This is from Curbed’s first-ever Transportation Week, by Megan Barber, Patrick Sisson and Alissa Walker 20 Sep 2017
In an effort to parse through the doom and gloom—and in honor of Curbed’s first-ever Transportation Week—we want to share 101 smart transportation solutions that can make our cities better.
We’ve looked to cities all around the world for inspiration and asked some of our favorite urban thinkers for their best tips on how to fix the thorniest transportation problems. Some proposals may seem idealistic, while others might surprise you, but all 101 suggestions will push our communities to design, implement, and use better transit. We hope this serves as a roadmap for what you can do as an individual and what our cities can aspire to—and that you’ll contribute your thoughts in the comments.
What You Can Do
1. Tell your city to go car-free. What sounds like an impossible dream could be achieved by cities like Oslo in a few years. Want an example that’s closer to home? Get inspired by the way Vancouver has reduced reliance on cars by half. In just two years, Oslo has replaced most on-street parking with bike lanes and sidewalks
2. Sign up for an autonomous-vehicle pilot program. Okay, there’s really only one that we know of—Waymo’s program in Phoenix—but shared, driverless cars are the future of sustainable, low-emission transportation. Become an advocate for AVs to help move this technology forward.
3. Ride a bike—but not for the reason you’d expect. “Culturally, the humble bicycle has the potential to bring about social and structural change by strengthening social ties through slow speeds and human-scale urbanism. In much the same way as women’s liberation was based on two-wheeled independence in the late 20th century, I believe it is the change we need once again to (re)make our cities not only healthier, but also more humane for everyone.” —Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman, urban anthropologist and founder of the Women Led Cities Initiative
4. Ride the bus. Transit ridership is down in almost every major U.S. city, which makes it harder to justify funding for more lines. Boost your city’s transportation future across the board by riding the bus, and be on the lookout for self-driving technology that just might save it.
6. Download a transit app. Transportation planning apps like Citymapper and Transitnot only offer detailed trip-planning services and real-time arrival information, but also help local transit agencies improve service. To create more efficient routes, give your city the data it needs.
7. Try a folding bicycle. These compact transformers let you ride a bus or train easily, and then unfold into a bike that’s perfect for traveling that last mile.
8. Use a water taxi or ferry. Many of our biggest cities are located next to water, and water taxis and ferries can be an efficient and enjoyable means of transit. They are also prepping to go high tech: In Amsterdam and Boston, autonomous watercraft could soon move people and goods around the city. The first unmanned ships may be in operation within three years.
9. Stop for pedestrians. Even in states where it’s the law, cars continually ignore pedestrians in crosswalks. Give people the right of way and show your support for pedestrian-centric cities.
10. Paddle to work. Bike shares and ride-hailing apps have become commonplace. But paddling to work is another thing entirely. A recently announced kayak-share concept in Minneapolis would let commuters ride the Mississippi, traveling between two stations on the mighty river. Since the boat docks would be connected to the city bike-share system, it suggests a future where both modes of transportation could be part of your morning ride to work.
12. Stop making it about “those people” or “the other.” “Treat people who bike and walk like people. Rather than seeing them as the other, remember that they have families, people they love, and things they contribute to in their lives. We also have to stop centering privileged voices and experiences. Whether it’s out of necessity or a lifestyle choice, seeing and treating those who walk and bike as people is both innovative and simple to do—give it a try.” —Tamika L. Butler, consultant and LA Neighborhood Land Trust executive director
13. Start walking. Is there any single action that’s better for your mind, your body, and your planet?
14. Try commuting with an electric bike. Research shows that e-bikes are 10 to 20 times more energy-efficient than a car, and frankly, an e-bike is just plain fun to ride. Folding e-bikes like this one can give you a sweat-free, less stressful commute and get you out of your car, the fastest-growing contributor to greenhouse gases in our country.
15. Obey traffic laws. Cars that swerve into bike lanes or don’t watch out for two-wheeled commuters definitely deserve to be called out and ticketed. Bikers who ignore rules don’t help the cause for better bike lanes and better enforcement. Pedestrians should pay attention while crossing busy streets. Everyone: Follow the rules of the road.
16. Organize a local car-free day. Every September 22 cities around the world participate in a global Car-Free Day, showcasing the possibilities of a more progressive commute and the advantages of walkable streets and biking infrastructure. It’s not too late to join the annual celebration this year—leave your car at work and walk home!—then start planning for 2017.
