Join the Movement

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.

The Latest

  • Wrapping Up 2017 and Looking Ahead

    As 2017 draws to a close, Voices for Public Transit wants to thank our dedicated advocates all across the country. Your continued support kept public transportation funding in the spotlight as Congress debated budget issues, tax reform, and more.

    Thank you!

    Making Our Voices Heard in 2017

    Voices for Public Transit kicked off 2017 by welcoming new and returning legislators to the 115th Congress and reminding them why public transportation should continue to be a priority for our nation.

    Unfortunately, President Trump proposed a budget that included severe cuts to public transportation, creating an early need for public transportation supporters to respond urgently—and respond you did.

    In February and March, we flooded congressional offices with emails opposing the president’s budget cuts. As first the House and then the Senate began putting forth budget proposals that included cuts to key public transportation programs, Voices for Public Transit continued reminding elected officials that cutting public transportation funding would hurt the economy, jobs, and communities across the nation.

    Our crescendo of activity in 2017 reached its pinnacle in October when Voices for Public Transit led a #Rally4Transit that filled cyberspace with messages of support for public transportation and raised awareness of the economic damage and job losses that would result from proposed funding cuts. We sent emails, blasted Congress with social media messages, shared stories and photos online, and sent letters to the editor to help cut through the noise to make our message heard on Capitol Hill.

    What Was Our Impact in 2017?

    All told, in 2017, Voices for Public Transit:

    • Sent more than 40,000 emails and letters to Congress
    • Submitted more than 2,600 letters to editors of local papers, highlighting proposed transit cuts and championing transit funding
    • Collected 18,197 petition signatures
    • Reached more than 996,000 people online with our #Rally4Transit Thunderclap

    The budget debate in Congress is ongoing and will likely continue well into 2019, so this wave of activity has been important in ensuring public transit doesn’t get lost amid all the other budget priorities being debated.

    What's in Store for 2018?

    Lawmakers from both political parties share two goals: creating jobs and strengthening our economy. How we achieve those goals is what remains to be decided.

    In 2018, whether Congress is debating the federal budget or a long-term infrastructure plan, Voices for Public Transit will be standing up and speaking out, spreading the message that investment in public transportation drives both job creation and economic growth. It helps lift people out of poverty, reduces air pollution, helps fight traffic congestion, and improves the quality of life for American communities of all sizes and people from all walks of life.

    In other words, we have a great story to tell about public transportation! In 2018, we’ll be asking our entire community to help us keep telling this story until Congress really listens and ensures public transportation has the federal support it deserves.

    Happy holidays and happy New Year. Let’s keep moving forward together in 2018.

  • Hop Aboard the Arctic Express

    Voices for Public Transit is getting into the holiday spirit by catching a ride on the Artic Express all the way to the North Pole.

    Join us as we travel far and wide to see the ways public transportation is benefiting our economy and strengthening our communities.

    Throughout December, we’ll be sharing snapshots from our virtual Arctic Express trip on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be passing through communities of all sizes—from small towns to big cities—and seeing how public transportation is making a positive impact.

    Follow us as we see how public transit:

    • Creates jobs
    • Contributes to the economy
    • Generates revenues that strengthen local communities
    • Helps people save money

    Public transit gives us a lot to be thankful for! We hope you’ll share our Arctic Express photos and transit facts with your online networks.

  • Fighting Transportation Deserts

    Communities of all sizes—cities, suburbs, and rural areas—can suffer from transportation “deserts”—places where the only way in and out of the community is by car, and where residents are often cut off from easy access to other parts of their city or region due to the impractical design of road and highway infrastructure around the area.

    Transportation deserts lead to limited mobility for many of the people who live in them, and communities located inside transportation deserts often become victim to economic blight and the many societal ills that accompany it.

    Limited mobility means a limited life. It cuts people off from jobs, education opportunities, services, and community connections.

