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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»

  • Voters Overwhelmingly Support Public Transportation in the 2014 Election

    While political pundits are still interpreting the 2014 election results, one point stands clear: voters across the country support public transportation.

    About half the nation voted on state or local transportation measures—including public transportation. More than two-thirds of public transportation ballot measures passed, including:

    • Expanded Public Transportation for Atlanta Suburbs—Clayton County, south of Atlanta, passed a 1% sales tax increase to fund an expansion of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) system. As a result, towns in Clayton County will see new bus service and eventually an expansion of commuter rail service.
    • Long-Term Transportation Funding for California’s Alameda County—The San Francisco Bay Area has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Voters in Alameda County, which includes Oakland, surrounding suburbs, and even farmland, passed a measure to fund transportation improvements, including a rail expansion, road improvements, and bike lanes over the next 30 years.
    • Improved Bus Service for Seattle—Seattle is America’s fastest-growing big city, and bus service has not kept pace with growth and demand. In response, voters passed a measure that will increase bus service, as well as make riding more affordable for low-income residents.

    Other states, such as Texas and Wisconsin, voted to raise or protect general transportation funding. These results make it clear that voters support allocating money for improving transportation—and that transportation funding should not be siphoned off for other uses.

    Will the New Congress Hear Voters’ Bipartisan, Pro-Transit Message?

    Voters in red and blue states—from cities, suburbs, and small towns—supported public transportation at the ballot box. While local and state support for public transportation is critical, the federal government is still the nation’s largest funder of transportation projects—and we cannot comprehensively improve public transportation across the country and build a truly interconnected, national public transportation network without the support of Congress.

    The new Republican-led Congress will be seeking ways to demonstrate to the American people that it can make progress on key issues. They have a vital opportunity when they take up transportation legislation next year. Voices for Public Transit will be working hard to ensure that public transportation is well represented in those discussions.

  • #InvestNow: The Economic Benefits of Investing in Public Transportation

    We’ve already looked at the high cost of short-term funding and the growing efficiency of public transportation.

    Now we’re taking a look at the significant economic returns that come from investing in public transportation.

    Does public transportation investment actually spur economic development, create jobs, and help household budgets? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

    The Value of Workforce Concentration

    Studies show that when public transportation brings people together—in a city center or town hub—jobs cluster, resulting in higher wages and productivity. This hidden value of workforce concentration—technically called “agglomeration”—ranges from $1.5 million to $1.8 billion annually, depending on the size of the city or town, according to one comprehensive study.

    On average, a 10 percent expansion in public transit services—rail or bus—produces measurable wage increases in city centers and results in a one- to two-percent increase in the local economy. These findings—based on analysis of more than 300 U.S. metropolitan areas—show that investing in public transportation services makes financial sense for regions of virtually any size.

    Accessible public transportation and agglomeration also drive private investment in communities. In recent years, billions of dollars have been invested in business districts, residential communities, office buildings, and sports facilities along public transit lines. For example, Tucson’s new Sun Link streetcar garnered $1.5 billion in investment along the system’s route—even before service began.

    Controlling Household and Business Costs

    By reducing roadway congestion and automobile use, public transportation translates into cost-savings for households. Households become more productive and spend less on fuel and automobile maintenance. All told, these benefits result in increased household purchasing power of $18.4 billion per year. In the best of circumstances, a robust public transportation system can enable households to reduce their car ownership—e.g., from owning two cars to one. This can save a household more than $10,100 per year.

    Businesses also save money when public transportation infrastructure is improved. Reduced roadway congestion speeds operations and delivery times, making businesses more productive and efficient. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates the cost of congestion for freight transportation is now approaching $200 billion annually for all types of transportation. With freight tonnage projected to increase by 62 percent by 2040, it is critical to invest in public transportation to mitigate roadway congestion.

    Economic Return Per $1 Billion Invested

    2014 study conducted by the Economic Development Research Group determined that every $1 billion invested in public transportation would on average result over 20 years in the following benefits:

    • 50,731 jobs created
    • $3.7 billion economic impact (gross domestic product/GDP)
    • $642 million in tax revenue

    Let’s Bring this Evidence to Congress!