17. Remake an underpass into an art space. Los Angeles has hundreds of pedestrian underpasses originally built to help students get across busy streets. But most of the underpasses have been sealed off to discourage illegal activities. In the Cypress Park neighborhood, coffee shop owner Yancey Quinones fought to reopen a nearby tunnel and fill it with art. The monthly openings spill out into the streets, activating the entire block. Check out other creative underpasses, right this way.
18. Start a carpool. In 2014, over 76 percent of commuters in the United States drove to work alone, most often in their personal vehicle. Carpools save money on gas, reduce your carbon footprint, let you work during the drive, and get you access to specially designated carpool lanes reserved for high-occupancy vehicles.
19. Buy a tiny car. If you can get over the aesthetic—we think they are kind of cute—try out a tiny car. They take up less road space, are easier to park, get better gas mileage, and many are electric.
20. Ride a bike to save the planet. Yes, riding a bike really can save the world. According to a 2015 study by the University of California at Davis, if 14 percent of all urban trips worldwide were taken on bicycle, the planet would reduce emissions dramatically enough to achieve the Paris climate goals. That seems especially feasible when you consider that half of all urban trips are a very bikeable six miles or fewer.
21. Use car sharing. New services like Car2go and Zipcar give you the convenience of having a car without the added costs—and negative environmental impacts—of car ownership. Users can pay to drive cars when they need them by the minute, hour, or day. Studies have shown that access to shared cars takes vehicles off of roads, eases parking congestion, and can have a ripple effect of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and gas use. Want to go the extra mile? Opt for an electric car sharing service.
22. Cycle to new parts of your city. Slow Roll, a community bike-ride series that started in Detroit, gathers riders to interact and explore new parts of the city, promoting riding in new neighborhoods, as well as expansions of bike lanes and bike-share systems into underserved areas.
23. Slow down. Driving just 5 mph slower might save someone’s life. A famous 2011 AAA study looked at 422 crashes involving pedestrians and determined that a person is twice as likely to die if he or she is struck by a car traveling at 30 mph instead of 25 mph. Better yet, petition your city to implement a “20 is plenty” zone for dense urban areas—98 percent of pedestrians hit at that rate of speed will live.
24. Give directions to your entire city. With a mission to get more “feet on the street,” the Walk Your City project promotes more conversational, community-oriented wayfinding. Community groups can visit the site, create a set of custom signs (with messages such as “It’s a two-minute walk to the library”), and get them shipped and ready to install. The concept has already played out in cities such as Mount Hope, West Virginia, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
25. Opt for a cargo bike. Want to ride your bike more but don’t know how to haul the kids, the groceries, and (figuratively) the kitchen sink? With many different styles and price points, a cargo bike can get the whole crew where you need to be without the soul-crushing battle of putting a 2-year-old in a car seat.
26. Map a 40-minute walking circle around your house. Measure and draw a two-mile-radius circle around your house to determine your “walkshed”: the places you can easily walk. You’ll realize how many local amenities are closer than you think—most people can walk two miles in about 40 minutes—and you’ll be more likely to hoof it and support local businesses.
27. Build your own bridge. Nobody is suggesting that you try to one-up Robert Moses. But even a small span can make a difference. New York artist (and chief engineer) Jason Eppink often walked beneath the leaky Hell Gate Bridge Viaduct, which flooded the sidewalk with a large puddle of dirty water. His satirical remedy, the Astoria Scum River Bridge, a miniature elevated wooden walkway, earned plaudits from locals, and eventually shamed the bridge owners into fixing the leaky pipes.
28. Switch to pay-as-you-drive pricing. Mileage-based pricing for insurance and car registration makes insurance more equitable and provides an incentive for motorists who drive their vehicles less than the average.
30. Support transit-oriented development. Cities such as Chicago have codified the concept of transit-oriented development, which allows for larger buildings with smaller parking minimums if they’re near transit lines. It’s a conservation two-for-one, adding denser housing downtown with less need for private automobile trips.
