Make Reliable Public Transportation a Priority

Target: Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Goal: Prioritize public transportation in order to fight climate change.

There are two major problems in the U.S. which happen to be related: traffic and pollution. America loves its cars and the convenience they offer. Vehicle dependence is caused, in part, because the country has not made a national commitment to public transportation. Whereas many other countries, regardless of affluence, happily ride trains and busses as a primary mode of transportation, a large number of people in the U.S. still see these as a last resort. Consequently, those who rely on public transit are left with a neglected resource that has immense potential. There are two significant reasons why the Department of Transportation should prioritize these public services.

For one, the infrastructure is already in place. Many major hubs throughout the U. S. already have light rail established from train booms of past decades. These endure a cyclical fate where local trains are only used by those who may not have cars. Those same trains remain underfunded because of lower ridership as a consequence of car owners not having incentive to rely on a degraded system. Everyone wins with reliable public transportation, though, as reports it can save money when compared to car ownership. Ultimately, most of the cars owned are concentrated in cities that already have public transportation which makes them a smart place to push applicable funding.

Second, the momentum of focus on electric cars seems to be trying to reinvent the wheel on addressing climate change while creating or perpetuating other issues. The U. S. plans to provide $5 billion for states to expand networks of charging stations for electric cars, money spent to support a product that a majority of consumers cannot yet afford. While electric cars are a wonderful option down the road, why not first put money into already established infrastructure accessible to all? Public transportation has less of a carbon footprint per rider than electric cars when considering the greenhouse gasses emitted when producing the car. Finally, no number of electric cars will improve increasingly stressful traffic conditions. On the other hand, light rail moves along quickly despite gridlock.

Sign the petition below and forward it to Secretary Buttigieg’s office to urge him to push funding into public transportation.


Dear Secretary Buttigieg,

You have assumed a very demanding position in the country. Not everyone agrees on which direction the future of transportation should go which increases the difficulty of decision making in your job. The good news is as Secretary of Transportation, you have the option to improve transportation options for millions without the need to completely rebuild infrastructure coast to coast. Public transit effectively got people where they were going in the past and can continue to provide a cost effective and accessible option for years to come.

Some of the nation’s subways are over a hundred years old. Nonetheless, age does not keep millions living in some of the most bustling urban areas from taking advantage of these systems. Many of them, however, are in serious disrepair. Breakdowns and track issues make delays a tough but accepted reality for those who rely on public transit to get where they need to go. Those who may use subways but can afford to drive or participate in a ride sharing service see personal transportation as a more reliable option, but doing so contributes to increasingly unbearable traffic. The solution is clear: update existing public transit to be a viable choice for everyone with access.

The national conversation of electric cars seems to have distracted many from the importance of investing in accessible transportation that already exists. The billions in federal funds being poured into charging stations and other electric car infrastructure instead could be used on bolstering public transit where it is needed and establishing it where there may be demand. The benefits greatly outweigh those from taking an entirely new approach. Reduced emissions from the manufacturing of electric cars and ensuring there are fewer cars on the road to create traffic are just a couple reasons public transit is the right choice. Plus, electric cars are still far from affordable, so it makes sense to invest in options that benefit the many, not the few.

We need a plan that checks all the boxes on issues people care about. Take action now to shift the Department of Transportation’s budget to invest more in the nation’s public transportation options.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Leif Jørgensen

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