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

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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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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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Course

Across America, colleges and universities are showing that efforts aimed at reducing driving deliver powerful benefits for students, staff and surrounding communities. Policymakers at all levels of government should be looking to the innovative examples of these campuses. Universities and college towns also provide useful models for expanding the range of transportation options available to Americans while addressing the transportation challenges facing our communities.

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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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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Transportation in Transition

Americans’ transportation habits have changed. The average American drives 7.6 percent fewer miles today than when per-capita driving peaked in 2004. A review of data from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Census Bureau for America’s 100 most populous urbanized areas – which are home to over half of the nation’s population – shows that the decline in per-capita driving has taken place in a wide variety of regions.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation

This new report explains how school districts and utilities can work together to acclerate the switch to electric school buses, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the health of the kids that ride them everyday. 

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.

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