What Businesses Can Do
31. Provide affordable day care near high–quality transit and job centers. “If we locate child care near transit centers and provide day care subsidies for transit riders, this will increase transit ridership and subsidize critically needed childcare for working families.” —Jessica Meaney, executive director, Investing in Place
32. Show, don’t tell. “If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a prototype is worth 1,000 meetings. Take your mobility idea, make a prototype, test it, and document it. Whether you’re a big company or civic hacktivist, make your idea tangible, ‘experience-able,’ and visual so you can move beyond your imagination and really feel how your idea will impact your community.” —Joey Lee, research associate, Moovel Lab
33. Build offices in dense cities. The cheaper land of the suburbs may be tempting, but businesses that headquarter in dense cities have access to high-quality employee talent, a car-free workforce, and the amenities that come with a top-notch city: great restaurants, hotels, and conference space.
34. Install showers and bike lockers for your employees. Want to make it easier for employees to bicycle, run, or walk to work? Provide a safe and sanitary place for people to shower and keep their stuff.
35. Pay for transit passes. Employers in the U.S. may provide tax-free transportation benefits to workers, so there’s no reason not to ask your company to pay for personal bus, train, light rail, vanpool, and other transit costs.
36. Make cars that can talk to each other. Wireless vehicle-to-vehicle communicationcould make traffic flow more easily. Some companies are testing cars that could broadcast their GPS location and speed every 100 milliseconds so that instead of slamming on the brakes, vehicles will be prepared for what’s happening 10 cars ahead.
37. Start a “parking-cash out” program. If an employee normally receives free parking, offer to provide a stipend for shifting to carpooling, transit, or biking.
39. Partner with local transportation providers. Many employees simply don’t know all of the options available to them. Companies can work with local transportation providers to educate employees about the myriad ways they can commute to work.
40. Power trains with solar panels. Rather than accepting reliance on the conventional power grid, a research team from the Imperial College London wants to feed solar-generated electricity directly into train lines. The solar panel system would also enable trains to run into more rural areas where the existing power grid couldn’t support an electric train line.
41. Let employees work from home one day each week. Studies show that 45 percent of the U.S. workforce has a job that’s suitable for full-time or part-time telecommuting. Working a few days from home each month means one fewer commuter on the road contributing to greenhouse gases and gridlock on the highways.
42. Pay people to walk. Instead of providing car allowances, pay people to walk to work. The extra money just might pay for an apartment or house that’s closer to the office.
43. Become a member of a transportation management association. Support your city and regional organizations by joining organizations that represent employers and business leaders seeking to ease traffic congestion and reduce single-occupant commuting.
44. Offer flexible start times and end times. The majority of commuters crowd highways at key times each day, overcrowding infrastructure and resulting in huge delays. If employers allow workers to come in at off-peak hours—arrive at 6 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m., for example—it would help stagger the number of people on the road.
What Your Neighborhood Can Do
45. Make student IDs double as transit passes. “Transportation agencies and school districts can work together to create student IDs that contain a chip so that it also works as a year-long transit pass. Many transit agencies offer reduced fare for students — but few students can easily access this discount. Getting an ID the first day of school would be so rad and would increase student transportation options.” —Jessica Meaney, executive director, Investing in Place
46. Build more linear parks. Unlike traditional green spaces, linear parks are longer than they are wide, and they take people on a journey through the city. Parks like the 606 in Chicago and the Beltline in Atlanta boost alternative transportation by creating a thoroughfare for pedestrians, rollerbladers, bikers, and more.
47. Pedestrianize a street. Take inspiration from car-free cities worldwide and transform a corridor into a walker’s haven, using ideas ranging from Barcelona’s superblock concept to this pretty shared street in Chicago.
48. Protect your bike lanes with plants. Vancouver took the protected bikeway one step further, turning the typical painted lanes into a planted greenway. Using self-watering planters instead of utilitarian poles not only safely separates bikes from cars, it improves the streetscape for all its users. It also means activists wouldn’t have to resort to using their bodies as a human shield to protect cyclists.
49. Advocate for women, parents, and families. “Every car-share vehicle should have booster seats, transit routes should help get students to after-school activities, bus and rail drivers should be trained to recognize and prevent sexual assault, and bike racks on buses should lower automatically based on height.” —Seleta J. Reynolds, general manager, Los Angeles Department of Transportation
50. Start with the spaces you have, even if they are small. Limited city funding can make change seem glacial, but neighborhoods can transform their spaces with small projects like parklets, temporary street or parking closures, bike corrals, and vegetation. “Interim design strategies get results on the ground fast. Imagine carving out acres of public space out of materials like paint and plastic flex-posts. Cities across the U.S, including Austin, Denver, Nashville, and Detroit, are unlocking value on their streets without waiting for triple-bid contracts. And voila! You have yourself a new park, bike lane, or more comfortable intersection.” —Aaron Villere, program associate, NACTO
51. Take some initiative and fix up your bus stop. Is there a more bland and boring seat than a typical urban bus stop, a functional, feckless box of plastic? Public transport stops need shelter, clear signage, up-to-date route information, lighting, seating, and a wide sidewalk space so pedestrians can pass by easily. These key parts of urban infrastructure desperately need an upgrade; community groups met that call to action with sharp redesigns, from Bus Stop Moves in Cleveland, which covers station walls with fitness instructions, or Ride, Rally, Ride in Memphis, which transforms transit stops into cycling hubs.
