Rachel Windsor | September 15, 2022
136 million people use America’s roads each day. On those roads, Americans take 34 million trips on public transportation each day. They all rely on consistent, predictable, and sufficient transportation infrastructure funding to carry out their everyday lives. Yet, many transit routes are inaccessible or under-utilized because of a lack of bus shelters, dedicated bus lanes, bus rapid transit, and safe pedestrian and bike infrastructure.
From IIJA to IRA and previous pandemic-response assistance, states are receiving unprecedent levels of federal transportation funding. Traditionally, many people believe that this money can only be used for repairing, maintaining, and expanding highways. This, however, is only part of the story; we can use highway dollars for public transit infrastructure and ped/bike improvements to the highways themselves. While we still need more funds to run more buses and trains, optimizing the money that we already have to improve transit access and streamline operations benefits all modes and communities alike.
Dedicated bus-only travel lanes and traffic light signal priority, for example, can help reduce congestion, alleviate wear-and-tear on our roads, allow for more reliable transit service, and enhance road safety. All of this is achieved by having fewer single-occupancy-vehicles on the highways. To supplement access to transit, creating new and safer infrastructure including bike lanes, pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks, and bus shelters can facilitate great access to transit (and therefore reduce car travel on these roads).
Each of these improvements could help achieve some of the critical goals PennDOT lays out in their highway funding plan as well as the state’s Climate Action Plan. The department lists the basic needs as: pavement repairs, reducing congestion, and reliability. By reducing the number of cars on the road through greater transit usage, we are better able to achieve these goals.
It basically boils down to this: highways exist to better serve people and facilitate their efficient, affordable, and safe travel. The best way to achieve this is better investment in transit. Our highway dollars can already be used to achieve this, we just need to do it.