21st Century Transportation

Wisconsin can’t afford more extravagant highway projects, especially when urgent local road repair and transit needs are being neglected. It’s time to get our transportation priorities straight and invest Wisconsin taxpayer dollars wisely, not wastefully.

Highway Waste Undermines 21st Century Transportation in Wisconsin

Demand for transportation alternatives is skyrocketing, and our roads and bridges are crumbling. Yet instead of meeting our changing transportation needs, our state budget continues to funnel billions of dollars into shortsighted new highway projects.

We need a transportation system that reflects and supports the way we want to travel now.

With gas prices up and lifestyles changing, we are driving less and taking transit, walking, and biking more.  The average Wisconsinite drove 500 fewer miles in 2010 than in 2004, and between 2001 and 2009 young people’s travel on public transportation increased by 40% nationwide. Meanwhile, recent reports found that 1,100 Wisconsin bridges are structurally deficient, and 43% of our roads are in “less than good” condition.

By shifting our transportation budget away from expensive new highways, we can invest in efficient public transportation systems like intercity rail and clean bus systems, and make sure that our existing infrastructure is safe and functional for decades to come.

Unfortunately, the highway lobby and big road construction firms won’t easily let go of their high-priced, taxpayer-funded highway contracts. They’ve lobbied hard, and Governor Walker has listened — he has increased spending on new highways at the expense of everything else.

With state leaders considering the next two-year budget, now is the time to fight for Wisconsin’s transportation future. With enough public support, we can overcome the road builders and their lobbyists, and make sure Gov. Walker and state leaders get behind a transportation plan that will best benefit Wisconsin taxpayers.  
 

Issue updates

Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

The Road to Clean Transportation

By transforming our vehicles, rethinking the design of our cities and towns, maximizing the benefits of new technologies, and doubling down on proven strategies like public transit, the Midwest can ensure that the transportation system we pass on to our children is clean, resilient, equitable and accessible to all.

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Consumer Group Denounces Federal Proposal to Stall Clean Car Standards

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration today proposed rolling back the “Clean Car” fuel economy standards, which, if fully implemented, could eliminate more than 2 billion metric tons of emissions and save consumers significant money at the gas pump. Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in response.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 4

America’s infrastructure is in rough shape. Many of our roads, bridges and transit systems are aging and in need of repair. Yet, year after year, state and local governments propose billions of dollars’ worth of new and expanded highways that often do little to reduce congestion or address real transportation challenges, while diverting scarce funding from infrastructure repairs and 21st century transportation priorities. 

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Electric Buses

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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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News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Coalition Urges Budget Committee to Stop I-94 Expansion, Save Taxpayers Hundreds of Millions

In a letter delivered to the state legislature's budget committee, a coalition of 25 statewide and local organizations is urging the Joint Finance Committee not to give the go-ahead to an $850 million expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee currently being considered by the Wisconsin DOT.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

As Budget Committee Prepares to Vote on Transportation, Groups Call for Less Debt, More Investment in Local Infrastructure

Wisconsin legislators could save taxpayers half a billion dollars by putting unnecessary highway expansion projects on hold, according to an alternative budget proposal released today by Wisconsin advocacy groups.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

New Report Finds Drivers Pay Less Than Half the Cost of Roads

As state lawmakers prepare to debate Wisconsin’s transportation budget and Congress struggles to renew the federal transportation law, a new report from WISPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group finds that drivers currently pay less than half the total cost of roads nationwide, and argues that while increasing gas taxes could temporarily fill the transportation funding shortfall, it would leave other, deeper problems unaddressed.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

WISDOT Disregards Community Opposition, Declining Driving, Proposes to Waste Taxpayer Money on Unneeded I-94 Expansion

Today, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced that its preferred alternative for the I-94 East-West Corridor is an “at-grade” expansion. With traffic counts declining in the corridor, any expansion is unnecessary and will waste taxpayer money, while diverting resources away from other critical infrastructure repairs, including fixing bridges and potholes on local roads.

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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. 

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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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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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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 | Transportation

A New Way to Go

America is in the midst of a technological revolution … and a big shift in our transportation habits. Over the last 15 years, the Internet and mobile communications technologies have transformed the way Americans live and work. During that same period, growth in vehicle travel slowed and then stopped, with Americans today driving about as much on average as we did in 1996.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Road Overkill

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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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 | Transportation

All Americans Deserve Clean Air to Breathe, On Earth Day and Every Day | Sean Doyle

U.S. DOT asks if we should measure global warming pollution from transportation.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Owning Fewer Cars Isn’t Just For Millennials | Sean Doyle

New transportation options are making it easier for people to use transit more, own fewer cars, and even save money on transportation.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Pulling a FAST one on our Transportation Future | Sean Doyle

For the first time in a decade, and after roughly three dozen short-term extensions, Congress has pulled together and passed a transportation-funding law lasting longer than two years. There is only one problem: the new law is the wrong deal for the country.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Transportation policy is health policy | Sean Doyle

While transportation is often just thought of as how we get from point A to point B, the way we choose to do so can have important consequences on our physical health, air quality, safety, the development of our cities, and how we interact within them.

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Blog Post

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.

News Release | WISPIRG

Gov. Tony Evers today signed Wisconsin’s 2019-21 biennial budget, which includes positive steps to accelerate the state’s transition to electric vehicles and invests in Wisconsin’s local transportation infrastructure, including public transit.

Blog Post

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.

News Release | WISPIRG

As the legislature takes up the state budget this week, a coalition of consumer, civil rights and environmental organizations urged decisionmakers to prioritize investments in public transportation and local road maintenance, and to reject any new highway expansion projects in Wisconsin’s transportation spending plan.

Blog Post

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.

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement 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 our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 
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