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»

  • Schools Compete at Sustainable Transportation Competition

    Schools Compete at Sustainable Transportation Competition

    Voices for Public Transit know America’s future is riding on public transportation. We need a totally transformed national transportation network that enables the mobility of our growing population for decades to come.

    But transportation entails much more than the physical infrastructure of buses, rail cars, roads, bridges, and rail. The future of transportation depends on people—future leaders, planners, inventors, engineers, technologists, and operators. We need members of the next generation to understand the importance of public transportation and to pursue careers in this critical arena.

    Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program (GAMTTEP)

    In 2005, Congress upped the ante on transportation-focused education by establishing the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program (GAMTTEP). Garrett Morgan (1877-1963) was an African American inventor who designed an early traffic signal.

    As part of GAMTTEP, transportation systems, companies, and organizations partner with middle school classes in their region to compete in the Garrett Morgan Symposium competition to prepare and present projects focused on sustainable transportation. The winning classroom is awarded $1,000.

    Go Gaithersburg Middle School!

    For the 2015 competition, the American Public Transportation Association sponsored Gaithersburg (Maryland) Middle School, which created an animated video about the value of public transportation.

    We’re super-proud of the great work of the Gaithersburg Middle School team, who drew on key transportation facts and figures to make a spirited case for public transportation. The video emphasizes a central point of the public transportation community, namely that, “Where public transportation goes, community grows.”

    Congratulations to all of the participants. It’s great to see young people getting excited about public transportation. Our nation will be riding on their vision.

  • Help Us Rally to Rebuild America

    Congress knows the score. They only have until the end of May to come up with legislation that puts American public transportation back on track.

    After Stand Up 4 Transportation Day, Congress recognizes that people all around the country are watching and waiting for action. But will they muster the courage and political will to get the job done?

    On May 13, as part of National Infrastructure Week’s Advocacy Day, Voices for Public Transit is joining forces with dozens of other organizations and mayors from around the country for the Rally to Rebuild America.

    Keeping the Pressure on Congress

    Starting now, we’re building toward May 13 so that voices from around the country amplify the message delivered by the nation’s mayors and Infrastructure Week advocates on Capitol Hill.

    There are several additional actions you can take to make sure we keep the pressure on Congress:

    Here’s how you can join the rally and help us put pressure on Congress to pass long-term transportation funding:

    You don’t have to wait until May 13 to get involved—feel free to start taking action now! Even if you’ve written already written your elected officials, please write again as part of the Rally to Rebuild America.

    If Congress fails to act, cities of every size will see declines in their bus and rail operations. The cost of Congress’s failure could translate into a $227 billion blow to community economies over the next six years. In addition, at least 66 public transportation projects would be at risk.

    When America’s mayors visit Capitol Hill, they’ll be accompanied by a diverse group of business, community, and labor leaders. On many issues, business and labor don’t see eye to eye. But on transportation, there is wide agreement that our nation must start to address our transportation challenges now—before we slip further behind.

    The Rally to Rebuild America is your chance to make your voice heard as we rally one more time for public transportation and the roads, bridges, and ports we all rely on! Join the Rally today!

  • Stand Up 4 Transportation Day

    On April 9—National Stand Up 4 Transportation Day—thousands of Voices for Public Transit members delivered a firm, clear, and LOUD message to Congress: America needs comprehensive, long-term transportation funding now!

    Overall, it was a tremendous day for public transportation advocacy. Tens of thousands of people around the country participated online and in their local communities. We also enlisted the help of more than 350 transportation systems, supportive businesses, and government agencies.

    Highlights included:

    • Transportation advocates held more than 150 events in communities around the nation.
    • 22,425 supporters signed our petition, and our online “Thunderclap” reached more than 915,000 people on social media.
    • Voices for Public Transit like you sent 11,500 emails to members of Congress.
    • At least 60 people sent letters to the editor to their local news media.
    • More than 19,000 new supporters joined the Voices for Public Transit movement.

