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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 Public Transit

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. Sign Up Today»

  • International Models for Public Transportation: Hong Kong’s Mini-Buses

    On occasion, we’ve left the borders of the U.S. to look at public transportation systems in other parts of the world. This virtual globe-trotting gives us the chance to learn what might be possible here in the U.S. as we strengthen and expand American public transportation.

    In this installment, we’re headed to Hong Kong, which has adopted a very successful solution for reaching residents who do not live close to main bus routes or rail lines; namely, Public Light Buses (PLBs), also known as mini-buses.

    Small Buses Reach Further, Offer Flexibility

    Hong Kong has a robust multi-modal public transportation system that includes rail, a tram (streetcar) system, and buses. A hilly city, Hong Kong also has funiculars and a system of public escalators and moving sidewalks. As a result of this extensive public transportation infrastructure, the city has the highest rate of public transportation use in the world; more than 90 percent of local trips are made using public transportation.

    Though Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it extends over 426 square miles. (As a point of comparison, Manhattan covers just less than 34 square miles). The city’s expanse, combined with its hilly terrain, means that large buses, let alone rail, cannot reach every neighborhood. To extend public transportation even further, Hong Kong maintains a unique system of about 4,350 mini-buses.

    Seating just 16 people—no standing is allowed—Hong Kong’s mini-buses reach far and wide across the city and into suburban areas. The system is broken into two types of color-coded buses, green and red. Most mini-buses are green and operate on fixed routes with fixed schedules, though riders can also sometimes flag down green mini-buses. Red mini-buses operate more like taxicabs. They do not have fixed routes, schedules, or even fares. All are set by individual drivers, who can respond on the fly to passengers’ needs.

    Could PLBs Be Adopted By Our Nation?

    In the U.S., public transportation systems serving rural areas, small towns, and suburbs sometimes use smaller buses. In addition, paratransit services often use mini-buses or vans, providing on-demand service.

    America’s use of mini-buses could be extended further, in various types of communities, drawing on the model of Hong Kong’s PLBs. By using mini-buses instead of full-size buses, some communities could offer more routes and more frequent service—one of the benefits of Hong Kong’s PLB system. In addition, the flexibility of Hong Kong’s red mini-bus service might be adopted to help customize public transportation to the specific needs of riders and situations. For instance, mini-buses might be more active during inclement weather or in response to seasonal activities (e.g., transportation to a holiday parade).

    Have you ever ridden a Hong Kong mini-bus? Do you have a story to share about public transportation in your community—or elsewhere in the world? Share it with Voices for Public Transit by posting on Facebook or our website.



    Photo: "Red-maxicab-HK" by mailer_diablo - Self-taken (Unmodified). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

  • You don’t have to be a Millennial to Travel Like One

    Multiple studies over the past couple of years have confirmed that people in America are driving less, particularly members of the Millennial generation: 18 – 34 year-olds.

    Last year, Voices for Public Transit highlighted two separate studies that found most Millennials use several different modes of transportation each week, and they make choices about where to live and work based on having flexible transportation options.

    But even people who aren’t in the Millennial age group are choosing to use public transportation and other, complementary modes of transportation, like bike shares and van pools, not to mention walking, with greater frequency. Multi-modal transportation systems are the wave of the future, and Voices for Public Transit is all for it!

    So, how “Millennial” are you when it comes to transportation? Take this new quiz from the American Public Transportation Association to find out:
    http://www.publictransportation.org/news/millenial-quiz/index.html

    Be sure to share your results on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #Voices4Transit!

  • Making Public Transportation More Effective and Cost-Efficient

    Voices for Public Transit is dedicated to winning increased investment in American public transportation. Our economy and communities, driven by American mobility, cannot fully thrive if we settle as a nation for the status quo when it comes to public transportation. We need our government to develop a new vision for public transportation—and we need more dollars.

    But we can also learn to use public transit funding more effectively. How do communities—from rural counties to small towns to cities—and states determine what public transportation projects will produce the best results for the investment? What criteria should we use to judge a public transportation proposal? Massachusetts is making a serious effort to answer these questions.

    The Example of Massachusetts’ Project Selection Advisory Council

    In 2013, Massachusetts enacted legislation to fund more than $3 billion in transportation projects, including public transportation, over five years. Under the legislation, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) formed a special Project Selection Advisory Council (PSAC) tasked with making recommendations for “a more uniform, transparent, and data-driven prioritization process” for state transportation system projects. The proposed selection criteria include the following:

    • Safety

    • Mobility/Access

    • Economic Development

    • Social Equity and Fairness

    • Healthy Transportation

    • System Preservation

    These criteria are all anchored by proposed metrics as well. For instance, what is the travel-time reduction of a proposed project? Or, what will be the impact on greenhouse gas emissions?

    Public Comments Welcome—in Massachusetts and Beyond

    Throughout the fall, the Massachusetts PSAC will be holding a series of public hearings to gather feedback about the draft project selection criteria. These meetings (locations, dates, and times can be found here) provide a good opportunity for Massachusetts members of Voices for Public Transit to share their views about the importance of public transportation. The first meeting was held July 29, but there are still several other opportunities to get involved in the discussion.

    Transportation agencies and other government bodies often hold public meetings about transportation projects in order to share their plans and listen to input from constituents. These meetings offer Voices for Public Transit advocates the chance to be heard, and we encourage you to attend when these opportunities arise in your area. It’s critical that officials at all levels of government recognize the strong community support for public transportation. You can often find schedules of upcoming meetings on the websites of local transportation systems, regional transportation agencies, and state departments of transportation.

    If you attend a public transportation meeting or hearing, tell the Voices for Public Transit community about it. You can post on our Facebook page, hit our #Voices4Transit hashtag on Twitter, or share your story on our website.

  • The Tale of Two Transit System Launches

    In late July—just one day apart—two new major American public transportation operations got underway. On Friday, July 25, an estimated 17,000 passengers enjoyed an inaugural ride on the Sun Link—the brand new streetcar system in Tucson, Arizona. And a day later, on July 26, 32,000 Washington-area residents and visitors rode the DC Metro’s new Silver Line—the first entirely new line to be added to the DC rail system since 1991.

    In both cities, there is clearly a strong demand for public transportation. Washington has notoriously congested roadways, and while Dulles International Airport is served by public transit bus lines, it cannot be accessed by Metro rail.

    Tucson is growing rapidly and has seen per capita public transit ridership grow by 25 percent over the last five years. With these changes, the city needed improved public transit options that would reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.

    Public Transportation Benefits Two Very Different Cities

    To put it mildly, Washington and Tucson are very different cities. The Washington metropolitan area—the 7th most populous in the U.S.—is home to nearly 6 million people, and it draws commuters from the Baltimore area, which includes another 2.7 million people. In addition, Washington attracts several million visitors every year, many of whom get around town using public transportation.

    In contrast, the Tucson area, with about 1 million people, is the 53rd-largest metropolitan area in the nation. The city has a densely populated central corridor that stretches four miles and takes in the University of Arizona (UA) and downtown.

    For Tucson, a new streetcar line makes perfect sense. Nearly 100,000 people live within a quarter-mile of the Sun Link route, and many other residents can access the streetcar system via Sun Tran buses. Sun Link contributes to the livability of the city and improves access to services, jobs, and the UA campus. Already, since the Sun Link service was announced, a remarkable $1.5 billion has been invested in housing, offices, restaurants, and retail long the streetcar’s route.

    While the Washington Metro has operated since 1976, service did not reach residents in parts of northern Virginia. In addition, the inability to access Dulles airport via the Metro rail added challenges—and headaches—for visitors and residents alike. The Silver Line now reaches several area suburbs and will eventually provide access to Dulles when the second phase of the new route is completed in 2018.

    United by Federal Support

    In spite of their differences, Tucson’s Sun Link and the Metro Silver Line are united by federal support. Sun Link received nearly $83 million in federal funding, about 42 percent of the total cost of the project. Silver Line construction was supported by $900 million in federal funding. While local funding is crucial for public transportation projects, federal support is undeniably instrumental for such large-scale projects.

    Other cities and communities—including yours!—should have similar opportunities to launch or expand local public transportation systems. But for American public transportation to serve a greater cross-section of our nation—including suburbs, small towns, and rural areas—we need a new era of federal government support for public transit. More and more people are using public transportation today—the most since the 1950s—and our nation’s transportation policies must support this sea change in how Americans are getting around.

    Have you shared your views about public transportation? One great way to do so is to post comments and stories on the VPT website, as well as photos and comments on the Public Transportation Facebook and Twitter profiles.  Be sure to participate in the DOT’s call for the American people to make noise by using the hashtag #InvestNow on social media.

    (Photo Credit: Martin Falbisoner)

  • U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx Calls for Public Support at USDOT Town Hall

    Just days after Congress passed yet another short-term fix for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx convened a webcast town hall on the topic, “Moving from Uncertainty to Long-Term Transportation Investment.” Several thousand people from around the country, including members of Voices for Public Transit, joined online to hear the discussion.

    The majority of the town hall was devoted to a lengthy Q&A session, in which Foxx not only called on Congress to pass long-term funding for transportation, but to support a plan for the future rather than the past. He said, “We have to break the mold” by investing in 21st-century transportation options, not just maintaining our current systems.

    The Need for “Noise”

    Throughout the town hall, Foxx emphasized that the American people must drive the future of American transportation, including public transit, if we are to see real solutions take hold. “The country needs to get a little noisier on this,” he said.

    Foxx emphasized that Congress should not wait until next May—the deadline of the HTF funding extension—to move forward with comprehensive transportation legislation. “Engage your Member of Congress on long-term funding, explain why we can’t wait until May.” A push from the public, according to Foxx, will give “courage to Congress.”

    Transportation is a Bipartisan Issue Impacting All Americans

    During the town hall, Foxx emphasized the importance of expanding transportation options to meet the needs of all Americans. He notably highlighted the need to provide better transportation options for rural Americans. Transportation projects in rural areas have been especially vulnerable when short-term transportation legislation fails to provide consistent, predictable funding.

    Because transportation affects all Americans, it should be a bipartisan issue, according to Foxx: “We don’t have Republican roads or Democratic bridges.” In spite of divisions in Congress, Foxx expressed hope that lawmakers would reach across party lines on behalf of the American people. “I think we have a moment where Republicans and Democrats, if the American people are speaking up, can forge an alliance to get us unstuck and to get America moving again.”

    Looking Ahead

    Foxx covered a range of other transportation topics, many of which we’ll explore in the coming weeks and months. We plan to examine the price our nation pays for funding transportation with short-term fixes instead of comprehensive, long-term legislation. We’ll continue to explore how public transportation projects are becoming more cost-efficient—and what more can be done. We’ll also look at how public transportation supports jobs and economic growth. And we’ll be asking you to share your views—forcefully and frequently—with Congress. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Foxx invoked this same logic, saying, “The American people are going to have to make this a problem that Congress can’t avoid solving.” We are hopeful that he’s right.

  • Congress Passes Short-Term Fix for Highway Trust Fund

    At the eleventh hour, Congress finally passed a stopgap measure that shores up the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and the Mass Transit Account until May 2015. Read more here. If Congress hadn’t taken action on this issue, cuts to transportation funding would have begun today.

    For the short term, this is good news. Transportation projects already underway—including public transportation improvements and maintenance—can continue. But what happens next?

    First, Thanks to all the Voices for Public Transit Who Spoke out on this Issue

    Voices for Public Transit advocates deserve a big “Thank You!” for helping spur Congress to fix the HTF and public transportation funding. Together, in just a few weeks, we sent more than 20,000 emails to Congress highlighting the need to address the immediate public transportation funding crisis.

    We Still Need a Long-Term Commitment to Public Transportation

    While fixing the HTF was critical for American public transportation, Congress must do more. We need a comprehensive, long-term transportation bill that includes a stronger commitment to improve and expand public transportation across America. We need stable, long-term public transportation funding so that public transportation can keep moving and expanding to meet the growing needs of communities of all sizes.

    Voices for Public Transit helped avert a major crisis by winning support for the HTF fix. Now we need to look forward with increased resolve. Over the next 10 months, we must keep up the pressure and increase the volume of our advocacy. We must make Congress recognize that they must do more—and that delaying a long-term public transportation bill cannot be an option any longer.

    Once again, a big thanks to the entire Voices for Public Transit community! Now let’s get ready to redouble our efforts.

  • Austin, Texas, Advances Rail Project

    Much loved for many attributes, including its fabled 6th Street music scene and the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival and conference, Austin is finally on track to address something not so popular—its traffic congestion.

    After extensive community, government, and business discussions, the city is working to improve congestion issues by doubling down on public transportation. In June, the Austin City Council, along with Austin’s regional transit provider, Capital Metro, voted to approve a transportation plan that includes a 9.5-mile urban rail route through the heart of the city. The new system would take an estimated 10,000 cars off Austin’s roads every day.

    If Austin’s proposed urban rail system becomes a reality, it will alleviate traffic, create new jobs, and improve the quality of life for Austinites. But several hurdles must still be cleared before ground is broken and the project can move forward.

    Projected Costs and Funding

    Like many public transportation projects, funding is arguably the largest hurdle for Austin’s new rail line. The total estimated budget is $1.38 billion. Currently, the city plans to seek half of the project’s funding from the Federal Transit Administration. Winning federal funds, however, depends largely on two factors. First, the city must come up with the other half of the money to receive federal matching funds. Second, the federal government itself must stabilize and increase transportation funding—beginning with fixing the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund. (You can learn more and take action on this issue now.)

    Next month, the Austin City Council votes on placing a $1 billion bond measure on the November ballot in part to fund the rail project. If the City Council chooses not to pursue a bond measure, an alternative funding plan will be needed. Growing public and business community support could help propel a bond measure forward. Already diverse organizations like the Sierra Club’s Austin chapter, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and other groups are supporting the rail plan.

    Lessons from Austin

    Austin is moving in the right direction with its robust urban rail plan. By expanding public transportation, the city aims to address current traffic congestion and future growth. At the same time, Austin’s experience illuminates key points that other communities—and our nation as a whole—should take to heart:

    • Start Planning Now—With a growing U.S. population, cities, suburbs, and small towns need to plan for public transportation infrastructure updates that can meet anticipated demands. Without public transportation, traffic congestion and air pollution will worsen, diminishing the quality of life.

    • Build Community Support—Large-scale projects require broad-based community support. Unlike Austin, some cities and communities have seen projects falter because of divided support. Building support begins with education about the benefits of public transportation.

    • Advocate for Federal Leadership and Funding—In the U.S., public transportation funding, regulation, and leadership comes from the federal government. Local public transportation planning and community support benefit from strong advocacy targeting Washington. 

  • Utah Transit Authority Named Top Public Transportation System of the Year

    Many Americans still associate public transportation with long-established urban systems, such as the New York City subway, the Boston T, or the Chicago L. But public transportation reaches more communities of all sizes than ever before, and great innovations are emerging in some unexpected places.

    Now the Wasatch Front region of central Utah can proudly claim that it has a world-class public transportation system. Earlier this summer, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) received the 2014 Outstanding Public Transportation System award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

    UTA’s core service territory spans three counties: Weber County in the north, Salt Lake County in the middle, and Utah County on the south end, with bus service that reaches into three additional counties: Davis, Box Elder, and Tooele. Altogether, the system covers 1,600 square miles and serves 80 percent of the state’s population.  The multi-modal system includes buses, a commuter train, light rail, a streetcar line, paratransit service, and bus rapid transit. In addition to providing transportation for city and suburban commuters, UTA provides service to and from local ski areas and helps meet the transportation needs of residents of the numerous smaller towns along the Wasatch mountain range.

    Rapid Expansion Earns UTA Deserved Recognition

    UTA’s national award reflects the system’s stunning achievements over the last few years, culminating in a record 2013 that saw the opening of four new rail lines and more than 44 million boardings. In just five years, UTA built 70 miles of rail, including heavy commuter rail, light rail, and a streetcar line. This massive public transportation expansion was completed two years ahead of schedule and $300 million under budget.

    “UTA is the best large public transportation system in North America,” said APTA president and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “As a leader in innovation, both in operations and sustainability, UTA is a role model for other public transit agencies.”

    Learning from UTA’s Example

    UTA is a model public transportation system because of its commitment to innovation, efficiency, and sustainability. Fundamentally, too, UTA and its supporters have succeeded by being both ambitious and realistic. In carefully measured—but rapidly implemented—steps, the system has added new and expanded services. Success has led to more success, as ridership has mushroomed and previous skeptics have been won over.

    The system has also benefited from having committed and vocal political support, with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker serving as a key promoter and coalition builder. You can help win improved and expanded public transportation in your region by supporting local elected officials and candidates who make public transportation a cornerstone of their leadership.

  • DART Reduces Costs, Helps the Environment with Natural Gas-Powered Buses

    DART—or Dallas Area Rapid Transit—is transforming its bus system with an eye to the future. By the end of 2015, DART’s entire fleet of approximately 650 buses and paratransit mini-buses will run on affordable, clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG). The new buses provide comfort, save taxpayer money, help cut pollution, and enable DART to provide public transportation to an area covering 13 cities and 700 square miles.

    A Smart Plan for a Diverse Area

    As in many regions, buses are the cornerstone of Dallas-area public transportation. While DART operates light rail and commuter rail, buses provide the greatest reach and help connect people from local neighborhoods to a vast array of destinations, as well as to rail hubs. The system includes about 120 routes and 12,500 stops. Riders from outlying suburbs can reach downtown Dallas—or cross the entire region—starting with a bus stop near their home. Buses provide flexibility and geographic coverage that cannot be matched by rail alone.

    To make buses an attractive option for as many area residents as possible, DART has invested in state-of-the art vehicles that provide comfort, safety, and convenience. Low floors and an electronic flip-out ramp make boarding and exiting easier for people with disabilities or those who use wheelchairs. Composite floors make for a smoother, more comfortable ride. Onboard video screens provide real-time route information. These are just a few features of the new buses.

    Clean, Affordable, Domestic Fuel

    Public transportation benefits everyone—even those who do not use it. In the case of DART’s new buses, the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) provides several important benefits for the larger community.

    CNG is a much cleaner fuel than diesel. When a CNG bus passes pedestrians, bike riders, or other cars, it does not leave behind the fumes, odor, or smoke of a traditional diesel bus. By using CNG instead of diesel, DART is also greatly reducing its carbon footprint. DART’s conversion to cleaner buses is the equivalent of taking 3,045 cars off the road.

    In addition to reducing air pollution, CNG reduces costs for DART—which is partially funded by area taxpayers. Over the next decade, DART expects to save $120 million in fuel costs. In addition, CNG fuel is produced in Texas and other parts of the country. DART buys domestic fuel through a long-term contract with Clean Energy, which contributes to the local and U.S. economy and helps reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

    Communities across the U.S. should have the opportunity to follow DART’s lead. Bus systems can serve communities of virtually any size, helping people reach work, access healthcare and other services, and connect with friends and family. Our nation’s transportation policies must give every community the opportunity to establish, improve, and expand local public transportation. That’s what Voices for Public Transit is fighting for—and we’re determined to win.

