21st Century Transportation

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

Public transit, biking and walking for the future

Changing Transportation: U.S. PIRG Education Fund's series of reports on the dramatic changes underway in how Americans travel.

Americans are increasingly looking for more and better options to get around — options like expanded public transit, better biking alternatives, walkable neighborhoods and high-performance intercity trains. But while our transportation preferences are changing, too often our transportation policies are stuck in the past. 

Our work has helped to educate the public about the changing ways we get around and the need for policy reform to respond to and encourage further transformation. Our nation’s highway-focused transportation system leaves too many communities isolated from opportunity, creates too much pollution, causes health problems, and does a poor job of getting Americans where they want to go. While Americans increasingly want to live in communities with other ways to travel, our vision for a national transportation system is largely stuck in the 1950s. Instead of simply lurching from one funding crisis to the next, our nation needs to make smart choices that will prepare us for the 21st century. These include a forward-looking 21st century transportation system that serves more places, is more reliable, creates less pollution and reduces global warming emissions.

Some communities across the country are responding, implementing a vision for transportation that includes things like bridges designed for walkers, bikers, trains and streetcars, but not automobiles; bus stations that are also digital hot spots; smart traffic lights that communicate with cars, and other innovative solutions.

Through a series of well researched and eye opening reports, public outreach, and work with local coalitions and public officials, we've pushed for more forward-looking reforms. We’ve turned the tide against wasteful highway expansion boondoggles. We've encouraged Departments of Transportation to recognize and plan for a shift toward more balanced travel choices. We’ve demonstrated the enormous benefits that have been gained so far with reductions in the nation’s volume of driving. There’s much work ahead to promote new planning and policy approaches that accomplish these goals and U.S. PIRG Education Fund is hard at work already. 

Check out our video showcasing our work to bring about better transportation options for America's future.


Issue updates

Blog Post | Transportation

Good Things Come to Those On Bikes | Sean Doyle

Pull the bike out of the closet, pump up those tires, and dust off the helmet because it's Bike to Work Week!

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Blog Post | Transportation

Don’t Believe the Hype – Millennials’ Transportation Habits Are Changing | Sean Doyle

Despite news stories claiming that Millennials are buying up cars at record rates, the reality is quite different. After adjusting previous studies to account for differences in the size of the generations measured, on a per-capita basis, Millennials are 29 percent less likely than members of Generation X to own a car.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New Survey Finds 1 in 3 Mayors Worried Underinvestment in Infrastructure is Putting Lives at Risk

A new survey by Politico Magazine of U.S. mayors has found that 1 in 3 mayors believe that underinvestment in infrastructure is putting lives at risk, and a plurality of mayors, some 40 percent, believe that that transportation and infrastructure should be the next administration’s highest urban priority.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Breaking the Silence on Transportation and the Climate

Transportation policy-makers in most states and at the federal level have simply never seen it as their business to consider, much less act to reduce, the climate impacts of their infrastructure investment decisions. The Obama administration’s actions last week, however tentative, suggest that that is about to change.

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Blog Post | Transportation

All Americans Deserve Clean Air to Breathe, On Earth Day and Every Day | Sean Doyle

U.S. DOT asks if we should measure global warming pollution from transportation.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Study Identifies Eleven Highway Boondoggles Across the Country

A new report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund identifies 11 examples of wasteful highway spending that are slated to cost at least $13 billion and are based on outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study calls on the federal and state governments to reprioritize scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New Study Identifies Eleven Highway Boondoggles Across the Country

A new report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund identifies 11 examples of wasteful highway spending that are slated to cost at least $13 billion and are based on outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study calls on the federal and state governments to reprioritize scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Survey: Wisconsin Brain Drain Partly Because Youth Seek Alternatives to Driving?

The WISPIRG Foundation report examines whether Millennials might be leaving Wisconsin partly because the state continues to prioritize extravagant highway expansion projects while neglecting other means of travel that are so important to young people.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New California Data Shows Alternatives to Driving Taking Hold

California's state travel survey confirms that the driving boom is over.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

DOT Report on Infrastructure Needs Overstates Future Increases in Driving

The new US Department of Transportation forecast of future driving doesn't make sense given current trends and other official forecasts. The result may be billions wasted for unneeded highway expansion and more neglect of bridge repair, public transit and biking.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund & Frontier Group | Transportation

Transportation and the New Generation

From World War II until just a few years ago, the number of miles driven annually on America’s roads steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, something changed: Americans began driving less. By 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

High-Speed Rail: Public, Private or Both?

Private sector companies are likely to play a major role in the construction of high-speed rail lines in the United States. Public-private partnerships – or “PPPs” – have come to play an important role in the construction of high-speed rail lines around the world. The experience with high-speed rail PPPs, however, has been mixed. While PPP arrangements have brought private capital and expertise to the task of building high-speed rail, PPPs have also resulted in cost overruns, government bailouts, and other serious problems for the public.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Do Roads Pay For Themselves?

Highway advocates often claim that roads “pay for themselves,” with gasoline taxes and other charges to motorists covering – or nearly covering – the full cost of highway construction and maintenance. They are wrong. To have a meaningful national debate over transportation policy – particularly at a time of tight public budgets – it is important to get past the myths and address the real, difficult choices America must make for the 21st century.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A Track Record of Success

As America moves toward construction of new high-speed rail networks in regions throughout the country, we have much to learn from experiences abroad. High-speed rail lines have operated for more than 45 years in Japan and for three decades in Europe, providing a wealth of information about what the United States can expect from high-speed rail and how we can receive the greatest possible benefits from our investment.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Next Stop: California

As California moves toward construction of a new high-speed rail network, the state has much to learn from experiences abroad. High-speed rail lines have operated for more than 45 years in Japan and for three decades in Europe, providing a wealth of information about what California can expect from highspeed rail and how the state can receive the greatest possible benefits from its investment.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

In our sixth annual Highway Boondoggles report we profile six budget-busting highway expansion projects that are poised to go forward amid COVID-related budget shortfalls.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The COVID-19 crisis has changed how Americans travel and has left transportation agencies scrambling for money to maintain basic service, yet states are continuing to press on with billions of dollars worth of highway expansion projects that made little sense before the pandemic and even less now. In the sixth edition of their Highway Boondoggles report, we identify seven new budget-eating highway expansion projects across the United States, slated to move forward amid a nationwide health crisis at a cost of over $26 billion collectively.

Blog Post

From mask mandates to capacity limits, the largest public transit systems and ride share companies have new procedures

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center

One-third of all Americans live in areas that suffered through at least 100 days of poor air quality due to air pollution in 2018, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center

People across America regularly breathe polluted air that increases their risk of premature death, and can also trigger asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts. In 2018, 108 million Americans lived in areas that experienced more than 100 days of degraded air quality. That is equal to more than three months of the year in which ground-level ozone (the main ingredient in smog) and/or particulate pollution was above the level that the EPA has determined presents “little to no risk.” These Americans live in 89 large and small urban areas,* and in 12 rural counties. Millions more Americans are exposed to damaging levels of air pollution, but less frequently. Policymakers can protect public health by strengthening air quality protections, reducing reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to air pollution, and cutting global warming pollution that will exacerbate future air quality problems.

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