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 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.

  • A Hearty Welcome to the 116th Congress



    To new and returning members of Congress: Welcome to Washington! You have a lot of work ahead of you—and public transportation deserves your support.

    On January 3, members of the 116th Congress kicked off what could be a turbulent—but also productive—session.

    Congress is now officially divided, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans the Senate. In addition, the session began under the specter of an ongoing government shutdown. Communities of all sizes depend on flexible mobility options including public transportation. The government shutdown can jeopardize riders and non-riders by impacting daily travel, professional and educational opportunities, and ultimately local economies.

    At first glance, the combination of divided government and partisan rancor might look like a recipe for more gridlock. But ultimately, regardless of party and political divisions, lawmakers want to serve their constituents. They want to get something done—and therefore, they must find common ground. It’s critical that Congress and the Administration work together to find a solution that will allow the government to re-open, and then focus on creating infrastructure and transportation policies that the House, Senate, and Administration can agree on.

    Fingers Crossed for Infrastructure Legislation

    Americans broadly agree that we need increased infrastructure funding—both to address deferred maintenance and to meet the needs of a growing population and economy. Unfortunately, in 2017 and 2018, infrastructure proposals failed to advance. This year—fingers crossed—could be different.

    Democratic House leaders have said that passing infrastructure legislation is a major goal. Senate Republicans have also said that infrastructure will be on the 2019 agenda. Legislators now need to move from general agreement to specific legislation. As legislation is developed, our community will be speaking up loudly in support of public transportation.

    President Trump remains a wildcard in the debate. In the past, he has voiced strong support for major infrastructure legislation. However, it remains to be seen what his approach will be in 2019—and whether he’ll be open to negotiating with Democrats.

    Building on Strong Support for Public Transportation

    Transportation is bipartisan by its very nature: Democrats and Republicans (and third-party voters) share roads, rail lines, and public transit systems. On this point, Congress has historically agreed. There have been decades of bipartisan support for transportation funding, including public transit.

    Just last year, in fact, Congress united across party lines to support increased funding for public transit in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Voices for Public Transit will be reminding lawmakers of our nation’s historic support for public transportation—and the need for Congress to again stand up for transit.

    So, let’s join together to welcome Congress—all of Congress—to Washington—and express our wishes for a successful, productive session that strengthens our nation for the future. Every American needs mobility, and Congress can help all of us by passing legislation that makes strong investments in public transportation as part of an integrated, multi-modal transportation strategy.

    Now, let’s get to work!

  • That's a Wrap on 2018!



    Thank you for the amazing work you’ve helped Voices for Public Transit accomplish in 2018! We’re taking a look back on our biggest 2018 accomplishments and forecasting ahead to what could be a monumental year for transit in 2019.

    Congress Unites to Fund Public Transportation

    Congress passed a Fiscal Year 2018 budget that included big increases for transit funding.

    Voices for Public Transit advocates from across the country made their voices heard when word got out that public transportation was facing potentially devastating public transit cuts.

    Luckily, Congress responded and, while Washington is divided on many issues, legislators across the political spectrum recognized that Americans need mobility—and public transportation must be part of the solution.

    Support for Public Transit at the Polls

    Public transit supporters didn’t just achieve a victory in the federal budget battle; we also made gains at the ballot box. In the 2018 midterm elections, pro-transit ballot measures won in several states. Voters approved public transit investments in California, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, New Mexico, and Virginia.

    Voters passed 30 out of 36 ballot measures for public transportation in the 2018 election. Those wins represent a spectrum of large cities and smaller communities, showing broad citizen support for public transportation across the nation.

    New Hope for Infrastructure Legislation in 2019

    By now, everyone knows that things in Congress will be shifting dramatically in 2019, with the Democratic Party taking control of the U.S. House. The Republican Party continues to hold the majority in the Senate.

    Congress will be divided, which could spell trouble, but infrastructure is one area where consensus may be reached even in this partisan environment, allowing both sides of the aisle to claim wins on an issue that is fundamentally important to all Americans. Democratic leaders have already said infrastructure will be a top priority and the Administration and Republican congressional leaders have both expressed interest in passing an ambitious infrastructure plan.