  • Three Quick Steps to Make Public Transportation an Election Issue

    If we’re going to make public transportation a national priority, we also need to make it an election issue. Here are five things you can do on Election Day to raise the visibility of public transportation this election season:

    1. Vote Public Transit! Make sure you know which candidates support public transportation when you cast your vote November 4.
    2. Share Voices for Public Transit’s New Video—Share our new video on your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels, and let people know you are supporting public transportation at the ballot box this election.
    3. Send a Letter to the Editor or Comment on the Web on the Editorial Page—Send in a short letter to your local publications calling on all your elected officials to make public transportation a priority for your community. Or comment on your local publications editorial page web site.

    For Voices for Public Transit, the 2014 election will set the stage for next year’s showdown in Washington on public transportation funding. Congress needs to keep hearing that we want them to #InvestNow. Your vote and election activities will help us build momentum as we push for wide-reaching, long-term funding for American public transportation.

  • International Models for Public Transportation: Curitiba, Brazil Bus Rapid Transit

    Once again, Voices for Public Transit looks beyond our nation’s borders for insight into how we might improve American public transportation.

    For the first time in our international series, we turn to South America, where we explore the remarkable bus rapid transit (BRT) system of Curitiba, Brazil.

    Smart Urban Planning Leads to a Revolutionary Bus System

    Long a commercial hub in southern Brazil, Curitiba has experienced several waves of growth over the last three centuries. Railroads reached the city by the mid-1880s, and the city replaced mule trams with electric trams in 1912. In 1943, Curitiba developed a sophisticated city plan, with a star-shaped system of boulevards and districts, but many components of the plan remained on the drawing board because of expense.

    In the 1960s, with the growing population exceeding 430,000, city leaders again turned their attention to urban planning and solicited proposals. The winning plan envisioned a robust public transportation system built around a system of “trinary roads” with exclusive lanes for buses. Automobiles would travel on one-way roads parallel to the closed bus lanes. While this system required road closures and reconfiguration, it did not incur the massive costs of tunneling for a subway system. The project was economical—and would accommodate urban growth. In 1974, the system—called the Rede Integrada de Transporte (Integrated Transportation Network) or the RIT for short—carried its first passengers; it was the world’s first BRT system.

    Benefits of the IRT

    Today, Curitiba’s low-cost BRT system is one of the most heavily used public transportation systems in the world, per capita. The greater Curitiba metropolitan area has about 3.2 million people, and the IRT has a daily ridership of 2.3 million. The system provides numerous benefits—both to riders and to the city as a whole. Notable features and benefits include:

    • Speed—With exclusive lanes, special traffic lights, and express buses, the IRT provides the fastest means of travel in Curitiba.
    • Capacity—Most IRT buses are bi-articulated, meaning that they are split into three sections, with the middle section being connected to front and rear sections by flexible accordion joints. At their largest, the IRT’s buses are nearly 92-feet long and can carry up to 270 passengers.
    • Reduced Air Pollution—Compared to other Brazilian cities of similar sizes, Curitiba uses significantly less fuel per capita and has the lowest ambient air pollution in the country.
    • Livability—By reducing the transportation footprint of the city, the IRT has supported vibrant urban development, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, and green spaces.

    BRT in the United States

    More than two dozen U.S. cities operate BRT systems—and this type of system might make sense for many other areas that need expanded and affordable public transportation. The latest round of U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grants provided funding for several BRT systems, but greater funding is needed for the benefits of BRT to reach further.

  • #InvestNow: The Increasing Efficiency of Public Transportation

    There are numerous reasons Congress should invest in public transportation. One of the most important is that public transportation projects and transit systems themselves are becoming more cost-efficient.

    Investment in public transportation pays dividends by improving communities and the lives of millions of people—by connecting people to jobs, education, healthcare, and friends and family. We see benefits as well for our environment because public transportation helps reduce air pollution. We can bring these benefits to more communities with increasing speed and cost-efficiency because of improvements in vehicle technology, financing, and how government works.