    Watch the video on DART’s new CNG-fueled bus fleet here: http://youtu.be/f4dSoAisFP4.

  • Mayors Call on Congress to Fix the Highway Trust Fund

    Across the country, mayors from cities large and small are publicly calling on Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund. They are sounding the alarm and letting lawmakers know that transportation infrastructure is vital to their local economies, mobility, health, and safety.

    “In order for the City of Dayton, as well as the entire country, to continue to address infrastructure needs, it is imperative that federal funding remain at or be increased over current levels,” wrote Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley in a recent blog post. “Funding of the Highway Trust Fund must be a high priority and new sources of revenue must be identified to ensure it remains solvent into the future.”

    Writing of Dayton’s decrepit roads and bridges, Mayor Whaley said, “[I]nfrastructure is aging and deteriorating, and funding to address these roads and bridges is very limited.”

    In Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mayor Tom Henry and other local leaders used a startling display to make a similar point. Standing in front of a school bus with a chunk of bridge smashed into it, Mayor Henry said, “They [Congress] must do something to provide adequate funds.” Union official David Frye explained the dramatic display, “This bus is symbolic, but the stakes are real. On average, 25 bridges a year collapse in the United States. Which bridge will be next?”

    Beyond Roads and Bridges – Mayors Look to the Future

    While city mayors address immediate transportation funding—and the need to maintain current infrastructure—they are also looking toward the future for a long-term solution that includes expanded public transportation.

    “[W]hat happens to the projects sitting in the pipeline?” asked Tampa, Florida, Mayor Bob Buckhorn.  “They will be delayed. They will be scaled back. Or, they’ll be put on hold all together. And, what about projects that aren’t yet in the pipeline, but we know we’ll need, like mass transit?.... Having good, reliable transportation options is vital to our long-term economic competitiveness as a city and as a country; it only makes sense to come up with a long-term, sustainable plan to support transportation.”

    At a recent event highlighting the need for federal investment in transportation, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said emphasis must be placed on public transit: “Mass transit needs to be a critical component of any new infrastructure because the population growth in America is coming back to cities, and to do what you need to do there has to be recalibration of roads and mass transit.”

    Is Congress Listening?

    It remains to be seen if Congress is listening to the nation’s mayors. You can help amplify their message by joining with thousands of Voices of Public Transit advocates around the country who have written Congress to say, “Fix the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account!” Take action now!

  • Highway Trust Fund Crisis: States Brace for Disruption of Transportation Projects

    With a crisis looming, some states have already begun to put the brakes on transportation projects—including public transportation improvements—fearing the end of federal transportation funding unless Congress fixes the Highway Trust Fund and its Mass Transit Account.

    According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, up to 6,000 transportation projects—including rail maintenance, road and bridge repairs, and public transit expansions—could be put on hold this summer.

    Most states rely on federal funding—largely from the Highway Trust Fund—for the majority of their transportation infrastructure budgets. A few states—including Alaska, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Vermont—rely on federal funds for more than 80 percent of their transportation budget. These states will be especially hard hit by the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

    U.S. DOT Issues Warning as States Prepare for Worst

    Just weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx sent a letter to every state department of transportation, warning that the situation is “dire”: “[I]f the trust fund becomes insolvent, DOT will likely need to delay some reimbursements owed to your agency…. We have and will continue to sound the alarm bell that hundreds of projects and thousands of jobs are at risk.”

    The uncertainty of federal funding has prompted states to begin altering transportation planning:

    • The Oregon Department of Transportation has already postponed all new projects until at least next summer. While most delayed projects focus on roads, ramps, and interchanges, projects to improve public transit are also being postponed. It’s worth noting that delays of road widening and congestion relief projects impact the operations of public bus systems as well.

    • In Alaska, the Alaska Department of Transportation said its upcoming bills might only be partially paid if federal funding dries up. For next fiscal year, Alaska has budgeted $1.2 billion for transportation projects, with the expectation of $1 billion—or 83 percent—coming from federal funding. This budget could well collapse if Congress fails to address the crisis.

    • In Florida, projects are being prioritized, with an emphasis on safety and preservation. This means new projects, including public transportation expansion, may be cut back.

    • Iowa’s Department of Transportation has warned the public that transportation improvement projects across the state could cease. Other states are making contingency plans as well.

    Have You Emailed Congress?

    It’s time for Congress to stop putting American transportation infrastructure at risk. Please email Congress and tell them to stop the immediate crisis by fixing the Highway Trust Fund and its Mass Transit Account now! While you’re at it, remind them that, beyond the immediate crisis, we need to make stable long-term investments in our transportation infrastructure, including increased investment in public transportation—because public transit is the answer to how we will keep America’s growing population moving.

  • America’s Public Transportation Needs: A Look at BART

    A key part of improving and expanding public transportation across America is making sure existing public transit systems have the resources they need to keep their infrastructure and equipment up to date and running smoothly.

    The San Francisco area’s commuter rail BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system opened in 1972; at that time, the fleet and stations looked like they had come from the future. Computerized ticket booths produced magnetic-strip tickets that enabled riders to whisk through automated gates. Sleek silver cars moved smoothly and quietly along new tracks, reaching speeds up to 80 mph.

    That was more than 40 years ago. Today, BART’s fleet is among the oldest in the nation, and about two-thirds of the system’s cars still date from 1972.  The fact that those original cars still work well and safely is a testament to their design and manufacture—and the work of BART’s 220 skilled mechanics. But their age also indicates what is true of many public transportation systems across the nation: upgrades and improvements are sorely needed.

    BART Commits to a New Fleet

    Recognizing the need to update its aging fleet, BART placed an initial order for new cars in the spring of 2012—and recently increased the total order to 775 cars. The new cars—due to start service in 2017—will include bike racks, lumbar-supporting seats, and digital passenger information displays.

    Additional improvements might include new railcars, including upgraded facilities, train control systems, and equipment. Because the Bay Area continues to grow, BART is also planning several service extensions.

    BART’s improvements and expansions will cost an estimated $3.2 billion. A significant portion of the funding will come from federal transportation grant money, administered by the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The project will translate into American jobs both for the BART system and for the companies that supply it; federal contracting rules require that at least two-thirds of the parts be manufactured in the U.S. and the cars assembled here.

    Maintenance for Public Transportation around the Nation is Falling Behind

    All told, U.S. rail systems have an estimated backlog of $59 billion for rail maintenance—funds needed just to keep systems in “a state of good repair,” according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

    With the growing need for public transportation funding—as well as federal leadership on this issue—it’s worth asking, “Where does Congress stand?” It is critical that federal lawmakers not only address future transportation needs, but also take action to prevent the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, which includes the critical Mass Transit Account.

    You can help move this issue forward.  Visit Voices for Public Transit’s Action Center to write your lawmakers now and ask what they’re doing to get American public transit back on track.

  • A Brief History of the Highway Trust Fund: American Transportation Strategy Dates back to World War

    On June 6 this year, our nation and the world marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day—the massive World War II invasion of Allied forces into continental Europe.

    World War II significantly impacted the history of American transportation—and even affects the current debate about the Highway Trust Fund. Should our nation’s transportation policy continue to follow a path set in another era?

    President Eisenhower Established the Interstate Highway System for National Defense

    In Europe, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces Dwight D. Eisenhower saw firsthand how vehicles—and troop movements—were hindered by poor roads. When he became President, Eisenhower supported a “Grand Plan” of American highways for national defense—not two-lane roads, but “broader ribbons across the land, ” that would allow troops to cross the country in five days, not two months. The official name of our Interstate System—“Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”—underscores its military origins. Construction was authorized when Congress passed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.

    That same year, the Highway Revenue Act created the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Nearly 60 years later, the Highway Trust Fund remains the primary funding vehicle of road and bridge construction. Public transportation funding was added to the Highway Trust Fund with the 1982 creation of the Mass Transit Account.

    A Need to Rethink American Transportation Funding

    While the Interstate Highway system has brought benefits to America that go well beyond national defense, we need to bring our transportation strategy up to date with the most vital concerns we face now—namely, how we will keep America moving efficiently and in more sustainable ways as our nation approaches a population of 400 million people. 

    This summer, the HTF will run out of money unless Congress takes action. This is a serious fiscal crisis. Our roads, bridges, rail lines, and public transportation systems rely on the HTF. We cannot improve and expand American public transportation if we do not first maintain what we already have. Congress must fix the HTF in the immediate term, and government leaders must also take a “bigger picture” look at transportation funding, systems, and priorities.

    HTF revenues come primarily from fuel taxes—taxes first established when gas was plentiful and less expensive, and climate change was not an issue. The Interstate System was conceived when America had about 160 million people, and women did not commonly commute to work. We need to adjust our priorities for American transportation to reflect the realities of today’s travel patterns. We also need new ways to fund public transportation. We can appreciate the solutions that have been created in the past while also supporting policies that look to the future.

    Please take a moment to visit the Voices for Public Transit Action Center and send an email to your members of Congress urging them to take action to save the Highway Trust Fund, and also underscoring that we need a new vision for American transportation that meets our needs today.

  • Time is Running Out for Funding Public Transit

    What Does This Mean for Your Community?

    Unless Congress takes action in the coming weeks, public transit funding will be at risk. Most federal funding for public transit comes from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and it is running short of money.

    What does that mean for public transportation? New buses and trains will be put on hold. Rail upgrades will be suspended. Bus services could be curtailed. People will lose jobs. Overall, our nation’s public transportation infrastructure will fall further into disrepair.

    “The moment is dire,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently said. The federal government estimates that 700,000 jobs are at risk—in addition to mobility and travel safety.

    Voices for Public Transit has a bold vision: We are committed to making public transportation a national priority, and we believe every community should have public transportation options. While these goals are ambitious, we can succeed—and to reach these ultimate goals, we must protect the current state of American public transportation. And this is where fixing the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund comes in.

    Don’t Be Misled By the “Highway” Name

    The name “Highway Trust Fund” seems to imply that the fund is solely focused on building roads. In fact, the HTF includes three accounts—one focused on roads and related infrastructure, one on environmental remediation, and one called the “Mass Transit Account.” Created in 1982, the Mass Transit Account has funded billions of dollars of public transportation improvements over the last three decades.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation has estimated that the nation has an $87 billion backlog of bus and rail projects.  Public transportation systems are overdue for expansion or replacement of buses and trains. In addition, buses and paratransit vehicles depend on roads and bridges that are maintained by the Highway Account.

    How Did We Reach this Crisis?

    The HTF is funded by federal fuel and related excise taxes. The costs of construction, equipment, and labor for road building and public transit have increased over the past two decades, but the federal gasoline tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1994. In addition, Americans are driving less and cars have become more fuel efficient. In other words, current fuel taxes can no longer support the HTF.

    From 2008 to 2010, to make up for a shortfall in the HTF, Congress transferred $35 billion directly from the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury. Now the HTF is on the brink of insolvency again, and Congress is considering several alternatives to keep it afloat. While there are pros and cons to various proposals, Congress must make a decision soon—for the benefit and safety of all Americans.

    Once this crisis is averted, Congress will need to fund a longer-term transportation bill. This fall, we will call on you again to urge Congress to invest in a multi-year public transit bill so that Americans can have mobility options and we can create a better future and grow our communities.

  • National Dump the Pump Day Draws Attention to Benefits of Public Transportation

    June 19 is the 9th annual National Dump the Pump Day. Public transit systems around the country will be celebrating by offering free rides, passing out bumper stickers, and even giving away bikes and other prizes. Dump the Pump Day highlights some of the key benefits of riding public transportation for individuals and local communities.

    Individuals and Families Save By Riding Public Transportation

    Riding public transportation makes sense for a lot of American households. The latest Transit Saving Report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) estimates that a two-person household can save on average $10,187 a year by downsizing to one car.

    Everyone Benefits Whether They Ride or Not

    Dump the Pump Day also draws attention to the larger benefits public transportation brings to our communities and our nation as whole.  Expanded use of public transportation has helped:

    • Reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil by 4.2 billion gallons of gas a year.

    • Cut carbon emissions by a whopping 37 million metric tons.

    • Save our economy in excess of $21 billion by cutting costs associated with traffic congestion.

    There really are a lot of reasons to dump the pump—not just for one day, but all year round.

    How America’s Cities are Celebrating Dump the Pump Day

    Here’s a snapshot of what just a few public transit systems are doing for Dump the Pump Day.

    • IndyGo—In Indianapolis, Indiana, IndyGo promotes Dump the Pump throughout June by giving away prizes, including 200 ten-trip passes, a year-long pass, and even free bikes.

    • RTC of Washoe County—In Reno, Nevada, the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County offers free rides on National Dump the Pump Day. RTC is also encouraging carpooling, bike riding, and walking with a range of prizes, including a tablet computer, a Fitbit One activity tracker, and a JBL portable speaker system. Last year, the system hit record ridership levels for the year on Dump the Pump Day.

    • Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA)—In Denton County, Texas (part of the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area), anyone can exchange a gasoline receipt for a free week-long transit pass, good for DCTA buses, DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) trains and buses, the Trinity Railway Express, and other services.

    What’s your local transit system doing for National Dump the Pump Day? Let us know and share with our community by tweeting @APTA_Transit, posting on our Facebook page, or sharing your story on the Voices for Public Transit website. You can also encourage your community to participate next year by posting on your local transit system’s Facebook page or sending an email.

    What if you’re one of our members who doesn’t yet have great public transit options in your area? Dump the Pump Day is a great opportunity to write a letter to your elected officials and maybe even one to your local newspapers—calling for improved and expanded public transportation locally and across the nation.

  • Do You Know About Bus Rapid Transit?

    Public transportation takes many forms, and most people are familiar with buses, trains, and subways. But communities around the nation have adopted other forms of public transportation as well, such as light rail, demand-response transit (DRT), and bike share programs. Bus Rapid Transit—or BRT for short—is another option that many regions are adopting for its cost-effectiveness and flexibility.

    Would BRT be a good choice for your community? Read on to learn about this unsung workhorse of public transportation.

    A Middle Ground Between Local Buses and Trains

    BRT systems have some variations, but they are usually distinguished by multicar “articulated” buses that operate in their own special lanes. BRT vehicles have fewer stops than traditional local buses, benefit from having the right of way through most or all of their routes, and travel at faster speeds than buses and streetcars.

    The first BRT system opened in Brazil in 1974, and this type of public transportation is especially popular in Latin America. Today, about 170 BRT systems operate worldwide. In the U.S., about 30 public transit systems in cities of various sizes operate BRTs. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago offer BRT services, but also smaller cities such as Eugene, Oregon (population approximately 160,000) and Fort Collins, Colorado (about 150,000 people).

    BRT has begun to serve rural routes as well. In September 2013, Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley launched a BRT system dubbed “VelociRFTA.” This system enables fast travel between small towns along state highway 82, from Glenwood Springs to Aspen—about a 40-mile route. This new system was made possible by a voter-approved sales tax combined with a $25 million federal grant.

    Cost-Savings and Re-Using Infrastructure

    BRT is an economical public transportation option. In Eugene, public transportation planners determined that the city did not have the population or financial resources to support light rail, but BRT was a feasible option. As the region grows, dedicated curbside and median lanes for the Emerald Express BRT could be used for light rail tracks.

    In Stockton, California, the rise of the automobile led to the end of a vibrant streetcar system in the early 1940s. Now that trend is being reversed by the San Joaquin Regional Transit District with BRT. By adopting BRT, Stockton—a city of about 300,000 people—now measures up against larger cities in its ability to provide public transportation for work commutes. The U.S. Department of Transportation played a central role in supporting the expansion of public transportation in Stockton. (For a great perspective on Stockton’s public transportation success, see this Stockton City Limits article.)

    Should your city or region be next for BRT? This affordable, effective type of public transportation could be part of your future—if our nation’s leaders take steps to make public transportation a national priority! Have you written your Members of Congress to tell them that America needs a renewed dedication to public transportation? Write them now.

  • New Study Measures Economic Benefits of Public Transportation

    In conjunction with National Infrastructure Week 2014 in mid-May, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released the results of a wide-reaching study of the benefits of public transportation. The report, “The Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment,” provides compelling support for expanding American public transportation—and Congress should take notice.

    Gains in Productivity and Jobs

    For the first time in public transportation research, the new APTA study measured the productivity gains arising from investment in public transportation—and the findings are significant. Improving mobility through public transportation frees up billions of consumer and business dollars in a number of ways, such as:

    • Lower reliance on automobiles and reduced traffic congestion translate into increased consumer purchasing power of $18.4 billion per year.

    • Business benefits—including access to a larger pool of employees via public transportation, reduced road congestion, and streamlined travel logistics—result in $10.1 billion added to the U.S. economy annually.

    Productivity gains from public transportation combined with infrastructure investment translate into job growth. Overall, at current wage rates, an estimated 50,700 jobs are created per $1 billion investment in public transportation. Many jobs are created directly in transportation—in construction and operations—but more than half, approximately 28,900 jobs, are the result of productivity gains.

    Now is the Time to Make Public Transportation Funding a Priority

    When Congress debates transportation funding and policy, they must not ignore the benefits of investment in public transportation. At the end of September, the current federal surface transportation authorization law expires. Even sooner, the Highway Trust Fund (which helps fund public transportation infrastructure investments) is due to run out of money this summer. Simply put, Congress needs to take action soon to address these legal and financial cliffs. We’ll be keeping you updated on the debate taking shape in Congress now over the Highway Trust Fund issue, as well as the longer-term debate over changes to our nation’s primary surface transportation law—so please be sure to check back here for additional information in the coming weeks.

    Download the complete study:Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment

  • Speeding Up Public Transportation by Streamlining Government Action

    The overarching goal of Voices for Public Transit is to increase public investment in public transportation so that we can bring better public transportation options to more communities across the nation.  Part of achieving that goal is making sure that—as a nation—we can pursue public transportation initiatives more efficiently and cost-effectively.

    Most large-scale public transportation projects—from launching a whole new system to adding a new rail line—take years to complete. For California’s high-speed rail project, more than two decades will pass between the state’s creation of the California High-Speed Rail Authority and the beginning of service.

    But could projects proceed faster? Can we bring public transportation to communities more quickly? John D. Porcari, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation thinks it’s possible.

    Reengineering Review and Approval Processes

    In a recent commentary in Governing magazine, Porcari underscores the economic and social importance of public transportation projects but argues that “we are not getting the full benefits of these investments because a project’s gestation period is often measured in years—sometimes decades.” He also notes that the long timeframe makes political leaders wary of supporting projects “that they likely will not be around to see completed.”

