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Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

Join the Movement

Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

Voices for Public Transit

Voices For Transit

We All Benefit

Whether you ride or not, public transportation benefits all of us. It reduces pollution, eases traffic congestion, and helps our communities thrive. In cities, suburbs, and rural America, public transit provides vital connections to jobs, education, medical care, and our larger communities. Help us keep America moving. Sign Up Today»

  • Poll Results: See What Our Community Had to Say

    In November, we launched a quick community poll asking two basic questions: Why do you support public transportation and how would you improve public transportation in your area?

    Over the course of four weeks, thousands of Voices for Public Transit advocates from across the country shared their views. Thank you to everyone who participated!

    The responses are illuminating, and they will help our movement underscore to Congress what matters to voters when it comes to public transportation.

    What You Had to Say about Public Transportation

    For our first question, we asked, “What are your three most important reasons for supporting and/or riding public transportation?” Here’s what you told us:

    • Help the planet by lowering pollution 26.2%
    • Benefits my community and local economy 18.7%
    • Save money 16.2%
    • Convenience 12.6%
    • Lifestyle choice 9.1%
    • Only transportation option 9.3%
    • Can work and stay online while traveling 4.6%
    • Other 3.3%

    It’s clear that what’s resonating for the Voices for Public Transit community are “big picture” values. Public transportation helps us create a healthier economy and healthier communities, and that’s good for everyone, not just those who ride public transit regularly. By supporting public transportation for the long term, Congress can fulfill many goals.

    For our second question, we asked, “What one improvement to local public transportation would you most like to see in your area?” Notably, the most popular responses focused on frequency and access to service. Here’s how you ranked the options:

    • More frequent service and/or longer, later hours 36.6%
    • New service closer to my home or work 21.7%
    • Newer, more efficient vehicles (buses, train cars, etc.) 13.3%
    • Other 11%
    • Lower costs or alternative payment options 9.1%
    • Improved technology 4.9%
    • Bike access 3.4%

    Overwhelmingly, you want improved and expanded service basics—more vehicles, more frequently, covering more geography. Wi-Fi access, online ticketing, and other enhancements would certainly be nice to have, but making public transit accessible for more people in more communities is clearly a core value—which doesn’t surprise us.

    A lot of you selected the “Other” option to speak more directly to the specific needs of your area, but many of the same general themes emerged in that category as well. We received multiple comments calling for each of the following types of improvements:

    • New service into the suburbs
    • Better synchronizing of route schedules for more convenient transfers
    • More stops and destinations
    • Raise public awareness of the necessity for public transit in my area
    • Service on weekends
    • Service from my city to other major cities in my region
    • Security/safety
    • Restore service lost due to budget cuts

    In 2015, we must share our values and priorities with the new Congress. Every elected official won office by committing to serve the American people. We must call on them to fulfill this promise for the millions of Americans who need and support expanded public transportation.

  • #InvestNow: America’s Future Needs Multi-Modal Public Transportation

    With America’s population growing and our roadways becoming more congested, we clearly need an improved and expanded network of public transportation all across the country. But we also need an altogether new vision for public transportation.

    This vision must include multi-modal transportation. No single type of public transportation fits every need and every community. Individual travelers—whether daily commuters, seniors who can’t drive, tourists, or parents trying to get around with their kids—have different priorities. The best way to travel may be to use several types of transportation. Policy discussions about next steps for American transportation must envision a multi-modal future.

    What is Multi-Modal Transportation?

    Fundamentally—as the name implies—multi-modal transportation allows people to travel using several forms of transportation, often in a single trip. Today, millions of Americans are already multi-modal travelers. You might drive to a train station and then ride commuter rail to work. Or you might load your bike onto a bus, ride, and then pedal to a final destination.

    Multi-modal transportation might include a combination of shared transportation—e.g., a bus—and personal transportation, such as a private car or bicycle. But for greater efficiencies and environmental benefits, multi-modal transportation should involve as much sharing as possible. This might include buses and trains, but also shared vehicles and bicycles.

    Advances in technology will also foster an efficient, multi-modal public transportation system. In the future, a single e-ticket purchased and stored on your smartphone could allow you to transfer seamlessly from bus to train to shared bike or car.

    The Future is Multi-Modal

    Younger Americans already prefer to travel using multiple forms of transportation. According to a 2013 study, Millennials and Mobility, nearly 70 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 use multiple travel options several times per week. Digital lifestyles in part account for this trend. Millennials can stay connected and continue to socialize as they travel on public transportation.

