21st Century Transportation

Efficient public transportation like intercity rail and clean bus systems make our transportation system better for everyone by reducing traffic congestion and pollution, and increasing our options for getting around.

Reforming our broken transportation system

Changing Transportation: TexPIRG's series of reports on the dramatic changes underway in how Americans want to get around.

In the 20th century, Americans fell in love with the car. Driving a car became a rite of passage. Owning a car became a symbol of American freedom and mobility. And so we invested in a network of interstate highways that facilitated travel and connected the nation.

Now we're in a new century, with new challenges and new transportation needs. We still love our cars, but we also know they harm the environment around us. Americans want choices for getting to work, school, shopping and more. As lifestyles change, Americans — especially the Millennial generation — are changing their driving and transportation preferences.

We need a transportation system that reflects this century.

Consider:

Public transportation ridership nationwide is hitting record highs. This trend is greatest among younger Americans — who will be the biggest users of the infrastructure we build today. Since the 1950s — despite knowing that buses and rail use far less energy and space — we have spent nine times more on highway projects than on public transportation.

In 2015, more than half of Americans — and nearly two-thirds of Millennials, the country’s largest generation — want to live “in a place where they do not need to use a car very often.” Similar trends exist for older adults. Older adults in general put the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets and local investment in public transportation in their top five priorities for their communities.

By reducing traffic and pollution, and increasing our options for getting around, efficient public transportation systems like intercity rail and clean bus systems would make America’s transportation future better for everyone.

But America also needs to repair and maintain its current aging infrastructure. Nearly 59,000 of the nation’s bridges are classified as “structurally deficient.” Instead of building newer and wider highways that will only make America more dependent on dirty fossil fuels, we need to be smart in how we invest in roads, and fix them first.

The good news is that the public is in many ways ahead of Congress in leading the way toward reform. Help us make sure our decision makers recognize the need to invest in a 21st century transportation system.

Check out our video showcasing our work to bring about better transportation options for America's future.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Transportation

CAMPO approves $633 million funding diversion for highway boondoggle | Lauren Banister

On Monday, April 20th, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) voted to divert funding from approved mobility improvement projects to fill a $633 million funding gap in the I-35 reconstruction project.  Lauren Banister, TexPIRG Transportation Associate, offered testimony at the meeting.

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin." CapMetro chooses light rail, downtown tunnel

AUSTIN--Today, CapMetro’s plan for a generational investment in public transit for the city came out. The plan, the details of the long-awaited Project Connect vision map, include light rail recommendations for the two key high capacity corridors, one for the Guadalupe/Lamar corridor and one out to the airport, as well as an underground tunnel through the downtown business district. 

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin. It’s absurd that one of the largest cities in America still lacks high capacity public transit, and that’s why I’m so excited CapMetro is submitting this transformational proposal. Project Connect will help us get around, improve our quality of life, and mitigate the worst aspects of climate change,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the advocacy organization TexPIRG Education Fund. “The best time to build transit was 20 years ago, but the second best time is right now.”

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

TexPIRG Statement on I35 Expansion Boondoggle

On Wednesday, the Texas Transportation Commission came out with a plan to fully fund the proposed expansion of Interstate 35 through downtown Austin. The following can be attributed to Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund Director. 

“Time and again, we see Texas’ transportation priorities are headed in the wrong direction.For eight billion dollars, we could do far better than a project that won’t solve congestion, will increase our burden on the environment, and will exacerbate our reliance on cars.”

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin." CapMetro chooses light rail, downtown tunnel

AUSTIN--Today, CapMetro’s plan for a generational investment in public transit for the city came out. The plan, the details of the long-awaited Project Connect vision map, include light rail recommendations for the two key high capacity corridors, one for the Guadalupe/Lamar corridor and one out to the airport, as well as an underground tunnel through the downtown business district. 

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin. It’s absurd that one of the largest cities in America still lacks high capacity public transit, and that’s why I’m so excited CapMetro is submitting this transformational proposal. Project Connect will help us get around, improve our quality of life, and mitigate the worst aspects of climate change,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the advocacy organization TexPIRG Education Fund. “The best time to build transit was 20 years ago, but the second best time is right now.”

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

TexPIRG Statement on I35 Expansion Boondoggle

On Wednesday, the Texas Transportation Commission came out with a plan to fully fund the proposed expansion of Interstate 35 through downtown Austin. The following can be attributed to Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund Director. 

“Time and again, we see Texas’ transportation priorities are headed in the wrong direction.For eight billion dollars, we could do far better than a project that won’t solve congestion, will increase our burden on the environment, and will exacerbate our reliance on cars.”

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Houston’s $7 billion solution to gridlock is more highways

Like many American cities, Houston is encircled by rings of highways—nine major radial freeways, three ring freeways, and a 180-mile fourth outer ring on the way.

But Houston isn’t just encircled by roads, it’s symbolically, and literally, being choked by cars. It’s consistently ranked as a top city for traffic congestion, ninth-worst for ozone pollution according to the American Lung Association, and a tragic nexus for deaths from car crashes. The annual death toll, according to the Houston Chronicle, is equivalent to “three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston’s airports, killing all aboard.”

