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.

The Latest

  • Public Transit Supports Personal Independence

    For the July 4 holiday, we looked at how public transit broadly supports the freedom of movement — a right protected under the Constitution — and mobility independence.

    Today, Voices for Public Transit advocates are sharing their own stories of how a comprehensive public transportation system supports their personal mobility. The fact is, public transportation supports independent living for many Americans who can’t drive or don’t have access to a car.

    Public Transportation Keeps Us Moving

    Many public transit advocates or their family members use public transportation to overcome challenges and lead fuller lives. Here are just a few examples from our recent World Without Transit survey:

    Due to a visual impairment, I cannot drive a car. Therefore, I'd be unemployed with no income if it weren't for public transit to get me back and forth to my two part-time jobs.

    — Darrel F., Illinois

    I have severe anxiety, ADHD, and Asperger’s and therefore take a lot of medication for those conditions. As a result, I cannot drive, because it would be too dangerous for both me as well as people around me…. Using public transportation helps me with my independence and my life as a whole.

    — Christopher C., Texas

    I'm a female disabled vet. I have no working car. Without public transit I would not be able to get to medical care, or to my part-time work, or to see my friends. Public transit is my lifeline.

    — Karen D., California

    My son is blind and uses public transportation to get to work, church, entertainment, and shopping. This is important for so many reasons.

    — Marcia M., Texas

    I'm a single mom on disability going to college on my own and supporting a teenage girl on my own so I need the bus to get to school and home. If I didn't have the bus, I couldn't go back to school.

    — Jennifer S., California

    I don't have a car and can’t afford one; I use the bus to get to work, grocery shop, and run my other errands. I moved to Colorado because I was told that you could get anywhere on the bus or light rail, and it’s true.

    — Clarice D., Colorado

    I'm on a fixed income, and I cannot afford the expense of a personal vehicle, as much as I'd love to have an economical car again. So, I rely on my local bus system. I'm thankful to have public transportation in my area.

    — Dawn F., Pennsylvania

    As you can see, public transit not only provides mobility for those who can’t drive, but is also essential for many individuals and families confronting financial challenges. We’re hearing from advocates who are able to attend school, reach work, and connect with their communities because of public transportation. Our nation should be proud that we’ve established the foundation of a public transportation network that supports mobility and independent living for millions of people, including seniors, people with disabilities, vets, and lower-income Americans — but we still have a long way to go before public transportation will be accessible to everyone who needs it.

    Unfortunately, public transportation is now threatened by substantial federal budget cuts, which could set our nation back decades in the progress we should be making toward a truly integrated, multi-modal transportation network. Voices for Public Transit will continue working to ensure our congressional champions know they have the support of voters around the country.

    Do you have a story you would like to share about why public transportation is important to you? Are you able to live more independently, pursue employment or educational opportunities, or connect with your community because of public transit? We’d like to hear about it. Please share your story at this link.

  • Public Transit Matters to Local Businesses

    Several of America’s largest employers made significant moves over the past few years:

    • In January 2016, GE announced its headquarters would leave Fairfield, Conn., and relocate to Boston.
    • Timber and wood products giant Weyerhaeuser moved its headquarters to downtown Seattle in 2016 after 45 years in the suburban town of Federal Way, Wash.
    • McDonald’s announced it would move its corporate offices from suburban Oak Brook, Ill., to Chicago by spring 2018.
    • Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, has plans to relocate its headquarters to Bethesda, Md.

    What do all of these moves have in common? Proximity to public transportation.

    • Weyerhaeuser spokesman Jack Evans called access to transit "a big deal" for employees.
    • Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen specifically praised public transit as a lure for hiring, saying, “I think it’s essential we be accessible to Metro… I think, as with many other things, our younger folks are more inclined to be Metro-accessible and more urban.”

    These companies not only want to improve commutes for employees, but also be located where new, young talent wants to work. In our previous blog, we highlighted how access to public transportation is a key factor for Millennials when they decide where to live and work. In a recent Voices for Public Transit survey, business owners said public transit is critical to having the best workforce possible: “Providing [transit] access to all employees is critical to attracting quality talent.”

    Insurance giant State Farm has gone a step further. In three locations, the company is making investments in local public transit hubs. The company’s goal is to improve the quality of life for their employees and lay the foundation for future growth. According to Chief Operating Officer Michael Tipsord, “We’re designing these workplaces to be the future of State Farm. We’re creating a live-work-play environment that will give employees easy access to their work from the neighboring communities.”