    For people of any age—and our broader society—multi-modal transportation offers many benefits beyond convenience. Using multiple forms of transportation, including public transportation, supports healthy living because travelers walk, stand, and pedal more. Multi-modal transportation also helps cut air pollution by taking single-occupancy cars off the road.

    Does Congress understand that America’s future must include multi-modal public transportation? We cannot simply maintain the status quo or follow a transportation blueprint developed half a century ago. In 2015, we’ll be demanding that Congress invest in the future of American public transportation, not the past.

  • #InvestNow: Public Transportation Reduces Pollution and Helps the Environment

    Air pollution is a killer. According to research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths annually. The most significant cause of air pollution—accounting for 53,000 early deaths per year—is exhaust from the tailpipes of cars and trucks. While air pollution is especially linked to lung diseases such as asthma and emphysema, it has also been tied to other diseases, including autism.

    By taking cars off the road, public transportation saves lives and improves health. Ultimately, investing in public transportation is also an investment in cleaner air, cleaner water, and increased public health. It’s just one more compelling reason why we need to Invest Now in public transportation.

    Environmental Benefits of Public Transportation… and Room for Improvement

    The millions of people who ride public transportation help reduce emissions by not driving. Every day, on average, public transportation cuts fuel use by about 900,000 tanks of gas. We could go even further—reducing harmful emissions and cutting greenhouse gases—by bring public transportation options to more Americans. In fact, we have plenty of room for improvement: 55 percent of Americans currently have no access to any type of public transportation.

    While driving cars causes air pollution, parking cars also has a substantial environmental impact. Building and maintaining parking lots emits more sulfur dioxide and harmful coarse particle pollution than driving itself. Researchers estimate that the cost of the environmental and health damage of 2 billion parking spaces is upwards of $20 billion annually. Yet another way investing in public transportation will benefit the environment and our health.

    Cleaner Public Transportation Vehicles

    Every form of public transportation—buses, streetcars, and rail—is more efficient that driving private cars. Simply put, no matter the type of public transportation, more people can travel more miles for the amount of energy expended than they can in single-occupancy cars. Even so, public transportation vehicles still need power, and buses have traditionally run on diesel fuel.

    But smart investments are making public transportation cleaner and more fuel efficient. Dozens of bus systems across the country are switching or have already upgraded to electric or hybrid buses or engines running on compressed natural gas (CNG) or biodiesel. Rail cars are also becoming increasingly energy efficient. Investment will drive further innovation and environmental improvements.

    Counting the Reasons to #InvestNow in Public Transportation

    We have evidence that Congress must not ignore! Over the last few months, our #InvestNow blog series has examined how public transportation helps the economy; how it benefits rural communities; how it’s becoming more cost-efficient; and how short-term fixes to transportation funding crises cost our nation. In the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing additional reasons why we must invest for the long term in public transportation. Please consider which points are the most compelling to you.

    Share these posts with friends and family and get ready to raise your voice next year when the new Congress convenes.

  • Top 10 Reasons We’re Thankful for Public Transportation

    With Thanksgiving just days away and the winter holidays fast approaching, we thought we’d share our 10 favorite reasons to be thankful for public transportation…

    1. Public transportation enables millions of Americans to get where they need to go—to reach work, access education and healthcare, and connect with family and friends.
    2. Public transportation provides mobility for people who cannot drive, including older Americans and people with disabilities.
    3. Riding public transportation can save you money—nearly $10,000 a year if you give up a car.
    4. Public transportation spurs investment, job creation, and economic growth.
    5. Public transportation brings Americans together by connecting and strengthening communities.
    6. You can work, read, stay online, or relax while riding public transportation.
    7. Public transportation encourages healthy lifestyles and helps fight obesity.
    8. Public transportation reduces traffic congestion.
    9. Public transportation will help us keep a growing American population moving toward a bright future.
    10. Public transportation helps reduce air pollution.

    Share Why You’re Thankful for Public Transportation

    Tell us what makes you thankful for public transportation. Share your experiences on the Voices for Public Transit website, comment on the Public Transportation Facebook page, or tweet and hit the #Voices4Transit hashtag.

  • #InvestNow: Public Transportation Options for Small Towns and Rural Communities

    Among the many reasons Congress should invest now in a long-term public transportation plan for America is the fact that too many rural areas don’t have sufficient public transit options.

