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

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 | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report Finds Drivers Pay Less Than Half the Cost of Roads

As Congress struggles to renew the federal transportation law, a new report from CALPIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group finds that drivers currently pay less than half the total cost of roads, and argues that while increasing gas taxes could fill the shortfall, it would leave other problems unaddressed.

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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

The New York Times: Dollars for Roads or Dollars for Rail

Although the price tag for high-speed rail is daunting, it is important to consider the budgetary and societal costs of highway and airport expansions that California would need without it. 

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Media Hit | Transportation

New York Times: California Bullet Train Project Advances Amid Cries of Boondoggle

With a brashness and ambition that evoke a California of a generation ago, state leaders — starting with Gov. Jerry Brown — have rallied around a plan to build a 520-mile high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco, cutting the trip from a six-hour drive to a train ride of two hours and 38 minutes. And they are doing it in the face of what might seem like insurmountable political and fiscal obstacles.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Transportation

Principles for Public Private Partnerships and California’s High-Speed Rail Project

A first-of-its-kind report outlines principles for utilizing public-private partnerships to build high-speed rail in California. The research report released by CALPIRG examines the experience with public-private partnerships for high-speed rail in other countries and the U.S.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Transportation

CALPIRG Statement in Response to LAO Report

Statement by Emily Rusch in response to LAO report.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Transportation

Fresno Leaders Call for $2 Billion in High-Speed Rail Money to Come to the Central Valley

High-speed rail supporters call on the Department of Transportation to invest in California's high-speed rail line all the way up to Merced and all the way don to Bakersfield. 

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