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.

Voices For Transit

We All Benefit

Whether you ride or not, public transportation benefits all of us. It reduces pollution, eases traffic congestion, and helps our communities thrive. In cities, suburbs, and rural America, public transit provides vital connections to jobs, education, medical care, and our larger communities. Help us keep America moving.

  • Trends Spur Public Transportation Investment

    We are on the cusp of a new era in public transportation. Last year’s passage of the FAST Act is one important catalyst. But several other factors are converging to attract interest and investment in public transportation—from both the public and private sectors.

    The Rise of Smart Cities

    There is growing interest among business, community, and government leaders to improve cities by integrating and enhancing a range of components through information technology. “Smart City” planning includes making government more effective and efficient, minimizing environmental impacts, driving sustainable economic growth, and—critically—improving and expanding mobility.

    To enable more effective, affordable, and environmentally friendly transportation, smart mobility must support multiple modes of integrated, seamlessly connected transportation. Innovations and investment are helping transform transportation, both public and private, in cities around the country.

    • Payment Systems. About one-third of American public transit systems now use smart cards to make paying fares and accessing vehicles easier. In addition, several companies are partnering with transit systems to develop technology that enables payment via smartphone.
    • Trip Planning. Vehicle tracking and data analysis are improving operations of public transit fleets and enabling consumers to plan trips across multiple modes of transit.
    • Autonomous Vehicles. We’re not there yet, but the need for smart mobility is driving private investment in autonomous vehicle technology. Public transit systems may be some of the first adopters of self-driving vehicles.
    • Safety Technologies. Some technologies are already becoming available to make public transit safer, including collision avoidance systems, pedestrian detection radars, blind spot detection, and driver fatigue alerts.

    Public transit systems are also collaborating with new rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft to enable mobility without use of a private car.

    Population Growth and Millennials

    In the coming decades, the U.S. population will eclipse 400 million people. Millions of people will occupy the footprint of our current cities. With increased urban density, we will need improved public transit systems to keep people mobile.

    Also driving the need for investment in smart cities and public transportation is America’s changing demographics. The Millennial Generation—born between about 1980 and 2000—is now the largest demographic group in the U.S., surpassing the Baby Boomers. Millennials strongly support expanded public transportation options and often travel using multiple modes of transit, including biking and walking.

    While several trends are encouraging investment in public transportation, these investments do much more than improve mobility for Americans. The U.S. has a strong transit manufacturing sector, and the demand for new and replacement vehicles, rail lines, and other equipment will support thousands of American jobs. Public transit investments also spur local economic development and housing construction along routes.

    Driven largely by technological innovations, public transportation is keeping pace with the changing times, proving to be a valuable partner for businesses that support our increasingly on-demand economy.

  • National Train Day Rides On

    On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory, railroad magnate Leland Stanford used a silver hammer to drive “The Last Spike” — made of gold — that connected two pieces of rail to complete the First Transcontinental Railroad.

    This action marked a major American public transportation milestone: Passengers and freight could now travel coast-to-coast via train in a fraction of the time that it took by wagon or ship around South America.

    In 2016, rail systems, stations, museums, and model railroad clubs are celebrating National Train Day on May 7 and May 14 — the dates closest to the May 10 anniversary of the Transcontinental’s completion.

    The Transformative Impact of the First Transcontinental Railroad

    The significance of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad cannot be overstated. It fundamentally changed America and our nation’s history.

    The railroad symbolically and physically united our nation. East and West were now seamlessly connected. Prior to the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, America had established a rail network — but only east of the Missouri River.

    The new cross-country railroad accelerated the settlement of the American West and fostered commerce and economic growth. It also created new opportunities for Americans and recent immigrants. Famed newspaperman Horace Greeley’s 1865 advice, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country” could now be more easily and affordably followed. Given the broad national benefits of the Transcontinental, it makes sense that the project received government support in the form of land grants and government-backed bonds.