    Corporate relocations or moves near public transportation can bring bountiful commercial, cultural, and retail benefits to the surrounding communities. In many areas, developers are investing in new housing in conjunction with public transit expansions. State Farm itself is anchoring a $600 million investment in Tempe, Ariz., and public transit access was a big reason for the company’s decision to move forward with this investment.

    Ever more frequently, the presence of public transportation is a primary factor in business decisions. It’s obvious public transportation infrastructure warrants public investment not just for the benefit of the people who ride it but also for their larger communities, so they may reap the benefits of increased economic activity, improved traffic congestion, and greater safety for everyone.

  • Multi-modal Transportation = Freedom to Choose

    Some Americans believe public transportation is only for people who can’t drive. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Today, millions of Americans choose to ride public transit, often combining it with other forms of transportation, such as cars and bikes, to get where they need to go as comfortably and cost-effectively as possible.

    Notably, surveys show Millennials favor cities with public transportation because it gives them the freedom to live without a car. In one survey of Millennials, 80 percent said access to public transportation was “very important” when they considered where to live, while 78 percent ranked access to public transportation as more important than other workplace amenities, such as access to a gym, cafeteria, or coffee bar.

    Why Americans Choose Public Transit

    According to a 2015 survey, top reasons people choose to ride public transit include:

    • Cost-effectiveness
    • Productivity or relaxation
    • Convenience
    • Reduced carbon footprint
    • Faster that driving
    • Safety

    Public transit also supports an active lifestyle. Many people today are multimodal travelers, combining walking, bicycling, rideshare services, and public transportation to get to their destinations. Even those who drive are more frequently choosing also to use public transportation, leaving their cars at park & rides and letting the bus or train get them through the worst of the traffic in their area.

    Research also shows a great many Americans — 80 percent — would choose to ride buses and rail more often if service were more frequent or more accessible in their area. While many systems around the country have added new lines and services in recent years, there also is a nearly $90 billion backlog of needed maintenance and upgrades.

    As much as anything, public transportation gives Americans more freedom to choose — how they travel, where they live and work, to remain independent when they can’t drive, to reduce their individual impact on the environment or their living expenses, and much more. Investing in public transportation as part of a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation system just makes sense for Americans from all walks of life.

  • Celebrating Mobility Independence this 4th of July

    Did you know freedom of movement is a legally protected right in the United States?

    The right to travel means that all Americans can move freely about the country. Freedom of movement enables people to pursue jobs, educational opportunities, and quality of life anywhere in the country. At the local level, mobility enables people to get to work and school, access healthcare and other services, shop, and meet up with friends and family.

    The Importance of Public Transportation Access

    Transportation is a critical component for mobility. For millions of Americans who cannot drive, don’t have access to a car, or choose not to own a car, public transportation provides the mobility independence that’s vital to their ability to participate actively in the economy and their local communities.

    Reliable, affordable public transportation and paratransit services enable many seniors and people with disabilities to remain independent. Even when physical conditions prevent people from driving, they can still travel, maintain routines, volunteer, and have a full and active life. Public transit also gives people who can drive more options for mobility, which can help reduce costs, improve productivity, and increase the safety of travel for everyone.

    Although taxis and rideshare services can assist in getting people from Point A to Point B, public transportation is the real solution to providing affordable mobility to communities of all sizes. And we are seeing innovative public transit solutions emerging around the country to meet the unique needs of the various communities they serve. Public transit systems in Florida and Oregon are partnering with rideshare services and developing hybrids of on-demand and fixed-route service to better reach into areas that can be difficult to serve with traditional bus and train services, like suburban residential neighborhoods. Hundreds more examples exist around the country. With the right combination of investment and innovation, we are making public transit accessible to more people in more communities than ever before.

    Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten Mobility Independence

    Whether you live in a big northeast city or a rural southwest community, President Trump’s proposed public transportation budget cuts could undermine mobility independence if Congress chooses to enact them.

    The president has proposed eliminating the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program. This program has improved mobility for Americans around the country. For example, the 2016 TIGER grant awarded to Brownsville, Texas, helps people in rural areas connect with educational and employment opportunities in central Brownsville.