    Together, all of this activity shined a spotlight on the value of public transportation and the urgent need for Congress to move forward and pass a multi-year transportation bill. The ball is now in Congress’s court. Legislators need to consider current proposals, develop new options, and pass a long-term transportation bill that includes improved and expanded public transportation. The deadline is May 31: the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account once again run out of money. We’ll be keeping the pressure on Congress to take real action. Stay tuned for updates on what’s happening in Washington, and how you can help keep them focused on the real goal.
  • Houston Launches Reconceived Transit System

    Last month, Houston officially approved an entirely redesigned bus system that will better serve residents today—and lay the groundwork for future expansion. Drawing on a new grid design, Houston’s Metro service will use the current bus fleet to provide more efficient and frequent service without incurring additional fixed costs.

    Why Change?

    Houston Metro launched in the 1970s—and a lot has changed since then. The city has grown and a light rail system—now with three lines—has been added. The local bus system needed to address the growth of the city and changing travel habits. City leaders and transit planners recognized that Metro could better serve a larger share of area residents by making substantial changes to the system.

    To develop and refine the new transit system, Metro planners sought input from a diverse array of community members. All told, more than 110 organizations, agencies, and local governments were invited to help shape the plan.

    Emphasizing Fundamentals

    At its heart, the new plan aims to serve more people—to provide more service, more frequently, that matches where and when people travel. Key aspects of the new plan include:

    • Access—Under the old Metro system, about 534,000 lived within a half-mile of bus service. The new system increases that number to more than 1.1 million people. The number of jobs within a half-mile of service will increase by an estimated 55%.
    • Simplicity—For many, the old system was too complex. The new system will have simpler, straighter routes and more reliable, consistent service.
    • Frequency—The most heavily used routes will now operate 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, with buses running at 15-minute intervals or less. Notably, Metro is expanding weekend service, recognizing that people need to travel every day.
    • Connections—Metro will enable stronger connections between buses and between bus and light rail.

    What's Next?

    Houston Metro’s goal is to have the new system up and running by August of this year. While no new buses will be added, Metro must replace every single bus stop sign, move and install new bus shelters, and print new schedules and information. Metro will also launch a massive public education campaign.

    As part of the new plan, Metro has also created a framework for allocating funding for system expansion. As more dollars become available—and as the city grows—Metro will be prepared to expand service in ways that make the best use of resources.

  • #StuckInTraffic Twitter Town Hall Shows Momentum for a Transportation Solution

    On February 11, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to lay out the Obama administration’s vision for American transportation. Then, as soon as the hearing was over, he and Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-9-PA) hopped onto a national Twitter Town Hall to listen and answer questions from anyone on Twitter.

    Consensus for Long-term Transportation Funding

    Over 90 minutes, more than 1,000 tweets were posted with the town hall hashtag #StuckInTraffic. Individuals and organizations shared ideas, raised concerns, and asked questions. The tweet traffic made it clear that a diverse range of voices want to see America’s transportation infrastructure crisis addressed.

    Notably, two key business organizations—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)—as well as the American Public Transportation Association participated in the town hall and voiced their support for a renewed and increased federal commitment to transportation infrastructure. The Chamber tweeted, “Federal #highway & #transit programs are integral to economic growth across the U.S.; more investment is better for America.” The NAM posted several infographics and highlighted that transportation infrastructure projects will “add 1.3 million jobs at the onset.”

    Though Foxx and Shuster represent different political parties, they supported each other’s points and sounded determined to find a bipartisan solution. In response to a question about the duration of a transportation bill, Shuster underscored that it is “ESSENTIAL to have long-term bill. 5-6 years is what we should look at.” Secretary Foxx emphasized that “Multimodal IS the future. Finding new ways to move people, products will increase flows—rail, transit, highways—we need it all.”

    Americans Voice Their Transportation Priorities

    The #StuckInTraffic Twitter town hall gave every participant a chance to share ideas, information, and concerns. Several themes emerged, including:

    • Access - Several participants highlighted the need for fair public transportation access for all, including underserved communities, rural Americans, and seniors.
    • Safety - During the town hall, we heard a lot about safety and the need for “Complete Streets,” which serve cars, public transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
    • Economic Opportunity - Lots of tweeters highlighted the economic benefits that come from investments in transportation, including public transit. The American Planning Association, for instance, noted that Cleveland’s investment in bus rapid transit (BRT) resulted in $5 billion in economic development and 4,000 new housing units.