    Rural public transportation is a vital resource for connecting people who live in rural areas to jobs, education, and larger communities, and local public transportation systems around the country are developing innovative solutions to the challenges of providing service in rural areas.

    The demand and the desire to bring public transit to rural areas have both dramatically outpaced the investment needed.

    The Case for Rural Public Transportation

    All Americans—no matter where they live—should be able to access education, work, health care, and other services, as well as remain connected to the larger community around them. Living in a small town or rural community, either out of choice or necessity, should not be a limitation.

    Today, about 60 million Americans, almost one-fifth of the U.S. population, live in rural areas. Rural areas have a higher concentration of older Americans and people with lower incomes. As many as 1.6 million rural households do not have access to a car. Public transportation—though it may take different forms from the services available in cities—can and should serve rural and small-town populations.

    Special Options for Rural Public Transportation

    By definition, rural areas have lower population densities than cities. In the U.S., an area is officially considered rural if the population is fewer than 1,000 people per square mile. High-frequency, fixed-route systems—e.g., a street car—are not practical for rural areas.

    Still, many rural areas serve their communities by providing bus service on schedules more appropriate to the population density and travel patterns of people who live in the area, as well as demand-responsive transport (DRT)—in which vehicles are specifically requested by travelers. While these solutions are important steps forward, they can be limited and are not offered in every rural community.

    In addition to traditional bus service and DRT, several rural communities have developed inventive ways to provide public transportation, such as:

    • Sharing Public Vehicles—In Alabama, rural communities are able to use state and county vehicles, including school buses, to provide public transportation.
    • Public Taxi Service—In Texas, rural counties contract with taxi drivers to provide DRT services.
    • Added Train Stops—In Arizona, train stops were added to commuter rail to better serve rural communities.

    Improving How Rural Transportation is Funded

    A general increase in federal transportation funding will provide greater access to public transportation in more rural communities and small towns. But funding alone will not automatically translate into significantly improved rural public transportation options. Congress, the Administration, and state and local officials should be encouraged to review and improve how public transportation funding benefits rural America.

    The federal government has experimented with ways to reward innovation and cut red tape for public transportation projects. Notably, since 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded supplementary TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) discretionary grants that have enabled many rural communities to improve public transportation. But available TIGER funding remains well below demand.

    In 2015, Congress must address the lack of funding for public transportation—in communities of all sizes. Elected officials from less populous areas especially need to hear from their constituents that public transportation is a priority. Please share this blog post with others—including your Members of Congress—to make the case that we must #InvestNow in public transportation for urban, suburban, and rural communities alike.

  • Voters Overwhelmingly Support Public Transportation in the 2014 Election

    While political pundits are still interpreting the 2014 election results, one point stands clear: voters across the country support public transportation.

    About half the nation voted on state or local transportation measures—including public transportation. More than two-thirds of public transportation ballot measures passed, including:

    • Expanded Public Transportation for Atlanta Suburbs—Clayton County, south of Atlanta, passed a 1% sales tax increase to fund an expansion of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) system. As a result, towns in Clayton County will see new bus service and eventually an expansion of commuter rail service.
    • Long-Term Transportation Funding for California’s Alameda County—The San Francisco Bay Area has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Voters in Alameda County, which includes Oakland, surrounding suburbs, and even farmland, passed a measure to fund transportation improvements, including a rail expansion, road improvements, and bike lanes over the next 30 years.
    • Improved Bus Service for Seattle—Seattle is America’s fastest-growing big city, and bus service has not kept pace with growth and demand. In response, voters passed a measure that will increase bus service, as well as make riding more affordable for low-income residents.

    Other states, such as Texas and Wisconsin, voted to raise or protect general transportation funding. These results make it clear that voters support allocating money for improving transportation—and that transportation funding should not be siphoned off for other uses.

    Will the New Congress Hear Voters’ Bipartisan, Pro-Transit Message?

    Voters in red and blue states—from cities, suburbs, and small towns—supported public transportation at the ballot box. While local and state support for public transportation is critical, the federal government is still the nation’s largest funder of transportation projects—and we cannot comprehensively improve public transportation across the country and build a truly interconnected, national public transportation network without the support of Congress.

