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

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.

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Blog Post | Transportation

This is New York’s Subway System?! | Peter Skopec

To kick off our 21st Century Transportation blog, we're featuring 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
Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Volkswagen Settlement State 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 Wisconsin rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

Millennials on the Move

Car culture no longer represents the “American Dream” for young Americans. Many young people today prefer car-light, multimodal lifestyles that allow them to get around efficiently, multitask while commuting, and feel connected to their communities. Millennials are drawn to the high quality of life in places that offer extensive and safe walking and biking options, as well as clean, fast, and efficient public transportation networks. Moreover, this preference for multimodal lifestyles appears to be influencing young people’s decisions about where to live and work.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

WISPIRG Statement on Nomination of Craig Thompson to WISDOT Secretary

Governor-elect Tony Evers this morning nominated Craig Thompson, executive director of the roadbuilding and transportation infrastructure advocacy group TDA, to run the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in response to Gov.-elect Evers’ announcement.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Survey: Wisconsin Brain Drain Partly Because Youth Seek Alternatives to Driving?

For the last decade, Wisconsin has been experiencing a “brain drain,” with more college graduates leaving the state than staying. One factor could be our crumbling transit infrastructure and lack of driving alternatives, according to a new WISPIRG Foundation report.  The new survey revealed that most Wisconsin college students want the ability to get around without a car, and many may leave Wisconsin without that option. This demand starkly contrasts with Wisconsin transportation policies, which often favor extravagant highway expansion projects over critical transit upgrades.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Report: University Campuses Like UW Madison Are Transportation Trailblazers as Students Lead Shift From Driving

As Millennials lead a national shift away from driving, universities like UW Madison are giving students new options for getting around and becoming innovators in transportation policy, according to a new report released on Feb 6. 

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Milwaukee, Madison Top List of 100 American Cities Where People are Driving Less

A first-of-its-kind report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and released today by WISPIRG Foundation shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in Wisconsin’s urbanized areas—including Madison and Milwaukee —and greater use of public transit and biking.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Study Finds Technology Enabling Americans to Drive Less

In a first-of-its-kind study, WISPIRG compiled nation-wide evidence on transportation apps and vehicle sharing programs, like Madison Metro’s Bus Radar, Community Car and B-Cycle, and found that these advanced new tools have made it easier for Americans to drive less. Real-time apps and on-board wi-fi for public transit, as well as carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing have spread rapidly in recent years. The report examines new evidence on how these practices are changing travel behavior.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Report Finds Expensive Highway Projects Might Be Unnecessary

A new report from the WISPIRG Foundation finds that usage of seven recently completed highways has not developed as projected, and questions whether building massive and costly new highways is the best way to spend Wisconsin’s scarce transportation resources. The report, Road Overkill: Wisconsin Spends Big on Questionable Highways Even as Driving Declines, also finds that Wisconsinites are driving less per capita today than we did in 1997, further raising doubts as to whether expensive new highways are the best investments for Wisconsin’s transportation future. 
 

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Report | WISPIRG | Transportation

A Better Solution for the I-94 East-West Corridor

Check out the map for our proposed Better Solution for the I-94 East-West Corridor: "Rehab/Transit" Alternative 

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Millennials in Motion

Millennials are less car-focused than older Americans and previous generations of young people, and their transportation behaviors continue to change in ways that reduce driving. Now is the time for the nation’s transportation policies to acknowledge, accommodate and support Millennials’ demands for a greater array of transportation choices.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles

Even though the Driving Boom is now over, state and federal governments continue to pour vast sums of money into the construction of new highways and expansion of old ones – at the expense of urgent needs such as road and bridge repairs, improvements in public transportation and other transportation priorities. Eleven proposed highway projects across the country – slated to cost at least $13 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Fork in the Road

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 ne

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Driving Wisconsin's "Brain Drain"

To better understand how the availability of non-driving modes of transportation can retain and recruit young talent for Wisconsin, the WISPIRG Foundation surveyed 530 college students across Wisconsin.  While the survey was not conducted with a scientifically selected sample, the results of our survey nonetheless illustrate that the Millennial generation is seeking a different transportation future than the spending priorities of state leaders. It underscores that transportation options may be a factor in decisions about where Millennials decide to locate in the future.

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Blog Post | Transportation

This is New York’s Subway System?! | Peter Skopec

To kick off our 21st Century Transportation blog, we're featuring 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
Blog Post | Budget, Transportation

Community Forums this Fall: Transportation and Equity in Wisconsin | Peter Skopec

This fall, WISPIRG and our partners at the Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and WISDOM are hosting a series of community events across Wisconsin. As state leaders begin to debate the future of transportation funding in Wisconsin, we'll explore the impacts of the transportation system on communities in our state and discuss the importance of investing in local priorities. Join us for an event near you by RSVPing at tinyurl.com/TranspoForumsWI!

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Blog Post | Transportation

Good Things Come to Those On Bikes | Sean Doyle

Pull the bike out of the closet, pump up those tires, and dust off the helmet because it's Bike to Work Week!

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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.

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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

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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