    We’ll call on Voices for Public Transit advocates to stand up as the infrastructure debate takes shape next year and tell Congress that public transit investment must be part of any infrastructure bill. The 2018 elections demonstrated Americans support public transportation. We’ll remind Congress throughout the year and proactively shape the debate ahead of Transportation Bill reauthorization that’s coming in 2020.

  • Public Transit Helps Veterans Make Connections



    For millions of veterans, public transportation provides essential mobility that helps them return to civilian life. We’ve heard from vets who ride public transit to connect with family and friends, access healthcare, and reach work. For vets who can’t drive—due to age or disability—public transportation is often their only mobility option.

    Veterans Share Their Stories

    Our Voices for Public Transit community is proud to include veterans who have shared their own stories about the benefits of public transportation.

    For Michelle, a veteran in Melbourne, Florida, public transit helps her travel—and helps her family as well.

    “If it weren’t for public transportation, how would I get my loved ones from their homes to their appointments?” she said. “They can’t afford cabs, and they’re too far to walk.”

    For William of Ft. Worth, Texas—a veteran with a 100 percent service-connected disability—is able to carry out his duties as a preacher because of public transportation.

    “Being unable to drive, I completely need public transportation to get to church and visit parishioners,” he told us.

    Public Transit Isn’t Just Helping Veterans Get Around—It Also Provides Job Opportunities

    America’s public transit systems have welcomed veterans into their workforce—at every career level. One of our nation’s fastest-growing transit systems—the Los Angeles Metro—is led by U.S. Army veteran Philip Washington.

    “The public transportation industry has a welcome mat out for returning veterans,” said Washington .

    VIA—San Antonio’s transit system—has filled many of its vacancies with veterans.

    “I’m proud to say that one out of every four VIA employees is a military veteran,” explained Sergio Gonzalez , VIA’s Recruitment and Outreach Administrator and a veteran himself.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) provides a portal to help connect veterans with jobs in transportation, including public transit. Many skills developed in the military—from technical and mechanical know-how to leadership—transfer to careers in public transportation.

    Expanding Public Transit to Support Veterans

    Many public transit systems around the country honor and serve America’s veterans and active service members by providing free or discounted rides. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provides grants to help improve access to transportation options, including public transit, through the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI).

    The evolving need for transportation options requires funding. This is especially true for rural American communities—home to one-third of our nation’s veterans. A 2017 study from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) found transit brings numerous benefits to rural communities and demand for rural public transportation is rising.

    The 2018 federal budget provided increased funding for addressing transportation challenges in rural America—funding that will help veterans and their communities. But we need to keep this momentum going in next year’s budget, as well as support public transit investment in any infrastructure legislation.

  • Why Fund Public Transit with Federal Dollars?



    Last year, the Administration proposed greatly reducing the federal government’s share of its investment in public transit.

    Currently, the federal government provides as much as 50 percent of funding for major public transportation projects. The Administration proposed an infrastructure plan where the federal government would pay only 13.3 - 20 percent of major infrastructure projects. That’s a 30 percent DECREASE, leaving local communities to make up the difference—a gap many communities don’t have the resources to fill by themselves.

    Since passage of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, the federal government has played a leading role in investing and supporting public transit. In fact, throughout our nation’s history, the federal government has supported transportation—including rail, roads, and even lighthouses—because it is so vital in keeping the economy moving.

    What interstate highways did for America in the 1950s, an integrated, multi-modal transportation network built around public transit can do for America now, as we address the needs of today’s economy, and our rapidly growing population. Robust federal funding is a good investment, even according to conservative transportation expert Jack Schenendorf, who states that public transportation, “drives economic growth” and is “essential to America’s prosperity.”

    According to Schenendorf, without federal leadership and dollars, states would “balkanize the nation’s transportation networks, cause a substantial drag on the economy, and bring about a host of other serious problems.”

    What About State and Local Funding?

