About the Survey

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Our nation’s transportation system is broken. Because the federal government has failed to invest in transportation infrastructure in metropolitan areas—home to two-thirds of the country’s population, 86 percent of United States employment, and 90 percent of wage income—families spend too much time stuck in traffic and businesses cannot efficiently move their products to market.

The largest metropolitan areas account for 87 percent of the nation’s traffic. The three most congested areas—Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago—account for 27 percent of that traffic. Our metropolitan areas rank high among world economies (e.g., New York’s economy ranks 12th and is larger than India’s economy), but they are saddled with bus and rail systems at capacity and aging roads and bridges that will undermine their ability to meet the nation’s future economic output. Simply put, these areas are receiving significantly less in federal transportation investments than would reflect their role and importance to the nation’s economy.

Given these factors, metropolitan areas should be at the center of federal transportation infrastructure investment. They are the drivers of the 21st-century United States economy.

This survey confirms what mayors have been saying for years: through a new direct partnership with mayors, the federal government should make tomorrow’s transportation infrastructure more metropolitan-focused, more energy-efficient, and more environmentally sustainable.

As the federal government sets priorities for long-term spending and deficit reduction, future transportation infrastructure investments should prioritize spending on pressing metropolitan transportation infrastructure needs as opposed to low-priority expansion projects such as the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. The long-term productivity of transportation infrastructure spending is greater when it is invested where economic growth will occur, and over the next 20 years, 94 percent of United States economic growth will occur in metropolitan areas. Absent these reforms, 93 percent of mayors surveyed in this study said they would not support an increase to the federal gas tax to fund 20th-century transportation infrastructure improvements.

The United States Conference of Mayors is pleased to be working with the Obama Administration and Congress in helping to shape a federal surface transportation law that will rebuild transportation infrastructure in metropolitan areas, reduce traffic congestion, create jobs, and ensure that cities and their metropolitan economies across the United States, and, in turn, the nation’s economy, emerge from the recession.