21st Century Transportation

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

MOVING ILLINOIS FORWARD

Changing Transportation: U.S. PIRG's series of reports on the dramatic changes underway in how Americans travel.

In the 20th century, Americans fell in love with the car. Driving a car became a rite of passage. Owning a car became a symbol of American freedom and mobility. And so we invested in a network of interstate highways that facilitated travel and connected the nation.

Now we're in a new century, with new challenges and new transportation needs. We still love our cars, but we also know they harm the environment around us. Americans want choices for getting to work, school, shopping and more. As lifestyles change, Americans — especially the Millennial generation — are changing their driving and transportation preferences.

We need a transportation system that reflects this century.

Consider:

Public transportation ridership nationwide is hitting record highs. This trend is greatest among younger Americans — who will be the biggest users of the infrastructure we build today. Since the 1950s — despite knowing that buses and rail use far less energy and space — we have spent nine times more on highway projects than on public transportation.

In 2015, more than half of Americans — and nearly two-thirds of Millennials, the country’s largest generation — want to live “in a place where they do not need to use a car very often.” Similar trends exist for older adults. Older adults in general put the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets and local investment in public transportation in their top five priorities for their communities.

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

But America also needs to repair and maintain its current aging infrastructure. Nearly 59,000 of the nation’s bridges are classified as “structurally deficient.” Instead of building newer and wider highways that will only make America more dependent on dirty fossil fuels, we need to be smart in how we invest in roads, and fix them first.

The good news is that the public is in many ways ahead of Congress in leading the way toward reform. Help us make sure our decision makers recognize the need to invest in a 21st century transportation system.

Issue updates

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But with more EVs on the road, and many more coming soon, cities will face the challenge of where electric vehicles will charge, particularly in city centers and neighborhoods without off-street residential parking.

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Blog Post | Transportation

To Build A 21st Century America, Start Here | Jeff Robinson

The stakes in the current infrastructure debate are high. But what matters most is not the size of any federal infrastructure package, nor how it is financed, nor even how many jobs it creates in the coming years. What matters most is building the infrastructure that will enable America to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Transportation

Highway Administration Reinstates Clean Air Rule In Response to Lawsuit

In a victory for climate and clean air, the Federal Highway Administration responded to a lawsuit brought by U.S. PIRG, NRDC, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Clean Air Carolina by reinstating a federal requirement that state and local planners track and curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks on the national highways, which is a major contributor to climate change.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Clean Transportation Doesn’t Need To Be A Distant Utopia | John Olivieri

For many, when they think of combating global warming, they think of solar panels on rooftops and eliminating coal fired power plants. But, the truth is, there is not an effective solution to address global warming that does not deal with transportation as well.

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Blog Post | Transportation

A World Without Carbon Pollution – Closer Than You Might Think | John Olivieri

For many, a world without carbon pollution seems like a distant utopia. To some, this even seems unobtainable. The size and scope of the challenge before us can be daunting, yet, there is good news -- a world without carbon pollution is closer than you think.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Transportation

New Report Ranks Chicago 14th Among 70 Major American Cities For High-Tech Transportation Options

A new report from Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group ranks American cities on how many new technology-enabled services and tools they have to meet transportation needs. It finds that Chicago ranks 14th among the nation’s 70 largest cities.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Transportation

Illinois PIRG Praises Blankenhorn Nomination, Early Rauner Action to Put the Brakes on the Illiana Boondoggle

In his first days in office Governor Rauner took two actions which spell trouble for the controversial Illiana Expressway: the nomination of Illiana critic Randy Blankenhorn to serve as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and an executive order suspending all new interstate infrastructure projects until they undergo a review.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Transportation

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

A new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Frontier Group shows mounting evidence that the Millennial generation’s dramatic shift away from driving is more than temporary. While the 2000s saw a marked decrease in the average number of miles traveled by young Americans, the study explains that those trends appear likely to continue even as the economy improves – in light of 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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Media Hit | Transportation

Say 'no' to the Illiana Expressway (again)

Yes, that's the Illiana Expressway, one of 11 questionable projects nationwide to earn a spot on the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's just-released "boondoggle" list.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Study: Traffic Data Does Not Support Spending on Illiana Expressway

A new report by Illinois PIRG Education Fund calls the Illiana Expressway one of 11 examples of wasteful highway spending based on its outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. 

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Moving Off the Road

After sixty years of almost constant increases in the annual number of miles Illinoisans drive, since 2004 Illinoisans have decreased their driving per-capita by over 6%. Nationally, there has been a decline in miles driven per-capita each year for the last eight years.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Transportation and the New Generation

From World War II until just a few years ago, the number of miles driven annually on America’s roads steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, something changed: Americans began driving less. By 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004. And the trend away from driving has been led by young people.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

High-Speed Rail: Public, Private or Both?

Public-private partnerships will likely be part of the development of high-speed rail in the United States.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Do Roads Pay for Themselves?

Highway advocates often claim that roads “pay for themselves,” with gasoline taxes and other charges to motorists covering—or nearly covering—the full cost of highway construction and maintenance. They are wrong.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A Track Record of Success

As America moves toward construction of new high-speed rail networks in regions throughout the country, we have much to learn from experiences abroad.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Don’t Believe the Hype – Millennials’ Transportation Habits Are Changing | Sean Doyle

Despite news stories claiming that Millennials are buying up cars at record rates, the reality is quite different. After adjusting previous studies to account for differences in the size of the generations measured, on a per-capita basis, Millennials are 29 percent less likely than members of Generation X to own a car.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Breaking the Silence on Transportation and the Climate

Transportation policy-makers in most states and at the federal level have simply never seen it as their business to consider, much less act to reduce, the climate impacts of their infrastructure investment decisions. The Obama administration’s actions last week, however tentative, suggest that that is about to change.

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Blog Post | Transportation

All Americans Deserve Clean Air to Breathe, On Earth Day and Every Day | Sean Doyle

U.S. DOT asks if we should measure global warming pollution from transportation.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Owning Fewer Cars Isn’t Just For Millennials | Sean Doyle

New transportation options are making it easier for people to use transit more, own fewer cars, and even save money on transportation.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Pulling a FAST one on our Transportation Future | Sean Doyle

For the first time in a decade, and after roughly three dozen short-term extensions, Congress has pulled together and passed a transportation-funding law lasting longer than two years. There is only one problem: the new law is the wrong deal for the country.

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Blog Post

Walkers and bikers are getting killed at alarming rates -- at a time when we need this type of transportation more than ever. 

News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund

The Tri-State Tollway in the western Chicago suburbs is a testament to the fact that you can’t build your way out of congestion. But even after two previous widening projects failed to relieve congestion, the Illinois Tollway is still planning to spend $4 billion to widen the road from four lanes in each direction to five -- and in some places six -- lanes. According to a new report from Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, these efforts will once again fail to alleviate traffic.

Blog Post

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

Blog Post

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

Blog Post

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

2018 was the deadliest year for cyclists since 1990

Seventeen pedestrians and two cyclists were killed every day, on average, in traffic crashes in 2018. PIRG Transform Transportation Campaign Director Matt Casale explains that cyclists face a dilemma: walking or biking are convenient and pollution-free modes of transportation, but they're also dangerous in a world that's been built car-first.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Get on the electric bus

A look at six early adopters of electric buses

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement scorecard

Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions laws and settled with federal authorities. The settlement included nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust. How well does our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 
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