    State and local funding is essential to public transit projects, and most communities fund a substantial portion of the total cost of infrastructure improvements. But municipalities—especially smaller communities—lack the resources available at the federal level. Faced with transportation investments being a necessity—not a nicety—to remain competitive, states and municipalities could find themselves taking on excessive new debt in order to fund essential public transportation. (Just look at some of the recent news out of Michigan, where employers are rallying around public transit investment after Amazon cited the lack of an efficient regional public transportation network as a key reason Detroit was not selected for Amazon’s HQ2.)

    What About the Private Sector?

    The Administration has also suggested that the private sector can make up the difference in funding transit. Some transportation projects—such as Denver’s transit expansion—have been funded through public-private partnerships or P3s. P3s can be a success, but they cannot take the place of federal dollars, especially when large-scale transportation projects can take several years to come to fruition.

    There’s a Reason Public Transportation Is Public

    One of the express responsibilities of state and federal government entities is providing public investment for infrastructure and services that support the common interests of our communities. We are not only individual communities but also one nation—connected by a shared economy, laws, and the transportation networks that keep commerce flowing. People in one corner benefit when people in other areas can get to work and grow our economy—it’s just as true for the country as a whole as it is in individual towns and cities.

    There is no substitute for federal investment in multi-modal transportation networks. The strength, benefits, and use of an interconnected transportation network depend on consistent federal funding sufficient to enable local communities of all sizes to build the transportation infrastructure that will support the mobility and workforce access that will attract the private economic investment that creates the positive economic growth that generates the revenue that keeps our governments able to perform their functions well. And if we make smart investments now, the positive cycle will keep on going.

  • #FBF Yesteryear’s Streetcars and Today’s Public Transit



    Streetcars have a long and storied past in America. Various kinds of streetcars still run in New Orleans, Omaha, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, San Francisco, and dozens of other cities.

    The streetcar craze began in New York City in 1832, with horses pulling streetcars along fixed tracks set in the road. Later horses were replaced by steam-powered cables and eventually electricity.

    San Francisco opened its now historic cable car system in 1873. Based on mine car operations, the cable car used a mechanism—a “grip”—to latch onto a moving cable. This form of streetcar eventually spread to most large U.S. cities.

    Los Angeles—now known for its car culture—once boasted the largest trolley system in the world, with more than 1,100 miles of track traversing the sprawling metropolitan area.

    The Temporary Disappearance of Streetcars

    For a number of economic, political, and cultural reasons, streetcars fell out of favor, with some systems facing bankruptcy in the 1920s. As automobiles became more prevalent, cars competed for space with streetcars, and eventually undermined streetcar operations and schedules.

    After World War II, Americans could increasingly afford cars, with auto production picking up after wartime limits on manufacturing ended. Bus systems increasingly took the place of streetcars, offering a lower cost alternative. By 1955, most of the nation’s streetcar systems had been dismantled.

    America’s Streetcar Revival

    We are in the midst of a streetcar revival. Beginning in the late 20th century, communities increasingly recognized that roads couldn’t be continuously expanded to accommodate more people and cars. Instead, cities of various sizes began to invest in developing and expanding multimodal transportation networks, including streetcars, bus rapid transit (BRT), and other forms of public transit.

    Portland, Oregon, launched its trend-setting streetcar in 2001, and other cities such as Tucson, Detroit, and Salt Lake City followed. The new streetcar systems not only improved transportation but also helped drive economic development alongside the lines. Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and Tempe all have streetcar systems under construction.

    Many regions have developed plans for streetcars—and other public transit improvements—but still need federal funding. Congress increased our nation’s investment in public transportation programs for Fiscal Year 2018, though the long-term picture for public transit funding remains unclear, which makes it harder to move projects like these forward, given they require several years of dependable funding.

    To bring streetcar systems and other public transit options to more regions, Congress needs to commit again to public transportation funding in the 2019 budget and in any infrastructure legislation. Streetcars are helping improve mobility and revitalize many city centers—and every community should have similar opportunities to benefit from public transportation.