52. Paint a pop-up bike lane. Rather than talk about the impact of new bike lanes on the Macon, Georgia, transportation network, Better Block went ahead and brought the vision to life with the help of 498 cans of paint (and support from the city and the Knight Foundation). The pop-up paint job, which linked together existing bike lanes, may be a precursor to an expansion of the city’s cycling infrastructure.
53. Form a bicycle-friendly district. The city of Long Beach, California, didn’t just want to encourage cyclists to frequent local stores and restaurants, it set out to prove that people on bikes were good for small businesses. The bike-friendly business districts provide amenities like racks and discounts for two-wheeled patrons, and serve as hubs for the city’s growing bike network.
54. Host a transportation hackathon. Pedaling meets prototyping at the worldwide innovation workshop Cyclehack, which gathers designers and riders in cities around the globe to build and test new concepts for better bike tech. Transportation Camp is an annual “unconference” for tackling tough transit problems.
55. Build commuter mountain-biking networks. It may seem bizarre, but if you make commuting more fun, more people will do it. A network of mountain bike trails in urban centers allows people to get a workout in, have fun, and get to work on time. In Portland, a bike path leads from the airport to downtown, and there are more than 180 miles of interconnected bike lanes, mountain bike trails, and bike commuting trains.
56. Redesign a crosswalk. In 2015, a handful of Seattle streets were reborn when a rogue designer painted colorful new crosswalks. Instead of wiping them away, the city made them a permanent part of the landscape, and even appropriated the idea, setting up a community crosswalk program so other neighborhoods could create their own colorful street art. Between promoting community pride and increasing pedestrian visibility and safety, it’s a quick, colorful step forward.
57. Organize a park-and-pedal. David Montague, the owner of a Boston company that makes foldable bicycles, wanted to encourage cycling in an area where many faced long commutes, and hit upon an ingenious hybrid solution: organize a cycling-based version of the park-and-ride systems utilized by city commuters. His Park&Pedal system, which utilizes existing parking lots and trails to encourages people to split their commute between biking and driving, now includes 19 lots around the Boston area.
58. Fight parking minimums. Up to 14 percent of the land in some U.S. cities is dedicated to parking motionless vehicles. That’s not just incentivizing driving, it’s also taking up precious land that could be used to build places that allow people to live and work closer together. Attend hearings for new developments and encourage planners to reduce or nix the construction of required parking spaces.
Cycling Professor @fietsprofessor 1st part of world’s largest bike parking (12.5k places) is opening at Utrecht station. World class! pics by @CU2030http://cu2030.nl/archive/2017-08-03/stationspleinstalling-maandag-7-augustus-voor-jou-gestofzuigd-en …
What Your City Can Do
59. Let’s start planning smarter. “Cities needs to focus their design and funding on place, and not just mobility, to solve our mobility problems. In Los Angeles, once-walkable streets and verdant landscapes have suffered because of our city’s obsession with perpetual movement. We need to stop planning with the sole objective of moving cars and instead create healing, healthy, and joyful streets that embrace our body, mind, and environment!” —James Rojas, creator of Place IT.
60. Tax drivers by the mile instead of by the gallon. Oregon has been working on alternatives to the gas tax since 2001, and the Oregon Department of Transportation is ready to take its mileage-based program statewide. Charging people for the amount of miles they drive will help raise funds to fix roads and bridges, encourage alternative transportation, and compensate for dwindling gas tax revenues.
61. Make transit more accessible. There are dozens of barriers to using public transportation. Cities should do more to install curb ramps, provide elevator access into subways, and maintain a fleet of low-floor buses, railway cars wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, and ramped taxis.
