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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
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.
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.
Texas has been singled out as the state with the highest number of egregious highway boondoggle projects in a new report by TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. Despite boasting one of the most extensive highway systems of any state in the country and huge budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19, Texas is planning to spend nearly $3 billion to expand Loop 1604 in San Antonio and build the Southeast Connector in Fort Worth.
These two new boondoggle projects join a list of two other already active boondoggles for a total of eight in the last decade--three more than any other state.
“Texas really needs to get its act together,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group. “TxDoT is already billions of dollars in debt, with billions more on the way, and they still insist on throwing good money after bad, investing more in proven failures. These projects lead to more pollution, more gridlock and more budget shortfalls."
Today, on the 55th anniversary of Ralph Nader's landmark "Unsafe at Any Speed," about the built-in dangers of 1960s cars, as exemplified by the General Motors Corvair, his colleagues led by Joan Claybrook have published a new report: "Safer Vehicles and Highways: 4.2 million U.S. Lives Spared Since 1966." The report makes recommendations to President-elect Joe Biden about how to revitalize and strengthen the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which Claybrook ran during the Jimmy Carter administration.
AUSTIN-- With 58% support in the early vote, Austinites have unofficially passed Proposition A, the ballot measure that will revolutionize getting around Austin. Prop A gives a green light to Project Connect, bringing two new, all-electric light rail lines, a downtown station and tunnel, improvements to current express routes, more electric buses and hundreds of millions of dollars in affordable housing investments.
Consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding vehicle loans and leases have increased sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The analysis suggests that consumers in Texas and across the United States are facing abusive and deceptive practices from the automobile lending industry.
“Personal car ownership was once a symbol of freedom in the United States. Now, for too many Americans, owning a vehicle isn’t a choice, but an expensive necessity,” said Bay Scoggin, Director of TexPIRG Education Fund. “That’s why making it easier to get around without a car, including by building more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly infrastructure and improving the cost and availability of public transit, is an important step to help Americans reduce their exposure to auto debt.”
More than a dozen environmental groups gathered online today to show their support for Project Connect, and the associated ballot measure, Proposition A.
The Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), which organized the event, released research detailing the climate benefits of the proposed public transit investment. The two new urban light rail lines, the improvements to express bus lines, new park and rides, and a downtown tunnel, would all lead to a carbon reduction equivalent to planting more than 50,000 acres of forest, roughly a fourth of the city.
“For the first time in Austin, climate change is officially on the ballot,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Director. “Voters have the opportunity to invest in a generational shift in how we get around town, giving us far more clean, green mobility options. Along with the other environmental leaders here today, TexPIRG is proud to endorse Proposition A.”
According to a report by TexPIRG Education Fund, Texas has the nation’s most proposed highway expansion projects. Research has found these “boondoggles” tend to exacerbate traffic congestion — and the funding they require could instead go toward more effective transportation solutions, such as road repair and increased transit.
In the November general elections, thanks in large part to TexPIRG’s advocacy and outreach, Austin passed Proposition A. The measure will fund the long-awaited Project Connect, which will bring two new, all-electric light rail lines, improvements to current express routes, and more. The plan is estimated to reduce carbon emissions in Austin's air by 43,000 tons annually.
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.
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.
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