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the solution is more roads, specifically, a multiyear, multibillion dollar project to widen and expand the city’s highway infrastructure in an attempt to ease persistent bottlenecks that clog downtown traffic.

 

This isn’t a small upgrade: in the name of accelerating commutes, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) will widen and rebuild nearly 25 miles of highways in the city’s downtown, expanding some to be as wide as the length of two football fields. In addition to years of construction, the “Texas-sized” expansion would displace four houses of worship, two schools, 168 homes, 1,067 multifamily units, and 331 businesses that account for just under 25,000 employees, impacting mostly people of color in low-income neighborhoods.

It would add more impermeable concrete and asphalt infrastructure, plus future maintenance costs, to a city that is still recovering from some of the worst floods in recent memory. Resilience is a serious concern post-Harvey, and as flood maps are updated as flood risks evolve, the addition of concrete to the landscape could make the next storm’s impact worse. Houstonians still recall how highways became channels of water that cut off neighborhoods from aid during the worst of the flooding.

To critics, the I-45 project, named after the main highway that will be impacted, is an urban renewal reboot, a modern version of the freeway expansion projects that wrecked neighborhoods and divided cities in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Why would more urban highways and lanes of traffic—especially at a time when many cities are actively removing or capping their highways—be a foregone conclusion in any effort to mitigate Houston’s serious congestion problem?

> Keep Reading

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 5

America’s aging roads and bridges need fixing. Our car-dependent transportation system is dangerous, harms our communities, and is the nation’s leading source of global warming pollution. And more than ever before, it is clear that America needs to invest in giving people healthier, more sustainable transportation options.

> Keep Reading
Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Blueprint for Tomorrow

INFRASTRUCTURE IS AT THE HEART of America’s greatest challenges. The infrastructure investments made by generations past have contributed to improved health and welfare, and to the nation’s unparalleled economic prosperity. But the infrastructure decisions of the past have also cast a long shadow, leaving America to deal with the burden of lead water pipes that jeopardize our children’s health, fossil fuel pipelines that contribute to global warming, and transportation and solid waste infrastructure that no longer serve today’s needs.

> Keep Reading
Report | TexPIRG | Transportation

Paying for Electric Buses

Most of America’s school and transit buses run on diesel, a highly-polluting fuel, but there is a better option. All-electric buses are here, and they’re cleaner, healthier and save money for transit agencies, school districts and bus contractors to run in the long-term. Diesel is internationally recognized as a dangerous carcinogen, and diesel exhaust contributes to several respiratory illnesses, including asthma. Children are particularly susceptible to the negative health effects of diesel exhaust because their lungs are still developing.

> Keep Reading
Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 4

> Keep Reading
Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses

More than 60 percent of the transit buses run on diesel, while just 0.2 percent of buses are all-electric. Numerous studies have shown that inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from buses poses a particular public health risk; buses primarily travel where there are lots of people, including in the more densely-crowded areas of cities, on the busiest roads, and near schools.

 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Transportation

CAMPO approves $633 million funding diversion for highway boondoggle | Lauren Banister

On Monday, April 20th, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) voted to divert funding from approved mobility improvement projects to fill a $633 million funding gap in the I-35 reconstruction project.  Lauren Banister, TexPIRG Transportation Associate, offered testimony at the meeting.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

The cyclist’s dilemma: How safety, climate and air pollution collide on America’s roadways | Matt Casale

Walkers and bikers are getting killed at alarming rates -- at a time when we need this type of transportation more than ever. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Solving the vehicle pollution crisis will take 'a little bit from everybody'

The soot and smog spewed by cars and trucks affects all of us. And we all have a part to play in the solution.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Electrify METRO Coalition Letter | Bay Scoggin

Dear Chair Patman,

We write you today to urge METRO to transition its buses to a clean, all-electric fleet.

We applaud the work METRO employees do every day, safely carrying thousands of people, including many who cannot or do not wish to drive, to work, school and more. METRO buses and light rail are playing a critical role in reducing traffic and air pollution. Furthermore, we appreciate the efforts METRO has taken to convert buses to hybrid technology, limit idling, and initiate an electric bus pilot program. 

However, most METRO buses are still powered by diesel—a dirty fossil fuel that gives off toxic emissions—endangering the health of the people who ride them and contributing to global warming. 

The good news is we have the technology to start building cleaner, healthier cities and neighborhoods. Dramatic declines in battery costs and improvements in performance, including expanded driving range, have made electric buses a viable alternative to diesel-powered and other fossil fuel buses. 

Replacing all of METRO’s diesel-powered transit buses with electric buses could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 43 million pounds each year. 

Electric buses can also be more affordable than fossil fuel buses in the long run, since they have 30 percent fewer parts, no exhaust systems, their braking systems last longer, and they don’t require oil changes or fossil fuels. Over the lifetime of the bus, an electric transit bus can avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs over an equivalent diesel or natural gas bus, from lower fuel and maintenance costs. 

We urge you to no longer purchase any more diesel buses. Putting new diesel buses on the road today will pollute our city for at least twelve more years. Instead, as buses are ready to be retired, please replace them with clean electric ones.