    Fortunately, a pilot project—with participation by federal, state, and local government agencies—is underway to speed transportation projects. It involves concurrent reviews and approvals, rather than moving consecutively through one review at a time. The results thus far are promising; for instance, for a light rail extension of Los Angeles’ Metro system, this agile review process “reduced the project’s cost, saved time, and avoided some previously identified community impacts.”

    Using New Tools to Achieve Ambitious Goals

    Review processes are improving in part because of technology. Project participants can post comments online and engage in collaborative decision-making. More projects and government agencies need to be encouraged to use these tools and processes.

    The Obama Administration has set a goal of reducing review times for major infrastructure projects by 50 percent. According to Porcari, this goal is “readily achievable,” and the results will be dramatic: “Pulling a major project forward by one or two years can yield tens of millions of dollars in savings—savings that can be invested into better community and environmental outcomes.”

    Read the complete article: “Moving Transportation Projects into the Fast Lane.” Do you have friends and family that support smart public transit initiatives? Share this article.

  • Champions of Change

    In May, White House Recognizes Change Agents for Public Transportation

    On May 13, the White House honored 11 local leaders as “Champions of Change” for their commitment to ensuring that transportation helps communities and connects people to 21st-century opportunities. Three of the honorees focus specifically on improving public transportation.

    “Transportation Drives Our Lives”

    One honoree, Josh Baker, took it upon himself to bring public transportation to the City of Radford, Virginia. He worked with local, state, and federal officials, community leaders, and the local university to build support and launch the Radford Transit system.

    As part of his White House honor, Baker penned a blog titled, “Transportation Drives Our Lives,” where he writes, “Rural areas provide transportation operators with an entirely unique set of challenges….We looked at the situation [in Radford], identified how it was unique and needed to go together, then sat down together to figure it out. Moments of frustration are inevitable and tension is sometimes present, but in the end the reward is priceless.”

    Another honoree, Dan Burden, advises urban leaders on ways to design cities that put people first by emphasizing walking, bicycling, and public transportation. Finally Marilyn Golden has spent a quarter-century advocating for the transportation rights of people with disabilities. You can read about all of the honorees on the White House website.

    Why the White House Focused on Public Transportation

    The White House has honored many Champions of Change working on a range of issues, such as education, business development, and communications—and now transportation access has been recognized as an absolutely vital issue. According to the White House, “Transportation plays a critical role in connecting Americans and communities to economic opportunity through connectivity, job creation, and economic growth. Recognizing social mobility as a defining trait of America’s promise, access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation is critical.”

    We couldn’t agree more, and we take it one step further by emphasizing that public transportation is the best way to keep transportation affordable and accessible while meeting the needs of a rapidly growing and expanding population.

    Now we need the White House—and Congress—to promote policies that will expand public transportation and make its benefits more widely available to communities all across our nation.

    What the people honored by the White House Champions of Change award show is that regular citizens—people just like each of us—can be the driving force in moving public transportation forward in their communities.

    Would you like to do more? At the Voices for Public Transit website, we provide in-depth information about how to build support in your community for public transportation. Check out the key sections “Make a Difference” and “Grow the Movement.”

  • Bus Systems Make Strides in Improving Safety and Security

    Riding a bus is one of the safest forms of ground transportation. Though cars have increasingly become safer, fatality rates per mile traveled are twice as high in autos compared to buses. Even with such high safety ratings, public transit systems continually look for ways to improve vehicle safety.

    Earlier this month, at the 2014 Bus & Paratransit Conference, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) presented Bus Safety & Security Excellence Awards to recognize new ways that organizations are improving transit by bus. The winners all set examples that deserve the attention of other public transit systems—and their supporters—around the country.

    Success in Reducing Distracted Driving

    Southwest Ohio’s Metro system, which serves the Cincinnati area, won the Gold Award in Safety for its highly successful program in reducing distracted driving. After Metro saw an increase in accidents, it developed a distracted driving prevention program that reduced accidents by 52% in its first year. Developed with input from employees, riders, and safety experts, the program trains drivers on how to remain focused, avoid distractions, and prevent accidents.

    Metro also won the Gold Award for Security for conducting a full-scale, multi-agency emergency response simulation program. This was the first time in the history of the Bus Safety & Security Excellence Awards that one public transportation system—Southwest Ohio’s Metro is a mid-sized system—won both awards in its category.

    A Hands-On Education Program for Seniors

    Among smaller bus systems with fewer than 4 million annual passenger trips, the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) won a Certificate of Merit for Safety for a creative new program to educate seniors about riding public buses.

    Recognizing that its service area’s senior population is expected to rise over the next decade, the MVTA launched a program that brings education sessions about riding MVTA buses right to senior centers. At the end of MVTA’s “classroom” presentation, seniors immediately embark with MVTA representatives on their first outing. The program covers boarding, safe riding, and transfers. By showing seniors that public transportation is accessible and easy to use, this education program helps seniors remain mobile even if they’ve given up driving.

    Federal Support Will Help Improve Bus Safety

    Transit systems in Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and Washington, DC, also won 2014 Bus Safety & Security Excellence Awards. “The cutting-edge innovation that takes place in public transportation agencies across the country is leading the way to making a safe industry even safer and more secure for riders and employees alike,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

    While transit organizations share best practices, increased funding—including federal support—for safety and security will further improve public transportation. Are safety and security priorities for you when it comes to public transportation? Let Congress know when you write to share your support for improving and expanding American public transportation.

  • A New Idea That’s Decades Old: Kitsap Transit’s Worker/Driver Bus System

    Voices for Public Transit across the nation are working to help Congress—and the public at large—recognize the need to improve and expand American public transportation. Our nation cannot continue to grow and thrive if our transportation strategy remains centered on single-occupant private cars.

    Public transportation benefits all of us. Even if we don’t ride, public transit reduces air pollution and traffic congestion, creates and supports local jobs, and increases local property values. But many of us do ride—or want better public transportation options—even if we live in small towns or suburbs. Public transportation does not belong only to big cities. A case in point: Kitsap Transit.

    County Transit in the Shadow of a Big City

    Kitsap County, Washington, with a population of about 250,000, lies to the west of Seattle, with the Puget Sound running along its eastern shore. Kitsap Transit operates a traditional routed bus system, which serves several towns across the county, as well as on-call van transportation for the elderly and people with disabilities. Kitsap Transit also supports vanpools and operates a small local ferry. All told, Kitsap Transit provides about 4 million rides each year.

    While Kitsap Transit officially began in 1983, it manages a unique transit system that dates back to World War II. The U.S. Navy is the largest employer in the county, with a naval base, shipyard, and other facilities built along the Puget Sound. With thousands of military and civilian employees, as well as contractors, traffic on and near the facilities can be quite congested. The unique Kitsap Transit Worker/Driver bus system helps reduce traffic and gets people to work.

    Shipyard and Base Employees Double as Bus Drivers

    Worker/Driver buses—full-sized standard buses—are driven by shipyard or base employees who are also part-time drivers for Kitsap County. The buses run fixed routes, primarily picking up employees who are headed to the bus’s final destination at a Navy facility. At the end of the day, passengers re-board their bus and are dropped off on the return route. The Worker/Driver bus system currently operates 30 routes.

    The general public can also ride Worker/Driver buses, disembarking outside the shipyard or base. People headed to Seattle can ride a bus to the shipyard gate and then walk to the nearby Washington State Ferry terminal to ride across the Puget Sound to Seattle. Many of the Worker/Driver buses also have bike racks to provide riders with another option for continuing their trip.

    The Worker/Driver bus system is partially paid for by the Navy’s Transportation Incentive Program (TIP). This program helps Navy employees around the country save money on commuting. In the case of the Kitsap Transit Worker/Driver buses, the whole community benefits as well.

    Could your community benefit from a similar worker/driver bus system? Are there local employers—such as government organizations or private companies—that could partner with your area’s transit system? Share your thoughts by posting on our Facebook page or on our website.

  • What Does Rural Public Transportation Look Like?

    When we think of public transportation, we often imagine crowded subways, city buses, or commuter rail. This picture is accurate to a degree, but it needs to be extended further to include the more rural areas of America—many rural communities also depend on public transportation even if it doesn’t look quite the same.

    Today, public transportation operates in many different communities outside of major urban centers—suburbs, small towns, and rural routes. It’s a vital service that enables people in less-densely populated areas to reach jobs, connect with family and friends, and access medical care and other services. A look at some key examples of rural public transportation can help showcase what’s working—and what could be improved.

    Rural Public Transportation in the Heart of Texas

    Texas is a big state with big cities; it also has big stretches of countryside dotted with small towns. To help meet the needs of all Texans, the Texas Department of Transportation has created a system of 39 Rural Transit Districts (RTDs). To meet the needs of the rural population—especially older Americans and people with disabilities—the RTDs operate on-demand public transportation, usually provided by vans or small buses.

    By calling the local public transit service about 24 hours in advance, any person in the RTD can schedule a ride pick-up. Fares vary depending on the RTD, the rider, and the distance, but trips can cost as little as $1 for the general public.

    While this service goes a long way in helping meet the transportation needs of people who live in these areas, stronger investment in our nation’s public transportation infrastructure would help systems like these to enable more rural Texans to make use of this vital connection.

    Drawing Tourism with an Expanded Rural Bus Line

    Skamania County, Washington, is home to only about 11,000 people, who live in small towns and on heavily forested land. The county offers a fixed route bus service on weekdays that connects several small towns, carries local employees to resorts and recreational areas, and provides access to adjacent Clark County and the city of Vancouver (WA). From Vancouver, riders can change buses and travel to Portland, Oregon—just a few miles away across the Columbia River.

    While Skamania County was historically a logging area, it is now a recreation destination. The county offers great fishing, camping, and hiking in several scenic spots, including the Columbia River Gorge and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Recognizing that tourism from nearby urban areas helps the local economy, Skamania recently expanded its rural bus service to include weekends on a seasonal basis. The expanded bus service promotes tourism, helps reduce traffic on rural roads, and frees up limited parking space around trailheads. The new service is funded by private organizations, as well as through county, state, and federal transportation programs.

    Federal Support for Rural Public Transit Needs to Expand As Well

    Federal transportation law includes a program (Section 5311) that specifically provides funding for public transportation in rural areas, defined as communities or regions with fewer than 50,000 people. The Federal Transit Administration specifically spells out the goal: “Enhance the access of people in non-urbanized areas to healthcare, shopping, education, employment, public services, and recreation.”

    Unfortunately, federal support of rural transportation has declined in recent years. For 2013 and 2014, funding based on the population of non-urbanized areas fell by nearly 17%. Other areas of support for rural public transportation were cut as well. These are steps in the wrong direction! Let Congress know that public transportation needs to be expanded so that it serves and benefits all Americans, regardless of where they live—in cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas.

  • Orlando Launches New Commuter Rail System

    On May 1, America’s newest public transportation system—Orlando’s SunRail—opened for business. The first phase of the SunRail system runs 31.5 miles, connecting suburban areas to downtown Orlando. Initial projections estimate that about 4,300 people will ride daily—which means 4,300 fewer people on Orlando’s congested roadways.

    The new system represents an important step forward—not only for Orlando, but also for Florida and the nation. It demonstrates how smaller cities with large suburban areas can cooperate to build effective public transportation systems.

    Overcoming Challenges to Get Trains Rolling

    Like virtually all large-scale public transportation projects, SunRail required private sector supporters to collaborate with federal, state, and local governments. Even before the project adopted the name “SunRail,” four Florida counties and the City of Orlando had to vote to approve the initiative.

    Local public transportation supporters organized to take their case directly to resistant state officials. Orlando’s main health care facility, Florida Hospital, wanted public transportation to provide improved access to care and additional transportation options for employees. The advocacy activities of hospital leaders—including several trips to the state capitol in Tallahassee—helped win approval from Florida Governor Rick Scott who rejected a high-speed rail project in the state. The new system includes a stop—Health Village Station—at Florida Hospital.

    SunRail’s launch has already led many in the community to call for a system expansion. Phase 2 of the project—reaching further north and south—will not be completed until later in 2014. In the meantime, Orlando is expanding other public transportation options, including the city’s Lynx bus service.

    Budget Limitations Constrain Operations

    While SunRail is an enormous step forward for Orlando, system planners had to make compromises. SunRail currently runs north-south and has not yet been extended to the city’s theme parks or suburbs to the east and west. In addition, SunRail currently operates on weekdays and has somewhat limited service during non-peak hours. The good news is, service could potentially expand soon.

    Orlando is already seeing growth near the train line, with 4,500 residential units added or under construction within a 10-minute walk of a SunRail station. The growing population may drive demand for expanded service—and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer sees public transportation as critical for the city’s future success: “We're competing for the bright, talented, young people and entrepreneurs with places like Austin and San Francisco to bring that talent to Orlando. They expect public transit.”

    Would your region benefit from a commuter rail system? Have you visited cities that should follow the example of Orlando? Share your ideas and opinions by posting on our Facebook page or our website.

  • Public Transportation Helps Keep Health Care Accessible

    Recently on our blog, we examined how public transportation directly supports healthier lives. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now officially recommends expanding public transportation because of its positive impact on the health of Americans.

    Public transportation also plays a critical role in helping keep health care accessible for many individuals. Millions of low-income Americans, people with disabilities, and senior citizens do not drive or own cars—and public transportation is their primary link to health care.

    Helping ensure public transit-dependent people can reach medical services is the right thing to do in terms of making sure the needs of our most-vulnerable citizens are met. But everyone else benefits, too. Greater accessibility to preventive care also saves our nation’s Medicaid and Medicare systems billions of dollars every year by enabling patients to access treatment before a condition becomes acute. On these counts, expanding public transportation is also a highly worthwhile economic investment.

    The Value of Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

    Under federal law, Medicaid (and sometimes Medicare) must provide medical transportation options to enrollees. While transportation costs represent less than 1% of Medicaid’s total expenditures, non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) costs still reach more than $1.8 billion annually. While a portion of this amount is used for public transportation fares, greater expenditures per passenger mile go to a range of other transportation options, including taxis, vans, paratransit, and even ambulances.

    NEMT costs could be controlled and reduced with expanded access to public transportation. Travel by ambulance—which is too often used for non-emergency travel for lack of other options—can cost hundreds of dollars per trip. By comparison, a public transportation trip costs very little.

    Public transportation—when available—also makes reaching appointments easier and more convenient. As a result, Medicaid patients are more likely to follow through with treatments and access preventive care.

    Does Congress recognize the role of public transportation in health care?

    Too many people—Members of Congress included—still view public transportation merely as a convenience or as an option for reaching work. Voices for Public Transit firmly believes everyone should have the option of using public transportation even if they can use other means simply because the benefits we will all see from more people traveling by public transit are overwhelming. However, for millions of Americans, public transportation is their only option. For lower-income Americans and many seniors, public transportation is also often the only lifeline to medical care and other critical services.

    Healthy people make for healthier communities, a stronger nation, and a stronger economy overall. Because riding public transportation usually involves some walking and standing, it helps reduce obesity, diabetes, and other conditions tied to sedentary lifestyles. As important, public transportation provides access to medical care for millions of vulnerable people. These benefits could reach more Americans—if Congress votes to expand public transportation. Tell your elected officials you want them to make it a top priority.

  • Celebrate National Train Day

    All aboard! Saturday, May 10, is National Train Day. At locations around the country, train supporters gather to celebrate and learn about train travel. National Train Day will also provide a great opportunity to highlight the importance of public transportation in all of its forms.

    A Little Train History

    National Train Day falls annually on the Saturday closest to May 10 (which is right on May 10 in 2014). Why? Because on this day in 1869, a “last spike”—in this case, a spike made of gold—was hammered by train magnate Leland Stanford to connect rails of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, marking the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. For the first time, Americans could travel by train all the way across the country.

    Though the opening of First Transcontinental Railroad is part of America’s past, the goals and impacts of public transportation remain very much the same: opening up new opportunities for Americans from all walks of life, creating economic growth, and helping communities prosper not only economically, but socially as well.

    Celebrate and Advocate in Your Community

    National Train Day includes fun and educational activities for families at scores of locations around the country, including museums, historical societies, model train clubs, and Amtrak stations. You can search for events near you using the National Train Day event finder.

    We also encourage you to talk with others at National Train Day events about Voices for Public Transit and our movement to promote a new era of public transportation in America. While trains are an important part of America’s past, they also must be a critical part of our nation’s future. They’re not just for long-distance travel, but also for helping people get around safely, cost-effectively, and in more environmentally sustainable ways in their local communities as well.  On the Voices for Public Transit website, you can find downloadable information that you can use to help you Grow the Movement.

  • Public Transit Systems Respond to Changing Climates

    By taking gasoline-burning cars off the road, public transportation helps reduce carbon monoxide pollution, which is contributing to changing climates around the globe. If our nation expands public transit, more people—as well as our planet—will benefit.

    Even with expanded public transit, we will still face challenges from extreme conditions in local, regional, and global climates. Fortunately, public transit systems are responding to help keep people moving.

    Riding Out the Heat Waves

    In some areas of the country, notably the Southwest, summer heat has long been intense. But now it’s growing worse. “Phoenix is already hot, and it’s getting hotter,” Mayor Greg Stanton said earlier this year. In 2013, the city hit 100°F on 115 days of the year; in 2011, there were a record 33 days that reached 110°F.

    The Phoenix public transportation system—Valley Metro—is already responding. In 2011, Valley Metro installed an innovative solar-powered cooling system at one of its downtown light rail stations. Fans blow water-cooled air onto passengers as they wait for trains to arrive. This cooling technology may be expanded to other rail and bus stations across the area.

    Tucson is nearing completion of its new all-electric Sun Link streetcar line, which is expected to begin service this summer. The new system includes 21 covered stops that have been built with comfort and efficiency in mind. Double-tiered shade structures provide protection from the sun at all times of day and will lower temperatures between 10 and 15°F, on average.

    Preparing for Increased Rain, Rising Sea Levels, and Storm Surges

    Climate change-related storms, record precipitation levels, and rising sea levels have disrupted public transportation in some areas by flooding subway tunnels, bus lots and stations, and low-lying transit routes. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is responding by developing tools and guidance to help public transit systems respond. The FTA has also provided grants to several public transit systems for climate change adaption projects.

    For one project, the San Francisco area’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system is analyzing its vulnerabilities to increased rain and higher sea levels. Several BART stations are located underground, near sea level, and close to the bay. The system will have to consider ways to respond to severe weather as well as adapt for the long term. California’s high-speed rail project will also have to account for these factors in its planning.

    National and global efforts to adapt our transportation strategy to the challenges posed by a changing climate need the support of the U.S. government. Earth Day is a perfect time to email Congress to say that public transportation not only strengthens our communities and contributes to our economy, but also plays an important role in fighting pollution and congestion.