    Public transit expansions and innovations like these may disappear without a continued commitment from Congress to invest in public transportation — and without public transportation, many Americans will see their mobility independence drastically reduced.

    Celebrating What We Have

    This July 4th, Voices for Public Transit is celebrating the freedom of movement public transportation supports in so many ways—for people who ride it and for people who don’t. We’ve seen system expansions over the last decade, development of new technologies, and better integration between public transit and other forms of transportation moving us toward truly multi-modal transportation networks. It’s a positive transportation revolution for our entire nation, and we’re committed to seeing it continue.

    P.S. When you celebrate the Fourth of July — especially if you go to events in urban centers — consider taking public transit. It’s a great way to travel safely and efficiently and celebrate our nation and our freedom of movement at the same time.

  • Increasing Use of Public Transit Can Save Lives — Not Just Time and Money

    Two key facts we should all be considering as we debate how America should allocate its transportation budget:

    Investing in improved and expanded public transportation doesn’t just save Americans time and money, it also helps save American lives. Supporting public transportation should be an easy decision for Congress—even those members who represent states and districts that currently don’t have large public transit systems.

    Improved Safety for Everyone

    What’s critical for Congress — and the American people — to understand is that the safety benefits of public transportation are not limited just to people who ride it.

    As the 2016 report “The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation” shows, public transit riders and non-riders jointly see their crash risk cut by 50 percent when they live in communities with strong public transit systems. In other words, having public transit in your community makes the roads safer for everyone.

    A Safer Option for Higher-Risk Drivers

    Public transportation is also an important — and sometimes the only — transportation option for people who cannot drive, don’t have access to a car, or are vulnerable drivers. Older Americans justifiably want to remain active, independent, and mobile. Unfortunately, the risk of dying as the result of a car crash increases starting at age 75 and rises significantly after age 80. Our seniors are safer if they can ride public transportation. This option, however, would be reduced for many older Americans if federal funding for public transit is slashed.

    Teen drivers have an even higher crash death rate per mile driven than seniors. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 20. Public transit can provide safer mobility for teens — and makes the roads safer for all of us.

    Voices for Public Transit has often made the case that it makes economic sense to invest in public transportation. But governing shouldn’t just be about dollars and cents. We also need to remember — and remind Congress — that public transportation saves American lives.

  • Public Transit: An Important Solution to America’s Traffic Problem

    There is little more frustrating than being stuck in traffic. For communities of all sizes all across the nation, congestion on roads and highways is a daily challenge. The average commuter will spend 42 hours annually sitting in congestion. And the ripple effects of traffic jams are even more dramatic when you look at the whole picture.

    The cumulative cost of traffic congestion between 2013 and 2030 could reach $2.7 trillion.

    As Americans, we know time is money. Time wasted sitting in cars translates to dollars lost for individual households and lost profit for our economy as a whole. In addition to increased costs for individual commuters, businesses see reduced worker productivity and profitability, and companies relying on transportation of goods and services take a hit to their bottom lines when they can’t get their products and people where they need to be on time and on budget.

    In 2013, traffic cost the U.S. economy about $124 billion — or $1,700 per American household. Without action to address congestion on our roads — including expanding public transportation — the cost will increase 50 percent by 2030, to $186 billion.

    Despite the terrible toll congestion takes on our economy, our commerce, our environment, and our individual quality of life, Washington, D.C., is ignoring the obvious solution: public transportation. If President Trump’s budget recommendations are implemented, rather than increasing our investment in public transportation, its funding will be slashed —and that means more traffic and congestion for our communities and economy.

    Road Congestion Hurts Communities of All Sizes

    Some of America’s largest cities have traffic congestion nearly double the national average. Commuters in Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco lose from 78 to 82 hours per year sitting in traffic.

    But major cities definitely are not alone when it comes to suffering the negative impacts of traffic congestion. Commuters in many smaller cities also pay a price. Many times, these smaller communities may not have the highway infrastructure needed to support rural, suburban, and urban populations, and traffic can be just as bad as their larger counterparts. For example, Honolulu — ranked 55th in the nation for population — has some of the nation’s worst traffic.

    Small towns and rural areas suffer due to traffic congestion. Iowa’s economy depends on crops and other farm products reaching markets in cities across the nation. When the roads are clogged in cities, freight is slowed, and fewer products reach markets at a greater cost. Similarly, manufactured goods from cities can’t easily or as affordably reach consumers in small towns and rural communities.

