quantifies the health, economic, and environmental benefit of electric buses honored King County Executive Dow Constantine as a national leader in the transition to zero-emission transit.

View AllRSS Feed

Support Us

Your donation supports WashPIRG’s work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code