    Public transit agencies work hard to fight transportation deserts, despite having to work with limited budgets and conflicting infrastructure priorities in many communities. In recent years, we’ve seen many innovative strategies emerge that are striking a blow against these deserts and improving mobility for at-risk communities.

    Different Solutions for Different Communities

    Public transit systems are locally operated, allowing them to respond to local needs. While the federal government provides critically important funding, local systems and regional transit authorities (RTAs) set priorities and guide projects to meet the needs of their communities. Below are some great examples of how these systems fight to restore mobility to areas that qualify as transportation deserts.

    • On-Demand Service in Rural Texas — In the Lone Star State’s many rural areas, it isn’t always feasible to provide regularly scheduled, or “fixed-route” bus service. Instead, the state’s Rural Transit Districts (RTDs) have developed other options, including on-demand public transportation services, usually provided by vans or small buses. By calling the local public transit service about 24 hours in advance, any person in an RTD can schedule a ride pick-up, with trips costing as little as $1.

    • Neighborhood Shuttles in Washington, DC — Though our nation’s capital has a strong public transportation system, there are still several neighborhoods where residents can’t easily access rideshare services. In response, the city has partnered with a local cab company to provide neighborhood shuttles that connect riders to grocery stores, services, and the city’s Metro subway system.

    • New Bus Routes in Houston and Columbus — In Houston, the METRO transit system reduced transportation deserts by totally redesigning its bus routes in 2015. By converting from hub-and-spoke bus routes to a grid system, METRO immediately put an additional 600,000 people within a half-mile of bus service. The bus system now connects about 1 million people with 1 million jobs. Columbus, Ohio, also recently implemented whole new bus routes, which put an additional 110,000 jobs within a five-minute walk of public transit.

    • Partnering with Rideshare — In St. Petersburg and Clearwater (Fla.), Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) was the first system in the nation to fight transportation deserts by partnering with a rideshare company. PSTA’s bus routes left many area residents more than a mile from public transit access, but simply adding more routes wasn’t feasible from a fiscal perspective. The system partnered with rideshare company Uber and a local taxi company to provide rides to and from bus stops within two underserved areas. Once a rider can reach a bus stop, the entire region becomes accessible via the regular bus service.

    Public transit systems in every part of the country should have the opportunity to close mobility gaps by implementing new ideas, leveraging emerging technologies, and expanding services. Reducing transportation deserts improves people’s lives and strengthens communities, which ultimately benefits everyone through stronger economies, reduced burdens on taxpayer-supported programs, and more.

    Public transportation has been making progress in recent years — and Congress should support this momentum. We need big thinking and smart funding from federal leaders, not a retreat from investing in our transportation future.

  • Public Transit Helps Keeps Veterans and Service Members Moving

    It’s Veterans Day and Voices for Public Transit wants to take a moment to sincerely thank our veterans and active service members! Today, we’re taking a look at how veterans use public transit to commute, gain access to healthcare services, connect with their community, and remain mobile. In addition, we are looking at job opportunities for veterans in the transportation industry.

    Public Transportation Serving Veterans

    The U.S. has more than 18 million veterans—men and women who served our country and made tremendous sacrifices. For their service, veterans deserve the ongoing support of our nation. Public transportation is essential for many vets, enabling them to access medical treatment, travel to school, and connect with friends and family.

    As former Secretary of Transportation Roy LaHood put it, “Access to reliable and affordable transportation is an essential ingredient to empower today’s service members, veterans, and their families to participate fully and successfully in their communities and achieve economic stability.”

    The Veterans Affairs (VA) health system operates the Veterans Transportation Program (VTP) enabling veterans to access healthcare services nationwide. The VTP is able to succeed by leveraging public transit systems in communities around the country—including rural communities.

    There are 2.9 million rural veterans living in America, making up 33 percent of the veteran population enrolled in the VA health care system. Small town and rural public transit systems help veterans access needed services. Learn more by downloading the full Public Transit’s Impact on Rural and Small Towns report.