    Our national transportation network is interconnected — and our broader economy depends on exchange supported by transportation. Public transportation benefits the entire transportation network by making it easier and more cost-efficient to get both people and goods where they need to go. Members of Congress in less populated states, along with their counterparts in more populous states, need to recognize that all constituents — and all local economies—benefit when traffic is reduced and the effects of a growing population nationwide are better managed with public transportation and multi-modal transportation systems.

    Good News: Public Transportation Is Working

    While road congestion will not disappear entirely, public transportation already is providing enormous benefits that take a bite out of the cost of traffic. Without public transportation, the cost of congestion for our nation would be $21 billion higher.

    On an individual level, a person who lives in a two-person household with one less car and uses public transportation can cut their transportation costs substantially. The average person switching from a car to public transportation can save more than $9,700 annually.

    Public transportation is an investment that pays off. It makes no sense to ignore worsening traffic. The best way to tackle traffic woes is to improve investment in our transportation infrastructure and that includes public transportation. Americans everywhere — even on farms in rural communities — will benefit.

  • Public Transportation Brought to You by American Manufacturers

    Public transportation’s economic reach is much greater than simply getting people from Point A to Point B and back again every day. It’s much greater even than the 400,000+ women and men who are directly employed by public transit systems around the country.

    Public transportation supports a diverse supply chain that includes more than 200 manufacturers in more than 30 states. These companies include builders of rail cars and buses, as well as manufacturers of vehicle equipment and parts, such as electric systems, chassis, interiors, communications systems, and more.

    While many public transit manufacturers and suppliers are located in large metropolitan regions, scores of companies are found in smaller cities and states with fewer urban populations.

    Manufacturer Snapshot — ElDorado

    One example of a small-town public transportation supplier is ElDorado, a manufacturer of light- and medium-duty buses. Located in Salina, Kansas, ElDorado is the largest manufacturer of 20- to 26-foot transit buses, which are used by smaller public transit systems and for paratransit.

    ElDorado has been operating for nearly 40 years and, with the support of contracts from public transit systems around the country, the company was able to expand into a state-of-the-art plant in 2001.

    Salina, the seat of Saline County, is a city of about 48,000, located about 81 miles north of Wichita, the closest metropolitan area. ElDorado is a major employer in Salina, supporting approximately 300 jobs.

    Beyond Buses and Railcars

    Public transit requires more than vehicles: stations, shelters, benches, fare and ticketing equipment, signage, and more, all have to be manufactured to support public transit operations.

    Manufacturers and suppliers of equipment for public transit can be found in many states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, and Georgia. At least two shelter manufacturers — Austin Mohawk in Utica, New York, and Handi-Hut in Clifton, New Jersey — are veteran owned or founded.

    U.S. manufacturing has strengthened in recent years, and public transit organizations have a wide choice of equipment made by American manufacturers. In addition, the federal “Buy America” policy encourages public transit systems to contract with American manufacturers. Federal government investments in America’s public transportation infrastructure are a great way to support American workers and manufacturers and stimulate local private-sector economic growth.

  • Public Transit Supporters Share Views About Proposed Budget Cuts

    Voices for Public Transit recently surveyed our members to ask, “What would your world look like without public transit?” You can read what members like you told us in our most recent blog post, “We Asked; You Answered: What Public Transit Cuts Could Mean.

    We also asked people to share their individual stories about how the President’s proposed cuts to public transportation would affect them personally. Here is what your fellow public transit advocates shared with us.

    Job Losses and Increased Poverty
    A Philadelphia transit supporter wrote, “A vast number of citizens in my area travel into and out of the city for their jobs, using public transport — buses and regional trains. Remove those options and you will vastly shrink the pool of workers, which will cripple businesses and needlessly throw families into poverty. There is not a single benefit to any of it, for corporations or individuals. Only in ignorance could someone make a case for it.”

    Increased Costs and Traffic Congestion
    Another transit supporter wrote, “For me, it means increased costs because I will have to buy a vehicle. I’ve chosen to not own a car, because I’m a strong supporter of public transportation and I prefer living in an area with good public transportation access. There is good and extensive public transportation in my region, but congestion is a huge problem, so reduction or total elimination of transit will only worsen congestion and affect the economy of the entire region.”

