Join the Movement

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»

  • Public Transportation is the Foundation of a Modern Transportation Network

    Simply put, America is changing and growing. In the coming decades, our population will surpass 400 million people. More people continue to move to cities, increasing urban density and placing pressure on transportation systems. And suburbs continue to spread, creating increased need for transportation options that connect people efficiently from outlying residential neighborhoods to urban job centers.

    In this environment of growing and interconnected communities of all sizes, public transportation must serve as the cornerstone and linchpin of American mobility. We already have a strong foundation of public transportation—but now we need to expand and optimize.

    A Network of Public Roads

    Too often, when we discuss transportation options, we pit public transportation against private cars. This division is important to acknowledge, but it’s worth thinking more holistically about transportation. People increasingly use multiple modes of transportation—even on a single trip.

    We also tend to think in terms of individual cities or regions, when in today’s economy, we need to think about how to better connect rural communities and suburbs to cities, cities to regions, and states to other states. We need a nationwide transportation network that includes roads and rails working in tandem, and that accommodates all types of travel.

    Today, the United States has the largest road network in the world—and our roads are public. The vast majority of roads are owned and maintained by local and state government. These roads must serve all of us, accommodating sensible combinations of private cars, buses, streetcars, bicycles, and pedestrians on adjacent sidewalks. We tend to associate roads with private cars, but they are actually public spaces that bring together multiple modes of transportation, and good roads are essential to support both traditional bus and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services, as well as more targeted services, such as transit-on-demand or mini-bus networks in rural areas.

    Public Transportation Provides Universal Mobility

    As the saying goes, no man (or woman) is an island. We all need to be mobile for one reason or another. But not all of us can drive or have access to private cars. To ensure mobility for every American, and better mobility even for those who do own cars, public transportation is essential. For many people, buses and rail enable travel when car ownership is out of financial reach. For people with disabilities or older Americans who cannot drive, paratransit enables access to shopping, community, and health care.

    Transportation solutions and policies that include public transportation serve every American, even those who don’t ride. Public transit spurs economic development, cuts traffic congestion, and helps lowers air pollution. Even if you don’t use public transportation, it remains an option—where it is available. (And we believe public transportation should be available in every community, including small towns and rural areas.)

    By providing mobility to everyone—and the opportunities that come with mobility—public transportation can be seen as fundamental to the fabric of American life. It is an equal-opportunity infrastructure that enables every American to move forward and every community to grow in smart, positive ways. Does Congress understand this?

  • #InvestNow: Walking and Biking are Part of Multi-Modal Public Transportation

    Too often, discussions of transportation pit one form of transportation against another. Will we build roads or support bike paths or expand public transit? In practice, millions of Americans—especially younger Americans—use several types of transportation, often using them in combination to get where they need to go.

    We need transportation options that work together and include the healthiest, most environmentally friendly forms of mobility—public transportation, walking, and biking.

    Changing Transportation Trends

    A recent report from the Transportation Research Board shows that driving rates are declining in America and are likely to continue falling for decades to come. Analysis shows that driving—measured in vehicle miles—leveled off in 2004 and began to fall in 2007. Some predicted that driving would increase again as the economy recovered, but this hasn’t happened.

    Several factors are contributing to the decline in driving, including technological advances, changes in the workplace, and the aging population. Increased concern about the environment is also contributing to the decline in driving.

    Notably too, today’s younger Americans are riding public transit, walking, and biking more while driving less than previous generations. In some areas of the country, the number of bike commuters has more than quadrupled over the last 25 years.

    Healthy Transportation Options

    Public transportation, combined with walking and biking, helps make Americans healthier. Increased physical activity—such as walking to bus stops—reduces the risk of becoming obese or developing diabetes. A recent study also found that commuting by foot or bike reduces stress and improves concentration. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports transportation policies that promote multi-modal transportation combining public transportation with bicycling and walking.

    Smart transportation policies can help advance positive trends. For instance, in 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP), which funded walking and bicycling infrastructure and programs in four test areas. NTPP greatly increased walking and bicycling trips in the test areas and reduced driving by 85 million miles.

    Will Multi-Modal Transportation be Part of Congress’s Agenda in 2015?

