National Consumers League

The people have spoken: Let's rebuild our nation’s consumer friendly infrastructure


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byoung-92.jpgWhile many people are questioning what the election results mean for our country, one thing is certain: Americans are demanding more public transportation funding. Thirty-three out of 48 public transit ballot measures were approved, meaning voters voluntarily agreed to pay more taxes or authorized their state and local municipalities to borrow money to improve their infrastructure. The bottom line is that voters who had the opportunity to vote for increased public transit options overwhelmingly chose to do so.

To transportation policy wonks, this does not come as a shock. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases a report card that assess the condition of everything from our bridges and roads, to our rail and transit systems. The most recent report card gave the U.S. a D+ average, in large part due to the chronic underinvestment in infrastructure which is hurting the pocket books of consumers. The ASCE estimates that consumers will need to fork out an extra $3,400 per year, or $9 per day, in needless auto repairs due to pothole damage and the increased delivery costs carriers are forced to pass onto consumers due to added vehicle maintenance costs, and traffic congestion.

Additionally, Americans are also having their valuable time wasted as they spend countless hours in traffic or grappling with a crumbling public transportation system. The 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard estimates that consumers wasted an average of 42 hours sitting in traffic, with many urban locations like Washington, DC, wasting nearly double that commuting in outdated and inefficient infrastructure. Experts predict that the waiting game commuters are forced to confront each day will only worsen if our leaders continue to neglect making the necessary investments. Some analysts believe that by 2020, the amount of time Americans waste stuck in traffic will grow from 42 hours to 47 hours.

Unfortunately, the effects of chronic underinvestment in transportation infrastructure do not stop there. The lives of consumers are also being put at risk. In 2014, 4,884 pedestrians died and 65,000 were injured in traffic accidents. Many of these accidents could have been prevented with proper pedestrian infrastructure. In that same year, 726 bicyclists died and an additional 50,000 were injured; as with the pedestrians, many of these bicyclists could have had their lives saved had proper bike-friendly infrastructure been in place.   

With all of the financial, safety, and time benefits associated with improving our transportation infrastructure, it is not surprising that 70 percent of Americans want more funding to go to public infrastructure. Additionally, the Rockefeller Foundation found that 47 percent of millennials would happily give up their cars if their city had an efficient public transportation system. In spite of these encouraging trends in public opinion, local, state, and federal governments remain hesitant to provide the critical funding to maintain our infrastructure or increase public transportation options.

Investing in infrastructure will create jobs and in turn, save consumers time and money. If we fail to take action however, the infrastructure crisis will only continue to worsen. Fortunately, in the last election cycle, not only did voters choose to support public transportation funding but, both parties—including President-Elect Trump—promised a big investment in public infrastructure. It is now time for Washington to get to work and deliver on these promises. Consumers need smart investments to be made in maintaining our current roads and bridges, as well as a heavy expansion in public transportation and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.