    Transit Jobs for Veterans

    It’s not just mobility that public transit can offer veterans. Job opportunities and workforce development are available for our service men and women in the transportation industry. Thousands of veterans fill jobs of every type in public transit—applying skills developed in the service to help keep people moving in the civilian world. The U.S. Department of Defense identifies transportation as one of five career fields that offer the best opportunities for veterans.

    Veterans occupy all levels of jobs in transit—from drivers to mechanics, to engineers and system leaders. “The public transportation industry has a welcome mat out for returning veterans,” says Phillip Washington, the head of LA Metro and a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army. The Transit Virtual Career Network has more information about workforce development and job openings for veterans.

    Mobility Means Opportunities

    Veterans need mobility for more than access to healthcare services. The U.S. Department of Transportation supports veterans through its Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI), which aims to remove mobility as a barrier to accessing work. The initiative funds call centers and manages mobility programs that enable vets to connect with public transit options in their communities.

    Mobility programs for veterans are supported by federal transportation funding, and help support military families and strengthen our community. The 2015 long-term transportation bill, the FAST ACT, codified support for key programs supporting vets.

    But Congress is threatening to cut funding for public transit. Will the upcoming budget reduce mobility options for vets? Voices for Public Transit will raise our voices to make sure that public transit funding dollars are protected, especially those that support our service men and women.

  • Budget Cuts Would Hit Critical Public Transit Projects

    Congress is still deciding what to do about public transportation funding in the next federal budget. It looks like we will see some funding cuts, even if they are not as severe as those the White House initially proposed. So what do potential funding cuts mean for public transit systems across the nation? Today, we zero in on key programs that could be cut—and how communities would be hurt.

    Keeping the TIGER Program Alive

    President Trump proposed entirely eliminating the highly popular, competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. Since 2009, the TIGER program has helped improve and transform transportation in American communities of every size.

    Over seven rounds of funding, the TIGER program has provided nearly $4.6 billion for 420 projects in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. TIGER grants make a real difference in people’s lives:

    • In Cleveland, Ohio, a $12.5 million TIGER grant enabled the Regional Transit Authority to build an important new rail station. This investment has helped attract additional private investment in the area, stimulating economic development and connecting people to nearby community resources, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art.
    • In Omaha, Nebraska, a $15 million TIGER grant enabled the city to launch a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line, bringing mobility options to a corridor where a significant portion of residents have no access to a car.
    • In Brownsville, Texas, a $10 million TIGER grant is enabling the region to improve and expand bus service, as well as make other transportation improvements. Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) praised the TIGER award, saying improvements “will have far-reaching impacts on not only Brownsville, but the entire coastal region.”

    Project by project, public transit improves mobility, drives economic development, helps communities connect, and enhances people’s lives. The TIGER program could enable more communities to make progress—but not if it is severely reduced or eliminated by draconian budget cuts.

    Sustaining Capital Investment Grants

    The budget also proposed phasing out the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program. More than fifty critical public transit projects funded in part through the CIG program are already in the development or engineering stages. States and cities have committed their own funds to these projects, with the expectation of federal funding support. Cutting funds for projects already in process will negatively impact these communities’ public transit systems and wallets. Here are some CIG projects that might be affected:

    • Indianapolis, Indiana, voters recently supported new local funding for public transit, but the proposed cuts to the federal CIG program would leave a shortage of $75 million in the region’s plan to electrify and improve its bus rapid transit (BRT) system. CIG cuts would also jeopardize BRT improvements in several other regions.
    • In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a planned streetcar line is slated to connect the State Capitol complex to downtown and Louisiana State University. The project could be scaled back or falter without sufficient CIG funding.
    • In Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona, rail and streetcar projects respectively could also falter because of CIG cuts. These projects are needed to help address increasingly heavy traffic in this region.

    The above examples are just a small snapshot of what’s at stake. TIGER and CIG funding cuts directly hurt public transit, but they will also translate into reduced access to jobs, education, and services, which carry huge implications for the overall economic and societal health of affected communities.

