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 | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Democracy, Food, Transportation

State of the Union: Five Things We’ll Be Listening For | Chris MacKenzie

President Obama has hyped his final State of the Union address as a speech that will help to define his legacy. Here's how he can break new ground.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Pulling a FAST one on our Transportation Future | Sean Doyle

For the first time in a decade, and after roughly three dozen short-term extensions, Congress has pulled together and passed a transportation-funding law lasting longer than two years. There is only one problem: the new law is the wrong deal for the country.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Millennials Want More Public Transportation | Sean Doyle

A new poll shows that access to public transportation is “very important” for Millennials in considering where to live and where to work.  The results support our research over the past few years that found Millennials are driving less than older generations and are more prone to walk, bike, or take transit to get where they need to go.

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New Motor Voter Act Signed Into Law

In 2015, CALPIRG supported the passage of the New Motor Voter Act, legislation championed by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The new law will create an easy, automated way to complete your voter registration when you get a driver’s license or state ID card at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The new law will get more people involved in the political process and free up county elections officials and civic engagement groups like ours to spend more resources on outreach, public education and engagement.

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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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Pages

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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Media Hit | Transportation

The Bakersfield Californian: Fresno rally calls for more bullet train money

Supporters of California's high-speed rail project gathered in Fresno Wednesday to urge federal officials to give the state most of the $2.4 billion in bullet train money turned away in February by Florida.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Transportation

Myth Busted: Road Costs Not Covered by Gas Taxes

A new report released today by the CLPIRG disproves the common misperception that road-building is paid for by user fees, showing that gas taxes cover barely half the costs of building and maintaining roads, a fraction which is likely to fall steadily. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

Walkers and bikers are getting killed at alarming rates -- at a time when we need this type of transportation more than ever. 

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund

AMERICA’S BUS NETWORK plays a crucial role in the lives of millions of people, providing transportation for those who cannot or do not wish to drive, and carrying up to half of all American children to and from school every day. The majority of America’s buses, however, are still powered by polluting fossil fuels such as diesel that pose a serious risk to public health and contribute to global warming. This report profiles six communities' experiences adopting electric buses, including Twin Rivers, California.

News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund

“To improve California’s transportation system and hit our climate and clean air goals, we must reduce our reliance on cars and highways,” said Emily Rusch, CALPIRG Education Fund executive director. “This project does the opposite, doubling down on a car-centric system that will encourage more people to hit the roads -- leading to more traffic, sprawl and pollution.”

Blog Post

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

Blog Post

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

2018 was the deadliest year for cyclists since 1990

Seventeen pedestrians and two cyclists were killed every day, on average, in traffic crashes in 2018. PIRG Transform Transportation Campaign Director Matt Casale explains that cyclists face a dilemma: walking or biking are convenient and pollution-free modes of transportation, but they're also dangerous in a world that's been built car-first.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Get on the electric bus

A look at six early adopters of electric buses

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement scorecard

Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions laws and settled with federal authorities. The settlement included nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust. How well does our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 
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