  • Centers for Disease Control: Public Transit Puts Us on Track for Healthier Lives

    On the face of it, public transportation serves a simple, focused purpose: to enable people to get from one point to another. But really, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Public transit systems also knit communities together, create economic opportunities, and help our environment.

    It's also becoming increasingly clear that public transportation contributes directly to improving our health. People who use public transportation are less likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, and other health conditions tied to a lack of physical activity. With growing evidence showing the impact of public transportation on health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now officially recommends expanding public transportation.

    CDC Identifies Health Benefits of Public Transportation

    In reviewing U.S. transportation policy, the CDC examined several factors that impact human health, including vehicle and traffic safety, air quality, and access to employment and health care. The CDC finds that public transportation systems:

    • Reduce the production of automobile emissions

    • Increase incidental physical activity

    • Provide necessary transportation access for people with physical, economic, and other limitations

    From these findings the CDC makes recommendations that align with the goals of Voices for Public Transit. Specifically, the CDC urges:

    • Federal funding decisions that strengthen public transportation

    • States to increase investments in public transportation

    • Giving state, regional, and local governments more flexibility to choose from transportation funding categories to meet local transportation needs

    The CDC also urges federal agencies and non-profits to work together to establish policies that promote multi-modal transportation that combines bicycling and walking with public transportation.

    Tell Congress: Public Transportation is Benefits the Health of All Americans

    The CDC’s transportation recommendations can serve as a critical proof point for Voices for Public Transit. Essentially, the CDC is telling federal transportation officials—and Congress—that public transportation must be a national priority.Now is a great time to write Congress, share your support for public transportation, and highlight the CDC’s recommendations. Expanding public transportation will improve American health.

    Further Reading: CDC Recommendations for Improving Health through Transportation Policy

  • U.S. National Parks Ramp Up Public Transportation

    Snarled roadways and air pollution aren’t just big city problems. Our nation’s treasured national parks—as well as other natural areas—offer wonder and beauty to hundreds of millions of visitors every year. But the parks’ growing popularity has resulted in heavy traffic, which can hurt the parks’ fragile ecosystems and mar the visitor experience. Fortunately, public transportation is providing a solution.

    Public Transit in Parks Program

    Recognizing the threat to national parks posed by traffic congestion, Congress included the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks program as part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005. Funding for multi-modal transportation in national parks is now provided under the Federal Highway Administration’s Federal Lands Transportation Program.

    In 2013, when then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation Roy LaHood announced new projects funded under Transit in the Parks, he tied improving public transit services at parks to the larger mission “to upgrade our nation’s transportation infrastructure to help grow our economy and improve energy efficiency.”

    The projects have varied from park to park, depending on needs and opportunities. Pedestrian and bicycle trails were added to connect Rocky Mountain National Park with other nearby trail systems and three National Wildlife Refuges. In many parks, fuel-efficient shuttle service was added or expanded, to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion.

    Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park, not far from Cleveland, is even served by a historic railroad, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR). Under the Transit in the Parks program, CVSR upgraded its passenger cars, expanded bicycle access, and significantly improved a locomotive, reducing exhaust and increasing fuel efficiency.

    Environmental Benefits of Public Transit Reach Beyond National Parks

    This month, in honor of Earth Day on April 22, we’re highlighting how public transportation helps reduce pollution, support healthier communities, and reduce the overall environmental footprint of our transportation system. Officials in Washington, D.C., should be commended for recognizing that public transportation can improve and protect our national parks.

    But now we need Congress to go further. The benefits that public transportation brings to national parks should be enjoyed by communities across the nation. Please help Voices for Public Transit spread the word that Congress needs to take action to improve and expand American public transportation—for the good of our communities and our planet.

  • Fuel-efficient Buses for Healthier Communities

    In April we celebrate Earth Day 2014—April 22. Voices for Public Transit is exploring the numerous ways public transportation helps make our environment and communities healthier. Today’s stop: green buses.

    Use of private cars is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so using any form of public transportation instead of driving helps reduce pollution and create a healthier environment. In recent years, transit systems have extended their commitment to cleaner transportation and a sustainable transportation future by investing in solar and wind power, building LEED-certified facilities, and using increasingly efficient trains and buses.

    New Ways to Power Buses

    In some cities, transit systems, usually with the help of the federal government, have invested in clean and fuel-efficient buses. New technologies and alternative fuels have resulted in various types of buses, including:

    • Hybrid Buses—Usually combining diesel engines and electric propulsion, hybrid buses have enabled dozens of transit systems across the U.S. to lower their diesel emissions. This clean air-friendly upgrade owes much of its success to funding provided under the federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.

    • Natural Gas and Biodiesel Buses—Transit systems are also reducing their environmental impact by converting to buses that run on compressed or liquefied natural gas, or biodiesel. These forms of fuel release less greenhouse gas than diesel—and biodiesel is a renewable source of energy.

    • Fuel Cell Buses—Several companies are developing buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells. With support from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) National Fuel Cell Bus Program (NFCBP), SunLine Transit Agency in Riverside County, California, put the first all-American zero-emission fuel cell bus into operation in 2011. AC Transit in northern California’s East Bay region is also testing fuel cell buses, and this technology may eventually be adopted by other transit systems. 

    All told, more than 35 percent of U.S. public transportation buses use alternative fuels or hybrid technology.

    Critical Support from the Federal Government

    The U.S. government provides critical funding for scientific research, pilot programs, and large-scale improvements to public transportation. The leadership and resources of the federal government simply cannot be matched by local transit systems alone, even though local systems dedicate extensive resources to improving the efficiency and reducing the environmental footprint of their infrastructure.

    One of the reasons we need increased federal support for public transportation is to drive the development and adoption of clean transportation technologies. That’s why Voices for Public Transit—voices of people all around the country—are calling on Congress to make a renewed commitment to public transportation. Have you shared your views with Congress yet?

    • Earth Day 2014: Help Public Transportation Make Your Community Healthier

      Earth Day 2014 is just around the corner—on Tuesday, April 22. This year Earth Day is focused on helping citizens create more sustainable communities.  Increased public transportation is a key element in helping local communities reduce pollution and create healthier environments today and for the future.

      Cleaner Transportation Options for Individuals

      If you don’t normally ride public transportation to work or school, Earth Day is the perfect time to start—or just test it out. Not only won’t you burn gas in your personal car, you’ll also help free up roadways and connect with other members of your community.

      Other transportation options you can combine with public transportation—or use by themselves—to help reduce your personal environmental footprint include:

      • Carpooling—Even just for one day, see if you can find a neighbor who will share a ride—or provide a ride. You’ll take a car off the road for the day, easing traffic congestion and reducing pollution.

      • Riding Your Bike—Many cities and communities are becoming increasingly bike-friendly, with more dedicated bike lanes and friendlier motorists. You can even combine bike commuting and public transportation by taking your bike on light rail or loading it onto a bus’s bike rack, if available in your community.

      • Walking—Spring is here, and if you don’t have too far to go, why not set aside extra time to walk? You’ll lower greenhouse gas emissions and get a healthy workout, too. Walking to and from the bus or train can improve your health and the health of your community.

      Tell Congress to Support Public Transportation

      If you don’t have good access to public transportation or would like to see it expanded in your area, communicating with your members of Congress is a great way to recognize Earth Day. Visit the Voices for Public Transit Action Center and to send an email urging your members of Congress to make public transportation a national priority—for the good of the environment and the good of local economies too.

      Get Others Involved

      You can also increase your contribution to cleaner air and a healthier environment by encouraging others in your community to support public transportation.

      How about conducting a mini-advocacy campaign to get your friends, neighbors, and co-workers to send messages to their members of Congress?  As a start, you can direct them to the Voices for Public Transit action center

      You can also check out the “Make a Difference” section of our website for additional tips on how you can advocate for increased federal government investment in public transportation.

      Do you have ideas for Earth Day activities that will help elected officials and others in your community recognize the importance of public transportation? Share them by posting on our Facebook page or tweeting @APTA_Transit.

    • The Cincinnati Enquirer Digs Deep Into Public Transportation

      The Cincinnati Enquirer recently wrapped up an in-depth series, “Moving Cincinnati,” that examines the state of public transportation in the city and advocates for better transit services in the region. This illuminating series does more than underscore the need to improve local public transportation; it also provides a compelling example of the role that local media can play in championing public transportation improvements. Is your local newspaper highlighting the need to improve and expand public transportation in your region?

      Series Examines Multiple Benefits of Improving Public Transportation

      Cincinnati has begun construction on a downtown streetcar system, but right now the city’s public transportation consists of somewhat-limited bus service. What could public transportation improvements bring, according to The Enquirer:

      • A Stronger Workforce - Younger professionals and people who have lived in cities with robust public transportation systems will be more willing to relocate and stay in Cincinnati if there is a better public transportation system. This workforce would benefit employers and the larger community.

      • Better Job Access - Currently in Cincinnati only 28 percent of the region’s jobs are reachable by public transportation in 90 minutes or less. With expanded public transportation, workers would have more options for finding jobs and getting to work.

      • Economic Development -Fixed transit such as light rail attracts real estate development, businesses, and residents. Other cities have seen improved economic development because of public transit, and Cincinnati could follow this model.

      The Enquirer series details many other benefits that improved public transportation would bring to Cincinnati: improved mobility for people with disabilities and older residents; decreased traffic; and improved public health, just to name a few.

      Brainstorming Funding Ideas and Inviting Dialogue

      Recognizing that federal, state, and local budgets are stretched thin, The Enquirer examined a range of options to fund public transportation improvements, drawing on the examples of other regions. For instance, in Pittsburgh, the cost of alcoholic beverages contributes to public transit funding. In New Jersey, a portion of revenues from casinos funds transportation. Other options include a regional sales tax, increased property taxes, and private-public partnerships.

      As part of its series, The Enquirer invited input from readers. Among other things, readers were encouraged to tweet ideas at staff writer Julie Zimmerman.

      We think this is a great idea for raising the issue of public transportation with local media. Have you ever tweeted at a local reporter or your newspaper? Why not try it now, highlighting The Cincinnati Enquirer series and encouraging your paper to follow suit.

       

    • Looking Back to the Future: Can Japan’s High-Speed Rail Be a Model for the U.S.?

      California has embarked on an ambitious plan to build a high-speed rail system that will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles by 2029. If the project’s goals are met, passengers will be able to travel from one city to the other in under three hours on trains that can exceed 200 mph. Texas, Florida, and several other states and regions are also considering or moving forward with plans for high-speed rail systems.

      These rail systems will be incorporating a range of cutting-edge technologies. At the same time, a successful model has already been around for several years: Japan’s Shinkansen system, known in the West by its popular English nickname, the bullet train. Because high-speed rail is starting to gain momentum here in the States, Japan is our next stop on our tour of public transit systems around the world that can offer insight and inspiration as we expand our own.

      Bullet Train Innovations

      By emphasizing innovation, tightly coordinating operations, and thinking big, Japan has built and maintains a high-speed rail system that should be an inspiration for our nation.

      Passengers first rode Japan’s high-speed bullet trains in 1964. Trains reached about 130 mph and connected the country’s two largest cities, Tokyo and Osaka. Today, the system covers nearly 1,500 miles with trains moving at up to 200 mph. It is the safest way to travel in Japan: there has never been a single passenger fatality. Japan’s system includes a number of key characteristics for consideration:

      • Aluminum Trains—Because aluminum is lighter than steel, Shinkansen’s trains use less energy and do not cause as much wear on tracks.
      • Pointed-Nose Design—The tapered shape at the front of Shinkansen trains cuts down on “tunnel boom,” the loud sound caused by air pressure as trains exit tunnels.
      • Earthquake Detection—Like California, Japan has a history of devastating earthquakes. To mitigate the impact of earthquakes on trains, Japan developed its Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System (UrEDAS), which stops trains when sensors detect quakes.

      The Power of Ideas

      Japan’s bullet trains not only enable millions of people to travel without needing a car, but they also allow passengers to travel in style. Train cars are welcoming and comfortable—some even have footbaths to help passengers relax!

      Americans may not need luxuries and special amenities on their trains, but we do need improved and expanded services and travel options. Over the last two decades, Japan’s economy has struggled, but this hasn’t prevented the nation from continuing to invest in its public transportation systems. Japanese government, business, and community leaders recognize that strong public transportation is vital to the fabric of the nation and its economy.

      We need Congress and other leaders to aspire to the type of public transportation found in Japan. We too can improve our quality of life and mobility by making a commitment to high-speed rail and other advances in public transportation.

      Have you ridden Japan’s bullet trains—or other high-speed trains in other parts of the world? Tell us—and our community—about it by posting on our Facebook page, tweeting @APTA_Transit, or sharing your story on the Voices for Public Transit website.

    • Growing Public Transit Ridership Underscores Need for Greater Infrastructure Investment

      According to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans took 10.7 billion trips via public transit in 2013—the highest ridership in more than a half century. The steady two-decade trend of growing public transit use should send a message to Congress that the federal government needs to respond with a new commitment to public transportation.

      Broad-Based Surge in Public Transit Use

      Increases in public transit use were found in communities of all sizes. “Public transportation systems nationwide--in small, medium, and large communities--saw ridership increases,” said Peter Varga, APTA Chair and CEO of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

      Smaller cities like Anchorage, Alaska; Stockton, California; and Lewisville, Texas, saw double-digit ridership increases on their commuter rail lines. In Salt Lake City, commuter rail ridership more than doubled in response to a new line expansion. The success of the new line—indicating the pent-up demand of local residents for more public transit options—could be replicated in communities across the nation.

      The national increase in ridership was not only seen across all types of communities, but also across all types of public transportation, including subways, commuter rail, light rail, and buses. Notably, cities with populations below 100,000 saw the largest increase in bus ridership, as public transit increasingly reaches suburbs and small towns.

      The Need to Carry Our Message to Congress

      In conjunction with the release of its 2013 ridership report, APTA called on Congress to dedicate sufficient funding to public transportation infrastructure when officials draft new transportation legislation.

      “The plan we are recommending fosters community growth by driving economic development” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Increasing investment in public transportation and roads is essential for growing our economy in the U.S. and remaining competitive in a global economy.”

      While public transportation experts like Mr. Melaniphy can help Congress see the big picture, it’s equally important that elected officials hear from Voices for Public Transit like you! You have the individual stories to tell about how public transit makes your life better and improves your local community. That’s why we encourage you to make your voice heard—and help us grow our movement by inviting others to join us.

    • Chattanooga Looks to Expand Multimodal Public Transportation

      Towns and regions of all sizes are increasingly recognizing the value of public transportation—and looking for opportunities to expand services to better meet the needs of local residents and businesses. Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a perfect example. It’s a small but growing city, and area leaders are planning for the future by focusing on public transportation now.

      “Complete Streets” Policy

      Nestled among mountains and ridges, Chattanooga is home to about 170,000 people, with a greater metropolitan area population of about 530,000. Though a small city, Chattanooga is starting to think big.

      Currently, the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) operates 16 bus lines, an on-demand van service for people with disabilities, and a free downtown electric bus shuttle. CARTA also operates the city’s historic one-mile Lookout Mountain Incline Railway and partners with University of Tennessee-Chattanooga to run a campus shuttle system.

      Now Chattanooga is looking to take the next step. In 2013, Mayor Andy Berke led a reorganization of the city that included the creation of a Transportation Department tasked with focusing on transit planning, infrastructure development, and road building. Mayor Berke is promoting a “Complete Streets” policy that requires street planning to accommodate foot traffic, bicycle lanes, and public transportation.

      A Plan for the Future

      With the support of federal funding, the city recently launched its Multimodal Transportation Center Study, which will last nearly two years and lay the groundwork for transportation improvements for decades to come. First, the study will consider and recommend locations for a downtown transportation hub. It will also examine ways to expand access to public transportation in outlying areas, as well as improve the efficiency of the whole system.

      The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan calls for improving access to jobs and medical care through public transportation. A far-reaching plan might also include a light rail system that connects downtown Chattanooga to the city’s airport 10 miles to the east.

      While Chattanooga’s vision for a vibrant, multimodal transportation system is coming into focus, one core challenge looms: funding. CARTA Executive Director Lisa Maragnano says that improving and expanding Chattanooga public transportation will likely require a combination of federal, state, and local funding, along with private partnerships.

      Like regions around the country, Chattanooga has a plan for strengthening its community and local economy with public transportation, but that plan requires increased federal infrastructure investment. We need Congress to make a renewed commitment to public transportation—for Chattanooga and the rest of the nation. If you agree, please write Congress today to say that America’s future must include strong public transportation all around the country.

    • International Models for Public Transportation: Prague, the Czech Republic

      What might the future of American public transportation look like? More light rail and high-speed bus lines? More rural routes and on-demand transportation? More high-speed trains?

      Last week, representatives of America’s public transit systems met with Members of Congress to discuss the need to reset our nation’s transportation priorities and make greater investments in public transportation infrastructure.  As we mentioned on our blog, we need a long-term strategy and a true commitment to invest more in public transportation initiatives that will carry America through the next several decades.  As part of developing that strategy, we should learn from what other countries have done to develop multi-modal transportation systems that meet the needs of geographically and socioeconomically diverse populations.

      To help members of the Voices for Public Transit community envision what the possibilities for American public transit might be, we’re launching an occasional series that will look at transit systems in other areas of the world. How do people in Singapore get around or in the UK’s Midlands? Do people in smaller New Zealand towns have public transit options? Our first stop in this new series is Prague, the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic.

      Public Transit Options to Meet the Needs of All

      Prague lies along the banks of the Vltava River, and the substantial Petrin Hill, home to several urban parks, rises in the center of the city. With a regional population of about 2 million (approximately the size of San Antonio, Texas), people need to travel from the suburbs and countryside to reach the city center; they need to easily cross the river; and they need to move rapidly around the dense urban center, where old streets do not easily accommodate car traffic.

      Prague has developed over the course of more than a century a widely diversified multimodal public transit system. Today, this system includes a multi-line rapid subway system (the Prague Metro), a streetcar system, ferries, buses, cable cars, and a funicular. (A funicular?! This is a small cable-based railway that runs up a hill or mountain, with the ascending car balancing the descending car; in addition to Prague, funiculars can be found in England, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland, Canada—and even in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.)

      As a result of all these options—and a convenient unified ticketing system—Prague boasts one of the highest per capita public transportation riderships in the world. More than 1.2 billion trips are taken every year on Prague public transportation.

      Even though public transit is well established in Prague, city leaders recognize that improvements are needed to meet a growing population and to support economic development. The region is now embarked on an approximately $1 billion dollar extension of the Metro, which will connect Vaclav Havel Airport to the city center by 2021.

      What We Can Learn from Prague’s Public Transportation System

      The Czech Republic is not a wealthy country; its per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is just over half of the U.S.’s. Its population is only about 10.5 million people, with 20% of the country’s population living in or near Prague.

