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.

  • Public Transit Helps Veterans Make Connections



    For millions of veterans, public transportation provides essential mobility that helps them return to civilian life. We’ve heard from vets who ride public transit to connect with family and friends, access healthcare, and reach work. For vets who can’t drive—due to age or disability—public transportation is often their only mobility option.

    Veterans Share Their Stories

    Our Voices for Public Transit community is proud to include veterans who have shared their own stories about the benefits of public transportation.

    For Michelle, a veteran in Melbourne, Florida, public transit helps her travel—and helps her family as well.

    “If it weren’t for public transportation, how would I get my loved ones from their homes to their appointments?” she said. “They can’t afford cabs, and they’re too far to walk.”

    For William of Ft. Worth, Texas—a veteran with a 100 percent service-connected disability—is able to carry out his duties as a preacher because of public transportation.

    “Being unable to drive, I completely need public transportation to get to church and visit parishioners,” he told us.

    Public Transit Isn’t Just Helping Veterans Get Around—It Also Provides Job Opportunities

    America’s public transit systems have welcomed veterans into their workforce—at every career level. One of our nation’s fastest-growing transit systems—the Los Angeles Metro—is led by U.S. Army veteran Philip Washington.

    “The public transportation industry has a welcome mat out for returning veterans,” said Washington .

    VIA—San Antonio’s transit system—has filled many of its vacancies with veterans.

    “I’m proud to say that one out of every four VIA employees is a military veteran,” explained Sergio Gonzalez , VIA’s Recruitment and Outreach Administrator and a veteran himself.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) provides a portal to help connect veterans with jobs in transportation, including public transit. Many skills developed in the military—from technical and mechanical know-how to leadership—transfer to careers in public transportation.

    Expanding Public Transit to Support Veterans

    Many public transit systems around the country honor and serve America’s veterans and active service members by providing free or discounted rides. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provides grants to help improve access to transportation options, including public transit, through the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI).

    The evolving need for transportation options requires funding. This is especially true for rural American communities—home to one-third of our nation’s veterans. A 2017 study from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) found transit brings numerous benefits to rural communities and demand for rural public transportation is rising.

    The 2018 federal budget provided increased funding for addressing transportation challenges in rural America—funding that will help veterans and their communities. But we need to keep this momentum going in next year’s budget, as well as support public transit investment in any infrastructure legislation.

  • Why Fund Public Transit with Federal Dollars?



    Last year, the Administration proposed greatly reducing the federal government’s share of its investment in public transit.

    Currently, the federal government provides as much as 50 percent of funding for major public transportation projects. The Administration proposed an infrastructure plan where the federal government would pay only 13.3 - 20 percent of major infrastructure projects. That’s a 30 percent DECREASE, leaving local communities to make up the difference—a gap many communities don’t have the resources to fill by themselves.

    Since passage of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, the federal government has played a leading role in investing and supporting public transit. In fact, throughout our nation’s history, the federal government has supported transportation—including rail, roads, and even lighthouses—because it is so vital in keeping the economy moving.

    What interstate highways did for America in the 1950s, an integrated, multi-modal transportation network built around public transit can do for America now, as we address the needs of today’s economy, and our rapidly growing population. Robust federal funding is a good investment, even according to conservative transportation expert Jack Schenendorf, who states that public transportation, “drives economic growth” and is “essential to America’s prosperity.”

    According to Schenendorf, without federal leadership and dollars, states would “balkanize the nation’s transportation networks, cause a substantial drag on the economy, and bring about a host of other serious problems.”

    What About State and Local Funding?

    State and local funding is essential to public transit projects, and most communities fund a substantial portion of the total cost of infrastructure improvements. But municipalities—especially smaller communities—lack the resources available at the federal level. Faced with transportation investments being a necessity—not a nicety—to remain competitive, states and municipalities could find themselves taking on excessive new debt in order to fund essential public transportation. (Just look at some of the recent news out of Michigan, where employers are rallying around public transit investment after Amazon cited the lack of an efficient regional public transportation network as a key reason Detroit was not selected for Amazon’s HQ2.)

    What About the Private Sector?

    The Administration has also suggested that the private sector can make up the difference in funding transit. Some transportation projects—such as Denver’s transit expansion—have been funded through public-private partnerships or P3s. P3s can be a success, but they cannot take the place of federal dollars, especially when large-scale transportation projects can take several years to come to fruition.