    Lost Independence
    One Ohio advocate wrote, “[Cutting public transit] would take my independence away. I do not like to ask anybody to take me anywhere unless I absolutely have to. I would not be able to go to the grocery store or other shopping on a limited income.”

    Undermining the Basic Right to Be Mobile
    Finally, a public transportation advocate from the Washington, D.C., area wrote, “Public transportation in DC is already stretched close to the breaking point. Any further funding cuts could inflict irreparable damage to the system and riders who depend on it for their economic and social empowerment. Government needs to increase, not decrease or eliminate, appropriations to public transportation. Convenient, reliable, affordable public transportation serves the well-being of communities and is a basic right of all citizens.”

    The core message we’re hearing from public transit supporters is that President Trump’s proposed cuts will drastically impact the quality of life in our communities, big and small, across the nation.

    For decades, members of Congress from both parties have recognized the value of public transportation to their constituents — and as a result, there has been strong bipartisan support for funding public transportation.

    President Trump’s proposal to gut public transportation funding goes directly against the wishes and wellbeing of the American people. What remains to be seen is whether Congress chooses to follow the President’s recommendations or maintains its commitment to improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure by investing in improved and expanded public transportation for communities of all sizes.

  • Supply Chain: The “Service” in Public Transit Service

    While many public transit systems are public (government) agencies, they often rely on a wide range of private-sector contractors to meet their staffing or service needs. Even vehicle operations — such as driving buses or conducting trains — may be provided by licensed professional contractors rather than agency employees.

    This approach to supporting the services required for public transit operations gives public transit systems greater flexibility, helps them manage costs more effectively, and keeps overall service more affordable and efficient.

    What Types of Services are Contracted?

    According to a study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the majority of American public transit systems contract some or all of their operations and services. Private-sector contractors include a wide array of professionals:

    • Vehicle, system, and facility maintenance
    • Construction
    • Security
    • Technology services
    • Advertising and public relations
    • Vehicle operations

    Contracting brings competitive bidding to public transit operations, which can enable systems to save costs and improve services while supporting millions of private-sector jobs.

    Public-Private Partnerships

    In some regions, public transit agencies enter into long-term, more-comprehensive contracting arrangements known as public-private partnerships, or P3s. Private contractors provide the financing for a public transit project or service, like a new rail line or an extension of bus service, and operate the service in return for ongoing payments from the public transit agency.

    Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD), for example, has a P3 arrangement with a private contractor to run rail service on the city’s east side. This type of contracting can make expanding public transportation more feasible than the public transit agency or local taxpayers having to shoulder the upfront costs alone. While P3s are not appropriate for every public transportation system, they are one solution for raising funds and tapping new ideas to improve public transit.

  • We Asked; You Answered: What Public Transit Cuts Could Mean

    Federal funding plays an important role in bringing public transit to local communities, as well as in maintaining and improving existing public transportation systems. We asked Voices for Public Transit members to tell us how their lives and communities might be affected if that funding were curtailed significantly or eliminated altogether. How would people’s lives change?

    We asked, and you answered. Here are the main takeaways:

    • Traffic Congestion — The number one concern, according to the Voices for Public Transit community, would be increased traffic congestion. In 2014, Americans spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours stuck in traffic, which represents about $160 billion in lost time and fuel costs — or $960 per average motorist. In many communities, traffic congestion is only getting worse and will worsen dramatically if Congress curtails or eliminates federal public transit funding.

    • Job Losses and Increased Poverty — Second only to traffic congestion, job losses and increased poverty were seen as the second-worst community consequence. Public transportation plays a vital role in enabling many Americans who cannot afford to own a car to participate in the economy through full-time work, access to educational opportunities, and more. In addition, according to a Harvard University study, access to public transit is the number one factor for lifting people out of poverty.

    • Increased Costs — To date, more than 74 percent of survey respondents have said the cost of transportation would increase for their household in a world without public transportation. This isn’t surprising given that the average household that gives up a car and uses public transportation instead can save more than $9,700 annually.

    When President Trump in March announced his initial plans to cut public transit funding, it sent a shockwave through our community. On May 22, the President released his full budget proposal, and the outcome for public transit remains disappointing. His proposed public transit cuts reaffirmed possible dire consequences for our public transportation infrastructure and economy. We will be watching closely to see whether Congress decides to act on those recommendations or take a different course.


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