As Americans gain access to travel options, it is shown that they are using transit more. The email below, which was recently sent to the transportation and rail community from FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo highlights the need for funding this cost-effective, time-efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation.
Sent on behalf of the FRA Administrator, Joseph C. Szabo:
Americans’ travel habits are beginning to undergo rapid change. According to a new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the average American drives six percent fewer miles today than in 2004. Leading this trend are the 16- to 34-year-olds.
From 2001 to 2009, this age group reduced their vehicle-miles traveled by 23 percent and increased their average passenger miles traveled by trains and buses by a whopping 40 percent. We’re talking about the next generation that actually considers it badge of honor not to own a car but instead to use intercity passenger rail, mass transit, bike-sharing, and car-sharing. State and local leaders in big cities like Denver, CO and mid-sized towns like Normal, IL are embracing this trend in their planning, recognizing the next generation of entrepreneurs is choosing to live where they have these options.
Transportation choices are not just important for young people. In a new video, AARP makes a strong case that alternatives to driving can greatly improve the physical and mental health of seniors as they age by allowing them the independence and mobility to lead a full, active and enjoyable life, whether or not they are still physically capable of driving. This access is especially important when considering the Baby Boomer generation - with a population of 79 million or roughly 26 percent of the nation’s population – has already begun retiring.
Last week I attended at the American Public Transportation Association Rail Conference in Dallas. New data released at the conference showed that as Americans gain access to travel options, they are using transit more. Ridership is up 6.7 percent and 5.5 percent on light and heavy rail transit, respectively. This news follows an earlier announcement this year from Amtrak, touting the nation’s intercity rail provider was on pace to break its ridership record for the ninth time in ten years. This ridership increase shows that when targeted to the right marketplace, passenger rail can be the most cost-effective, time-efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation.
This is the future, and it’s time for members of Congress to recognize this trend and prepare for it. Unfortunately, they are well behind the American people. In recent months, extreme proposals have surfaced to slash funding for high-speed and intercity passenger rail, strip public transit of its funding source originally created by President Regan and cut the TIGER Program, a mode-neutral program that funds projects based on merit, not earmarks. In contrast, President Obama has called on Congress to pass a transportation bill that allows Americans to choose the fastest and most affordable way to reach their destination.
No economy can grow faster than its transportation system can carry it. For our economy to thrive in the 21st Century, Congress must pass a transportation bill that adequately funds all modes of transportation.
Joseph C. Szabo