    Innovation and Technology

    Innovations in information technology, vehicle design, and energy efficiency are all improving the performance of public transportation systems. The positive results include reductions in fuel costs and air pollution.

    Examples can be found around the country—in large cities and smaller communities. Dallas’s DART system, for instance, is converting to a bus fleet that runs entirely on compressed natural gas (CNG). DART estimates that it will save $120 million in fuel costs over the next decade. Thanks in part to federal Clean Cities Grants—provided by the Department of Energy—smaller transit systems in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and several other states have added fuel- and cost-saving buses to their fleets as well.

    Improved Financing

    While the federal government is the largest single funder of American public transportation projects, states and localities also pay a significant portion of costs. Many struggle to raise funds or end up incurring higher financing charges, which drive up a project’s overall costs. Financing challenges can sometimes stop public transportation projects from moving forward altogether.

    To address this challenge, in 2012, Congress expanded a loan program originally authorized under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). This program has helped speed transit projects, provided access to low loan rates, and saved local taxpayer dollars. However, while this loan program has been successful, its benefits have only reached 18 states. Long-term comprehensive transportation legislation would likely expand this loan program, enabling its benefits to reach more American communities.

    In future blog posts, we’ll look more closely at another trend that is helping bring public transportation to more communities more quickly—public/private partnerships, or PPP financing.

    Streamlining Projects

    As the saying goes, time is money. Public transportation projects can save money if reviews, approvals, and construction can proceed on an expedited schedule. While large-scale public transportation projects can take years or even decades to complete, government agencies are now piloting programs to speed up public transportation projects. These programs are testing concurrent reviews, expedited approvals, and collaborative decision-making. In one early success, the Los Angeles Metro system reduced the cost, community impact, and completion time of a light rail extension.

    Transit systems and agencies are also improving project assessments and taking steps to ensure that investments are made in the best project proposals. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER program does just that—though funding still falls far short of demand.

    Right now, the pieces are falling into place to revolutionize American public transportation. To be sure, there is always room for improvement, but we now have effective transportation technologies and project know-how to bring enhanced and expanded public transportation to more communities across the country. The main thing holding us back is political inaction in Washington.

    In 2015, we will demand that Congress put aside partisan divisions and pass a long-term, comprehensive transportation bill that provides certainty for public transportation developments across the nation.

  • #InvestNow: The Cost of Short-Term Funding Fixes

    In August, Voices for Public Transit covered a webinar with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx where he discussed what it will take to evolve our nation’s transportation system into the truly interconnected, 21st-century system we need.

    Over the coming weeks, Voices for Public Transit will be taking a closer look at why we believe it’s important to Invest Now in long-term public transportation funding. This series will provide specific examples of why Congress needs to set public transportation on a new and better course.

    We encourage you to share these blogs with others—and to highlight them on social media with the hashtag #InvestNow.

    Our first topic in this series? What is the cost of Congress’s short-term funding fixes. In practical terms, because Congress has not been willing to pass comprehensive, long-term transportation funding in decades, American public transportation has been living paycheck to paycheck. Lack of funding certainty means states cannot confidently plan for the future. When funding is only guaranteed for a few months at a time, the risk of committing to new projects that require years of development can become too great—or can ultimately increase the cost of projects well beyond original projections.

    This means that our local public transportation infrastructure is not keeping up with the needs of local communities. And that we are missing out on an opportunity to invest and grow our communities with transportation improvements and expansions.

    Short-Term Funding Fixes Lead to Project Delays and Cancelations

    During this summer’s Highway Trust Fund crisis, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and a bipartisan group of 11 of his predecessors—spanning seven administrations—sent an open letter to Congress calling for “a much larger and longer-term investment” in American transportation. In the letter, they highlighted several costly consequences of short term measures, noting that “the unpredictability about when, or if, funding will come has caused states to delay or cancel projects altogether.”