      But Prague has a strong history of supporting public transportation and has made a long-term commitment to improving its public transportation infrastructure. The transit system—with low fares, frequent service, and wide access—has greatly contributed to Prague’s revival in the post-Cold War era and helps make the city attractive to tourists.

      Do you agree that the U.S. needs a similarly robust vision for public transportation? Congress will soon be considering national transportation policy and funding. Now is a great time to write and voice your support for public transit improvements. You could even cite the example of the Czech Republic, where public transportation has helped establish the foundation for a bright future.

    • Cooperative Spirit Propels Denver’s Modernized Public Transit System

      In the Mile High City, public transportation is on a roll. In the last decade, more than $7 billion has been committed to dramatically improving and expanding public transportation across the Denver metropolitan region. The investment is already paying off—and the area is well positioned for future growth.

      Working Together, Funding Together

      Planning and building major public transportation infrastructure is a major undertaking—and tensions within communities can run high. Not in Denver. Recognizing that public transit brings benefits to everyone, diverse stakeholders worked together to build a cooperative vision for Denver public transportation. The business community, environmental groups, community organizations, property developers, government officials, and citizens at large all participated in discussions to move the project—called FasTracks—forward.

      Community, government, and business leaders recognized that a key step in the process was educating the public about the project. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce provided $500,000 in seed funding to help inform area residents and businesses about the initiative. As a result, growing public support spurred area leaders to pursue an ambitious plan. In November 2004, funding for the FasTracks initiative was approved by voters.

      FasTracks has also drawn on an innovative public-private partnership (or P3 for short) for financing new construction and operations on the region’s east side. Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) contracted with a private-sector team, Denver Transit Partners (DTP), to operate and maintain lines and facilities. In turn, DTP contributed $450 million toward the project’s cost. This P3-type project is more common in Europe, but it is the largest of its type in the U.S. to date.

      Success Achieved, More to Come

      Today, FasTracks includes six commuter and light rail lines—and four more lines will open over the next few years. More than 328,000 people use the six lines daily. In 2016, the East Rail line will connect the city center to the Denver International Airport.

      FasTracks helps ease traffic congestion and reduce air pollution in the Denver region. The system has also brought substantial economic benefits to the area. FasTracks has directly created 11,000 full-time jobs and contributed more than $2.8 billion to the local economy. In addition, several Fortune 500 companies have relocated headquarters to Denver—in part to benefit from the city’s strong transportation infrastructure.

      Would you like to see a similar public transportation initiative in your region? Tell us about it by sharing your story on the Voices for Public Transit website or posting on our Facebook page!

    • Call to Action: Help Us Make Noise in Washington


      Today and tomorrow, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is holding its annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. Representatives of America’s public transit systems from across the country will be spending a day on Capitol Hill to discuss the future of American public transportation with Members of Congress.

      This is a key opportunity to raise our Voices for Public Transit!

      We need to show elected officials in Washington that public transportation matters to Americans across the country—not only the people from the industry visiting them on Capitol Hill. Our goal is to create a greater sense of urgency about the fact that America’s future is riding on public transportation.

      We need a long-term strategy and a true commitment to invest more in public transportation initiatives that will carry America through the next several decades. We cannot wait any longer as our roadways become more congested, transit systems age, and our population expands and ages as well.

      Please, write your members of Congress today to let them know that public transportation matters to you—and to our nation. We cannot rest until Congress takes action to improve and expand public transportation for all Americans.

    • Public Transit Feeling the Impact of Declining Federal Funding

      The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is in a difficult position.

      For the past few years, the agency has been forced to dedicate much of its annual budget – which is only one-third the size of many comparable agencies – to maintaining the system’s aging infrastructure. If SEPTA isn’t able to come up with new funds soon, it may be forced to shut down nine of its thirteen rail routes and replace many of its trolley lines with buses, despite the growing demand for public transportation among Pennsylvanians in the region.

      The Pennsylvania State Legislature recently passed a transportation funding bill, but the $454 million SEPTA requested was slashed to just $345 million, leaving a large shortfall and making desperately needed expansions and repairs impossible.

      If state officials in Harrisburg are unable or unwilling to allocate the money needed to maintain the system’s infrastructure, SEPTA will have to find additional funding or cut back its service offerings.

      SEPTA isn’t alone. A struggling national economy and tight local budgets have taken their toll on transportation funding, and declining federal contributions have become a big problem for many local transit systems across the country.

      According to the American Public Transportation Association, the federal government provided 65.2 percent of public transportation budgets in 1988. By 2011, federal funding of public transportation projects had fallen to just 44 percent.

      If public transit is going to be a cornerstone of our nation’s transportation strategy for the 21st century, we need to make sure public transit receives adequate federal funding—and that will only happen if we speak up as Voices for Public Transit.

      Next month, the United States Senate will begin crafting a new six-year transportation bill. With more than $100 billion needed for public transit, the bill’s total price tag is raising some eyebrows on Capitol Hill. But the truth is, $100 billion will only keep public transportation funding at current levels, “an amount that experts acknowledge is woefully short of what’s needed to reverse decay in the nation’s infrastructure.”

      TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress it’s time to pass a transportation funding bill and support public transit.

      To put it simply, our public transportation systems need more help from the federal government. With appropriate financial support, transit agencies like SEPTA will continue to provide affordable and reliable public transportation for Americans all across the country, and they will be able to expand service to communities that currently lack sufficient public transportation options.

    • How one community learned the importance of Public Transportation

      Have you ever been stranded somewhere without a friend to pick you up or a bus to take you home? Unfortunately, that’s the reality for many residents of Carlisle, a small community in central Pennsylvania.

      In December, the town’s only taxi service, Moonlight Taxicab Company, ceased operation, leaving many carless residents without a way to get around. Harrisburg’s Fox 43 has this quick video report:

      While the reasons for the taxi company’s closure remain unclear, it has taken a toll on residents who depended on the service for their transportation needs. Another private cab company, Harrisburg City Cabs, recently started dispatching three taxis to the Carlisle area, but it isn’t enough to serve the entire community.

      The troubling situation in Carlisle is a clear reminder that the community desperately needs more public transportation options. Harrisburg’s public transit authority, Capital Area Transit (CAT), was actually forced to delay a pilot bus program in Carlisle last year due to a lack of funding. The agency has indicated it could “introduce bus service to the Carlisle area this year if enough public transit funding under a $2.4 billion transportation plan Gov. Tom Corbett signed in November reaches CAT.”

      Unfortunately, those funds may not come soon enough for some in Carlisle. The community’s elderly residents and students are two groups who are less likely to own cars and much more likely to rely on public transportation to get around. In fact, at nearby Dickinson College, the student senate voted to donate $14,000 to help get bus service up and running.

      At first glance, Carlisle may not seem like a natural fit for bus service. But, as other smaller cities have shown, smart planning can make public transit a success almost anywhere. Look no further than Missoula, Montana, and their Mountain Line bus service. Though it primarily serves a small rural population, Mountain Line has steadily increased their ridership by expanding service and improving reliability.

      When the Moonlight Taxicab Company shut down, many Carlisle residents were left stranded. However, if state and federal authorities do their part and provide adequate funding for public transit, they won’t be left without a ride again.

    • Improved Driving Estimates Can Lead to Better Public Transit Funding

      The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) periodically issues a Conditions and Performance report on the nation’s highways, bridges, and transit systems. The report includes innumerable facts, figures, and forecasts that largely go unnoticed by the public, but there is one prediction that deserves a lot more attention: national vehicle-miles traveled.

      On the surface, forecasting the total number of miles Americans drive in a year doesn’t seem like it would be all that important, but with policy makers, experience has shown that inaccurate estimates can lead to difficult funding decisions.

      And what we learn when we review the historical Conditions and Performance report data, is that year after year the federal government has had difficulty accurately predicting Americans’ driving habits, as the chart below illustrates:

      It’s easy to understand why the government might expect Americans to continue driving more each year. Since the Department of Transportation started tracking the distance driven by light-duty vehicles in 1984, the upward trend in miles traveled has been extremely reliable. It wasn’t until 2007, when America’s car consumption peaked, that the estimates became a potential problem. Despite America’s collective travel miles topping out at around 3 trillion, the government continued to increase estimates year after year. For instance, in 2012, Americans traveled around 2.9 trillion miles; the government’s 2010 estimate predicted Americans would travel close to 3.3 trillion.

      There are several possible reasons for the dip in car travel—the recession, higher gas prices, and millennials driving less—but there is another simple explanation for why the Department of Transportation’s estimates have been off in recent years. DOT’s forecasts in the Conditions and Performance report are constructed using data and estimates from state and local governments. In some cases, their projections are based on difficult-to-predict changes in local populations and economies, creating the potential for mistakes.

      These inaccuracies need to be addressed, because the forecasts inform lawmakers’ level of ”needed spending,” and could spur overbuilding of infrastructure to support car travel, draining funds from other investments like public transportation, where ridership actually increased in 2013. While funding public roads and highways remains crucial for all forms of transportation, the rising ridership of public transit should trigger increased investments.

      Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. One example: Congress recently increased the burden on public transit riders by allowing their monthly commuter tax benefit to drop by nearly 50% at the same time that car commuters actually got an increase in their tax benefit.  Public transit riders will be paying up to $1,380 more this year to commute—that’s just one example of policy that prioritizes car travel over public transit travel even though the reality is that public transit is gaining popularity in cities and towns across the nation.

      Be a voice for public transit and tell Congress they need to make restoring the commuter tax benefit a priority!

      As car consumption in America continues to fall and public transit ridership grows, Congress should increase investment in public transportation networks across the country, especially in areas that currently lack sufficient public transportation options. A public transit-focused infrastructure strategy will benefit riders and non-riders alike as we all see reduced car congestion, improved air quality, and better connections to our communities.

    • Measuring the Wait for Public Transportation


      “How long did you wait for the bus?” It’s a simple question but according to new research, many riders struggle to accurately assess how long they wait for public transportation. 

      Georgia Tech professor Dr. Kari Watkins conducted an experiment to study how people perceive their wait times for public transit. Watkins and her team observed riders arriving at King County Metro (King Country, WA) bus stops and measured how long they waited to get picked up. Once the bus arrived, researchers approached the riders to ask how long they had waited. What they found was that most riders overestimated how long it took the bus to arrive – with many believing they had waited as much as 50 percent longer than they actually had.

      However, there was one group of riders in Watkins’ study who were able to accurately report their wait times: customers with access to real-time arrival information. 

      It makes sense. Waits often feel particularly long when people don’t have anything to occupy their time or are feeling anxious. For public transit riders, having accurate and timely information about when their bus or train will arrive can have a huge impact on how they feel about their overall experience.

      In fact, for many riders, knowing how long they’ll have to wait is actually more important than the length of the wait. Having access to real-time data via arrival boards, text alerts, or mobile apps lets riders relax and focus on something besides the wait. According to Dr. Watkins, people would “rather have real-time [data] than more frequent service.”

      Some of the biggest beneficiaries of readily available real-time public transit data are rural and suburban riders. These customers are more vulnerable to unexpectedly long waits caused by service delays, and giving them accurate information about when they’ll be picked up can eliminate unnecessary anxiety and stress. Providing real-time transit data has the added benefit of helping these riders—who often need to transfer or use multiple modes of transit to reach their destination—plan for any missed connections or delayed arrivals.

      Watkins’ research demonstrates how understanding the psychology of waiting can help improve the public transit experience. Offering riders real-time arrival information is a relatively low-cost improvement that can make a big difference. 


    • Demand for Public Transit Grows in 2013

      Public transit systems across the nation saw a surge in ridership during the first three quarters of 2013, continuing several years of increasing popularity. Use of public transportation rose by an impressive 1.5 percent nationwide over the same period in 2012. Americans took more than 2.7 billion trips on public transit in Q3 alone: 39 million more rides than in the previous year.

      "Public transportation ridership continued to grow across the country in large, medium, and small communities," said Michael Melaniphy, the President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association. "This continued demand for public transportation demonstrates the value of public transit to individuals and the communities they live in, no matter their size."

      Several regions across the country saw a double-digit boost in ridership during the first 3 quarters of 2013. The Utah Transit Authority (primarily covering Salt Lake, Weber, Davis, Box Elder, Tooele, and Utah Counties, as well as the major ski resort areas in Utah) increased light rail ridership by 13.4 percent. The Regional Transportation District (primarily covering Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Parker, Highlands Ranch, Wheat Ridge and several local municipalities in  Colorado) observed a 25.3 percent increase in light rail ridership after debuting a new line last spring. Light rail ridership on the Regional Transit Authority (serving the Garden District, Gretna, Algiers, Lower 9th Ward, Metairie, and New Orleans East as well as the downtown area of New Orleans, Louisiana) grew by 71.2 percent thanks to a line that opened in January. 

      In Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (primarily covering Euclid, Shaker Heights, Brecksville, Parma, Parma Heights, Lakewood, Bay Village, Strongsville, as well as downtown Cleveland, Ohio) saw its ridership for heavy rail jump 5.7 percent, while Miami-Dade Transit (Cutler Bay, The Hammocks, Palmetto Bay, Norland, Hialeah Gardens, Carol City, the Miami International Airport, and downtown Miami, Florida) increased heavy rail ridership 11.1 percent by increasing service frequency.

      Finally, Metro Transit (serving Big Lake, Maple Grove, Spring Park, Forest Lake, Stillwater, Chaska, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airports and the greater metropolitan areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota) increased ridership on its Northstar Line by 15.1 percent. Northstar attributed the growth to an improved rider experience. The line recently instituted a $1 fare decrease, added free Wi-Fi service, and started employing extra trains for large-scale events in the city.

      Overall, 22 of the country’s 28 commuter rail lines increased ridership in the first three quarters of 2013. All major forms of public transportation increased during the observation period, but light rail had the largest boost of 3.1 percent. 

      "People are starting to realize there is additional value-added to riding [public transportation]" said Mary Shaffer, spokeswoman for the Greater Cleveland Transit Authority. "You can do things you can’t do while driving, like reading, sleeping, texting, and relaxing."

      To compete in a 21st century economy, communities increasingly need affordable and accessible public transit options. The growing coverage and use in areas both urban and rural across the country indicates that Americans value investment in public transportation—and that investment will be key to meeting increased demand as communities continue to grow. Become a voice for public transit and help make sure every citizen in America who wants it has access to public transportation.

    • Mobile Ticketing Expanding Across the Nation

      You probably already use your cell phone for countless daily tasks, but in a number of communities hand-held devices are learning a helpful new trick: buying public transit tickets. Across the country, public transportation providers are adopting smartphone apps allowing riders to purchase their tickets on the go.

      TriMet, the transportation service for Portland, Oregon, has had enormous success with their online ticketing app. More than 60,000 people downloaded the app in its first five months and made nearly half a million purchases.

      “Frankly, the use and enthusiasm over the mobile ticket app has been surprising,” said Neil McFarlane, TriMet’s General Manager. “We are always looking for improvements that benefit our riders and we knew mobile ticketing would provide them a new convenience, we just didn’t know how quickly they would embrace it.”

      The Chicago Transit Authority is currently working on a mobile ticketing system that will be used on both buses and trains. In D.C., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is adding payment options to include mobile payments, EMV chip-enabled bank cards, and federal government ID cards.

      "The new technology will provide more flexibility for accounts, better reliability for riders and real choices for customers to use bank-issued payment cards, credit cards, ID cards, or mobile phones to pay their Metro fares," said WMATA’s general manager and CEO Richard Sarles.

      Portland was the first city in America to implement mobile ticketing system-wide, but it won’t be the last. Other communities such as Boston have similar tools, and are working to integrate their various service offerings. 

      As public transit riders become increasingly reliant on their smart phones, mobile ticketing and other public transit apps will only become more popular. Check out your app store to see what kinds of mobile ticketing apps are available to you, and then help spread the word about Voices for Public Transit.

    • Super Bowl 2014 is First to Highlight Public Transportation


      On the weekend of Super Bowl XLVIII, approximately 400,000 people are expected to visit the New York City and New Jersey area. The game is being hosted at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and is being billed as the “first mass transit Super Bowl.”

      With more than half of the stadium’s 28,000 parking spots unavailable on Super Bowl Sunday, New Jersey Transit officials are urging fans to use public transportation, and recently released detailed plans for expanding service and adding capacity.

      Attendees can get direct service to the stadium by riding the “Fan Express” pre-ticketed bus system from one of nine convenient pickup locations. Officials have dedicated an express lane through the Lincoln Tunnel to help cut down on congestion and travel times. In addition, NJ Transit will offer a Super Pass – an unlimited train ticket that can be used throughout the Super Bowl.

      The Metropolitan Transportation Authority also worked closely with the Super Bowl Host Committee, NJ Transit, Amtrak, and NY Waterways to unveil a new transit map for the metropolitan area. It is the first regional transportation map for the New York City area, and will appear on all Super Bowl websites, guides, publications, and mobile apps.

      For fans who will be attending the game, travel convenience isn’t the only good reason to use public transit: Incidents of drinking and driving will likely be significantly diminished—or even eliminated altogether!—if attendees plan ahead to ride instead of drive.  

      Super Bowl XLVIII may be the first Super Bowl to rely on and promote public transit so extensively, but if everything goes well in East Rutherford on February 2nd, it shouldn’t be the last.

    • Commuter Tax Benefit Revival Depends on Congress

      We’re only a few weeks into 2014, but Congress is already under intense pressure to restore the commuter tax benefit for public transit riders.

      The popular tax break expired on December 31st, and advocates for public transit—including members of Voices for Public Transit—are demanding Congress make the commuter tax benefit a top priority. As we’ve been discussing, the senseless cuts to this vital program will cost some public transit riders more than $1,380 per year.

      Be a voice for public transit and tell your Congressional delegation they need to restore the commuter tax benefit for riders now!

      Right now, it looks like leadership in the House of Representatives might include the commuter tax benefit on the “extender bill” – which could take several months to pass. While it is good that Congress is thinking about ways to restore the commuter tax benefit for public transit riders, we hope they will act more quickly; an extended delay will send the wrong message.  As Eric Papetti, a transportation coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Lowell told the Boston Globe recently, “It indicates that Congress thinks people who don’t commute by car aren’t real, or don’t count. Instead, they heavily subsidize the most wasteful and inefficient transportation known to man.”

      Unlike the commuter tax benefit, parking benefits are enshrined in the federal tax code. They are automatically renewed each year and increased to match inflation. The commuter tax benefit, however, is approved on a year-to-year basis. When Congress didn’t renew the benefit in 2013, it was automatically slashed in half.

      Restoring the commuter tax benefit cannot wait!

      Contact your representatives in Washington and tell them to restore the commuter tax benefit for public transit riders immediately.