    There’s a Reason Public Transportation Is Public

    One of the express responsibilities of state and federal government entities is providing public investment for infrastructure and services that support the common interests of our communities. We are not only individual communities but also one nation—connected by a shared economy, laws, and the transportation networks that keep commerce flowing. People in one corner benefit when people in other areas can get to work and grow our economy—it’s just as true for the country as a whole as it is in individual towns and cities.

    There is no substitute for federal investment in multi-modal transportation networks. The strength, benefits, and use of an interconnected transportation network depend on consistent federal funding sufficient to enable local communities of all sizes to build the transportation infrastructure that will support the mobility and workforce access that will attract the private economic investment that creates the positive economic growth that generates the revenue that keeps our governments able to perform their functions well. And if we make smart investments now, the positive cycle will keep on going.

  • #FBF Yesteryear’s Streetcars and Today’s Public Transit



    Streetcars have a long and storied past in America. Various kinds of streetcars still run in New Orleans, Omaha, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, San Francisco, and dozens of other cities.

    The streetcar craze began in New York City in 1832, with horses pulling streetcars along fixed tracks set in the road. Later horses were replaced by steam-powered cables and eventually electricity.

    San Francisco opened its now historic cable car system in 1873. Based on mine car operations, the cable car used a mechanism—a “grip”—to latch onto a moving cable. This form of streetcar eventually spread to most large U.S. cities.

    Los Angeles—now known for its car culture—once boasted the largest trolley system in the world, with more than 1,100 miles of track traversing the sprawling metropolitan area.

    The Temporary Disappearance of Streetcars

    For a number of economic, political, and cultural reasons, streetcars fell out of favor, with some systems facing bankruptcy in the 1920s. As automobiles became more prevalent, cars competed for space with streetcars, and eventually undermined streetcar operations and schedules.

    After World War II, Americans could increasingly afford cars, with auto production picking up after wartime limits on manufacturing ended. Bus systems increasingly took the place of streetcars, offering a lower cost alternative. By 1955, most of the nation’s streetcar systems had been dismantled.

    America’s Streetcar Revival

    We are in the midst of a streetcar revival. Beginning in the late 20th century, communities increasingly recognized that roads couldn’t be continuously expanded to accommodate more people and cars. Instead, cities of various sizes began to invest in developing and expanding multimodal transportation networks, including streetcars, bus rapid transit (BRT), and other forms of public transit.

    Portland, Oregon, launched its trend-setting streetcar in 2001, and other cities such as Tucson, Detroit, and Salt Lake City followed. The new streetcar systems not only improved transportation but also helped drive economic development alongside the lines. Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and Tempe all have streetcar systems under construction.

    Many regions have developed plans for streetcars—and other public transit improvements—but still need federal funding. Congress increased our nation’s investment in public transportation programs for Fiscal Year 2018, though the long-term picture for public transit funding remains unclear, which makes it harder to move projects like these forward, given they require several years of dependable funding.

    To bring streetcar systems and other public transit options to more regions, Congress needs to commit again to public transportation funding in the 2019 budget and in any infrastructure legislation. Streetcars are helping improve mobility and revitalize many city centers—and every community should have similar opportunities to benefit from public transportation.

  • A Critical Piece of the Multi-Modal Transit Puzzle



    With 326 million Americans (and counting) needing to be mobile, our nation requires a robust multi-modal transportation network that includes infrastructure for driving, walking, biking, and public transit.

    Millions of Americans depend on multiple forms of transportation in their daily lives. Think about a commuter who drives to a light rail station, parks, and then takes the train into town, or a student who depends on a bikeshare to reach their after-school job, or a person traveling to a doctor’s office taking the subway and then calling a car on an app to return home.

    This mobility puzzle includes multiple forms of transit, and public transportation is the cornerstone of a multi-modal network that can support this kind of inter-connected mobility for communities large and small.

    The Future is Multi-Modal

    Cities, small towns, and suburbs are looking to multi-modal transit solutions as space limitations prevent us from continually expanding roads. Our population is growing, but our physical space is not.

