For our health, our safety and our children's future, we need to transform our transportation systems.

Each year, pollution from cars, trucks and other vehicles cuts short an estimated 53,000 lives and increases our risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Cars are much safer than they used to be. But motor vehicle crashes still kill an estimated 40,000 Americans each year and seriously injure 4.5 million more. And, in a conclusion that should shock nobody, one study found the morning commute to be the least favorite part of the day for many Americans.

Transportation is also now America’s number one source of carbon pollution, with greenhouse emissions from cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles surpassing every other source.

That’s why we’re launching Transform Transportation, a nationally coordinated campaign to reduce the need to drive, electrify buses, and electrify cars — so the easiest, cheapest and most pleasant ways to travel are also the cleanest and healthiest.

Healthier, safer, cleaner

With technology advancing, lifestyles changing, and smart policy ideas bubbling up from cities and states across the country, we have the ability and knowhow to make healthier, safer, cleaner transportation the most convenient, most affordable and most enjoyable option for every trip.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s national policy staff and state office directors together have led efforts to improve public transportation and build safer streets for walking and biking in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. New York City, Chicago, Seattle and the state of California have already committed to switch from dirty diesel to clean electric buses. We've brought these efforts to more places by working together with our partners at Environment America Research & Policy Center and their network of state offices. Thanks in part to the climate of support we’ve built for better transportation options, 10 states, representing nearly a quarter of all vehicles in the U.S., now require a rising share of new cars to be electric.

Here’s what we need to do next:

Drive less, live more

If we make it easier, more affordable and more pleasant for more people to take a train or bus, to share rides, or to bike or walk, then more of us will choose to travel without a car or even not own a car at all. Our goal is to double the number of people who travel on foot, bike or public transit by 2030. Our national network is working in 11 states to:

  • Build support for more walking and biking options, as we have in Colorado.
  • Recommend policies that encourage transit-oriented development and sustainable living, as we have in Texas and California.
  • Shift away from policies that prioritize the type of transportation projects, like new highway construction, that have contributed to the problems with our current system, as we have in Wisconsin.

Tilikum Crossing bridge in Portland, Oregon — for biking, walking and transit only.

Photos: Trimet; (inset) Steven Good via Shutterstock

Electrify buses

Some 450,000 dirty diesel school buses are still in service today, putting tens of millions of children at risk of cancer and respiratory diseases while adding to our carbon emissions. We’re calling for all school and public transit buses to be electric by 2030. To get there, we’re working to replace diesel-powered school buses, public transit buses, or both, with clean electric buses. We are:

  • Educating decision-makers on the technology, feasibility and funding options for making the switch.
  • Building a climate of support for states and the federal government to increase technical and financial assistance for bus operators to go electric.

Electric bus in King County, Washington. 

Photos: SounderBruce via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0; (inset) U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker

Electrify cars

Cars account for 60 percent of our transportation pollution. Our network partner Environment America Research & Policy Center is running a joint campaign with its sister 501(c)(4) organization Environment America to call for all new cars sold after 2035 to be electric. At U.S. PIRG Education Fund, we’re encouraging cities in the U.S. to:

  • Expand access to electric vehicle charging for residents without off-street parking by dramatically increasing the number of charging stations in residential areas.
  • Partner with businesses and public entities (like schools, community centers and municipal offices) to use their existing parking infrastructure while providing EV charging.
  • Facilitate and encourage electric shared mobility options like carsharing, ridesharing, bikesharing, and more.

Clockwise from top: Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Transform Transportation campaign director; Bay Scoggin (left), TexPIRG Education Fund state director; Peter Skopec (speaking), former WISPIRG Foundation state director; Emily Rusch (left), CALPIRG Education Fund executive director; Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation state director.

Photos: (clockwise from top) Athel Rogers, staff, Stefan Klapko Photo, Ricky Mackie Photography, staff.

There’s growing evidence that the public is ready for these changes.

Cities and towns are creating places that are easier to navigate on foot, on a bike or by transit. Transit agencies are finding that electric buses and trains actually save them money over time. More people are buying electric cars. Car companies are investing in them and making more models. By adopting more of these changes, we can not only reduce pollution, but also make it easier and more pleasant to get around.

Top images: Adam Coppola Photography/Public Domain, Erica Hsu, Matej Kastelic via Shutterstock