    Transportation Infrastructure for the Next 150 Years

    America is at another watershed moment in its history when it comes to our transportation infrastructure; a renewed focus on public transportation is crucial to meeting the mobility needs of a much more diverse, much larger, and much more mobile population and economy.

    Our population is approaching 400 million. More young Americans are moving to cities and urban centers. The growing “knowledge economy” is changing the way we conduct business and the kinds of career opportunities that are available. Public transit will play an increasingly important role as we strive to connect communities and enable people to reach work and expand their horizons in the 21st century.

    While we celebrate the history of trains, we also need to recognize that all forms of rail — including high-speed trains — must be part of America’s transportation future. Trains move more people in less space than private cars on highways. Along with buses, ridesharing, and other forms of public transit, America needs to invest in expanding our rail network so that Americans from all walks of life can reap the economic, environmental, and lifestyle benefits of a multi-modal transportation network.

    Do you ride the train? How would you like to see rail improved in your area? Please share your experiences and ideas with the Voices for Public Transit community.

  • VPT Votes 2016: Where Do the Candidates Stand on Transportation?

    The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) was a good first step to put our nation back on track, but it will still expire in 2020. Whoever we elect President this November will play a critical role in developing the next transportation bill.

    Now that Ted Cruz and John Kasich have exited the race, we’re taking a quick look at where the remaining presidential candidates stand on investing in transportation infrastructure, including public transit.

    Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton has put forth a proposal for improving America’s infrastructure spending, which includes investing an additional $275 billion over five years, on top of FAST Act funding. She not only wants to increase funding, but also to change the way Washington supports local and state projects, with an emphasis on “merit-based” funding.

    While Clinton’s plan only provides broad strokes, it does recognize the need for support for multi-modal transportation projects that combine different forms of travel, such as light rail, biking, and walking. Her plan acknowledges that access to public transit can unlock economic opportunity and “connect Americans to jobs, spur economic growth, and improve quality of life in our communities.”

    Bernie Sanders

    Senator Bernie Sanders wants to reduce the level of carbon emissions from transportation. He also recognizes that our rail system represents a competitive disadvantage to nations such as Japan, Germany, and China. In response, he has pledged to “invest in interstate and intercity high-speed rail systems to bring people and commodities to their destinations more efficiently to save time and money.”

    In 2015, Sanders introduced a bill that called for a five-year, $773 billion federal investment in transportation — a level that exceeds the FAST Act. The proposal, which did not advance in the Senate, included increases for the TIGER grant program and intercity rail.

    Donald Trump

    Donald Trump has not provided details about his plans for improving America’s transportation infrastructure, but he has voiced support for the concept.

    “On the federal level, this [infrastructure improvement] is going to be an expensive investment, no question about that. But in the long run it will more than pay for itself. It will stimulate our economy while it is being built and make it a lot easier to do business when it’s done — and it can be done on time and under budget,” Trump said. Trump has also voiced his support for high-speed rail, recognizing that America has fallen behind other nations.

    Staying Informed

    No matter who is chosen as either party’s presidential nominee, one of these three people will likely become our next President. The decisions he or she makes regarding public transit will have a long-lasting impact on America’s entire transportation system. Staying informed on the candidates’ positions on public transit and transportation in general is vital to supporting a stronger transportation network.

    Just as important as the presidential election are the Congressional and statewide races taking place nationwide. State and local elected officials have just as big, if not bigger, a role to play in determining how public transit grows and evolves in local communities. Below are some resources to help you learn where your local, state, and national candidates stand on public transportation and other issues that impact you.

  • Rethinking Transportation Networks

    A Better Way to Plan for the Future

    Historically, transportation planning—at all levels of government—has too often been fragmented. Road planners focused on roads, public transit planners focused on transit, rail people focused on railroads. Disparate transportation systems didn’t work smoothly together because they hadn’t been planned together as a network. Uncoordinated planning also led to inefficiencies and drove up costs.