The Houston region is receiving $32 million from the Volkswagen Settlement funds, but that money is yet to be dispersed. This is a great opportunity for METRO to start transitioning to clean electric buses. 

 

We look forward to working with you to one day give all Houstonians the opportunity for a “whisper-quiet, green ride.”

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste, Transportation

Before we spend $2 trillion, report recommends a 'Blueprint for Tomorrow'

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Transportation

Solving the vehicle pollution crisis will take 'a little bit from everybody'

The soot and smog spewed by cars and trucks affects all of us. And we all have a part to play in the solution.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Electrify METRO Coalition Letter | Bay Scoggin

Dear Chair Patman,

We write you today to urge METRO to transition its buses to a clean, all-electric fleet.

We applaud the work METRO employees do every day, safely carrying thousands of people, including many who cannot or do not wish to drive, to work, school and more. METRO buses and light rail are playing a critical role in reducing traffic and air pollution. Furthermore, we appreciate the efforts METRO has taken to convert buses to hybrid technology, limit idling, and initiate an electric bus pilot program. 

However, most METRO buses are still powered by diesel—a dirty fossil fuel that gives off toxic emissions—endangering the health of the people who ride them and contributing to global warming. 

The good news is we have the technology to start building cleaner, healthier cities and neighborhoods. Dramatic declines in battery costs and improvements in performance, including expanded driving range, have made electric buses a viable alternative to diesel-powered and other fossil fuel buses. 

Replacing all of METRO’s diesel-powered transit buses with electric buses could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 43 million pounds each year. 

Electric buses can also be more affordable than fossil fuel buses in the long run, since they have 30 percent fewer parts, no exhaust systems, their braking systems last longer, and they don’t require oil changes or fossil fuels. Over the lifetime of the bus, an electric transit bus can avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs over an equivalent diesel or natural gas bus, from lower fuel and maintenance costs. 

We urge you to no longer purchase any more diesel buses. Putting new diesel buses on the road today will pollute our city for at least twelve more years. Instead, as buses are ready to be retired, please replace them with clean electric ones.

The Houston region is receiving $32 million from the Volkswagen Settlement funds, but that money is yet to be dispersed. This is a great opportunity for METRO to start transitioning to clean electric buses. 

 

We look forward to working with you to one day give all Houstonians the opportunity for a “whisper-quiet, green ride.”

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste, Transportation

Before we spend $2 trillion, report recommends a 'Blueprint for Tomorrow'

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Make VW Pay, Transportation

Some states are spending funds from VW 'Dieselgate' settlement on diesel

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Our 'Driving into Debt' report highlights the impact of risky auto loans and car ownership

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

On Monday, April 20th, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) voted to divert funding from approved mobility improvement projects to fill a $633 million funding gap in the I-35 reconstruction project.  Lauren Banister, TexPIRG Transportation Associate, offered testimony at the meeting.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

AUSTIN--Today, CapMetro’s plan for a generational investment in public transit for the city came out. The plan, the details of the long-awaited Project Connect vision map, include light rail recommendations for the two key high capacity corridors, one for the Guadalupe/Lamar corridor and one out to the airport, as well as an underground tunnel through the downtown business district. 

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin. It’s absurd that one of the largest cities in America still lacks high capacity public transit, and that’s why I’m so excited CapMetro is submitting this transformational proposal. Project Connect will help us get around, improve our quality of life, and mitigate the worst aspects of climate change,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the advocacy organization TexPIRG Education Fund. “The best time to build transit was 20 years ago, but the second best time is right now.”

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

On Wednesday, the Texas Transportation Commission came out with a plan to fully fund the proposed expansion of Interstate 35 through downtown Austin. The following can be attributed to Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund Director. 

“Time and again, we see Texas’ transportation priorities are headed in the wrong direction.For eight billion dollars, we could do far better than a project that won’t solve congestion, will increase our burden on the environment, and will exacerbate our reliance on cars.”

Transportation

Austin approves big expansion in clean, electric public transit

The Austin City Council and Capital Metro board of directors have unanimously approved the TexPIRG-backed Project Connect System Plan, which would dramatically expand the city's light rail transit system, its fleet of zero-emission electric buses and the routes those buses take.

 

Transportation

House transportation bill prioritizes fixing infrastructure, sustainable investment

Federal lawmakers have put forward the INVEST in America Act — a nearly $500 billion transportation spending bill which prioritizes repairing existing infrastructure over new highway projects, and contains key provisions for more sustainable investments.

 

Transportation

Texas commission heads the wrong way on $8 billion highway project

The Texas Transportation Commission recently released a plan to fully fund an expansion of Interstate 35 through downtown Austin. But evidence shows that highway projects such as these are more often boondoggles, wasting taxpayer dollars while exacerbating, not alleviating, traffic congestion.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

2018 was the deadliest year for cyclists since 1990

Seventeen pedestrians and two cyclists were killed every day, on average, in traffic crashes in 2018. PIRG Transform Transportation Campaign Director Matt Casale explains that cyclists face a dilemma: walking or biking are convenient and pollution-free modes of transportation, but they're also dangerous in a world that's been built car-first.

 
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