    In fact, in the weeks leading up to this summer’s near insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, several state departments of transportation planned to scale back or delay transportation projects, including public transportation improvements. In Oregon, for instance, new transportation projects were put on hold until at least summer of 2015.

    The lack of sufficient and reliable funding has left America’s transportation infrastructure—roads, bridges, and public transportation—struggling to reach a state of good repair. According to a recent report from the National Economic Council and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, 65 percent of American roads are in less than good condition, 25 percent of bridges require significant repair, and 45 percent of Americans lack access to public transit. Poor infrastructure and lack of public transportation adds to commute times, and Americans spend 5.5 billion hours in traffic every year. This translates into a cost for American families of $120 billion in extra fuel and lost time.

    Bond Rating Costs

    Delaying repairs and improvements to public transportation adds to overall costs—as conditions of equipment and infrastructure worsen. Inconsistent and short-term federal funding also directly costs states—and taxpayers—in the form of higher financing costs for projects.

    States and municipalities often fund transportation projects by issuing bonds. Bonds enable state governments to raise money for projects that will be paid for over several years. In many instances, bond obligations are paid with dollars provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Previously, the reliability of federal transportation funding helped make the bonds highly secure, which meant that interest rates on the bonds remained low.

    But because of uncertainty about federal transportation funding, that security has eroded—and state transportation bond ratings have slipped. As a result, states—and therefore taxpayers—face increased interest costs when they issue new transportation bonds that cover an infrastructure project. Congress’s failure to pass a long-term transportation bill results in increased cost of our transportation infrastructure.

    We have a right to be frustrated about Congress’s inaction when it comes to addressing America’s transportation needs. We need to be sure Congress gets the message to INVEST NOW long before next May, when our current short-term funding extension runs out.

    Please share this blog with your friends and family using the hashtag #InvestNow—and post it on the Facebook pages of your U.S. Representative and Senators, too. If you use twitter, tweet a link to the blog at your members of Congress too.

  • Cast Your Vote for Public Transportation

    If we’re going to make public transportation a national priority, we also need to make it an election priority.

    How can we do this? First, by educating ourselves about where candidates stand on transportation issues—and then by voting for those candidates who are committed to advancing American public transportation. And second, by spreading the message that we are voting for public transportation—telling friends and family, sharing our views on social media, and letting candidates know that public transportation is a top priority for the voters they represent.

    Find Out Where Candidates Stand on Public Transportation

    To be a public transportation voter, you must know where candidates stand on transportation and infrastructure issues. Here are some ways to research your candidates’ positions:

    • Visit Candidate Websites—Likely, some of your candidates will be incumbents, so you can look at their official government websites. Most officials will have issue sections on their websites. Non-incumbent candidates (and incumbent candidates as well) will have campaign websites. Again, look for an “Issues” or “Priorities” section to see if a candidate has taken a stand on public transit and transportation infrastructure issues.
    • Use non-partisan voter websites—The Internet offers numerous resources for finding out where candidates stand on the issues that matter to you.  Check out sites like www.votesmart.org and www.vote411.org to learn more.
    • Contact Candidates—Most campaign and government official websites provide a phone number and email or contact form. Reach out directly to candidates and ask for their positions. You will likely talk to a campaign staffer, and you should ask a specific question to get a specific answer.  For example, rather than simply asking if your candidate supports public transportation, you may want to ask, "Do you support increased investment for public transportation and will you fight for passage of a long-term transportation bill?"
    • Examine Voting Records—This may be more of a challenge, but if a candidate has held public office before—as a mayor, governor, state legislator, or member of Congress—look at online government records for how the candidate has voted on public transit and general transportation issues. You may be able to find info in local newspapers as well. If, for instance, a candidate as a state representative voted against increasing state public transportation funding, that would be a factor to consider.
    • Ask at Events—Throughout October, there will be lots of campaign events happening, including rallies, debates, town halls, and candidate house parties. You may also find candidates and campaign staff making appearances at seasonal public events, such as harvest festivals. Events often provide great opportunities to ask questions about a candidate’s position. Again, be sure to make your questions specific to learn as much as possible. If a campaign staffer doesn’t have an answer, provide your contact information so the campaign can respond later. Simply by asking about public transportation funding, you’re also sending a message that public transportation is a priority for voters in your area.