    These points—and many others—make the case for renewed federal support for public transportation. The message is getting through, but we can still do more.

    Advice from Chairman Shuster: Contact Your Members of Congress

    One tweeter asked what Americans can do to improve their commutes? Chairman Shuster had a blunt answer: “Encourage your members [of Congress] to improve ALL modes so they work together as 1 system, instead of many.” We agree. April 9 is national Stand Up for Transportation Day and public transportation supporters across the country will be calling on Congress—by phone, by email, on social media, and in person—to finally move forward with a large-scale plan to improve and transform American public transportation. In the meantime, you can send an email NOW at the Voices for Public Transit Action Center.

  • International Models for Public Transportation: Improvements in Copenhagen

    When we look around the globe, we see several regions that are building entirely new transportation systems. But there are also great examples of cities and regions that are improving on what they already have. For the U.S.—which has some form of public transportation in almost every region of the country—we should seek out strong models for expanding and improving already established systems. Denmark’s capital city of Copenhagen offers just such an example.

    Improving Established Infrastructure

    Copenhagen’s urban rail “S-train” network has been operating since 1934. (The nationwide train system goes back to the 1800s.) It connects outlying regions of the city and suburbs to the city center. While the S-train network is similar to an American commuter rail system, trains run frequently—at least every ten minutes during working hours—and have stops spaced just 2 kilometers apart, on average.

    While the S-train operates like a subway within the heart of Copenhagen, the city wanted to provide further transportation options, especially for people living in a growing outlying area called Ørestad. After considering many options, planners settled on a light rapid transit system, called the Copenhagen Metro, that uses short three-car driverless trains. Smaller trains, smaller stations, and driverless systems help contain long-term costs and enable frequent service 24/7. The system launched in 2003, and an expansion is slated to open in 2019.

    Even though Copenhagen had the S-train system—as well as buses—planners recognized that the metropolitan area was continuing to grow and public transportation needed to expand as well. Though light rapid transit had higher upfront costs than other options, such as a tram network, planners determined that this type of system would provide better value in the long run—and it has.

    Technology as a Game-Changer

    Inconvenience and inefficiency are challenges public transportation systems must continually confront and overcome. People may want to ride, but they don’t want to wait. Navigating multiple ticketing systems—or even finding correct change—is also a hassle that can discourage the use of public transportation.

    Copenhagen recognized that investments in technology, combined with the spread of smart phones, can help address these challenges. The city now has an integrative ticketing system that enables riders to move seamlessly between different modes of transportation. Riders can find real-time information on their phones and purchase tickets through a smart phone app or even text message.

    The city’s transportation network also supports commuting by bicycle. Copenhagen is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Metro stations have bike-parking facilities to support multi-modal transportation. Bicycling is central to transportation planning, not an afterthought, and the city has a goal that 50 percent of commuters will use bicycles to reach work or school. Bicycling and public transportation have already significantly cut the city’s pollution.

    Takeaways from Copenhagen

    Though Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and the country’s largest city, its metropolitan area, with a population of about 2 million people, is roughly the size of metropolitan areas like Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; or Las Vegas. Robust public transportation has a place not just in mega-cities, but in more modest-size cities and smaller communities as well.

    Copenhagen’s public transportation also makes some other key takeaways clear:

    • Planning and investment for the long term pay dividends
    • Even if you already have public transportation, you must commit to maintenance, growth, and expansion as populations expand and needs change
    • The smart use of technology can improve public transportation and increase ridership, which means a bigger return on investment for the local economy
    • Public transportation works best when it is integrated with other forms of transportation, such as bicycling or rideshare programs

    Congress should not simply fund public transportation. It should also support sound strategies that get the most out of our public investment. Some of those strategies can be found in the example of Copenhagen.

  • Highlights of President Obama’s Transportation Proposal

    Earlier this month, President Obama released his budget proposal, which includes a $478 billion, six-year proposal for transportation funding. The President’s proposal is certain to be met with counter-proposals from Congress, but it provides a good starting point for negotiations.