    Americans will suffer if Congress turns its back on our nation’s historic commitment to public transportation. The good news is, it seems our lawmakers in Congress are hearing this message. The question is, will they remain firm in their support of public transportation when push comes to shove in the federal budget debate this fall?

    Stay tuned and stay involved to help us shore up congressional support.

  • Public Transportation Fights Poverty

    Access to transportation is the single most significant factor in enabling people to escape poverty. Public transportation access can have a greater impact on a person's ability to escape poverty than:

    • Crime
    • Single-Parent Households
    • Student Test Scores

    Moving Up the Income Ladder

    Longer commute times reduce the chances that low income families will be able to move up the income ladder. In areas where there is little or no public transportation, families are more likely to be stuck in the cycle of poverty with much more limited access to jobs or employment choices than people with access to a car or reliable public transportation.

    It's not just the ability to travel to work that is impacted by public transit. Research shows that proximity to affordable, reliable public transportation translates into job choices and ultimately higher incomes. Areas with limited public transit have lower incomes compared to places where public transit connects people to jobs. While urban communities are certainly affected, rural communities are especially at risk.

    The Link Between Transportation and Poverty

    The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently gave our nation's entire infrastructure a D+ grade and estimated that we need to invest $4.6 trillion by 2025 to bring our transportation systems and other infrastructure up to an acceptable B grade. Public transit by itself received a D- grade, and ASCE notes that the U.S. has a backlog of $90 billion in needed maintenance on public transportation systems. Public transportation continues to be an area where the U.S. lags significantly behind nearly every other industrialized nation.

    The link between transportation and poverty should be part of our conversation about America's infrastructure investment. Increased investment in public transportation is a way to help lift millions of Americans out of poverty instead of turning to entitlement programs. Rather than expanding public transportation to help confront poverty, however, the initial draft transportation budget from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies proposes substantial cuts to public transportation, even if they are not as deep as those in President Trump’s proposed budget. The outlook from the Senate is somewhat better, but the Senate’s draft budget still reduces public transit funding rather than protecting current funding levels or even expanding them.

    Those in poverty will see a valuable resource continue to diminish if critical funding for public transit is cut. There are many reasons for Congress to support full public transportation funding—it’s good for our entire economy; it makes our communities more sustainable; and it helps reduce congestion and improve the efficiency of all travel and commerce. But when it comes to reducing poverty in America—and by extension reducing the need for taxpayer-supported entitlement programs—members of Congress should make it a priority to help vulnerable American families who are struggling financially.

    Funding public transportation is a public good that benefits everyone, but especially those in communities of all sizes who are struggling to break the poverty cycle.

  • A Right to an Independent Life

    Think about what it means to you or to someone you love to be able to independently get to where you need to go.

    Now consider what would happen if you were to lose that independence...This is the reality for many millions of Americans across the nation.

    Public transportation is a lifeline for millions of people who can’t drive or who cannot afford a car because of age, disability, or financial circumstances. Others may choose to forego their vehicle because of the environment or to give themselves greater financial freedom or freedom of choice in other aspects of their lives.

    A Basic Individual Right

    The right to movement — or mobility — is protected under the U.S. Constitution, similar to our freedom of speech and religion, and being able to move independently is crucial to the exercise of many of our other freedoms and many of the opportunities Americans often take for granted. In this blog post, we’re sharing stories from riders who are able to exercise their right to be mobile thanks to public transit.

    My [approximately hour-long] commute from Manson (WA) to Wenatchee Valley College could cost over $10/day. That's over $50/week in fuel on a student income. The Link Transit Service is a critical resource for me and many other students that live in my rural community, not to mention those that commute for employment that sustains their families. Link Transit is indispensable!

    — Washington Transit Rider

    Public transportation is my sole source for mobility. One of my college degrees was made possible by the availability and accessibility of public transportation.

