Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on March 29, 2023
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on April 19, 2023
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 22, 2023
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports public transportation as an essential component of a comprehensive, integrated, multi-modal transportation system for America’s communities. The robust funding, planning, design, construction, operation, and long-term maintenance of public transportation systems is vital to ensuring mobility options for all segments of society. Further, ASCE encourages:
- Investment by public and private stakeholders to develop more integrated approaches to building, operating, and adapting public transportation infrastructures to rapidly evolving circumstances.
- Developing and promoting new planning models and engineering codes and standards that help achieve resource-efficient goals and objectives.
- Helping communities plan and design for transit-oriented development.
- Repairing and upgrading aging transit infrastructure.
- Providing the infrastructure needed to facilitate the replacement of aging, diesel powered buses and ferries with low- and no-emission vehicles.
- Use of existing right-of-way for transit operations, including use of shoulders during peak traffic hours.
ASCE urges that federal funding for public transportation continues, as a minimum, at fully authorized federal funding levels. Additionally, ASCE supports maintaining the present level of the mass transit account’s share of the federal Highway Trust Fund.
Public transportation plays a vital role in our nation’s economy, providing essential mobility accessibility to millions of people in urban, suburban, and rural communities. The ASCE 2021 Infrastructure Report Card gave our nation’s transit systems a D-.
Recently, pandemic-related issues have induced significant shifts in trip generation and distribution as well as mode choice, which impacts the conventional approaches to developing and operating public transportation systems. Modeling and implementation of these systems to meet these changes are needed to ensure that they can provide mobility in ways that meet travelers’ needs. Unfortunately, 45% of Americans still have no access to transit systems. As communities rethink these systems, they need assistance to plan and design for transit-oriented design, which could include bus rapid transit lines, first and last mile systems, multi-modal transit hubs, strategically placed ride-sharing lots, providing the space within the public right-of-way to accommodate dedicated lanes and multi-modal and other accessible features to be inclusive of all users regardless of their income or demographic.
Many public transportation systems have a large financial deficit. This may be a result of deferred maintenance needs, operating losses, or a combination of both. Currently, there is a $176 billion transit backlog, a deficit that is expected to grow to more than $270 billion through 2029. Failure to address this shortfall will inevitability reduce service and increase delays. It is important that users have reliability in a system to get them to work, medical appointments, or shopping. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act can assist in decreasing this financial gap. However, the funding needs to be fully appropriated to provide improvements in mobile device-based applications and telecommunications to provide users of all abilities with up-to-date information. Real-time data is essential to users for route and schedule planning, run and wait times, ridership loads, congestion, and multi-mode availability. This will lead to a more reliable system which should encourage more users.
Finally, there has been a greater demand on public transportation agencies to provide greener systems, such as more low or zero emission vehicles as they replace an aging fleet of buses, ferries, and trains. However, the cost of conversion from internal combustion engines to electric propulsion is expensive and requires significant attention and investment in the infrastructure build-out.
The benefits of public transportation are numerous and include demand responsive transit programs that provide mobility to elderly individuals and people with disabilities; allow lower income workers and their families accessibility to reach jobs and meet their daily needs; provides commuters the convenience of taking transit, even if they have other transportation choices; provides businesses with greater access to a larger pool of workers who themselves have more reliable commutes; reduces automobile commuters which can result in more efficient goods movement, as well as cleaner air; result in an increase in property values and development potential in high quality transit areas; and provides the safest mode of surface transportation, orders of magnitude safer than automobile use, and as modal shares of transit increase, the aggregate safety of surface transportation also increases.
ASCE Policy Statement 494
First Approved in 2002