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: WISPIRG Foundation'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 WISPIRG Foundation is hard at work already. 

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


Issue updates

Blog Post | Transportation

Building Boondoggles: How Highway Expansions Undermine Public Transit, Walking and Biking | Peter Skopec

In this webinar hosted by the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation, learn from expert presenters why bigger, wider roads won’t solve Wisconsin’s transportation problems.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Transportation Coalition Recommendations to the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change | Peter Skopec

View our coalition's policy recommendations to equitably reduce emissions from Wisconsin's transportation sector.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

What We Can Learn from Cargo-Bikes in Vienna | Peter Skopec

What would it take to get you out of your car? WISPIRG director Peter Skopec's hometown of Vienna, Austria, is hoping that a rebate of up to 1,000 euros for individuals and families who buy a cargo bike will help convince a few hundred people to get out of the driver’s seat and into the saddle.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget, Transportation

What do Wisconsin transit riders think about the transportation system? We asked them, and here's what they said. | Peter Skopec

WISPIRG is one of many members of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT), which includes environmental organizations, faith and social justice groups, public transit advocates, and others. This week, CMRT is holding a Week of Action to draw attention to the need for better public transportation in Wisconsin. One of the ways we’re doing that is by asking transit riders across the state to share their public transportation stories with us. In this guest post, our summer campaign associate Macklyn Hutchison writes on her conversations with transit riders about their experience with the public transportation system.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

As Federal Highway Administration Acknowledges the Driving Boom is Over, Will WISDOT Follow Suit?

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has quietly acknowledged that the Driving Boom is over, cutting its forecasted driving estimates by between 24 percent and 44 percent.  Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) continues to forecast increases in driving that aren’t materializing - a policy that risks wasting billions of taxpayer dollars. WISDOT is also claiming a $680 million shortfall in current transportation funding, a significant portion of which is to accommodate unnecessary expansions of highway capacity. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

Coalition Unveils Better Solution for I-94 East-West Corridor

Two weeks after WISDOT issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that proposes two costly and wasteful highway expansion options for the I-94 East-West corridor – a coalition is offering a new alternative aimed at enabling 21st century mobility in the corridor and developed by a 25-year transportation planner and NJ DOT veteran.  

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

I-94 Corridor Draft EIS Options Disregard Data, Community and Taxpayer Concerns

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that proposes two costly options for expanding I-94 in Milwaukee. The study ignores community opposition to the expansion and concerns over detrimental local impacts of the expansion.  The EIS also disregards data showing that traffic volumes in the corridor are declining and which call into question the need for expanding the interstate.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Study: Traffic Data Does Not Support Spending on I-94 Expansion

A new report by WISPIRG Foundation calls the I-94 double decker expansion one of 11 examples of wasteful highway spending based on its outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study, which details ten other highway “boondoggles” across the country, points to data showing that traffic counts on this stretch of I-94 have been dropping in recent years, despite WISDOT projections that traffic would increase.  The study calls for the state to consider reprioritizing scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Report: Unneeded Wisconsin Highway Expansions Will Waste Billions That Should Be Spent on Badly Needed Local Road Repairs, Other Transportation Statewide

A new WISPIRG Foundation report offers a simple, common-sense way to reform transportation spending in Wisconsin.  The state is currently slated to spend nearly $3 billion on four unneeded highway expansion projects, such as the double decker expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee.  Meanwhile, local transportation infrastructure is in disrepair.  We could implement all the recommendations of the 2013 bi-partisan Transportation Policy and Finance Commission for local road repair, transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and the rehabilitation of state-owned roads, for the next 10 years, for just over $1 billion. The report, Fork in the Road: Will Wisconsin Waste Money on Unneeded Highway Expansion or Invest in 21st Century Transportation Priorities?, makes clear the choice before state leaders – either spend taxpayer dollars on these highly questionable highway expansion projects, or invest in urgent and underfunded local and state-owned road repair and other 21st century priorities.  

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | 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. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Make VW Pay, Transportation

From Deceit to Transformation

Volkswagen (VW) perpetuated a fraud on the American people, deceiving consumers into believing that they were getting the best possible combination of performance and sustainability. But VW’s promises were nothing more than lies that significantly harmed our collective health and the health of our environment. Yet, their deceit now represents a historic opportunity to drastically reduce harmful pollution that makes us sick and destroys the planet, while also providing an essential down payment toward the transition to a clean and modern 21st century transportation system.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

Who Pays for Roads?

Many Americans believe that drivers pay the full cost of the roads they use through gas taxes and other user fees. That has never been true, and it is less true now than at any other point in modern times.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | 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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Report | WISPIRG | Transportation

The Rehab-Transit Option:

With the publication of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has taken another big step forward in its drive to widen I-94 in Milwaukee’s East-West Corridor.  They have dismissed, rather peremptorily, other options for the future.   The purpose of this paper is not to criticize WisDOT’s chosen option but to demonstrate that another option – called here the “Rehab/Transit Option” – is not only feasible, but is in fact a better choice for the future of Milwaukee’s East-West Corridor.  

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Blog Post | Transportation

Transportation Coalition Recommendations to the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change | Peter Skopec

View our coalition's policy recommendations to equitably reduce emissions from Wisconsin's transportation sector.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

What We Can Learn from Cargo-Bikes in Vienna | Peter Skopec

What would it take to get you out of your car? WISPIRG director Peter Skopec's hometown of Vienna, Austria, is hoping that a rebate of up to 1,000 euros for individuals and families who buy a cargo bike will help convince a few hundred people to get out of the driver’s seat and into the saddle.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget, Transportation

What do Wisconsin transit riders think about the transportation system? We asked them, and here's what they said. | Peter Skopec

WISPIRG is one of many members of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation (CMRT), which includes environmental organizations, faith and social justice groups, public transit advocates, and others. This week, CMRT is holding a Week of Action to draw attention to the need for better public transportation in Wisconsin. One of the ways we’re doing that is by asking transit riders across the state to share their public transportation stories with us. In this guest post, our summer campaign associate Macklyn Hutchison writes on her conversations with transit riders about their experience with the public transportation system.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Smarter spending priorities would create a better transportation system | Peter Skopec

This is the second of a two-part guest post on public transportation in China, New York City and Wisconsin from Pei Wang, who interned with us this spring semester.

> Keep Reading

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Blog Post

From mask mandates to capacity limits, the largest public transit systems and ride share companies have new procedures

Blog Post

In this webinar hosted by the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation, we explore how colleges, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are invested in making it easier for students and staff to get around without having to drive their cars on campus.

Blog Post

WISPIRG's Summer Program Associate Christina Zordani, a student sustainability advocate at UW-Madison, explains her disappointment with Gov. Evers' recent decision to revive the cancelled expansion of Interstate 94 in Milwaukee.

News Release | WISPIRG

Gov. Tony Evers and WISDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson announced Wednesday that the state would seek to resume plans to rebuild and expand 3.5 miles of Interstate 94 in Milwaukee. Members of a coalition that has opposed the expansion for more than half a decade released the following statements in response.

Blog Post

WISPIRG's Summer Program Associate Christina Zordani explores some Americans' negative associations with public transportation, and what it would take to overcome this stigma. 

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