    In addition, transportation planning often took place without fully accounting for community impacts. Transportation systems ideally connect neighborhoods, support communities, and provide opportunities for residents. But too often in the past, transportation planners have designed roadways and rail that cut through neighborhoods or directed travelers away from commercial districts.

    All of this needs to change.

    America Needs Multi-Modal Transportation Networks

    The future of American transportation requires that we break down silos. To meet the needs of a growing population, we need coordinated planning efforts that result in robust, flexible multi-modal transportation networks that include public transit, ridesharing services, and bikesharing, as well as driving, safe walking routes, and other options. These systems must be planned and built with community input, with the goal of providing better mobility and an improved quality of life for all.

    Transportation planners and government leaders in particular must think in terms of regional networks, not one-off projects. We must move past thinking about transportation in binary terms — a or b, car vs. bus — and instead think holistically about transportation — a and b and c and d, car and bicycle and bus and streetcar.

    The flexibility and choice of multi-modal networks will also help meet the needs of people who travel at different times and with different destinations. Past transportation planning often focused largely on bringing rush-hour commuters from suburbs and outlying areas to a city center and then back again. Smartphones and sophisticated data analysis are already enhancing current networks, but coordination must take place in planning stages, too.

    Forward-thinking transportation planning must account for a greater range of transportation needs, enabling more geography to be covered during more times of the day via multiple modes of transportation. When multiple modes of transportation intersect and transfers are seamless, networks will be more cost-efficient and speed travel.

    Last year’s passage of long-term transportation legislation, the FAST Act, lays the groundwork for building new transportation networks. Now we need local, state, and federal leaders to work together to build and connect whole transportation networks.

    What transportation additions and improvements would you like to see in your area—or what changes are you already seeing? Please share your story and thoughts with us today.

  • Your Stories Paint a Picture of Public Transit in America

    We are making progress toward our goal of making public transit a national priority. Since passage of the FAST Act last year, we are already seeing new investments, projects, and expansions underway in communities across the country. But don’t take our word for it; check out this story from one Voices for Public Transit member about what’s happening with public transportation in his area:

    I try to take public transportation anytime I can, especially if I have to travel to downtown LA. I can take a bus to the North Hollywood subway station or I can walk to the MetroLink station and take a train to LA. On weekends I can purchase a Metrolink day pass for $10.00 all day and travel anywhere I want to.

    LA is unique; there is an upswing in new rail lines being built. Later this year the Expo line will take passengers to Santa Monica, the first time since the demise of the Red Car in 1961. The Pasadena line will be extended to Azusa and hopefully give some relief to the I-210. This is an exciting time in LA in terms of transportation. I am planning on taking the Expo line to Santa Monica as soon as it opens. Since I am a photographer I am going to take pictures of my journey.

    – Michael G., Los Angeles, CA

    We certainly hope Michael gets some good shots from his first ride on the Expo line—and that he shares them with the Voices for Public Transit community!

    While LA is a good example of public transit development, the same can’t be said for all communities. Here’s a good example of why more areas still need to focus on expanding and strengthening their public transit options:

    Where I live in Butler County, to get to public transportation, I (as a handicapped individual), would have to walk approximately three miles of road from my house that doesn't even have sidewalks. Furthermore, it wouldn't be safe for me or my assistance dog to make such a walk. I am required, therefore, to wait for my wife to drive me or to get a ride from someone else, if they are willing to. I did just that before I retired and now I have found that I am housebound for lack of transportation.

    – Jonathan B., Hamilton, OH

    Jonathan’s story is all too common. Lack of public transit options often leaves some of our most vulnerable populations—particularly low-income individuals, seniors, and disabled Americans—disconnected from society. For those with limited mobility, public transportation plays an even more important role.

    So what’s your public transit story? We want to hear how public transit impacts your life and whether you’re seeing any new developments in public transportation in your area.

    Share your story with us today!

  • Advocate spotlight

    Mirta M.

    There is a point in everyone’s life in which driving becomes difficult or simply has to stop all together due to normal aging (vision and minor neurological and metabolic impairments could deter persons from driving).

    Read More

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