    Fundamentally, the President is proposing what Voices for Public Transit advocates for—long-term, stable funding for American transportation, including public transit. But beyond this big picture, here are some highlights that stand out:

    • Increased Funding for Public Transportation—At its heart, the proposed budget calls for a solid 75% increase in public transportation investment over current levels. The President proposes budgeting $123 billion over six years for the maintenance, improvement, and expansion of public transportation systems.
    • Competitive TIGER Grants—The proposal increases the highly successful TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program to $1.25 billion annually. These competitively bid grants enable communities to earn funding for innovative transportation programs. The $1.25 billion still falls far short of demand—which was $9.5 billion last year—but it’s a step in the right direction. (For more on TIGER grants, see our blog post, “USDOT Awards TIGER Grants for Public Transportation Projects.”)
    • Streamlined Project Reviews and Regulation—The budget includes reforms to improve how government operates. Planning and funding major public transportation projects is a complex process. Policy changes will improve coordination among government agencies and strengthen decision-making at the local level.
    How Will Congress Respond?

    The ball is now in Congress’s court. President Obama has offered his vision for American transportation, but any final plan must come from Congress. It is certain that Congress will not accept the President’s proposal wholesale—but which components will they keep?

    When Voices for Public Transit participates in Stand Up for Transportation Day on April 9, we should be ready to highlight what matters to us. You can use examples from this post and find others by reviewing the budget highlight documents listed below.

    Related Reading: U.S. Department of Transportation Budget Highlights Fiscal Year 2016 U.S. Department of Transportation FY 2016 Budget Fact Sheet

    • Transportation Is Moving in Washington, D.C.

      Transportation discussions in Washington, D.C., have taken shape quickly this year. Everyone agrees that a long-term solution will be better than another short-term fix, and there is also broad agreement that we need a new vision for our nation’s transportation strategy. The only question is whether members of Congress and the Administration will all be able to agree on what that vision should be in time to beat the May 31 deadline for the Highway Trust Fund.

      Here’s a quick overview of some of the key developments over the past several weeks.

      President Calls for 21st-Century Infrastructure

      In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama tied infrastructure directly to “building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.” He elaborated on how infrastructure underpins the entire economy: “21st-century businesses need 21st-century infrastructure—modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains, and the fastest internet…. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could…make this country stronger for decades to come.”

      On February 2, President Obama released his budget proposal, which includes a $478 billion, six-year proposal for transportation funding. We’ll have more on the President’s budget in future blog posts.

      “A System of Systems”: Achieving a Truly Comprehensive National Transportation Network

      At the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in January, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx laid out the framework for a 30-year national transportation plan. Later this year, the Department of Transportation will issue a report detailing this 30-year vision for new and replacement transportation infrastructure.

      A key aspect of the Secretary’s approach is looking at American transportation in a holistic way. “Transportation is a system of systems. The idea that we’re looking at the system comprehensively is the thrust of this report.”

      Foxx noted that some areas of the country are growing faster than others—such as the South and the West—and they need expanded transportation infrastructure to meet increasingly larger populations. Changing transportation patterns and emerging technologies will shape how new public transit develops. For instance, payments systems supported by smartphones will streamline operations, improve connections, and enable multi-modal transportation. Foxx also said that increased biking and walking “could be a real game-changer.”

      As we discussed last week, Secretary Foxx has invited all Americans to participate in the development of our nation’s plan for transportation in his Google Fireside Chat, “Beyond Traffic.” If you missed the Fireside Chat, you can view a recording of it online here.

      Will Bipartisanship Prevail?

      At the end of the State of the Union address, the President made a forceful call for bipartisan cooperation. That call for cooperation has also been heard from Secretary Foxx and congressional leadership, particularly Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

      In a Washington Post article announcing the bipartisan Twitter Town Hall to be held February 11, Representative Shuster and Secretary Foxx confirmed their intention to cooperate and collaborate on finding a solution. Secretary Foxx affirmed, ““There are no Republican or Democratic potholes. This country needs to see people on both sides of the aisle finding ways to work together.” Rep. Shuster added, “On both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol, on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, everybody is talking about [the urgent need for] a long-term [transportation] bill… I’m certain the secretary and I could find a number that we agreed on. It might be a little different than [Rep.] Paul Ryan and [Sen.] Orrin Hatch, it might be a little different than [the Office of Management and Budget], but that’s something we could work through.”