62. Tear down highways. The idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Research from cities like San Francisco has shown that demolishing elevated freeways can have positive effects on development without negatively affecting transportation. Replacing highways with pedestrian- and bike-friendly boulevards can help reconnect neighborhoods, decrease our dependence on cars, and reverse urban blight. Here are 10 highways we can start with and another Ohio highway that’s turning a decommissioned freeway into a 35-acre park.
63. Don’t forget the suburbs when building bike lanes. Making your neighborhood safe for cycling is important, but shifting suburban commutes can make a massive difference in safety and larger transportation patterns. Initiatives like the Family Friendly Bikeways program in Chicago connect riders across local cities and towns.
64. Map your city’s transportation noise. Many are aware of the dangers of urban air pollution, but the constant cacophony of sirens, planes, and street sounds can also cause problems. The U.S. Department of Transportation created the National Transportation Noise Map to show that medium-loud sounds from highways and airplanes are pervasive, reaching the ears of 97 percent of the population. DOT hopes that by mapping the problem, city planners and politicians can push back against urban design that relegates loud infrastructure to poor and minority neighborhoods.
65. Charge for parking. Free parking subsidizes driving and encourages car-centric development. In Nottingham, England, in 2012, the city began charging a tax for the commuter parking spaces offered by companies to their employees. Over the next few years, the parking tax reduced traffic and car use and helped the city pay for two new tram lines, an improved railway station, and more buses.
66. Create a Go Zone. “We think driving on roads is ‘free,’ but there’s a high cost to traffic. In Los Angeles, people lose over 100 hours a year stuck in traffic, the equivalent of two and a half weeks’ vacation. Enter the Go Zone—multiple transportation solutions deployed to one traffic hotspot, including a peak period charge to drive through the zone. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand: Drivers must put a value on their time, with the result being a lot less traffic and reliable travel times. Los Angeles is considering the idea, and London and Stockholm have deployed similar plans to great success and public approval. Revenues generated from Go Zones can be reinvested into more transit choices, bike lanes, on-demand shuttles, and sidewalk repairs.” —Amanda Eaken, transportation and climate director, NRDC
67. Put Wi-Fi on commuter buses and trains. If you want more people to use public transit, you need to make it appealing. Adding Wi-Fi to public trains, light rail, and subway systems lets people check in with work or peruse their Instagram account during their commute.
68. Get ready for autonomous trucks. We may appear on the cusp of a driverless future, but the reality of automated-vehicle technology suggests that we’re more likely to see advances in automated big rigs first. More, better, faster, and cheaper deliveries could cascade across the economy, and a shortage of truck drivers means that automation of the U.S.’s 10 million trucks will likely happen faster than it will with cars. Heck, a self-driving big rig has already delivered 45,000 cans of beer in Colorado.
69. Build bike highways. “Every city needs a fully connected, high-quality bikeway network that allows all people from all neighborhoods access to economic opportunity in the city center. Ideally, such a network would also be integrated into a larger network of trails and bike lanes throughout the metro area to offer suburban connections. In Pennsylvania, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has proposed its vision of this city network—which we call Hub and Spoke—and the region has adopted a vision of building out a regional network of 750 Circuit Trails by 2040.” —Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
70. Give free transit passes to kids. If you can hook children on the benefits of taking buses and trains when they’re young, they’ll be lifelong advocates. Plus, parents can learn a thing or two from the next generation about how to appreciate their daily journeys—if they’d just get out of the car.
71. Install more protected bike lanes. While any bike lane is better than no bike lane, the gold standard of bike transit is protected lanes. Barriers between cars and bikers dramatically reduces the number of people injured or killed, and protected lanes also help make cycling networks and bike share programs successful. Research shows that only 8 percent of people want to bike without lanes, but up to 80 percent—those interested in cycling but concerned about safety—will consider biking if lanes are protected.
72. Expand bus rapid transit systems. Unlike regular bus service, true bus rapid transit (BRT) systems have a dedicated lane with stations aligned in the middle of the road, off-board fare collection, and fast and frequent operations. If implemented properly, BRTs can be a reliable and convenient alternative to light rails and metro systems—both of which cost much more to build.
73. Design streets for all types of movement. “Chicago’s Loop Link keeps everyone moving in some of the most congested—and valuable—real estate in the world: the Loop. From heated bus shelters to transit lanes and adjacent, fully protected (even through the intersection!) bike lanes, Loop Link untangles the jams and provides a predictable, safe rhythm to the street.” —Alex Engel, senior program associate, NACTO
74. Coordinate the signal lights. Simply by electronically matching up signal lights on local streets, you can keep the traffic flowing.