      Millions of Americans rely on this critical benefit to support their daily commute and to help make ends meet. Together, we can make a difference for these public transit riders and save Americans some time and money in the process.

    • TriMet – A Win-Win for the People of Portland


      Forbes
      recently named Portland, Oregon one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, so it’s a good thing they also have one of the country’s fastest-growing—and best—public transit systems.

      As new homes and businesses spring up across the region, city planners and transportation experts have found new and creative ways to meet the ever-increasing demand for affordable and reliable transportation.

      TriMet, (Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon) the area's public transportation system, has kept pace with the rapid population growth by being proactive and offering Oregonians a variety of interconnected public transit options.

      Covering more than 570 square miles of Portland’s tri-county area, TriMet operates an extensive network of light rail lines, buses, and commuter trains. The system provides more than 100 million trips each year and has become an integral part of daily life for Portland’s many residents and visitors. In fact, more people use TriMet than public transit systems in several larger American cities.

      By providing efficient and affordable transportation options, TriMet also helps ease traffic congestion in the region. More than 26% of rush-hour commuters ride TriMet to work, taking an incredible number of cars off the road each day. 

      Accessibility is also one of TriMet’s strong suits with 90% of those rush-hour commuters living within half a mile of the service. It’s no wonder then that 84% of TriMet’s customers use the service as a preferred alternative to driving, or sometimes even owning, a car.

      Beyond easing traffic congestion, TriMet also prides itself on improving the area’s air quality. Each year, Portland’s public transit system helps eliminate 65 million car trips, reducing air pollution due to fuel emissions.

      For more than 40 years, TriMet has demonstrated the benefits of public transit to residents of greater Portland. They’ve shown that providing reliable, accessible, and affordable public transportation improves neighborhoods’ livability and diminishes the impact on the environment. Talk about a win-win for the people of Portland.

    • Crowdsourcing a Better Trip on Public Transit


      Do you like to ride public transit but wish you had more tools to help plan your journey? Do you want accurate, real-time updates so you can pick the fastest route to your destination?

      If you answered yes to any of these questions, there is a new mobile app that may interest you.

      Israeli tech firm Moovit just raised $28 million to expand its operations and is quickly growing in popularity across the United States. The "social transit app" is a crowdsourcing application designed to "transform the public transportation user's experience by both saving time and reducing uncertainty."

      Crowdsourcing is basically outsourcing a task to a large number of people. In this case, Moovit users run the application on their smartphones while riding public transit. The company collects information about each user’s trip as they progress through the system, and combines it with data from the transportation provider. The result is a real-time snapshot of what is happening across an entire public transit system.

      As Elliott Gotkine reports in this Bloomberg TV interview:

      Moovit users can utilize the app to figure out the fastest route to their destination and when they need to leave to arrive on time. Moovit also creates a map of the entire system that allows users see where trains, buses and other public transit vehicles are at any given moment, and if they have open space for new riders.

      As more and more people choose public transportation, having reliable and timely updates about the system will become increasingly important. Combining information from transportation providers with live data from riders should make planning trips and using public transit a whole lot easier for everyone.

    • New Streetcar Line Debuts in Salt Lake City

      Last month, we told you about the extraordinary success of Salt Lake City’s TRAX light rail system and how the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) turned a formerly car-centric community into a model for smart public transit development.

      But the light rail expansion is just one of many projects UTA has undertaken to keep pace with rising demand for affordable and accessible public transportation in the Salt Lake City area. In early December, the agency unveiled its newest addition, the Sugar House Streetcar line, to rave reviews.

      The project – commonly known as the S-Line – was funded in part by a $26 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and has been heralded as a model for smart planning and inter-governmental coordination that will benefit area residents for years to come.

      The project is just another example of UTA’s pro-active response to rapid population growth, and transportation experts around the country are taking notice.

      “Utah’s visionary investment in public transit along the fast-growing Wasatch Front is also an investment in a bright future for working families who want to spend less time in traffic on I-15 and less money at the gas pump,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff in a statement.

      S-Line riders are now connected to “over 130 miles of existing and planned rail transit throughout the region,” and judging by the public reaction, it sounds like the new streetcar line is a hit.

      From the Salt Lake Tribune:

      Sugar House resident Alec Jenson sees the new line as a unifying feature.

      "This will give Sugar House a new vibe. It has been lacking something. This will unite us," Jenson said. "Rather than everyone jumping in their cars and driving by themselves, now we can ride the streetcar together."

      By making public transit more accessible and coordinating with local governments, the UTA has garnered broad support and developed a world-class multi-modal transportation system that is the envy of many larger communities.

      Become a voice for public transit and learn what you can do to help ensure all Americans have access to the same kind of affordable and reliable public transit Salt Lake City residents enjoy.

    • Time is Running Out to Fix the Commuter Transit Benefit

      Congress has headed home for the holidays with a big piece of business left unfinished: extending the commuter tax benefit for public transit riders.

      You’ve probably already heard about the looming cuts to this popular workplace benefit in 2014 – a change that could cost public transit riders more than $1,380 per year – but even though they’ve adjourned for the year, Congress can still prevent this de facto tax increase on millions of Americans by acting to restore the full benefit as soon as they return in January.

      Be a voice for public transit and tell your Congressional delegation they need to restore the commuter tax benefit for public transit riders now!

      It’s not just employees who will lose out; many employers take advantage of this program to reduce their payroll taxes. They then use the savings to expand their business, hire more workers, or increase employee benefits.

      And, as Kerry Doyle points out in a recent Forbes article, programs that help employees ditch their cars can have greater value for employers than just tax savings:

      Offering employees choice and the ability to forgo car ownership in a highly visible benefit that is a boon for the employer as an employee retention tool. That’s a lot of bang for an employer’s buck — especially considering how relatively few bucks it costs to provide the service.

      Even employers and workers who don’t utilize the commuter tax benefit will be better off if Congress stops the cuts. Encouraging more people to ride public transit will result in fewer rush-hour traffic jams and “a downtown that is less of a parking lot and more of an attractive place to work.”

      Congress can still fix this mess!

      Contact your Members of Congress and tell them to restore the commuter tax benefit for public transit riders as soon as they return to Washington.

      Together, we can make a real difference for the millions of Americans who rely on this critical benefit to get to work and help make ends meet. Restoring the benefit will help all commuters get to where they need to go – saving everyone some time and money in the process.

    • Congressional Inaction Threatens to Derail the Commuter Tax Benefit


      The cost of commuting could get a whole lot more expensive in 2014 for people who currently receive tax benefits for riding public transit to work.

      Thanks to a lack of action by Congress, the commuter tax benefit for public transit riders will be slashed almost in half at the end of the month. NPR’s David Welna explains:

      For the past four years, public transportation users and people who drive their cars to work and pay for parking have been able set aside up to $245 a month in wages tax free if they're used for commuting costs or workplace parking.

      The transit tax break expires at the end of the year. So starting Jan. 1, the benefit for riders will be cut nearly in half — to $130 a month. Drivers, on the other hand, will get a slightly bigger break as their parking benefit rises to $250.


      If this seems like a bad idea, that’s because it is.

      The change will cost public transit commuters up to $1,380 a year at a time when many households are still struggling to make ends meet. But it isn’t just employees who will lose out if Congress doesn’t act before the end of the year. Many employers take advantage of this helpful tax break to reduce their payroll taxes. Employers can use these savings to expand their business, hire more workers, or increase employee benefits.

      Allowing the commuter transit benefit to be cut is not just bad economics; it’s bad public policy: it incentivizes driving over using public transit, resulting in more cars on the road, more pollution, and more traffic jams. 

      We need to make public transit a national priority, and that means encouraging more people to use it, as well as expanding it to more communities.  Public policy that makes driving and parking more attractive than using public transit represents a backward step.

      We need to be moving forward in making public transit a bigger focus for all Americans: It’s time to establish permanent parity between the parking and transit portions of the commuter tax benefit.

      Tell your representatives in Washington to join the bi-partisan effort to restore the public transit commuter benefit.

      The truth is, even employees and businesses that don’t take advantage of the tax break will be better off if Congress restores the transit commuter benefit. The more people using public transit to get to the office, the fewer cars there are out on the road. That means employees shorter commute times, cleaner air, and reduced congestion for everyone. 

      We still have time to save the commuter tax benefit for public transit riders, but the clock is ticking.

      Legislation was recently introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to establish permanent parity between the transit and parking commuter benefits. 

      Be a voice for public transit! Ask your Congressional delegation to support the commuter tax benefit for public transit and help ensure all commuters are treated fairly, no matter how they get to work.

    • Bringing Public Transit to Rural Americans

      For much of the 20th century, public transit was a big city convenience. Massive transportation systems like the New York City subway and Los Angeles bus system became engines of economic growth and provided vital lifelines to carless city dwellers.

      But today, it isn’t just urban residents who rely on public transportation. For millions of Americans living in rural areas, access to affordable and reliable public transit has become essential.

      According to a 2012 report from Reconnecting America, “more than 1.6 million rural households do not own cars,” and “nearly 40 percent of the country’s transit-dependent population – primarily senior citizens, persons with disabilities and low-income individuals – live in rural areas.”

      These Americans are much more likely to live in lower-density communities farther from commercial centers, making reliable transportation options more important.

      The unique challenges facing rural residents who can’t or don’t drive mean that they frequently rely on demand-responsive public transportation to get around. Demand-responsive services – sometimes called Dial-a-Ride or Flexible Transport Services – don’t have fixed routes and are scheduled ahead of time by the rider.

      In many rural areas, public transit is provided by a patchwork of private, public and charitable organizations.  While their services are laudable and greatly improve access for some rural citizens, this mixture of different transportation options can result in service gaps and makes it difficult for riders to coordinate longer trips.

      The good news is, there is growing support for expanding public transit to more communities throughout the nation.

      In fact, a recently released survey by the National Association of REALTORS® found that 41 percent of Americans think investing in better public transit is “the best long-term solution to reducing traffic and improving transportation." By comparison, 29 percent preferred developing communities "where people do not have to drive long distances to work or shop,” and just 20 percent favored building new roads.

      With such strong support for improving public transit, it’s time for a coordinated effort to make sure all Americans—no matter where they live—are able to get where they need to go.

      Become a voice for public transit and join the movement making affordable and accessible public transit a reality for everyone.


    • Public Transit Matters: Helping Everyone Get Where They Need To Go

      For millions of Americans who can’t or don’t drive, public transit provides a vital lifeline that connects them to the world.

      The majority of federal transportation funding has favored highways and cars, leaving state and local governments to pick up the slack. As a result, many individuals who don’t drive are left without viable transportation options to access education, employment, healthcare, housing, and other important parts of community life.

      Two groups that rely disproportionately on public transit are the elderly and persons with disabilities. For people in these groups – many of whom have mobility concerns or are unable to safely operate a motor vehicle – access to public transit can be the difference between isolation and full participation in civic life.

      More than 20% of Americans over the age of 65 don't drive according to an analysis of government data by the AARP Public Policy Institute. These older Americans often count on public transit to help them get around, and with more and more baby boomers retiring, the need for affordable and reliable public transit will only grow. 

      The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires accessibility in public transit for persons with disabilities. But providing robust transit options for the disabled isn’t just the law, it’s good for our society and our economy as well. 

      As a recent report on transportation equity from the American Association of People with Disabilities explains:

      Adults with disabilities are twice as likely as those without disabilities to have inadequate transportation (31 percent vs. 13 percent). Of the nearly 2 million people with disabilities who never leave their homes, 560,000 never leave home because of transportation difficulties. Leaving people out has real costs to the nation. Keeping people with disabilities at home keeps them out of jobs, away from shopping, and out of community life, and it prevents them from making valuable contributions to our society as individuals, as workers, as consumers, and as taxpayers.

      If we work together, we can ensure that all Americans are able to commute to work, attend school, and access the health care they need to thrive. Please, invite your friends to become a voice for public transit and let’s keep fighting for affordable and accessible public transportation for all.

    • Salt Lake City Light Rail: A Model for Transit Development

      The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is going to change your mind about Utah's place among world-class transit systems.

      At first glance, Utah appears less-than-friendly toward public transit. With only 34.3 people per square mile, Utah is ranked 41st out of the 50 states in population density, and many of its residents live in suburban, exurban, and rural communities that have traditionally been dominated by automobiles.

      Despite the UTA’s diligent work to build community support for public transit, especially in the populous Salt Lake City metropolitan area, it hasn’t always been easy. When UTA’s light rail system, TRAX, first launched in 1999, it faced protests and significant opposition.

      So how did this seemingly challenging environment become a leader in the public transportation movement? The answer can be found in UTA’s strategy for promoting a recent TRAX expansion.

      As The Atlantic Cities’ Eric Jaffe reports:

      One of UTA's most effective strategies for uniting people was targeting those who don't use public transit. The agency and its advocates pointed out that TRAX ridership saves 29,000 trips — or two full freeway lanes — in the Interstate-15 corridor every day. Road-reliant businesses like UPS ran ads explaining that [light rail expansion] would help residents get their packages quicker by reducing traffic.

      With broad support from riders and non-riders alike, UTA has been able to expand dramatically in recent years. TRAX now includes several lines and connects to a downtown inter-modal hub, linking the system to buses and a commuter rail line.

      As the system’s offerings have increased, so has ridership. UTA now provides more than 42 million trips annually, and an estimated 75% of riders have access to a vehicle but choose to ride public transit instead, according to Lieutenant Governor Spencer J. Cox.

      Even more impressive is that the most recent TRAX expansion, dubbed FrontLines 2015, was completed two years ahead of schedule and $300 million under budget. With only 20% of the project’s financing being provided by the federal government, a strong local coalition was critical to getting the project off the ground.

      UTA’s success demonstrates what strategic planning and broad community support can do for a public transportation system. If other communities around the country follow suit, a lot more people may find easier access to public transit.

    • Give Thanks for—and Ride—Public Transit this Turkey Day



      As the holiday season approaches, there are many things for people to get excited about.

      Enjoying home cooked meals, reconnecting with family, and shopping at Black Friday sales are all Thanksgiving staples. But there is another, less popular holiday tradition that many of us will endure again this year: sitting in traffic.

      A whopping 70% of travelers report being stressed about Thanksgiving travel according to a new survey by TripAdvisor. And why shouldn’t they be? Congested roadways, crowded airports, and inclement weather are ever-present holiday complications. 

      In total, 39% of Americans plan to travel for Turkey Day this year, up seven percent from 2012. Of those traveling, 57% say they’ll drive to their Thanksgiving destination.

      But here’s an idea to make your holiday trip a little more relaxing: leave the car at home and use public transit.

      According to a study by the American Public Transportation Association earlier this year, a majority of summer tourists planned to use public transit on their trips to cities. If Thanksgiving travelers follow suit and decide to ditch their cars, everyone can enjoy a more peaceful holiday.

      As APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy explains:

      A growing number of travelers are discovering that one of a city’s greatest assets is its local public transportation system.  These travelers are saving money while taking advantage of the local systems’ high-frequency routes, which are designed to stop at the most popular spots and attractions a city has to offer.

      In fact, many communities now offer public transit guides for tourists and provide weekly or daily passes for riders from out of town.

      Does public transit factor into your Thanksgiving plans? Tell us more about it

    • Bringing America’s Transportation System into the 21st Century

      Americans love their cars, but as traffic congestion increasingly chokes the nation’s roads and highways, communities around the country are working to build the public transit infrastructure they need—not only to keep a growing population connected and moving, but also to help their economies remain competitive.

      As you might expect, it’s not easy to run a 21st century economy with a 20th century transportation system. The more time people spend in traffic, the less time they’re working, studying, and shopping. Collectively, Americans living in areas served by public transit save approximately 865 million hours in travel time each year.

      Over the next 40 years, the nation’s population will balloon to more than 400 million people. Without smart investments in modern transportation systems, including public transit, America’s economy will be stifled by congestion. 

      On the other hand, if we make smart investments now, and commit to expanding public transit to every part of our nation, America has a bright future in store, and public transit will take us there.

      Voices for Public Transit is dedicated to making that happen.

    • Mapping Public Transit, One App at a Time



      October was a big month for technology that benefits public transit riders, with two of the world’s tech giants signaling updates to their popular mapping applications.

      First, for the true gadget lovers among us, Google announced that it was adding public transit directions for Google Glass as part of its October update. As the developers explained:

      Explorers who have paired Glass to their Android phones will now have the option to see public transit directions when navigating on Glass. When you get directions and select transit, you’ll be able to see all sorts of helpful info, like where to change trains, how far you have to walk to the bus stop and how long it should take to reach your final destination. 

      This is great news for anyone who relies on mobile technology to plan trips on public transit, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With the California Highway Patrol recently issuing the first known ticket for driving while wearing the Google Glass, it’s probably best to stick with public transit when using this kind of interactive technology.

      Fortunately, October didn’t just bring good news for Google users. iPhone owners also learned that public transit directions may, at long last, be coming to Apple Maps.

      The company recently posted a pair of job listings seeking software engineers who want to “build the world’s best Transit Routing platform at massive scale.” Adding public transit information has been a top priority for the Apple Maps team, and would provide iPhone users with another powerful tool when deciding how they’ll get around.

      Both Google and Apple have made big investments in their mapping technology. Adding public transit information will not only improve users’ ability to plan their trips, but keep them wired on the go. That’s great news for people who use public transit daily as well as people who are new to public transit in their own communities or want to more easily navigate systems in cities they’re visiting. 

    • Making Public Transit Work for More Americans —Creating Multi-Modal Systems



      More Americans than ever are using multiple travel modes to get where they need to go, combining travel by bus, train, and car with walking and biking to maximize efficiency, reduce costs, and create better lifestyles. Public transit systems are searching for new strategies to help public transit better meet the needs of these multi-modal travelers. 

      APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy explains, “now is the time to be pro-active in creating this multi-modal transportation system…[riders want] the pragmatic benefits of having multiple ways to get around.”

      One shining example of the shift toward interconnected transit systems is the new transportation nexus in South Portland (Oregon). The facility provides a wealth of transportation options and connects travelers with TriMet, greater Portland’s public transit system.

      Oregonians can access this vibrant transit hub by walking across the new Gibbs Street Pedestrian Bridge, jumping on the Portland Streetcar, taking a scenic trip on the Portland Aerial Tram, or biking on a protected cycle track. The facility also features the country’s largest bike valet, providing carless commuters with a safe and reliable option for accessing the city’s public transit system. 

      Streetfilms offers a short tour of the nexus and testimonials from some of the Oregonians who use the facility each day. Check it out:


      Creating accessible transit nexuses is particularly important for riders who don’t live within walking distance of public transit. Many suburban and exurban residents are forced to drive to a bus or train stop to get on public transportation. Innovations like bike valets can free these riders from their cars and provide a healthier and more enjoyable journey to wherever they need to go.