      Making Sure the Voice of Public Transportation Is Heard Loud and Clear

      We are enthusiastic and optimistic about the outlook for a long-term transportation funding solution this year, and we want to ensure that solution includes dedicated funding that will meaningfully improve and expand public transportation nationwide.

      We’ll keep you updated as the debate continues, and let you know what you can do—like submitting questions to #StuckInTraffic for the Twitter Town Hall on February 11—to help keep Congress and the Administration focused on public transportation as one of the major pillars of our nation’s transportation future.

    • U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx Discusses “Beyond Traffic”

      On February 2, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx launched a national conversation about transportation—“Beyond Traffic”—with a “Virtual Fireside Chat” featuring Google Chairman Eric Schmidt. The two had a wide-ranging discussion about many aspects of transportation, including public transit, and the important role played by the federal government. While Foxx expressed frustration with Congress and short-term fixes for transportation funding, he projected a hopeful vision of transportation systems that meet the needs of our changing nation.

      Secretary Foxx’s goal, which we share, is enabling local communities, states, and regions to engage in “truly responsible transportation planning for the future,” knowing they can depend on the funding to support those plans being available long term.

      Recognizing Trends for Better Transportation Planning

      Foxx underscored that the “Beyond Traffic” framework is really a conversation starter. As he noted on the DOT’s Fast Lane blog, Beyond Traffic “will lay out the trends and choices facing American transportation over the next three decades.”

      In his fireside chat, he touched on many factors that are critical to keep in mind as we plan transportation systems that need to serve us for decades to come. These factors include:

      • Millennials are buying fewer cars, and relying more on public transportation, bicycling, and ridesharing.
      • Americans increasingly live in concentrated urban areas. By 2045, 75 percent of the nation will live in mega-regions.
      • Truck traffic on our nation’s roadways is expected to increase by 60 percent in the coming years.

      Room for Improvement

      Foxx acknowledged that our country “has been riding on cruise control” when it comes to transportation and infrastructure. He noted that our current highway system was essentially completed in 1992 and our air traffic system dates back to World War II. “Our system is static,” Foxx noted, despite all of the changes in how and where we live and work.

      While Foxx did not offer detailed proposals, he underscored sensible themes that will drive improvements, including the need for:

      • Multi-modal transportation that makes it easy for people to use multiple modes of travel on any given trip, including biking, walking, ridesharing, and public transportation
      • Greater coordination between local, state, and federal government—and between government and the private sector
      • An improved regulatory framework—one that has government working alongside private-sector innovators

      Why Google?

      Though most people think of Google as an Internet search provider, the company has a special interest in transportation. Google is one of the leading developers of self-driving automobile technology—which could change the nature of transportation as we know it. Eric Schmidt also noted that Google operates the largest private employee bus service in the U.S. In addition to discussing driverless cars, Foxx also answered questions about emerging unmanned aerial vehicles—better known as drones—and rideshare services such as Uber (Google has invested more than $250 million in Uber).

      With Google as a backdrop for the discussion, Foxx made it clear that technology has the potential to improve transportation in many ways. But these improvements still largely hinge on Congress’s passing legislation that provides sufficient and stable transportation funding.

      Voices for Public Transit Need to Be Part of the Conversation

      Secretary Foxx covered many aspects of our transportation system, and real solutions will require that America look at our transportation system as a whole, not look at roads, cars, shipping, public transit, and bike paths and walkways separately. That said, Voices for Public Transit believes public transit must be a cornerstone of our transportation system and that means our voices need to be heard loud and clear in the conversation.

      As always, we’ll keep you informed and let you know how you can get involved. We also encourage you to start making noise in your own communities. Let us know how you’re participating in the conversation.

    • 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?