75. Build better bus stops. “I love the idea of making bus stops playful, interesting, comfortable, and full of information about the system and places it can take you. There are wonderful bus stops all over the world, where designers have put effort into thinking about the comfort and pleasure of transit patrons. How often does a bus make you smile? Not very often. I wish that were different.” —Lisa Schweitzer, associate professor of urban planning and spatial analysis, University of Southern California.
76. Build more streetcars. It may be hard to believe when surveying the country’s car-centered cities, but streetcars used to be a mainstay of American urban design, ferrying pedestrians across town in hundreds of cities across the nation. While many fell into decline and disuse by the middle of the century, a new wave of streetcars has opened in cities in the past two decades. Head over here for a look at 10 new streetcar lines taking shape across the U.S.
77. Make bike culture inclusive. “The City of Detroit’s diverse bicycle culture is an invaluable asset that continues to grow across all our neighborhoods. It helps us answer the question of who benefits from bike infrastructure investment. And with over 60 bike clubs and thousands of riders each week at Slow Roll, we’re taking a more inclusive approach to measuring our success beyond bike-lane mileage or bike-commuting numbers.” —Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coalition
78. Go small with a mini-roundabout. “Mini-roundabouts are a cost-effective traffic-control strategy to reduce congestion and improve safety in urban environments. Precast materials allow for construction to be completed in days versus weeks or months.” —Victor L. Salemann, president, Transportation Solutions, Inc.
79. Invest in more cameras. Traffic Management Centers—like those in Washington State—electronically watch roads using cameras and videos and then deploy roving service vehicles to respond to traffic-blocking accidents and incidents. The faster cars involved in accidents move to the shoulder, the quicker traffic can move.
80. Provide better bike parking. “Using a cargo bike to tote kids around the neighborhood is all well and good, but where do city-dwelling families park their bikes when they get home? You can’t lug a cargo trike to a fifth-floor walkup or hang a bakfiets behind a couch. New York has lots of on-street bike corrals in front of cafes and other businesses, but to convince more families to ditch the minivan, it should provide covered, secure, on-street parking for oversized bikes on residential streets. And if drivers freak out about losing parking, just shape the cargo-bike parking like a giant car.” —Doug Gordon, writer and advocate, BrooklynSpoke
81. Build more park-and-rides. Integrate cars into the transit system by designating parking lots where people can park and then take public transportation to their final destination.
82. Make transit cheaper for those who need it. “In Washington state, ORCA LIFT is the country’s most expansive low-income transit fare. This program has cut transportation costs by nearly half and ridership has increased by 50 percent. By making transit more affordable, we are building pathways to opportunity for residents in King County.” —Abigail Doerr, advocacy director at Transportation Choices Coalition
83. Build bus–boarding islands. “Side bus-boarding islands are one of the little things that make streets work better. They give people a good place to wait and allow buses to stop without having to pull over. Bike lanes can even loop around them, keeping everyone moving and happy.” —Alex Engel, senior program associate, NACTO
84. Change how we pay for the bus. “Paying a bus fare the traditional way — scrounging for change or dipping a card at the fare box — adds up to an astounding 30 percent of travel time for the busiest bus routes. What’s worse, the more successful (crowded) a bus line is, the slower it gets. Innovative agencies are fighting back against slow bus service by allowing boarding at all doors and moving fare collection off the bus, so getting everyone moving is as easy as just hopping on.” —Craig Toocheck, program analyst, NACTO
85. Build more densely. One of the key factors to traffic congestion is that cities have sprawled, requiring people to commute to work, public transportation, and schools. Studies have shown that public transit works best in dense areas where housing is clustered near transit stops and jobs are concentrated in compact business districts.
86. Focus on land use. “The best transportation plan is a great land-use plan. If you get your land-use mix right, your density right, and your urban design right, that’s the real bedrock of any realistic strategy to change mobility. That, and prioritizing walking, biking, and transit infrastructure, not ‘balancing’ it with cars!’” —Brent Toderian, city planner and urbanist, Toderian UrbanWOrKS, and former Vancouver chief planner.
87. Build more roundabouts. Studies have consistently found that roundabouts are safer than conventional stop signs or signal systems. In fact, replacing signals with roundabouts has been shown to decrease an intersection’s number of traffic fatalities by 90 percent. Roundabouts are also cheaper to build and maintain than traffic signals. One urban planning-obsessed city mayor in Carmel, Indiana, loves roundabouts so much, the town boasts more than 100 of them.