    — Tennessee Transit Rider

    [Reducing transit services] would take my independence away. I do not like to ask anybody to take me anywhere unless I absolutely have to. I would not be able to go to the grocery store or other shopping on a limited income.

    — Ohio Transit Rider

    In a county like Erie, PA, it [reducing or eliminating transit] would be devastating. There would be people who would have to find other homes or other work because public transportation connects them. Thirty-three percent of people in Erie use public transit.

    — Pennsylvania Supporter

    These stories show how public transit improves individual lives, as well as underscore some of the devastating consequences if public transportation funding were to be cut significantly. But mobility is considered a key freedom not just because it’s important to individuals, but also because it’s vital to the functioning of our society and economy as a whole.

    The Bottom Line when it Comes to Mobility

    At its core, mobility improves people’s lives and communities, and public transit improves mobility both for those who ride and those who don’t. Every American — including every member of Congress — should recognize that public transit funding is essential to our quality of life, especially as our population continues to grow and the need for a more mobile workforce expands.

    Share Your Mobility Story with Us

    Voices for Public Transit needs to hear and share more great stories that demonstrate the importance of public transit. Every American’s right to mobility should be supported by federal funding for public transportation. Please share your story today.

  • What Does Mobility Mean to You?

    What makes members of Congress sit up and take notice? Real stories…personal stories…authentic experiences that demonstrate the impact of public transportation in giving more people crucial mobility and greater independence.

    Stories from individuals like you are key to motivating lawmakers to take a stand and take action. We need Congress to stand up and support public transit funding when they finalize the federal budget this fall — and your stories are going to help us win the day.

    What Makes a Great Mobility Story?

    Ultimately, the personal details are what make a story compelling. Here are just a few suggestions for things you can share that will help us demonstrate the importance of independent mobility for individuals and communities across the nation:

    • Has public transit helped you access work or education?
      For some people, public transportation has opened up educational and employment opportunities. We’ve heard amazing stories from public transit supporters who were able to attend school or reach work because of public transportation.

    • Do you use public transit to volunteer in your community or connect with friends and family?
      Public transit enables many people to make connections—not just from one place to another, but with other people. Tell us how riding public transit helps you connect with others and make a difference in your community.

    • Does public transit connect you or people you know to events, shopping, or cultural attractions?
      Public transit improves the flow of commerce in many communities by connecting people to shopping, restaurants, nightlife, and more.

    • Do mobility choices provided by public transit improve your quality of life?
      Public transportation gives millions of people choices for how they get around. That’s important both for those who can’t drive and for those who prefer not to.

    Every story counts — tell us why mobility independence matters to you today.

  • Different Rides for Different Strides Quiz Answers Revealed!

    Get stumped on any of these questions? Check out the answers below to find out more information!

    Thanks for taking time to test your public transportation knowledge!

    Question 1

    Houston’s METRO public transit system wanted to provide more efficient and frequent service while controlling costs. How did they do it?

    Answer: B. Converting hub-and-spoke bus routes to a grid system. Houston transformed its bus service without incurring additional costs by adopting a new grid layout for bus routes. Under the new layout, more than twice as many people—1.1 million—live within a half-mile of bus service.

    Question 2

    This city wanted to provide public transportation crossing a busy highway and ascending a steep hill, so they built a public transit aerial tram. What is the city?

    Answer: D. Portland. The Portland Aerial Tram, which opened in 2007, traverses one kilometer and rises 500 feet. It is one of only two commuter aerial tramways in the nation; the other is New York City’s Roosevelt Island Tramway.

    Question 3

    Here’s a great public transit idea dating back to World War II. This medium-sized county uses specially-trained commuters to drive public transit buses, transporting themselves and other riders to work. Where can you find this worker/driver bus system?

    Answer: A. Kitsap County, Wash. Located west of Seattle, Kitsap County has a population of about 250,000. The county’s largest employer is the U.S. Navy, with thousands of military and civilian personnel. Kitsap Transit worker/driver buses, operating on 30 routes, are driven by base or shipyard employees. The buses serve the general public, with most riders headed to a Navy facility.