    Remember to research not only candidates for Congress, but also those running for local and state offices. We need public transportation supporters at all levels of government.

    Planning to Vote

    All of your hard work researching candidates makes a difference when you get out and vote. Be sure you’re prepared for Election Day.

    • Update Your Voter Registration—You can find links to voter registration information at the website of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission or on most state government websites. If you’ve recently moved or it’s been a while since you voted, you’ll need to provide updated information to your state’s election officials.
    • Save the Date—This year’s election takes place on Tuesday, November 4. Mark your calendar and set aside time in your schedule to visit your polling station. If you can’t vote that day, plan on voting by early or absentee ballot.
    • Vote on State and Local Transportation Ballot Measures—Don’t forget to vote on state and local ballot measures that will provide support or funding for public transportation initiatives.

    And be sure to let everyone know—shout from the rooftops of social media—that you’re voting with public transportation in mind.

  • What's Next for Voices for Public Transit

    This summer, Voices for Public Transit demonstrated that we can make an impact on transportation policy. With the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and Mass Transit Account on the brink of insolvency, members sent more than 20,000 emails to Congress, urging action to avert an immediate crisis. With no time left, Congress passed a stopgap measure that provides crucial transportation funding through May 2015.

    While this was an important step for Congress, it simply isn’t enough. Moving forward, Voices for Public Transportation will call on Congress to do much more when it comes to public transportation.

    The Need for Stable, Long-Term Public Transportation Funding

    In a national webcast town hall held, a few days after Congress approved the temporary HTF funding, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx shared his perspective on American transportation policy and what could happen if a long-term solution is not found. According to Secretary Foxx, maintaining the status quo, is not acceptable.

    While transportation advocates, including Voices for Public Transit members, may not share all of Secretary Foxx’s specific positions and priorities, there is significant consensus on some fundamental points, including:

    • America needs stable, long-term transportation funding—Uncertainty and unpredictable funding limit how states and communities envision and move forward with public transportation projects.
    • We need to look forward, not backward—Our nation is growing, and we face increasing environmental challenges. We need forward-looking policies that will support public transportation options for decades to come.
    • Winning federal support for public transportation requires voter engagement—As Secretary Foxx put it, the nation needs to get “noisier” on this issue.

    Gearing Up for Action

    In the weeks to come, Congress and local government officials will focus on the upcoming elections. We encourage Voices for Public Transit members to learn about candidates’ views on transportation issues—and to ask questions about public transportation if the occasion arises at town halls, campaign house parties, and other election events. Your questions will help candidates better understand the importance of public transportation to the American people.

    Once the election is over and Congress returns to work, the Voices for Public Transit movement will be laser-focused on appealing to Congress to pass a long-term, comprehensive public transportation bill. This legislation must not only provide funding, but should also lay out a blueprint for improving and expanding public transportation far and wide across America. We have a lot of work ahead of us—but victory is within reach.

  • USDOT Awards TIGER Grants for Public Transportation Projects

    Early this month, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced that 72 transportation projects in 46 states and the District of Columbia will receive a total of $600 million in federal TIGER—Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery—grants.

    This total represents a significant federal investment in a broad range of transportation projects, including public transportation. But this dollar figure represents less than 7 percent of total grant requests, which totaled $9.5 billion. While the TIGER program—launched in 2009 as part of the federal economic stimulus program—has been highly successful – winning broad bipartisan praise -- it simply cannot meet the funding needs of communities seeking to improve public transportation.