    The new Republican-led Congress will be seeking ways to demonstrate to the American people that it can make progress on key issues. They have a vital opportunity when they take up transportation legislation next year. Voices for Public Transit will be working hard to ensure that public transportation is well represented in those discussions.

  • #InvestNow: The Economic Benefits of Investing in Public Transportation

    We’ve already looked at the high cost of short-term funding and the growing efficiency of public transportation.

    Now we’re taking a look at the significant economic returns that come from investing in public transportation.

    Does public transportation investment actually spur economic development, create jobs, and help household budgets? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

    The Value of Workforce Concentration

    Studies show that when public transportation brings people together—in a city center or town hub—jobs cluster, resulting in higher wages and productivity. This hidden value of workforce concentration—technically called “agglomeration”—ranges from $1.5 million to $1.8 billion annually, depending on the size of the city or town, according to one comprehensive study.

    On average, a 10 percent expansion in public transit services—rail or bus—produces measurable wage increases in city centers and results in a one- to two-percent increase in the local economy. These findings—based on analysis of more than 300 U.S. metropolitan areas—show that investing in public transportation services makes financial sense for regions of virtually any size.

    Accessible public transportation and agglomeration also drive private investment in communities. In recent years, billions of dollars have been invested in business districts, residential communities, office buildings, and sports facilities along public transit lines. For example, Tucson’s new Sun Link streetcar garnered $1.5 billion in investment along the system’s route—even before service began.

    Controlling Household and Business Costs

    By reducing roadway congestion and automobile use, public transportation translates into cost-savings for households. Households become more productive and spend less on fuel and automobile maintenance. All told, these benefits result in increased household purchasing power of $18.4 billion per year. In the best of circumstances, a robust public transportation system can enable households to reduce their car ownership—e.g., from owning two cars to one. This can save a household more than $10,100 per year.

    Businesses also save money when public transportation infrastructure is improved. Reduced roadway congestion speeds operations and delivery times, making businesses more productive and efficient. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates the cost of congestion for freight transportation is now approaching $200 billion annually for all types of transportation. With freight tonnage projected to increase by 62 percent by 2040, it is critical to invest in public transportation to mitigate roadway congestion.

    Economic Return Per $1 Billion Invested

    2014 study conducted by the Economic Development Research Group determined that every $1 billion invested in public transportation would on average result over 20 years in the following benefits:

    • 50,731 jobs created
    • $3.7 billion economic impact (gross domestic product/GDP)
    • $642 million in tax revenue

    Let’s Bring this Evidence to Congress!

  • Three Quick Steps to Make Public Transportation an Election Issue

    If we’re going to make public transportation a national priority, we also need to make it an election issue. Here are five things you can do on Election Day to raise the visibility of public transportation this election season:

    1. Vote Public Transit! Make sure you know which candidates support public transportation when you cast your vote November 4.
    2. Share Voices for Public Transit’s New Video—Share our new video on your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels, and let people know you are supporting public transportation at the ballot box this election.
    3. Send a Letter to the Editor or Comment on the Web on the Editorial Page—Send in a short letter to your local publications calling on all your elected officials to make public transportation a priority for your community. Or comment on your local publications editorial page web site.

    For Voices for Public Transit, the 2014 election will set the stage for next year’s showdown in Washington on public transportation funding. Congress needs to keep hearing that we want them to #InvestNow. Your vote and election activities will help us build momentum as we push for wide-reaching, long-term funding for American public transportation.

  • International Models for Public Transportation: Curitiba, Brazil Bus Rapid Transit

    Once again, Voices for Public Transit looks beyond our nation’s borders for insight into how we might improve American public transportation.

    For the first time in our international series, we turn to South America, where we explore the remarkable bus rapid transit (BRT) system of Curitiba, Brazil.

    Smart Urban Planning Leads to a Revolutionary Bus System

    Long a commercial hub in southern Brazil, Curitiba has experienced several waves of growth over the last three centuries. Railroads reached the city by the mid-1880s, and the city replaced mule trams with electric trams in 1912. In 1943, Curitiba developed a sophisticated city plan, with a star-shaped system of boulevards and districts, but many components of the plan remained on the drawing board because of expense.

