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U.S. PIRG Statement: Metrorail Shutdown in Washington D.C. Highlights Need for More Public Transit Investment

Immediate Release

Statement by Lauren Aragon, Fellow for 21st Century Transportation at the United States Public Interest Research Group, on this week’s emergency Metrorail closure

“The sudden and complete shutdown of the second-largest subway system in the country highlights the essential role that public transit plays in all of our lives as well as our extremely skewed transportation spending priorities.

“Like most major urban areas, D.C. simply cannot handle the hundreds of thousands of daily travelers traveling in and out of the city for both work and leisure without an effective and efficient public transit system.

“Public transit is essential. It takes cars off the road, reducing the congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution that lead to over 50,000 early deaths each year. It also provides individuals with a healthly, safe, and active transportation option that increases overall public health and reduces driving fatalities.

“Failing to properly invest in and maintain critical public transit services results in significant backlogs that grow more expensive to fix each day, emergency shutdowns that prevent effective and efficient transport, and a system ill-equipped to meet growing demand.

“While yesterday’s sudden closure was necessary to ensure that all passengers are able to travel safely, we must ask why the system was not more properly maintained in the first place. What’s clear is that we cannot expect our under-funded systems to continue functioning efficiently and safely; pretending otherwise is unrealistic. 

“Politicians in Congress directly contribute to shutdowns and delays like those experienced in D.C. yesterday by continually prioritizing new and wider highways over critical public transit services, biking and pedestrian alternatives. Sadly, highways receive eighty cents of every dollar of available federal transportation funding leaving our transit systems to literally crumble. 

“A truly 21st century transportation system that responds to tomorrow’s challenges and today’s needs must include a safe, efficient, and functioning public transit system. Yet getting there will require a substantial rethinking of our current flawed transportation priorities.”

More information on our nation’s skewed transportation spending priorities can be found in the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group report, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future.”

More information on the benefits of reduced driving and the critical role public transit plays in achieving those reduction can be found in the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group report, “What’s at Stake: How Decreasing Miles in Massachusetts Will Save Lives, Money, Injuries, and the Environment.”

More information on the real cost building and maintaining our nation’s road system can be found in the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group report, “Who Pays for Roads: How the “Users Pay” Myth Gets in the Way of Solving America’s Transportation Problems.”

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