    Public Transportation Highlights

    TIGER grant awards are split among highway, public transit, maritime, and rail projects. For this round, Secretary Foxx said he sought “projects that will make people’s lives easier and connect them to jobs and other opportunities.” Highlights of public transportation projects include:

    • Bus Rapid Transit—Omaha, Nebraska, Richmond, Virginia, and Washoe County (Reno-Sparks), Nevada, each received a TIGER grant to develop bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, which will extend public transportation options into communities whose residents often do not own or have access to private vehicles. For many communities, BRT is an affordable, flexible option for public transportation. Read more about BRT systems.
    • Public Transit Station Improvements—Some public transit systems are not meeting their full potential because of inadequate stations. New TIGER grants will enable improvements at stations in Boston, St. Louis, and other cities. Improvements at Boston’s Ruggles Station will help connect commuters with jobs being created as a result of new development near the station.
    • Streetcars—TIGER grants for streetcar systems will help revitalize city centers in Providence, Rhode Island, and Detroit, Michigan.

     

    The Value—and Shortcomings—of the TIGER Program

    Helping to transform how local transportation projects receive funding, since 2009, the TIGER program has provided $4.1 billion to local communities. During that time, total requests for funding have exceeded $124 billion as communities clamor for transportation investment that will improve their local economies and the quality of life.

    The results of the TIGER program can be seen across the nation—in new and enhanced public transportation systems, as well as improved roadways, traffic management, and intermodal transportation. TIGER grants have reached every state, DC, and Puerto Rico, and 117 grants have been awarded to projects in rural and tribal communities.

    In announcing the latest round of TIGER grants in a blog post, Secretary Foxx bluntly acknowledged the impact of insufficient funding, writing, “[We] have a huge infrastructure deficit in this country, made worse by Congress’s failure to pass a long-term transportation bill. Americans everywhere are seeing their opportunities limited by this inaction.” We couldn’t agree more—that’s why Voices for Public Transit will be repeatedly demanding action from Congress in the months ahead.

  • Sustainability Achievements in Public Transportation


    Fundamentally, public transportation contributes to sustainability and environmental protection. Rail and bus systems enable more people to travel in less space, using less energy. As a result, compared to using personal cars, public transportation systems help reduce air pollution, traffic congestion, and roadway sprawl.

    But many public transportation systems recognize that there is room for more when it comes to sustainability and environmental benefits. For instance, replacing diesel-powered buses with modern clean-fuel, hybrid, or electric buses further reduces air pollution and noise—and makes city streets more welcoming for pedestrians and bike riders. In addition, transportation systems—like any organization—can also look for ways to make their offices and operations more energy-efficient and earth-friendly.

    Since 2009, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has run a Sustainability Commitment Program (SCP) that encourages public transportation systems and affiliated businesses to adopt practices and technologies that contribute to environmental, economic, and social sustainability. In early August, seven organizations—including large and small transit systems—were recognized for their sustainability efforts. Below, we’ve rounded up examples of how these organizations are saving energy, reducing pollution, and more.

    Modernizing Fleets, Cutting Fossil Fuel Use

    In recent years, several American public transportation systems have upgraded their fleets, and this year’s SCP honors recognized the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD). This central Illinois public bus system has reduced air pollution by 46 percent per vehicle mile traveled by converting 45 percent of its bus fleet to diesel-electric hybrids.

    Massachusetts’ largest public transportation system, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), has a robust sustainability program that includes conserving energy and water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting sustainable urban development. Its efforts—including the use of electricity from renewable sources—were also recognized this year by the SCP.

    Improving Facilities

    The SCP also encourages “green” practices that are not directly tied to vehicles and fuel. For instance, the Lane Transit District (LTD), located in central Oregon, was recognized for making energy-efficient upgrades to its facilities and expanding recycling and composting. LTD has also committed to including sustainability criteria in all future construction.

    A wide ecosystem of companies and organizations supports public transportation by manufacturing vehicles and other equipment, engineering and building infrastructure, and providing a range of other services. The SCP recognized the sustainability efforts of one major public transportation construction firm, Stacy and Witbeck (SWI). SWI engages in a range of sustainable construction practices, including recycling, using renewable energy, and tracking emissions of its construction fleet.

    Does your local public transportation system have a sustainability program? Tell us about it by posting to the VPT website or commenting on the Public Transportation Facebook and Twitter profiles.