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

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Statement: Infrastructure must be a good deal for our health

A bipartisan group of senators met Tuesday afternoon to prepare for a vote planned Wednesday on a $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that aims to boost federal investment in U.S. infrastructure, including billions for roads, clean water and power infrastructure, according to media reports. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Houston METRO plans to purchase 20 new electric buses

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) staff announced last week a proposal to transition their transit fleet to zero-emission vehicles. This announcement came as part of METRO’s new electric bus initiative, which will add 10 new zero-emission electric buses and 10 electric cutaway buses to their fleet starting in spring of next year.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | TexPIRG | Transportation

House resolution up in committee would transform Texas’ transportation infrastructure

The current transportation system in Texas has been designed, built and centered around the automobile, and it is a public health disaster. A resolution, HJR 109 (Walle), being heard in Tuesday’s House Transportation Committee, would propose a constitutional amendment asking voters to approve expansion of what TxDOT is allowed to do with gas tax revenues. Currently, administrators’ hands are tied, with just one use approved: more roads. Advocates say the expansion would dramatically reshape our state for cleaner and safer mobility. 

Pollution from cars, trucks and other vehicles cuts short an estimated 16,000 lives in Texas each year. Meanwhile, approximately 3,600 people die in vehicle crashes in Texas annually, while tens of thousands more are left severely injured. Yet each year, Americans drive more than 3.2 trillion miles – nearly 10,000 miles per person and more miles per capita than people almost anywhere else in the world. 

“Our current transportation system is wreaking havoc on our health and the health of our planet,” said TexPIRG State Director Bay Scoggin. “Decades of car-centered investment strategies have left us with inefficient and dangerous transportation infrastructure. This resolution is exactly the forward-thinking pro-public interest strategy we need to give Texans more and better options to get around.” 

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Texas has most ‘Highway Boondoggles’ of any state in the nation: report

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."

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG | Transportation

Austin passes Prop A, bringing light rail to Austin

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. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New report: COVID-19 pandemic worsens existing consumer problems with car buying

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.”

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG | Transportation

Austin's choice: Project Connect for clean transportation, fewer global warming emissions

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.”

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter. The number of EVs on America’s streets is at an all-time high. Throughout 2016, sales of plug-in electric vehicles increased nearly 38 percent. In 2017, sales of electric vehicles were up again, increasing 32 percent over the year.

> Keep Reading
Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

> Keep Reading
Report | TexPIRG | Transportation

Growing Greener

Austin is one of America’s fastest-growing cities. This growth has brought dynamism to the city, but has also created environmental problems. Because much of Austin’s growth has taken place at the urban fringe, the addition of new residents and businesses has caused persistent and worsening problems with traffic congestion, air pollution and water quality, as more undeveloped land is converted into new development. To accommodate the continued influx of new people to the city, Austin is currently revising its land development code in a process called CodeNEXT.

> Keep Reading
Report | USPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

From Deceit to Transformation

Volkswagen (VW) perpetuated a fraud on the American people, deceiving consumers into believing that they were getting the best possible combination of performance and sustainability. But VW’s promises were nothing more than lies that significantly harmed our collective health and the health of our environment. As a result of the settlement that followed this fraud, an Environmental Mitigation Trust (EMT) was set up with $2.9 billion dollars to be distributed to states to reduce transportation emissions.

> Keep Reading
Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 2

Twelve proposed highway projects across the country – slated to cost at least $24 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending. These projects, some originally proposed decades ago, are either intended to address problems that do not exist or have serious negative impacts on surrounding communities that undercut their value.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Austin's CapMetro board approves vision plan to electrify transportation

If the CapMetro board gets its way, the future of Austin's public transit system will be electric.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

 

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (CapMetro) board of directors approved a new contract on Wednesday to purchase 197 new electric buses over the next five years for Austin’s public fleets, one of the largest electric vehicle purchases ever made in the United States. 

Blog Post

The Texas Department of Transportation is requesting public comment about their proposed expansion of Interestate 35 through downtown Austin. We don't think the project is a good idea; that's why we highlighted it in our annual Highway Boondoggle report. Here's what we had to say on the record to TxDOT about the plan. 

Transportation

TexPIRG applauds Austin's commitment to a greener future

Austin recently made one of the largest purchases of electric vehicles in the United States after a plan to purchase 197 new buses was approved. TexPIRG applauds this next step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in the city of Austin.

 

Transportation

Houston takes a major step toward a zero-emissions transit fleet with 20 new electric buses

Using public transportation to commute to work or to school shouldn't include a daily dose of toxic pollution. Houston is taking a major step toward solving that problem by proposing to add zero-emission and cutaway buses to its fleet.

 

Transportation

Wasteful North Houston I-45 highway expansion halted

Texans need better transportation options — not a costly and inefficient road expansion. That's why we applaud the U.S. Department of Transportation's decision to call on the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (which PIRG identified as one of the most wasteful highway expansions in the country back in 2019) to stop development.

 

Transportation

New resolution could transform Texas transportation

A Texas House resolution would enable Texans to vote to expand what the state's Department of Transportation is allowed to do with gas tax revenues. Expanding the targets for this money to include public transit, walking and biking infrastructure, and other transportation options would dramatically reshape the state for cleaner and safer mobility.

 
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