    Question 4

    People increasingly get around by using multiple modes of transportation. In a single trip, someone might bike, ride light rail, then walk. Approximately how many U.S. cities now have public bikeshare programs, which supplement traditional public transportation like buses and rail?

    Answer: C. 119. Bikeshare systems are found in cities of all sizes—from New York and Chicago to Topeka Kan., Des Moines, Iowa, and Fargo, N.D. Since 2015, more than 60 cities have added bikeshare.

    Question 5

    With roads and bridges increasingly congested, many people are turning to ferries for transportation. Ferry operations often are supported by federal funding, allowing people to cross bays, rivers, and lakes. Which city recently added a ferry service that can cut commute times by nearly an hour?

    Answer: D. New York City. A new ferry in New York City, running from Wall Street (downtown Manhattan) to Rockaway Beach (Queens), can cut commute times by nearly an hour. This ferry service costs the same as a bus or subway ride.

  • Public Transit Supports Personal Independence

    For the July 4 holiday, we looked at how public transit broadly supports the freedom of movement — a right protected under the Constitution — and mobility independence.

    Today, Voices for Public Transit advocates are sharing their own stories of how a comprehensive public transportation system supports their personal mobility. The fact is, public transportation supports independent living for many Americans who can’t drive or don’t have access to a car.

    Public Transportation Keeps Us Moving

    Many public transit advocates or their family members use public transportation to overcome challenges and lead fuller lives. Here are just a few examples from our recent World Without Transit survey:

    Due to a visual impairment, I cannot drive a car. Therefore, I'd be unemployed with no income if it weren't for public transit to get me back and forth to my two part-time jobs.

    — Darrel F., Illinois

    I have severe anxiety, ADHD, and Asperger’s and therefore take a lot of medication for those conditions. As a result, I cannot drive, because it would be too dangerous for both me as well as people around me…. Using public transportation helps me with my independence and my life as a whole.

    — Christopher C., Texas

    I'm a female disabled vet. I have no working car. Without public transit I would not be able to get to medical care, or to my part-time work, or to see my friends. Public transit is my lifeline.

    — Karen D., California

    My son is blind and uses public transportation to get to work, church, entertainment, and shopping. This is important for so many reasons.

    — Marcia M., Texas

    I'm a single mom on disability going to college on my own and supporting a teenage girl on my own so I need the bus to get to school and home. If I didn't have the bus, I couldn't go back to school.

    — Jennifer S., California

    I don't have a car and can’t afford one; I use the bus to get to work, grocery shop, and run my other errands. I moved to Colorado because I was told that you could get anywhere on the bus or light rail, and it’s true.

    — Clarice D., Colorado

    I'm on a fixed income, and I cannot afford the expense of a personal vehicle, as much as I'd love to have an economical car again. So, I rely on my local bus system. I'm thankful to have public transportation in my area.

    — Dawn F., Pennsylvania

    As you can see, public transit not only provides mobility for those who can’t drive, but is also essential for many individuals and families confronting financial challenges. We’re hearing from advocates who are able to attend school, reach work, and connect with their communities because of public transportation. Our nation should be proud that we’ve established the foundation of a public transportation network that supports mobility and independent living for millions of people, including seniors, people with disabilities, vets, and lower-income Americans — but we still have a long way to go before public transportation will be accessible to everyone who needs it.

    Unfortunately, public transportation is now threatened by substantial federal budget cuts, which could set our nation back decades in the progress we should be making toward a truly integrated, multi-modal transportation network. Voices for Public Transit will continue working to ensure our congressional champions know they have the support of voters around the country.

    Do you have a story you would like to share about why public transportation is important to you? Are you able to live more independently, pursue employment or educational opportunities, or connect with your community because of public transit? We’d like to hear about it. Please share your story at this link.


Read the archives