    In the 1960s, with the growing population exceeding 430,000, city leaders again turned their attention to urban planning and solicited proposals. The winning plan envisioned a robust public transportation system built around a system of “trinary roads” with exclusive lanes for buses. Automobiles would travel on one-way roads parallel to the closed bus lanes. While this system required road closures and reconfiguration, it did not incur the massive costs of tunneling for a subway system. The project was economical—and would accommodate urban growth. In 1974, the system—called the Rede Integrada de Transporte (Integrated Transportation Network) or the RIT for short—carried its first passengers; it was the world’s first BRT system.

    Benefits of the IRT

    Today, Curitiba’s low-cost BRT system is one of the most heavily used public transportation systems in the world, per capita. The greater Curitiba metropolitan area has about 3.2 million people, and the IRT has a daily ridership of 2.3 million. The system provides numerous benefits—both to riders and to the city as a whole. Notable features and benefits include:

    • Speed—With exclusive lanes, special traffic lights, and express buses, the IRT provides the fastest means of travel in Curitiba.
    • Capacity—Most IRT buses are bi-articulated, meaning that they are split into three sections, with the middle section being connected to front and rear sections by flexible accordion joints. At their largest, the IRT’s buses are nearly 92-feet long and can carry up to 270 passengers.
    • Reduced Air Pollution—Compared to other Brazilian cities of similar sizes, Curitiba uses significantly less fuel per capita and has the lowest ambient air pollution in the country.
    • Livability—By reducing the transportation footprint of the city, the IRT has supported vibrant urban development, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, and green spaces.

    BRT in the United States

    More than two dozen U.S. cities operate BRT systems—and this type of system might make sense for many other areas that need expanded and affordable public transportation. The latest round of U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grants provided funding for several BRT systems, but greater funding is needed for the benefits of BRT to reach further.

  • #InvestNow: The Increasing Efficiency of Public Transportation

    There are numerous reasons Congress should invest in public transportation. One of the most important is that public transportation projects and transit systems themselves are becoming more cost-efficient.

    Investment in public transportation pays dividends by improving communities and the lives of millions of people—by connecting people to jobs, education, healthcare, and friends and family. We see benefits as well for our environment because public transportation helps reduce air pollution. We can bring these benefits to more communities with increasing speed and cost-efficiency because of improvements in vehicle technology, financing, and how government works.

    Innovation and Technology

    Innovations in information technology, vehicle design, and energy efficiency are all improving the performance of public transportation systems. The positive results include reductions in fuel costs and air pollution.

    Examples can be found around the country—in large cities and smaller communities. Dallas’s DART system, for instance, is converting to a bus fleet that runs entirely on compressed natural gas (CNG). DART estimates that it will save $120 million in fuel costs over the next decade. Thanks in part to federal Clean Cities Grants—provided by the Department of Energy—smaller transit systems in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and several other states have added fuel- and cost-saving buses to their fleets as well.

    Improved Financing

    While the federal government is the largest single funder of American public transportation projects, states and localities also pay a significant portion of costs. Many struggle to raise funds or end up incurring higher financing charges, which drive up a project’s overall costs. Financing challenges can sometimes stop public transportation projects from moving forward altogether.

    To address this challenge, in 2012, Congress expanded a loan program originally authorized under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). This program has helped speed transit projects, provided access to low loan rates, and saved local taxpayer dollars. However, while this loan program has been successful, its benefits have only reached 18 states. Long-term comprehensive transportation legislation would likely expand this loan program, enabling its benefits to reach more American communities.

    In future blog posts, we’ll look more closely at another trend that is helping bring public transportation to more communities more quickly—public/private partnerships, or PPP financing.

    Streamlining Projects

    As the saying goes, time is money. Public transportation projects can save money if reviews, approvals, and construction can proceed on an expedited schedule. While large-scale public transportation projects can take years or even decades to complete, government agencies are now piloting programs to speed up public transportation projects. These programs are testing concurrent reviews, expedited approvals, and collaborative decision-making. In one early success, the Los Angeles Metro system reduced the cost, community impact, and completion time of a light rail extension.

    Transit systems and agencies are also improving project assessments and taking steps to ensure that investments are made in the best project proposals. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER program does just that—though funding still falls far short of demand.

    Right now, the pieces are falling into place to revolutionize American public transportation. To be sure, there is always room for improvement, but we now have effective transportation technologies and project know-how to bring enhanced and expanded public transportation to more communities across the country. The main thing holding us back is political inaction in Washington.

    In 2015, we will demand that Congress put aside partisan divisions and pass a long-term, comprehensive transportation bill that provides certainty for public transportation developments across the nation.