What Your Government Can Do
88. Create high-occupancy toll lanes. Charging a fee to drive on all lanes places a disproportionate burden on the poor, but a single high-occupancy toll lane can reduce congestion by allowing some drivers to choose to pay more.
89. Look to the sky. Around the world, in cities like La Paz, Bolivia, and Caracas, Venezuela, local governments have turned to gondolas and funiculars to supplement existing transportation systems and reduce pollution, traffic, and crowding. Especially in dense cities or in places with challenging topography, gondolas can be a more efficient and less expensive solution than subways or light rail. Closer to home, no fewer than 12 U.S. cities are considering aerial cable-propelled transit systems, like the Chicago Skyline projectand the Wire proposal in Austin.
90. Install more ramp meters. If vehicles enter expressways in ones or twos, it helps maintain freeway speeds and reduces accidents that happen when merging.
91. Adjust the gas tax. Current tax rates of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel fuel can’t cover the costs of rebuilding and repairing our current transportation systems. Taxes have not increased since 1993 and have not kept pace with inflation, and increasing fuel efficiency means less proportional revenue per gallon of fuel sold. An increase in the gas tax would raise essential funds and disincentivize driving.
92. Build solar roadways. A 16-mile stretch of Interstate 85 in southwestern Georgia, now known as the Ray, uses a solar-generating paving surface that will generate power for electric charging stations along the roadway. The team behind the Solar Roadways system has a handful of pilots operating across the country, California is looking to test a kinetic highway power system that generates energy from vehicle movement, and France is piloting a solar roadway in Normandy.
93. Build inclusive transportation. Former secretary of transportation Anthony Foxx acknowledges that our country’s transportation systems suffer from a lack of socioeconomic inclusion. Foxx believes we should fix spatial discrimination by building “transportation infrastructure that does better, that shows that these communities matter and that economic mobility is important.” Let’s serve the neighborhoods that need it most. Read more, over here.
94. Build more high-occupancy vehicle lanes. HOV lanes give buses, vanpools, and carpools priority over general traffic and are a more efficient and better allocation of road capacity.
95. Make public money a catalyst for green transportation technologies. Transportation funding can help incubate and develop a new generation of climate-friendly transportation technology, if government makes that a priority. Currently, the Department of Transportation has overseen a series of new, innovative approaches to updating our transportation system, including the Smart City Challenge, seeking to spur high-tech transportation systems, as well as guidelines for autonomous vehicle policy that include sustainable development goals. More of this, please.
96. Install a musical road. In Hungary, an Austrian contractor remodeling Route 67 added special rumble strips that play a Hungarian rock ballad when drivers are moving at the correct speed. The world’s first known musical road is Denmark’s Asphaltophone, which debuted in 1995. Today, there are singing rumble strips in at least seven other countries, including a section of the historic Route 66 between Albuquerque and Tijeras in New Mexico that plays “America the Beautiful” when vehicles adhere to the 45-mph speed limit.
97. Make bridges smarter. Of our country’s 614,000 bridges, almost four in 10 are 50 or more years old, and many are approaching the end of their design life. Smart bridges use sensors to monitor structural damage and weak spots. They can alert cities to a problem before a potentially devastating bridge failure occurs.
98. Build more affordable housing. If people can afford housing in dense cities, they won’t be forced to commute from the suburbs.
99. Prep for autonomous cars. Fully autonomous vehicles may not be on the roads in significant numbers yet, but there’s not doubt they will shape the future of our cities, real estate, roadways, and even parking garages. Head over here for a look at the carmakers, startups, and planners in the AV landscape.
100. Consider switching train tracks to paint. A recently unveiled self-driving train in China—called ART for “autonomous rapid rail transit”—doesn’t run on a traditional track. Instead, it rolls along on rubber tires, using sensors to plan and monitor its route along a path painted with road dividing lines.
101. Look to the future. Forget jetpacks and flying cars. Today’s futuristic transportation dreams are dominated by the hyperloop—an enormous pneumatic tube designed to carry electric-powered, levitating cars at very high speeds. Hyperloop One has announced 10 winning submissions in a long-running contest to find what it believes to be the best places to build the first hyperloop tracks in the world. Ten teams across five countries (Mexico, India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada) are now in the running.