    The evidence is clear: Americans are increasingly integrating public transit, walking, and bicycling into their individual transportation choices. Multi-modal transportation improves public health, helps reduce pollution, and eases roadway congestion. In 2015, Congress must embrace a vision for public transportation—and pass legislation—that reflects the proven benefits of multi-modal transportation. Voices for Public Transit will be working hard to keep public transportation—and multi-modal transportation!—at the top of Congress’s agenda.

  • International Models for Public Transportation: India Invests in Rapid Transit Rail

    Over the last two decades, many nations have made substantial investments in public transportation. In some cases, nations have improved already robust systems. But parts of the developing world are developing altogether new systems.

    India is a case in point. While the Indian railway network dates back to the 19th century, the country only launched its first modern subway in 1984 in Kolkata (Calcutta). The Delhi Metro—serving India’s capital area—opened in 2002. In 2009, following a period of rapid national economic growth, the Indian government committed to spreading rapid public transit to cities across the country.

    National Leadership Advances Metro Systems in India

    In the U.S., public transportation systems are developed through cooperative efforts between cities, regions, states, and the federal government. The U.S. Department of Transportation supports public transportation projects through leadership and by providing partial funding for projects. Ultimately, public transportation benefits all of us—by powering our economy, helping our environment, and improving civic life—so the federal government clearly has a role.

    In India, the national government, through its Planning Commission and the state-owned Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), follows a more top-down model. Recognizing that public transportation improvements drive economic development and empower the nation’s workforce, the national government has essentially mandated and funded public transportation improvements across the country.

    As a top goal, India has set out to bring full-blown “Metro” systems—local rapid transit rail running above and below ground—to at least its 20 largest cities. Many other cities have or are building bus rapid transit (BRT) systems as well. As a point of comparison, in the U.S., only about a dozen metropolitan areas have rapid transit rail systems.

    Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, a leader and advocate of Indian public transportation, says that the benefits and return on investment justify the upfront costs of rapid transit rail. “The number of accidents come down, congestion is reduced, pollution levels go down. It is capital-intensive, no doubt. But the Economic Rate of Return is nearly 20-25%.”

    What Can the U.S. Learn from India?

    Voices for Public Transit is not advocating for the U.S. to adopt India’s top-down model, but we do believe Congress can take a leadership role in making public transportation a true national priority by setting ambitious goals, reducing hurdles to getting public transit projects up and running, and providing funding.

    India has developed a long-term, far-reaching plan for the nation’s public transportation. That plan has supported and continues to drive India’s economic growth. India has followed the lead of the U.S. and Europe when it comes to investing in education and technology. Now maybe it’s time for our nation to learn something from them.

  • Public Transit Improves Safety on New Year’s Eve

    Every year, more than 10,000 people die in drunk driving crashes—and New Year’s is the most dangerous time of the year to be on our nation’s roads. In 2012, after midnight toasts, 70 people lost their lives in alcohol-related accidents.

    One of the best ways to minimize the risk of an accident on the New Year’s holiday is to ride public transit. Fortunately, recognizing their important role in supporting safe travel, many public transit systems offer free and/or extended service on New Year’s Eve.

    Free Public Transit Service

    A range of public transit systems around the country pitch in to help on the New Year’s holiday. This is true of both large city systems and smaller, regional public transit providers. Here’s just a sampling of systems offering free rides on New Year’s Eve and into the wee hours. Note that free service begins in the evening, usually between 6:00 and 10:00 PM.

    • Capital Metro in Austin (TX)
    • Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Greater Boston area)
    • Chicago Transit Authority
    • Duluth (MN) Transit Authority
    • Metro in Los Angeles
    • Metro Transit in Madison (WI)
    • Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority
    • San Francisco Muni (but not the BART system)

    Check the website of your local public transportation provider to see if there are extended hours and/or free service. And even if you need to pay, remember that using public transit if you’ve been drinking is not just good for you, it’s better for everyone who may be out celebrating that night.

    If you’re riding on New Year’s Eve, let us know! Ring in the New Year by posting to the Public Transportation Facebook page or tweeting and hitting the #Voices4Transit hashtag.

  • #InvestNow: Public Transportation Improves the Lives of Americans

    We have a great case to make to Congress when it comes to asking for a long-term commitment to expand and improve public transportation: public transportation strengthens local communities and drives economic activity; it can save households money; it helps reduce pollution; it provides a viable option other than driving; it improves health by promoting physical activity. But what is the “big picture” when we take all of these factors together?

    Fundamentally, public transportation improves Americans’ quality of life.