      Do you have a story about how public transit works for you? If so, we’d love to hear about it! Please, share your story and tell us why you are a voice for public transit.

      P.S., Millennials are the largest group when it comes to multi-modal travelers. Learn more about why building multi-modal systems are important for younger Americans here.

    • Public Transit and Halloween Go Together

      America loves Halloween. In the U.S. it’s become the second-largest spending and decorating holiday behind Christmas.

      Public transportation plays a role in the festivities in many parts of the nation.

      Ride Public Transportation to Halloween Events
      Public transit is a great way to travel during holidays, including Halloween. Use public transportation to avoid traffic on the way to Halloween parties and community events. If you’re planning to attend a Halloween event, check the venue’s website for public transportation options. 

      Public transportation is also safer than traveling by car, especially on a holiday where many celebrations include alcohol consumption. Some public transit systems even offer free rides on Halloween and Halloween weekend.

      We Want to See Your Transit Costumes
      On Halloween, you can do more than ride public transit. You can also wear it as your costume! New York’s Transit Museum Store offers track worker and engineer costumes. We’ve also seen people dressed up as train cars and buses. One creative Pinterest user has even built a pinboard dedicated to public transit costumes.

      If you have a public transportation costume or ride public transit wearing your costume, snap a photo and email it to us, post it on our Facebook page, or tweet it to us@APTA_Transit.

      Spread the Word
      If you’re wearing a public transit costume—or wearing your costume on public transit!—tell others about the benefits of public transportation. Encourage them to become part of the Voices for Public Transit advocacy movement.
    • Many Voices Share Many Benefits of Public Transportation

      Over the last six weeks, we've been asking members of Voices for Public Transit to tell us why they support public transportation. In response, people from all around the country have written about the variety of benefits provided by public transit. They've also shared ideas to make public transportation better. We've rounded up some highlights of what you're saying, including a few surprises. And if you haven't shared your story, you can still do so.

      Affordability and Financial Benefits
      For many people, riding public transit is more affordable than driving. Brian, for example, writes that he uses public transit when he goes to Chicago "to save on the cost of both gasoline and parking." From Pennsylvania, Katrina writes, "I take the bus everywhere." She notes that driving costs include "insurance, gas, car payments, repairs."

      We also heard great stories about how saving money by using public transportation frees up budget for other expenses. From Atlanta, Carl writes, "Public transit has allowed my wife and me to be a one car family…. Using transit allowed us to purchase a home in a historic streetcar, in town neighborhood."

      Quality of Life
      Several members of our community shared inspiring stories about how public transportation improves their lives. On Facebook, Steven writes that he moved to downtown Denver from rural West Virginia, "because I needed public transit to live. A chronic case of epilepsy has left me ineligible for a license. The transit system here is pretty good and allows me to be 100% independent." Also in the Denver area, Jessee writes that light rail "is my only way to get to Arapahoe Community College in Littleton where I am studying to be a paralegal."

      Others wrote that using public transportation instead of driving reduces stress, helps the environment, and builds a sense of community. All great points!

      Support for Improvement
      It's encouraging to hear such strong support for public transportation from participants in our growing movement. But as much as people value public transit, they also want to see it expanded and improved.

      For some, this means new bus routes or more frequent service. Others wrote that they wanted to see evening or weekend service. On our Facebook page, supporters Christina and John conversed about the need for more comfortable, cleaner vehicles.

      What About You?
      What about public transportation is most important to you? What would expanded service or improved resources mean to you? Join the discussion here or on Facebook

    • Have You Seen a Pink Bus?

      Public transit systems are spreading the word about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) with pink buses this October.

      From Miami to Michigan
      In Miami-Dade County, Florida, citizens are reminded to "think pink" when they see a police vehicle, a county tractor trailer, and a Metrobus all painted pink to raise awareness about breast cancer.

      In Flint, Michigan, the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA), unveiled a new pink bus as well. The new hybrid bus will fly its pink colors all year to promote breast cancer awareness.

      All over the country, bus drivers and train operators have been spotted wearing pink ties, shirts, and ribbons.

      The Connection between Public Transportation and Health
      Participation in NBCAM is a natural fit for public transit. Public buses and trains can promote health with pink paint jobs and public service ads. In addition, public transportation provides access to healthcare, including breast cancer screenings.

      Furthermore, people who use public transit also engage in more physical activity—walking and standing—than people who don't. Even modest activity can help lower your risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer, including breast cancer!

      Send Us Your Photos
      Have you seen a pink bus or a driver wearing a pink shirt or tie? Snap a photo and post it to our Facebook page or email us at info@voicesforpublictransit.org.

    • Indy Connect Seeks to Improve Life in the Indianapolis Metro Area

      Indianapolis is America’s 13th-largest city. It has NFL, NBA, and WNBA sports teams. It also hosts one of the most prestigious motorsports events in the world, the Indianapolis 500. Now, regional leaders and the larger community have set their sights on further improving the metropolitan area by expanding its public transit system.

      Attracting and Keeping a Vibrant Population
      Community, business, and government leaders—as well as its citizens—want to see Indianapolis thrive in the 21st century. Indianapolis already has a solid public transit system, but more robust options will help it become a marquee city—one that attracts business and encourages young people to stay.

      In the Indianapolis area, commute times are often long because of congested roadways. Greater investment in public transit would help ease traffic and better enable people to reach jobs across the region.

      Local government and business leaders know that economic development is being held back in part by transportation issues and, in response, several local organizations have joined forces to form Indy Connect. Their goal? To help Indianapolis transportation evolve into a 21st-century multimode system with public transit as its heart and soul.

      Planning for Central Indiana’s Future
      Indy Connect launched in 2010, after a public opinion poll showed support for funding improvements to local transportation. Leaders of this transportation initiative conducted hundreds of meetings and community briefings and also collected input via social networks, a website, and a dedicated phone line.

      Based on the feedback they received, they developed a long-range transportation plan in November 2010, with the first phase to run through 2025 and encompass the core of the metropolitan area. The plan includes expanded bus service, rapid transit, bike and pedestrian pathways, and widened roadways. The first phase would create an estimated 7,000 jobs and pay $1.5 billion to workers over 10 years.

      Building Momentum to Move Forward
      But several barriers remain.

      The plan calls for federal, state, and local funding. While polling favors the investment, the Indiana State Legislature must first empower counties to hold tax referendums. With the legislature’s approval, counties could move forward with referendums on their local ballots. No one likes taxes, but this important step would give the people the chance to vote on whether they want to fund greater investment in public transit.

      In many ways, when it comes to expanding public transportation, Indianapolis is representative of our entire nation. There is strong community and business support for moving forward, but political obstacles must be overcome.

      This is why Voices for Public Transit is here. We need the people—citizens at the grassroots level—to speak out to create the political will to put more public transit solutions in place. That’s what is happening in Indianapolis, and we can make it happen across the nation if we work together.

      Does your region have a long-term vision for transportation? What improvements would you like to see locally? Please share your story or post on our Facebook page!

    • Fuel Efficiency is Good for Everyone

      It's easy to understand the direct benefits for people who use public transportation: Riders save money, they don't have to navigate traffic, they can work or relax while commuting, and more.

      But what about the benefits for people who don't ride public transit on a regular basis?

      One answer stands out: public transportation helps reduce pollution.

      Public Transportation = Greater Fuel Efficiency
      At the most basic level, trains and buses filled with passengers are far more fuel efficient than cars with a single occupant:

      • Buses—A fully occupied bus is 6x more fuel efficient than a single-occupant car.
      • Trains—A fully occupied train car is 15x more fuel efficient than a single-occupant car.

      Because public transit moves people more efficiently, it produces a lot less air pollution per person. Trains, including light rail, are the most environmentally friendly form of public transportation: For instance, trains produce nearly 100% less carbon monoxide and 75% less nitrogen oxide per passenger mile than cars with a solo driver.

      Less Pollution = Better Health
      Fewer harmful gases in the air translate into better health. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide are both triggers for asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Cleaner air also reduces heart-related ailments and slows climate change. All of these benefits are universal, regardless of whether you personally use public transportation.

      Do your ride public transit because you want to help the environment? Would your area benefit from reduced air pollution? Do you have ideas for how Voices for Public Transit can find new supporters? We'd like to hear your ideas, which you can post on our Facebook page or website.

    • Millennials Know Public Transit Makes Life Better

      Two new studies—"Millennials & Mobility" and "A New Way to Go"—show a growing trend in American transportation: People are choosing to drive less. Seventy percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34—the so-called "Millennial Generation"—use multiple transportation options several times each week.

      A Flexible Mix of Transportation
      Depending on the trip, Millennials walk, bike, drive, or ride public transit. This trend toward multiple modes of transportation tells us that American transportation is in transition. Future planning must balance all forms of transportation, with renewed emphasis placed on expanding public transit.

      Technology, Work, and Transportation Preferences
      Several factors drive the Millennials' support for public transit. Riding public transit saves money, provides exercise in walking to stops and final destinations, and in some areas is simply more convenient.

      Social and economic trends also explain the growing preference for public transit. Riding buses and rail enables people to work as they travel and socialize digitally on smart phones and tablets.

      In fact, new technologies are at the heart of changing transportation preferences. Today, public transit users can continue to communicate, socialize, and work safely, without having to worry about traffic. According to the two studies, the value of public transit will increase as Wi-Fi and 3G/4G broadband connectivity are added to more buses and train cars. Technology that adds convenience, such as smart phone fare payment and real-time service updates, will also make public transit increasingly appealing.

      A New Direction for Transportation Policy
      This research suggests that American leaders at all levels of government should rethink transportation policy. "Government leaders should focus less on expanding highway capacity and more on public transit, biking, walking, and other alternatives to personal cars," said Phineas Baxandall, Ph.D., who co-wrote "A New Way to Go."

      Do you share Baxandall's views? How could your local transportation options be improved? Please share your views with the Voices for Public Transit community.

    • Public Transportation Makes for Healthier Communities

      Public health researchers have found that public transportation helps build healthy communities by promoting physical activity, reducing air pollution and traffic accidents, and providing access to healthcare. If we want to improve America’s health, public transportation should be part of the solution.

      Public Transit Users Are More Active
      When you ride public transit, you walk and stand more. Instead of simply moving from an office chair to a driver's seat, public transit users walk to bus or rail stops and to their final destinations. One study found that transit riders were three times more active than people who don't use public transportation. Increased physical activity reduces the risk of developing many health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer.

      Cleaner Air
      Overall, buses and rail produce far less air pollution per passenger mile than cars. More than 35% of U.S. public transit buses use alternative fuels or hybrid technology—and that number continues to grow. Because air pollution contributes to respiratory illnesses and heart disease, it is estimated that air pollution causes as many deaths as traffic accidents. Increasing public transportation use—and limiting car use—can help communities improve air quality and overall health for everyone, regardless of whether they ride public transit personally.

      Access to Healthcare
      For many people—especially those who are unable to drive due to age, disability, or financial constraints—public transportation provides a vital link to health services. In some regions, such as greater Austin, Texas, healthcare organizations, community groups, and transit systems are working together to ensure that people can find ways to reach healthcare providers, including by public transportation.

      Where Are We Headed?
      While public transportation clearly contributes to public health, limited transportation options and service cuts have the opposite effect. For instance, a recent study by the Alameda County (CA) Public Health Department found that bus service cuts limited access to work, community activities, or healthcare for the majority of bus riders.

      What does this all mean? Well, simply, public transportation makes America healthier. This fact should encourage policymakers to consider public health when weighing transportation funding issues. Do you agree? Let us know by sharing your thoughts on Facebook or on our community page.

    • Virginia Embraces “Try Transit Week”

      Last month, Virginia hosted its fifth statewide “Try Transit Week,” a joint effort of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), regional transit systems, and communities. Try Transit Week invites locals to save time, money, and energy by sampling public transportation.

      Promoting a Public Transit Pledge
      As part of Try Transit Week, Virginians were asked to pledge to use public transit for the week of September 16-20. Everyone who pledged was entered into a drawing to win a one-year transit pass from their local transit provider. More than 20 transit systems across Virginia also offered their own prizes, including free-ride coupons, monthly passes, and more.

      Highlighting the Benefits of Public Transit
      The Virginia DRPT and local transit providers conveyed a positive message: “By using transit, you can save on fuel and certain car expenses that, for the average family, can add up to $10,000 a year.”

      While traffic congestion is notoriously heavy in northern Virginia—near Washington, DC—commuters in other areas of the state also face snarled roadways. “As the State’s population continues to grow, commuters are looking for options besides sitting in traffic jams and having to alternate their schedules just to avoid rush-hour congestion,” said Thelma Drake, director of the DRPT. The best alternative, of course, is riding public transportation.

      How Does Your State or Region Encourage the Use of Public Transportation?
      “Try Transit Week” is a great statewide effort to highlight the benefits of public transportation. How does your state or local transit system encourage people to try public transportation? Let us know by posting on our Facebook page, tweeting @APTA_transit, or sharing your story on our website.

    • Property Values Linked to Public Transportation Access

      Across America, public transit improves quality of life. High-frequency public transit fuels job growth, eases traffic congestion, and provides access to shopping and services. In addition, a recent study found that residential property located near public transit retained its value better and regained lost value more quickly following economic downturns compared to other properties.

      The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transit
      The nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology examined sales of single-family homes, condominiums, and townhouses in five cities between 2006 and 2011, and then matched locations to public transit routes. The findings of their study were remarkable: During the last economic downturn, the value of residential properties located near high-frequency public transit performed nearly 42% better than comparable properties outside so-called “transit sheds.”

      Michael Melaniphy, the President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), summarized the study, “When homes are located near public transportation, they are among the most valuable and desirable in the area.”

      National Association of Realtors’ Chief Economist Lawrence Yun agreed: “Higher home values reflect greater market demand for areas near public transportation. Transportation plays an important role in real estate and housing decisions, and the data suggests that residential real estate near public transit will remain attractive to buyers going forward. A sound transportation system not only benefits individual property owners, but also creates the foundation for a community’s long-term economic well-being.”

      The study examined a range of cities with mixed public transit systems. While Boston has a well-established public transit system, other cities such as Phoenix and Minneapolis-St. Paul have newer light rail systems and a less mature transit infrastructure. Residences in transit sheds were also found to have better access to jobs and lower household transportation costs on average.

      Does Access to Public Transit Influence Your Housing Decisions?
      When you moved into your current neighborhood, did access to public transportation factor into your decision? Will you consider transit options the next time you move? We’d like to hear about it. Tell us by sharing your story or posting on our Facebook page.

    • Transportation Hub Anchors New World Trade Center


      Image credit: Santiago Calatrava
      Courtesy of: Silverstein Properties
      Taken: June 01, 2009
      This image appears in the World Trade Center Transportation Hub set in the WTC Renderings gallery

      This month, our nation marked twelve years since the tragic events of 9/11. Our citizens—especially those closest to the terrible events of that day—view the rebuilding of the World Trade Center (WTC) with a mix of emotions. There will always be sorrow for the lives that were lost that day. The rebuilding of the World Trade Center, which includes the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, has been carefully designed to honor their memory and ensure we never forget what happened there; it also brings renewed vitality, cultural life, and economic recovery to lower Manhattan, showing the world that New York will not lose its spirit in the face of terrorism and tragedy.

      An Epic Transit Center
      A cornerstone of the new WTC is the dramatically beautiful transportation hub, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Under construction since 2007, the $3.9 billion transportation hub brings together subway lines, rail from New Jersey (PATH system), and pedestrian walkways.

      Calatrava has said that the wing-like upper structures of the hub were inspired by a child releasing a bird. According to WTC construction director Steven Plate, the hub is "more than an engineering marvel"; it also commemorates "the souls of nearly 3,000 people who died here."

      Jobs Driven by Public Transit
      Work on the 800,000-foot complex runs 24 hours a day. In any single day, as many as 500 workers help bring the project closer to completion, which is expected in 2015.

      The transportation hub is designed to serve 250,000 people per day—the expected ridership into the station by 2025. Without public transit, many jobs would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach in lower Manhattan.

      In addition to enabling people to connect with nearby employers, the WTC transportation hub will also support permanent jobs in the site's 200,000 square feet of retail space, which will include restaurants and stores.

      Voices for Public Transit believes the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, while difficult, is ultimately a beautiful way to recognize those who were lost and those who survived the events of September 11 by bringing new life to the community they lived and worked in and loved. We are grateful public transportation can play a role in that rebirth.

    • Public Transit Needed for Access to Suburban Jobs

      Across America, many new jobs are located in suburban areas—not city centers. With job growth comes the need for more transportation options, including public transportation. In turn, the availability of public transportation spurs further job growth. It’s a cycle that helps American workers and our nation’s economy.

      Recognizing the importance of suburban areas for job growth, Congress created the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program as part of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. Operating since 1999, this program has distributed more than $1.6 billion to states to improve job access for low-income people. Significantly, 20% of the funding is allocated for rural areas and small towns with fewer than 50,000 people—areas increasingly in need of public transportation options.

      Jobs Cluster Near Public Transit
      A study released earlier this year shows that jobs cluster around neighborhoods with high-frequency public transportation. In some areas with frequent bus or rail service, there are as many as 500 percent more jobs per square mile compared to nearby areas without high-frequency public transportation.

      Even in less densely populated cities, jobs have clustered around areas served by public transportation. In Minneapolis, there were triple the number of jobs in areas with high-frequency public transportation; in Phoenix, there were twice as many jobs. In addition, the values of residential properties located near public transit have been much more resilient than comparable properties without convenient access to public transportation.

      What are the Best Transportation Investments?
      Unfortunately, because of budget constraints, Congress reduced JARC funding by nearly 22% from 2011 to 2012, from $175 million to $135 million. Yet American job seekers would benefit from more investment in public transportation, considering the role that public transit plays in connecting job seekers with jobs. In addition, an analysis by Smart Growth America of federal stimulus spending found that investment in public transportation produced nearly 46% more job-months than investment in highway infrastructure.

      Should we expand public transit options to increase job access? Share your views and let us know if you’ve used public transportation to access job opportunities by posting on our website or Facebook page.

    • New Texas Transit System Connects People to Jobs, Education, and More

      Arlington, Texas, launched a brand-new public transit system in August—the Metro ArlingtonXpress, known as MAX. The city’s new bus line enables people in Arlington to connect with regional public transit and reach jobs and other destinations throughout the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area.

      The new transit system is running as a two-year pilot program, but it’s already off to a great start. In its first five days of service, MAX provided more than 1,100 one-way trips, far surpassing initial projections. In a single day, 225 UTA students signed up for reduced-fare MAX IDs.

      A Public-Private Effort
      Before the new bus line launched, Arlington—at nearly 374,000 people—was the largest U.S. city without a public transit system. While past efforts to start a system fell short, the new MAX system found life through the shared financial support of the city, local businesses, and the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA).

