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

Join the Movement

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

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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.