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.

Reforming our broken transportation system

Changing Transportation: U.S. PIRG's series of reports on the dramatic changes underway in how Americans want to get around.

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.

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

Issue updates

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Who Pays For Roads?

Many Americans believe that drivers pay the full cost of the roads they use through gas taxes and other user fees. That has never been true, and it is less true now than at any other point in modern times. Today, general taxes paid by all taxpayers cover nearly as much of the cost of building and maintaining highways as the gas tax and other fees paid by drivers.

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Tesoro Toll Road Extension Denied

In March 2015, CALPIRG won a big victory when the San Diego Water Board voted 6-0 to uphold a previous decision to deny the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) a permit to build a 5.5-mile extension to their existing toll road, State Route 241. After reviewing transportation projects across America, CALPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group selected TCA’s Tesoro Extension Project as one of 11 “highway boondoggles,” because of TCA’s poor financial track record on their previous toll roads.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Transportation

Tesoro Toll Road Extension Denied Permit

On Monday, March 16th, the San Diego Water Board voted 6-0 to deny the Toothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) a permit to build a 5.5 mile toll road extension. Last September this project was one of eleven featured in our study entitled “Highway Boondoggles – Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future.” 

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Media Hit | Transportation

Why own a car when you can share one?

CALPIRG Education Fund's recent report, the Innovative Transportation Index, found that San Francisco is a national leader in innovative ways to get around town, second only to Austin, Texas.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report Ranks 70 Major American Cities For High-Tech Transportation Options

A new report from CALPIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group ranks American cities on how many new technology-enabled services and tools they have to meet transportation needs. It finds that San Francisco ranks 2nd, Los Angeles ranks 4th, and San Diego ranks 8th among the nation’s 70 largest cities.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Down the road, fewer will drive, preferring public transportation

A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America's Future," released by the CALPIRG Education Fund shows the slowdown in driving will continue in the years to come.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Young people driving less, transportation planners clueless, report says

Millennials are possibly the first generation who could sing the Beatles classic "(Baby You Can) Drive My Car" and really mean it.

Millennials are the children of baby boomers and Generation X, and they are radically altering the way the nation connects, warns a new report by U.S. PIRG, the national office of the Public Interest Research Group.

The driving miles logged by those ages 16 to 34 in 2009, for example, was 23% lower than it was for the same age group in 2001, according to the report.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Younger generation exits passion for driving

Every generation thinks it's going to change the world.

The Millennials, born between 1983 and 2000, already are driving a big change, according to a study released Tuesday. Younger Americans are driving less, stopping a six-decade-long rise, the report from two advocacy groups concludes.

"The driving boom of the 20th century is over," said Garo Manjikian, legislative advocate for CalPIRG, a California nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on a range of consumer and energy issues, which prepared the report with the Frontier Group, a policy research organization.

Millennials seem to be more willing to put off getting a driver's license and feel less need to get behind the wheel because of the high cost of owning a car, a preference for living in cities where parking is at a premium and the influence of technology, which makes it less necessary to drive to work, shop or visit friends.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A New Direction

 Berkeley, CA—As the average number of miles driven by Americans heads into its eighth year of decline, a new report from the CALPIRG Education Fund finds that the slowdown in driving is likely to continue. Baby Boomers are moving out of the phase in their life when they do the most commuting, while driving-averse Millennials move into that phase. These demographic changes will likely keep driving down for decades, according to the report, “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future.”

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Media Hit | Budget, Transportation

ABC 7: Study: Young people are driving less

A new study shows young people are driving less and they like it that way.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending?

President-elect Obama has declared that the next recovery plan must do more than just pump money into the economy. It will also create the infrastructure that America needs for the 21st century.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A Better Way to Go

America’s automobile-centered transportation system was a key 
component of the nation’s economic prosperity during the 20th century. But our transportation system is increasingly out of step with the challenges of the 21st century. Rising fuel prices, growing traffic congestion, and the need to address critical challenges such as global warming and America’s addiction to imported oil all point toward the need for a new transportation future.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax, Transportation

Road Privatization

Privatization of toll roads is a growing trend. During 2007, sixteen states had some privatized road project formally proposed or underway. In the last two years Indiana and Chicago signed multi-billiondollar private concession deals for public roads for 75 years and 99 years respectively. As a result of these deals, toll rates on these roads will increase steadily and revenues will be paid to private company shareholders rather than to the public budget.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Slick Politics

In 1996 and again in 2000, CALPIRG Education Fund completed studies of the levels of money the oil industry spends on lobbying expenses and campaign contributions in California state politics. With consumer and environmental activists continuing to be frustrated in their attempts to enact meaningful petroleum diversity policies for California despite record high gas prices and stubborn pollution problems, we decided to examine once more the effects that money spent by the oil industry has on public policy.

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Report | CALPIRG | Transportation

America Idles

America is too dependent on oil, and consumers are paying the price. For the last two years, gasoline prices have been creeping upward. In 2003, a gallon of regular gasoline averaged $1.56; so far in 2005, the same gallon has averaged $2.29, with prices in some areas spiking close to $4.00 in August and September after Hurricane Katrina disrupted supply from the Gulf Coast.

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