      The head of Arlington’s planning department Jim Parajon understands that public transit is a key element of economic growth for the city, noting that Arlington “has probably lost some opportunities… cities that don’t have some element of transportation choice suffer from an employment standpoint, a job-creation standpoint.”

      Public Transportation Creates New Options
      According to data compiled by the Brookings Institution, without a public transit system, Arlington residents essentially had to own a car to keep a job. The MAX could change that. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on excitement among area residents, including Emmett Sloan, Jr., who previously had to turn down work opportunities in Arlington because of a lack of transportation options. The MAX now makes work accessible for him.

      Has a new or expanded transportation system changed how you reach work or get around? We want to hear about it. Share your story or post on our Facebook page. It’s great to hear stories about communities transformed by public transit.

    • Public Transit System Embraces Mobile Ticketing, Supports Job Creation

      Earlier this month, TriMet—Portland, Oregon’s regional public transit system—launched a mobile ticketing app that serves train and bus riders alike. With this innovative technology, TriMet not only makes riding more convenient, but also supports a local technology company, GlobeSherpa.

      The Benefits of a Ticketing App

      In recent years, according to the Oregonian’s commuting and transportation columnist Joseph Rose, TriMet’s ticket vending machines have often been “glitchy” and out of service. Now, owners of Android phones and iPhones can download a free app and purchase etickets anytime, anywhere. Rose calls the app, “a sleek, intuitive little miracle of coding and cloud computing that makes buying a public transit fare easier than finding a seat on a Sunday morning train.”

      According to GlobeSherpa CEO Nat Parker, the app “reduces the cost of fare collection, helps optimize fleet operations, and improves the rider experience.” The company is now bringing this technology to public transit systems across the nation.

      A Growing Technology Company Supported by Public Transit

      Founded in 2010, GlobeSherpa has attracted investors and grown rapidly with its focus on improving transit system ticketing. The Portland-based company employs more than 20 people and attracted $2.1 million in angel investment.

      Mobile Ticketing Coming to Dallas Too

      Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) will be launching its own mobile ticketing app—GoPass—on September 16.  You can check it out on the GoPass website.  GoPass is available for download on Android and Apple smart phones.

      While public transit directly employs more than 400,000 people in the U.S., it indirectly supports thousands of additional jobs by connecting both consumers and workers to new opportunities. Renewed investment in American public transportation has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of additional jobs over the next several years.

      Is your job supported by public transit? Tell our community about it by sharing your story or posting to our Facebook page.

    • House Members Fight for Tax Fairness for Public Transportation Commuters

      This week, a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives stood in front of the Capitol Building and called on their fellow members of Congress to support tax fairness for public transit riders.

      Tax Benefit at Stake

      Currently, both commuters who drive and those who use public transit can receive up to $245 per month in tax-free transportation benefits from their employers. These benefits are critical for many workers who rely on public transportation to help them reach their jobs, some of whom might otherwise not be able to afford their commute to work—but on January 1, 2014, the benefit for public transit riders will plunge to just $125 a month, while the benefit for drivers will remain at $245.

      Representatives Michael G. Grimm (R-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Peter T. King (R-NY), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), together with public transit advocates, have urged Congress to pass the Commuter Parity Act of 2013 (H.R. 2288). If Congress fails to act on this issue before the end of the year, people who use public transportation to reach work could see their monthly out-of-pocket commuting costs increase significantly.

      U.S. Reps. Call For Equal Treatment

      At the Capitol Hill event, Members of Congress called for a balanced and fair policy that benefits all commuters—and helps our congested roadways as well. “Congress must focus on commonsense policies that encourage Americans to use public transportation, instead of pushing them back into their cars,” said Rep. Grimm.

      “Providing commuters more tax relief for their parking costs than their transit costs distorts consumer choices, and encourages commuters to spend more time in traffic. The Commuter Parity Act fixes this inequity, in a cost-neutral way, by setting parking and transit benefits at $220. This saves consumers and businesses money and reduces congestion, while giving Americans real choices that aren’t influenced by congressional policy,” said Rep. Blumenauer.

      Voices for Public Transit believes this legislation will ensure fundamental fairness is maintained for all commuters—an important step in making public transit the national priority it should be.

      Voice Your Views

      Do you support tax fairness for all commuters? Let your elected officials know by emailing them from the Voices for Public Transit Action Center.

    • Enter Our “I Am a Voice for Public Transit” Challenge

      Who is the heart of Voices for Public Transit? YOU ARE. Our movement is made up of thousands of people united by our support for improving and expanding public transit systems across America.

      Why do you support public transit? Do you ride, or is public transportation hard to access where you live? What improvements are needed in your area? Let other Voices for Public Transit know more about you and your area by sharing your story.  It’s all part of our “I Am a Voice for Public Transit” Challenge.

      If you share your story , you’ll have a chance to be featured on our website and our Facebook page. We want to recognize people like you who are taking the lead in advocating to make public transportation a national priority. It’s not required, but we encourage you to begin your story with “I am a Voice for Public Transit because…”

      You can also share your story and post a photo—of you, of your local transit system, or of a landmark that you see on your commute—on our Facebook page.

    • Back-to-School: America Needs Bus Drivers!

      With the U.S. population expected to exceed 400 million in the next few decades, we’re going to need improved and expanded public transportation—which also means we’ll need a variety of jobs that support the public transportation industry.  One of the most well known and visible job is the bus driver. It takes special training to be a bus driver, but it can pay off with a rewarding career.

      On the Road to Becoming a Bus Driver
      Want to learn more about becoming a bus driver? Start with the U.S. Department of Labor’s online “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Bus Drivers.”

      Bus drivers must earn their commercial driver’s license and participate in a training program, usually lasting from one to three months. While there is some classroom time, most of the training is spent behind the wheel on a driving course or in traffic with an experienced driver offering guidance.

      Benefits of the Profession
      Bus driving can offer flexibility not found in many other jobs and earn a competitive salary. 

      Bus drivers can also leverage their driving skills to becoming a subway or streetcar operator. This profession is also expected to grow as regions build or expand transit systems.

      Let’s Hear It for Bus Drivers
      Bus Drivers interact daily with people from many different parts of their community and many walks of life. They touch a lot of lives in the process, even in small ways. Do you have a shout out for your favorite bus driver, either from childhood or your daily commute? Or can you tell us about a helpful driver you’ve encountered that went above and beyond to make your ride a pleasant experience? Share it with our community on Facebook or tweet @APTA_Transit.

    • Public Transit Enables Students to Access Education

       For many reasons—including cost savings—millions of college students choose to live off campus and commute to school. In U.S. News and World Report’s 2012 survey of national universities, 32 schools reported that a majority of freshmen lived off campus and commuted to classes, activities, and campus events. For many of these students, public transportation’s affordability enables them to access education.  In addition, there are a number of University owned public transportation systems that provide transportation to on-campus students as well as to those in the surrounding community.

      Big Schools Support Commuting Students

      While some American universities have no freshmen who live off campus, several urban universities draw high numbers of students commuting from the suburbs and beyond. At Miami’s Florida International University, the University of Colorado at Denver, and the University of New Orleans, at least 75 percent of freshmen commute to school.

      Smaller City Universities Welcome Commuters, Too

      Small to mid-sized universities in cities like Corpus Christi, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; and Lafayette, Louisiana, also have a large number of commuting students. Even though these are smaller American cities, each is served by a public transit system that not only gets pupils to class on time but also provides the transit amenities of a larger city to residents. Students, faculty, and staff can all commute via numerous bus routes—just another example of how public transit helps support educational opportunities that serve every type of student.

      Public transit is vital to millions of students around the country—but it could be improved to open up even more opportunities for education. Do you or did you commute to school? Can your commute to campus be improved? Tell us about it by sharing your story.

      For more info, see U.S. News and World Report’s “10 Universities with the Most Freshman Commuters.”

    • Public Transit Delivers Hidden Economic Value

       In a new study, planning scholars Daniel Chatman and Robert Noland demonstrate that public transit leads to “agglomeration”—a fancy word referring to more people in the same location. In turn, agglomeration promotes innovation, wage growth, and economic productivity. According to the study, public transit may provide as much as $1.8 billion in hidden economic value to a city, depending on its size.

      Benefits to Cities of All Sizes

      Chatman and Nolan didn’t just look at large cities with well-established transit systems; they examined 300 metropolitan areas all across the country. Overall, the average economic benefit from expanded public transit was $45 million a year. The study found that adding just 4 more seats to trains or buses per 1,000 residents could increase central city employment by 19 percent.

      Overcoming Doubts

      Interestingly, Chatman did not expect such a positive picture of public transit to emerge from the study. In the past, he had been critical about the value of investing in rail, but he’s changed his views. “I’m a skeptic on this stuff, and I was surprised to see these results so robust.”

      For more information, read about the study in The Atlantic Cities. You can also find the full text of the report online in Urban Studies.

      Have you seen improvements in your area when public transit is expanded? Tell us about it on our Facebook page or sharing your story on our website.

    • Schools and Communities Share Public Transit

      Around our country, colleges and universities help support public transit systems that benefit their entire host communities. By working together to provide resources for public transit, schools and towns provide a crucial service, reduce traffic congestion, and make communities more livable.

      Five College Consortium and the PVTA

      The Western Massachusetts Pioneer Valley provides a home to four liberal arts colleges—Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith—and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The schools operate a joint radio station, share library resources, and allow students to enroll in classes, join clubs, and attend events across the campus system.

      But to enable this vibrant community, students must be able to easily commute from one campus to another. Most make the journey using public transit—the buses of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA). The schools pay a fee—and their students ride for free. With this support, PVTA is able to operate additional routes, which can be used by anyone in the community.

      MRide Benefits Ann Arbor, Michigan

      Since 2004, the University of Michigan has partnered with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) through a program called MRide. University students, staff, and faculty can ride fixed-route buses without paying a fare simply by showing their university ID card. AATA receives funding from University of Michigan alongside federal support.

      The MRide program is a win-win for the Ann Arbor community. It reduces traffic on streets and highways, frees up parking, and enables students to easily access shopping and entertainment in the city.

      Do Schools and Transit Work Together in Your Area?

      Improvements to public transportation could help bring other schools and communities together. Does public transit serve a college or university in your area? Or do you have a suggestion about how a community and university can work more closely to provide better transit options for students and residents? Tell Voices for Public Transit about it by sharing your story or posting on our Facebook page.

    • Back-to-School: America’s Future is Riding on Transportation Engineers

      Millions of students return to school in the coming weeks. And many of them will be thinking about preparing for careers and choosing a college major. Voices for Public Transit has a suggestion: think about a career in transportation engineering.

      A Promising Field

      The U.S. population is expected to surpass 400 million people in the coming decades—and our growing population will require improvements in all forms of transportation—but especially public transportation. (For more information, read Voices for Public Transit on “Future Growth.”)

      Who will play a critical role is meeting our future transportation needs? Transportation engineers—the people who plan, design, and supervise the building of railways, highways, ports, and road systems.

      What It Takes

      There are many careers in transportation, but a transportation engineer needs a bachelor’s degree—or beyond—in civil engineering. In particular, transportation engineering requires strong math and science skills.  That’s one of the reasons the public transportation sector is a strong supporter of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

      What It Pays

      The average income for a transportation engineer is $77,990. In addition, more than one-fourth of all civil engineers have incomes exceeding $100,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      Learn More

      For kids in middle or high school, the non-profit Science Buddies provides a useful overview and additional resources about being a transportation engineer.

      If you were a transportation engineer, what steps would you take to improve transportation in your region? Share your ideas on the Voices for Public Transit website or on our Facebook page.

    • Making the Most of Commuting to School

      Public transit isn’t just for people who commute to work. It also enables millions of people to access educational opportunities.  This includes traditional students who need to get around campus and  non-traditional students who need the public transit connection to their neighborhood.  

      Beyond getting students to and from school, public transit can provide extra study time since students don’t have to drive. Here are some useful tips for commuting to school.

      Explore Your Travel Options

      There’s usually more than one way to get to school. Explore different forms of public transit, including bus and light rail routes. You may also want to consider combining carpooling or ridesharing with public transit. Familiarize yourself with transit schedules so you can make adjustments when needed. If you’re new to a school, make sure you know your route in advance. You might even want to make a practice ride before school starts.

      Look for Discount Tickets

      While some schools subsidize public transit costs for students, you may have to pay for part or all of your fare. However, public transit systems usually offer discounted youth and student fares. In addition, you can save money by buying a monthly pass or book of tickets. Check the websites of your school and local transit system for more information.

      Be Smart On Board

      When you ride public transit to school, you can relax and enjoy the ride—or take time to study. Even if you’re focused on a book or notes, remain aware of your surroundings and continue to practice public transit etiquette, such as giving up your seat to older riders. Just to be safe, make sure your backpack or purse is closed.

      Engage Fully in School Activities

      Commuting from off campus to school doesn’t mean you should miss parts of the campus experience. Public transit systems often have late routes—which will enable you to participate in school clubs, attend evening events or classes, hold a campus job, and participate in or support school sports. Don’t skimp on your college activities just because you commute.

      What If You Live on Campus?

      For students who live on campus, public transit provides important connections to the important places and events on campus as well as the surrounding community.  You can avoid the headache of having a car on campus and it could lead to offering students a richer experience.

      What Are Your Tips?

      Do you have tips that will help students make the most of public transit? Share them on our Facebook page or Tweet them @APTA_Transit.

    • Higher Summer Gas Prices

      With millions of Americans heading out on summer vacations, gas prices are climbing. This can make vacations more expensive—and drive up commuting costs for those who aren’t traveling. Fortunately public transportation offers options to help you control your travel costs.

      An Expensive Summer for Gas

      According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gas hit $3.71 during the week of July 22. Chances are gas prices will continue to increase a few cents each week—at least through Labor Day. This could be the most expensive summer for gas since 2008.

      While gas prices often fluctuate dramatically, fares for riding public transportation change infrequently. Travelers can calculate costs in advance, without having to worry about unpredictable increases. For people who can live with one less car in a two person household and use public transit regularly, the savings can be substantial. On average, more than $826 month, according to a study by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

      Save Money, Travel Like a Local

      When you’re vacationing, riding public transit can not only lower your vacation costs, but also let you sit back and enjoy the ride. Every public transit system gives you the chance to interact with local residents—and most systems let you see the unique amenities a city or a town has to offer.


      How can walking and traveling by public transit lead to a more enriching touring experience of your city or town of choice. Tell us about it by sharing your story or posting on our Facebook page.

      What about in your own community? Consider catching the local train or bus to give yourself a change of perspective, as well as a break from your regular commute—then let us know how the ride showed you something new in your old familiar surroundings.

    • Summer Plans

      This summer, an estimated 70 million travelers plan to use local public transit when they visit American cities. According to a survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, more than half of Americans visiting cities say they will “travel like a local” on city buses and light rail.

      As the temperatures rise and schools close down, over 126 million Americans are planning to vacation in a city this year – a seven percent increase over 2012. The American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) annual “Travel Like a Local” Summer Travel Survey shows that around 56 percent (70 million) of those visiting cities plan on using public transportation for at least one activity during their stay. The five most popular cities for travel this summer are New York, Miami, Chicago, Orlando and San Francisco.

      The survey found that a majority in all age groups will take public transportation while on their city trip, but Millennial (18-24) are most likely to use public transportation while on vacation, with 73 percent reporting that they’ll ride public transit. Major motivators for using public transportation include not having to worry about finding parking (73 percent), saving money on parking fees (69 percent), and not having to navigate a car within a new city (64 percent).

      “City visitors can experience more of the local culture and hustle-and-bustle of city life by taking public transportation alongside local residents,” said APTA Chair Flora Castillo. “Public transportation systems are not just a great way to get from point A to point B, but also unique, cultural institutions that shape our urban landscapes and reflect the nation’s diverse communities.”

      Forty-nine million city vacationers will use public transportation to sightsee and for restaurant dining and nightlife, 47 million will travel to and from their place of lodging, while 42 million will take public transportation to travel to and from the airport during their visit.

      Learn more about how public transportation benefits travelers and non-travelers alike.

    • Scenic Commutes

      Too often, we think of public transportation simply as a means of traveling from point A to point B. In fact, millions of people every day enjoy commutes through beautiful landscapes. We’ve highlighted some of the most spectacular commutes—and invite you to share yours.

      Just because you’re headed to work or school, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the view. Across America, millions of commuters enjoy views of dramatic skylines, rolling hills, and sparkling harbors. Public transit also helps preserve the views by cutting down on air pollution and traffic congestion. Here are a few of the most memorable and beautiful commutes in our nation:

      San Francisco Bay Ferry

      While many riders of the San Francisco Bay Ferry are seasonal tourists, commuters also use the ferry to travel between the East and North Bay and downtown San Francisco. Ferry routes provide spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz, and the San Francisco skyline.

      Portland Aerial Tram

      The city of Portland, Oregon, has taken a creative approach to connecting its downtown and growing South Waterfront with the hillside facilities of Oregon Health & Science University. In December 2006, the city launched the Portland Aerial Tram. Every day, thousands of riders float over often-congested Interstate 5, ascending and descending 500 feet. If the weather is clear, the ride includes spectacular views of Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

      The Fitchburg Line

      The greater Boston area is served by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority—better known as the MBTA—which includes buses, ferries, subways, and commuter trains. The Fitchburg Line carries riders along a route that passes by picturesque Walden Pond, made famous by New England writer Henry David Thoreau.

      Do you have a beautiful or memorable commute on public transit? Tell us about it by sharing your story.
    • Fun with Acronyms

      A lot of technology goes into the making of public transit system—but for many systems, there’s also a lot of “ART.” Yes, we often see public art in transit stations, but today we’re talking about “A-R-T” as in DART and BART and MARTA and SMART and PART.

      In the world of public transit, RT usually stands for Rapid Transit—and the A often stands for Area. So, BART is Bay Area Rapid Transit. DART is the Dallas Area Rapid Transit. PART stands for Pottstown (Pennsylvania) Area Rapid Transit.

      But sometimes that A means something else altogether. PATH also stands for the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation—a system in North Carolina that includes buses, vanpools, and carpools. In MARTA, the first A refers to Atlanta, as in the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

      Thousands of New Jersey commuters reach New York every day on PATH trains—but did they know that PATH stands for Port Authority Trans-Hudson?

      Some transit systems—and their riders—proudly shun acronyms and have instead taken up other names. If you live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area, you ride The Rapid, as the region’s award-winning public bus system is known. In Washington, DC, you ride the Metro—which coincidentally is the name of the underground rail system in Paris, France. No one, however, has ever confused one city for the other.

      Does your region have a catchy name for its public transit system? Do you have a good idea for what to name a new system? Tell us about your public transit system—and what its name means to you by sharing your story.