    Transportation experts and community planners increasingly recognize that the future of American transportation must rely on multi-modal networks that combine a wide array of transportation options:

    • Buses, bus rapid transit (BRT), mini-buses, and paratransit
    • Streetcars, commuter rail, regional rail, and high-speed rail
    • Cars, cabs, van pools, and rideshare services
    • Traditional bikes, e-bikes, bikeshare, and walking

    Though not all people use all forms of transportation, each option has value and ultimately contributes to a better travel experience for everyone: Buses and trains help reduce traffic congestion for drivers; cabs and rideshare services make it more feasible for people to walk and bike because they will have other ways of getting to their destinations if weather or other conditions change; the examples are numerous.

    Holistic transportation networks are essential to making mobility and the flow of commerce easier for each community.

    Why Many is Better Than One

    1. Economic Development and Jobs—Public transportation spurs the growth of business clusters and job creation. On the flip side, limited transportation options and access effectively curb growth and labor market expansion for local communities.
    2. Affordability—Access to public transit can lower the overall cost of transportation for households, freeing up dollars for food, healthcare, housing, education, and other essentials. With reduced transportation costs, individuals and households can better respond to financial stress and pursue education and employment opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach.
    3. Generational Shift—Millennials—those who entered adulthood in the early 21st century—use multiple modes of transportation and favor public transit. Now our nation’s most populous generation, millennials have led a decline in driving and created demand for stronger public transit options.

    Our nation is already staying mobile thanks to multi-modal transportation networks anchored by public transit. We must continue to plan and invest for a future that is more and more multi-modal. It is the only solution for keeping our nation moving forward for decades to come.

  • A Tale of Two Public Transit Systems



    The New York City Subway. The Chicago “L.” The Washington Metro. When Americans think about public transportation, they usually picture multi-modal systems. However, our nation is diverse—and so are the public transit systems that serve these different communities.

    Today—we are highlighting some public transit systems folks may not know a lot about. These smaller systems in towns, suburbs, and rural areas provide essential mobility and benefit local economies. Check out our spotlights, one in Michigan and one in Iowa, to uncover interesting facts about these small but mighty public transit systems.

    The Rapid, Michigan

    Grand Rapids has a population of about 200,000 people—and boasts a robust public transit system known as “The Rapid.” This multi-modal system includes buses, paratransit, vanpools, bus rapid transit, and a downtown shuttle. The Rapid—which serves the city and five suburbs—provides more than 11 million rides annually.

    The city’s main transit hub is a commercial anchor for the city. When the central terminal was expanded just over a decade ago, it became a catalyst for transit-oriented development (TOD), attracting $74 million in new investments.

    Investments in the region presented an opportunity for Grand Rapids to leverage and expand its footprint by expanding development near critical bus routes. For example, a two-block area on the city’s West Side is being completely transformed with new retail, office, and residential space. Residents and workers in the $60 million “super block” project will have immediate access to public transit with several Rapid bus lines running adjacent to the development.



    Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, Iowa

    The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority—better known as DART—serves the Greater Des Moines area, an urban metropolis with a combination of bus lines, shuttles, paratransit vehicles, and a rideshare program.

    DART has played a central role in revitalizing the city’s core. In 2012, DART opened a new Central Station, attracting development and new investments to the region. This state-of-the-art facility replaced an aging mall and enabling a prime corridor—Walnut Street—to be redeveloped into a retail district.

    This public transit system is critical in connecting Iowans with job opportunities, access to entertainment, and making the region stronger.

    Case Study: Dee Zee Manufacturing

    Recently, auto accessories manufacture Dee Zee Manufacturing partnered with DART to support a bus line extension that will bring employees right to the company’s main plant. The partnership is expected to help Dee Zee hire and retain employees.

    The strength of the DART system is also creating other unconventional development opportunities. For example, Des Moines has reimagined how to repurpose unused parking spaces while supporting public transit. Now Des Moines is considering transforming unused parking structures into mixed-use developments. One old parking structure was recently demolished to make space for the city’s largest project in decades—a high-rise with offices, a movie theater, a boutique hotel, and apartments.

    The Power of Small Public Transit Systems

    As DART and The Rapid demonstrate, public transit and its benefits are not limited to large cities. Communities of every size benefit from public transportation. Stay tuned to learn more about public transit systems in cities across the nation.