21st Century Transportation

Efficient public transportation systems like intercity rail and clean bus systems would make America’s transportation future better for everyone by reducing traffic congestion and pollution, and increasing our options for getting around.

Public transit, biking and walking for the future

Changing Transportation: NCPIRG Education Fund's series of reports on the dramatic changes underway in how Americans travel.

Americans are increasingly looking for more and better options to get around — options like expanded public transit, better biking alternatives, walkable neighborhoods and high-performance intercity trains. But while our transportation preferences are changing, too often our transportation policies are stuck in the past. 

Our work has helped to educate the public about the changing ways we get around and the need for policy reform to respond to and encourage further transformation. Our nation’s highway-focused transportation system leaves too many communities isolated from opportunity, creates too much pollution, causes health problems, and does a poor job of getting Americans where they want to go. While Americans increasingly want to live in communities with other ways to travel, our vision for a national transportation system is largely stuck in the 1950s. Instead of simply lurching from one funding crisis to the next, our nation needs to make smart choices that will prepare us for the 21st century. These include a forward-looking 21st century transportation system that serves more places, is more reliable, creates less pollution and reduces global warming emissions.

Some communities across the country are responding, implementing a vision for transportation that includes things like bridges designed for walkers, bikers, trains and streetcars, but not automobiles; bus stations that are also digital hot spots; smart traffic lights that communicate with cars, and other innovative solutions.

Through a series of well researched and eye opening reports, public outreach, and work with local coalitions and public officials, we've pushed for more forward-looking reforms. We’ve turned the tide against wasteful highway expansion boondoggles. We've encouraged Departments of Transportation to recognize and plan for a shift toward more balanced travel choices. We’ve demonstrated the enormous benefits that have been gained so far with reductions in the nation’s volume of driving. There’s much work ahead to promote new planning and policy approaches that accomplish these goals and NCPIRG Education Fund is hard at work already. 

Check out our video showcasing our work to bring about better transportation options for America's future.


Issue updates

Media Hit | Transportation

12 of America's Biggest Highway Boondoggles

Given that expanding highways at great public cost doesn’t improve rush-hour traffic, there are better ways to spend this money, argue report authors Jeff Inglis of Frontier Group and John C. Olivieri of U.S. PIRG. They identify a dozen road projects, costing $24 billion in all, that are “representative” of the problem.

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Report | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

HIGHWAY BOONDOGGLES II

America is currently in a transportation infrastructure-funding crisis. While our roads, bridges, and transit systems fall into disrepair, demand for public transportation, as well as safe bicycle and pedestrian routes, has increased. America’s long-term transportation behavior is changing, especially among Millennials, America’s largest generation. Nevertheless, states continue to spend billions each year on new and wider highways.

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Report | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

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News Release | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report Shows Mounting Evidence of Millennials’ Shift Away from Driving

The 2000s saw a marked decrease in the average number of miles traveled by young Americans, and that trend appears likely to continue even as the economy improves, due to the consistency of Millennials’ surveyed preferences, a continued reduction of Millennials driving to work, and the continued decreases in per-capita driving among all Americans.

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News Release | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Study Shows Traffic Data Fails to Support Spending on I-26 Connector

A new national report calls the I-26 Connector project one of 11 examples of wasteful highway spending, based on its outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving and lack of receptivity to community concerns. The study, which details ten other highway “boondoggles” across the country, points to data showing that a doubling of lanes is not necessary and that traffic on the route has not been clearly increasing. The study calls for the state to consider reprioritizing scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

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News Release | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report: Universities Like NC State Are Transportation Trailblazers as Students Lead Shift From Driving

How universities across America are at the forefront of finding new ways to meet the demands of Millennials for lifestyles with less driving.

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News Release | NCPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Public Health, Tax, Transportation

Moving Off the Road

North Carolinians have cut their per-person driving miles by 7.9 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a new report from the NCPIRG Education Fund.

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News Release | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Study: High-Speed Rail Can Boost Economy, Reduce Traffic

Drawing lessons from other countries, a new study from U.S. PIRG shows that high-speed rail can boost our economy, save energy, curb pollution and provide a popular alternative to congested roads and airports.

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News Release | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report: Misplaced highway spending to blame for crumbling roads and bridges

A new report released today strongly criticized politicians and policies that favor building new roadways while neglecting existing bridges and roads. The report notes that, for North Carolina car owners, rough roads increase their repair and operating expenses by an average of $251 per year. North Carolina has not prioritized preservation of its existing roadways and the state legislature and Department of Transportation have continued to plan for a spate of outer ring roads throughout the state which would further deplete funds for repair and maintenance. Despite the recent construction of much of North Carolina’s highways, 42 percent of roads are in less than good condition and 2,442 of the state’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient by government inspectors. Fourteen percent of North Carolina’s bridges are structurally deficient, compared to 12 percent nationally.

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Report | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Transportation in Transition

A first-of-its-kind report by NCPIRG Education Fund shows reduced rates of car commuting in North Carolina’s urbanized areas—including Raleigh and Charlotte—and greater use of public transit.

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Report | NCPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Safe Energy, Tax, Transportation

Moving Off the Road

After sixty years of almost constant increases in the annual number of miles Americans drive, since 2004 Americans have decreased their driving per-capita for eight years in a row. Driving miles per person are down especially sharply among Millennials, America’s largest generation that will increasingly dominate national transportation trends. 

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Report | NCPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A New Direction

The time has come for America to hit the “reset” button on transportation policy—replacing the policy infrastructure of the Driving Boom years with a more efficient, flexible and nimble system that is better able to meet the transportation needs of the 21st century.

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Report | NCPIRG | Transportation

Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead

Privatized traffic law enforcement systems are spreading rapidly across the United States. As many as 700 local jurisdictions have entered into deals with for-profit companies to install camera systems at intersections and along roadways to encourage drivers to obey traffic signals and follow speed limits.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

A Track Record of Success

The experience of high-speed rail lines abroad, as well as America’s limited experience with high-speed rail on the East Coast, suggests that the United States can expect great benefits from investing in a high-speed passenger rail system, particularly if it makes steady commitments and designs the system wisely. High-speed rail networks around the world have delivered numerous benefits

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