Public Transportation is the Foundation of a Modern Transportation Network
Simply put, America is changing and growing. In the coming decades, our population will surpass 400 million people. More people continue to move to cities, increasing urban density and placing pressure on transportation systems. And suburbs continue to spread, creating increased need for transportation options that connect people efficiently from outlying residential neighborhoods to urban job centers.
In this environment of growing and interconnected communities of all sizes, public transportation must serve as the cornerstone and linchpin of American mobility. We already have a strong foundation of public transportation—but now we need to expand and optimize.
A Network of Public Roads
Too often, when we discuss transportation options, we pit public transportation against private cars. This division is important to acknowledge, but it’s worth thinking more holistically about transportation. People increasingly use multiple modes of transportation—even on a single trip.
We also tend to think in terms of individual cities or regions, when in today’s economy, we need to think about how to better connect rural communities and suburbs to cities, cities to regions, and states to other states. We need a nationwide transportation network that includes roads and rails working in tandem, and that accommodates all types of travel.
Today, the United States has the largest road network in the world—and our roads are public. The vast majority of roads are owned and maintained by local and state government. These roads must serve all of us, accommodating sensible combinations of private cars, buses, streetcars, bicycles, and pedestrians on adjacent sidewalks. We tend to associate roads with private cars, but they are actually public spaces that bring together multiple modes of transportation, and good roads are essential to support both traditional bus and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services, as well as more targeted services, such as transit-on-demand or mini-bus networks in rural areas.
Public Transportation Provides Universal Mobility
As the saying goes, no man (or woman) is an island. We all need to be mobile for one reason or another. But not all of us can drive or have access to private cars. To ensure mobility for every American, and better mobility even for those who do own cars, public transportation is essential. For many people, buses and rail enable travel when car ownership is out of financial reach. For people with disabilities or older Americans who cannot drive, paratransit enables access to shopping, community, and health care.
Transportation solutions and policies that include public transportation serve every American, even those who don’t ride. Public transit spurs economic development, cuts traffic congestion, and helps lowers air pollution. Even if you don’t use public transportation, it remains an option—where it is available. (And we believe public transportation should be available in every community, including small towns and rural areas.)
By providing mobility to everyone—and the opportunities that come with mobility—public transportation can be seen as fundamental to the fabric of American life. It is an equal-opportunity infrastructure that enables every American to move forward and every community to grow in smart, positive ways. Does Congress understand this?