    Public transportation contributes to happy, healthier lives and more vibrant, economically sustainable communities. Here are just a few “quality of life” examples:

    • Who wants to sit in traffic? Every year, Americans waste billions of hours sitting in snarled traffic. In 2011, Americans sat an additional 5.5 billion hours in their cars due to traffic, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The average cost per American was $818 for the year. We can earn more money but we can never recoup lost time. Public transportation reduces traffic and lets riders continue leading their lives—staying online, working, or socializing as they travel.
    • Mobility for older Americans—83% of older Americans say that public transportation enables easy access to the things they need in everyday life. Public transportation improves the quality of life for older Americans by reducing isolation and providing mobility even when one is no longer able to drive.
    • Public transportation improves and saves lives—The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically recommends expanding public transportation because of its positive impact on public health. Public transportation’s reduction of emissions and promotion of incidental physical activity reduces the incidence of some diseases and saves lives. Public transportation also provides essential and affordable access to health care for many Americans.

    What member of Congress wouldn’t want to stand up and say, “I just voted to improve the economic viability and quality of life in America”? Or “I just voted to help older Americans and people of all ages get around”? Or “I cast a vote that will improve the health of Americans”? A vote for public transportation is supporting our nation’s values. We must let Congress know this, clearly and emphatically.

    How does public transportation improve the quality of your life—or the lives of friends and family? Share your story with us on the Public Transportation Facebook page or on our website.

  • Happy Holidays… and a Look Ahead to 2015

    Happy holidays from Voices for Public Transit! We want to wish our growing community—now more than 100,000 strong—a joyous holiday season and happy New Year.

    Of course, whether you’re staying home or traveling, we encourage you to ride public transportation when you can. It’s a great way to beat traffic, skip parking hassles, and travel safely.

    What’s in Store for 2015

    A new Congress convenes in early 2015. Voices for Public Transit is planning to welcome members—and immediately urge them to put public transportation on their agenda. To kick off our 2015 efforts, we will be holding a telephone town hall in January. Details will be announced soon.

    During the first half of 2015, we’ll be turning up the heat on Congress as we head for the May expiration of the Highway Trust Fund extension. We’ll be building momentum toward our National Advocacy Day on April 9—so mark your calendar for Stand Up for Transportation Day. Public transportation advocates from around the country will be partnering with other transportation partners and gathering in their local communities to demonstrate mass support for long-term transportation legislation that includes a significant investment in public transit.

    We will be telling Congress: “No more short-term fixes!” Get ready to raise your voice and help us make noise.

    Once again, happy holidays! And please plan on joining us as we jump feet first into advocacy activities in 2015.

  • Chicago Transit Authority Celebrates the Season with Holiday Train and Bus

    The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) celebrates the holidays with spirit and style. The Windy City’s public transportation system decks out a six-car train and a 60-foot articulated bus to add extra joy to passengers’ travels.

    The Holiday Train has operated for more than 20 years, running for several weeks all across the system. The train is decorated with lights inside and out, its poles wrapped in candy-striping, and Christmas riddles replacing advertising inside the cars. Elves pass out candy canes, and Santa and his reindeer ride on a flatcar in the middle of the train.

    While the Holiday Train has become a Chicago tradition, 2014 marks the inaugural year of the Holiday Bus. CTA personnel have decorated the bus much like the Holiday Train, but the front of the bus has a bright red nose and antlers. During some hours, kids can find Santa at the back of the bus, where they can pose for a photo.

    Giving Back to the Community

    The Holiday Train isn’t just for fun. In the spirit of community caring, the Holiday Train delivers approximately 300 food baskets to nearly two dozen local organizations. The food baskets are prepared by Chicago public transit employees, who volunteer time and money to purchase food and prepare the baskets. Each basket contains the makings of a whole Christmas dinner, complete with ham, vegetables, side dishes, and dessert.

    While the CTA goes the extra mile for the holidays, every public transportation system offers travelers a helping hand during this busy season. You can avoid parking and traffic hassles to reach holiday events or do your shopping by riding public transportation. Transit systems also usually offer service without interruption throughout the holiday season, and many offer extended and even free service on New Year’s Eve to help celebrants reach parties and return home safely.

    Does your local transit system do something special for the holidays? Tell us about it by posting to the Public Transportation Facebook page or tweeting about it and hitting the #Voices4Transit hashtag.

  • 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.