Whether you live in the farthest suburb or in the heart of downtown, how you move around your city shapes your social interactions, your job, and even your family dynamics. Peruse the news, however, and you’ll find a laundry list of transportation nightmares: subway systems in a state of emergency, declining ridership in our biggest metro areas, and unreliable bus systems plaguing commuters.
What’s a transit-loving urbanite to do? 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.
What You Can Do | What Businesses Can Do | What Your Neighborhood Can Do | What Your City Can Do | What Your Government Can Do
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. 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.
2. 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.
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.
5. Say yes to transportation initiatives. Improving transit costs money, so the next time there is a transit-focused ballot measure in your city, vote yes. You’ll be in good company: In the November 2016 elections, cities voted yes on billions of dollars worth of transportation improvements.
6. Download a transit app. Transportation planning apps like Citymapper and Transit not 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.
11. Become a member of your city’s bike-share program. Shifting just a few trips per week from a car to a bike could help the U.S. reduce emissions enough to achieve the Paris goals. Support one of the dozens of successful bike-share systems popping up all over the country by buying an annual membership to help keep the system humming. Also be on the lookout for new private bike shares, like this one in Seattle.
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.
29. Replace your current car with an electric vehicle. Peak car—the point where car ownership starts to drop in the U.S.—could happen as soon as 2020. Get ahead of the trend by switching to an EV, which will not only reduce your emissions but will save you money in the long run, too. Going electric also means you’re investing in the future of a clean grid.
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 communication could 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.
38. Cater to customers who cycle by providing bike parking. While artful racks and bike-share stations are sprouting up everywhere, popular roadways and sidewalks can still become overcrowded with riders angling to anchor a U-lock. Small businesses can make a difference by placing some DIY rack space out front to make the parking situation more bearable. Here are some creative solutions.
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.
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
Task 2: Public Transport and Cars
The rising levels of congestion and air pollution found in most of the world cities can be attributed directly to the rapidly increasing number of private cars in use. In order to reverse this decline in the quality of life in cities, attempts must be made to encourage people to use their cars less and public transport more.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Nowadays, people use more private car, which leads to more cars on the road, heavy traffic jam and air pollution. These problems always happen especially in the cities. I agree with the way to solve this problem by encourage people to use public transportation instead of using private cars because it is the best and easy way that people can do.
Using public transportation saves a lot of money. Firstly, people do not have to buy their own cars. When it comes to prices, the fare for buses or taxis are cheaper than private cars when compared bus fare to the oil price. Accordingly, people do not have to spend lots of money on gas that they have to fill the tank. Also, they do not have to find a place for parking as well.
Moreover, using less private cars saves environment and people’s health as well. It causes less air pollution because carbon dioxide that released from cars is decreased. As all people know that carbon dioxide can harm people’s health, if less carbon dioxide release to the environment, people do not have to breathe polluted air inevitably. Furthermore, there will have no heavy traffic jam because people use more public transportation.
Even though it is a waste of time that people have to wait for a buses, taxis, subway or sky train, it will not take people a long time to reach their destination because public transportation nowadays are developed to be faster and more convenient for citizens.
Therefore, these are the reasons why I agree with the way to decrease congestion and air pollution by encourage people to use less private cars and turn to use more public transportation that government provided.
IELTS Sample Writing Analysis:
In order to answer this question, you will need to state your opinion, and then give the reasons why you have this opinion in your body paragraphs.
If you agree that less car use and more use of public transport will improve the quality of life in cities, then you will need to explain why this is the case.
In other words, you will need to discuss the benefits of using cars less and public transport more, specifically in relation to improvements in quality of life with regards to pollution and congestion.
If you disagree then you will need to discuss the disadvantages of this. Of course there is the option to partly agree and to look at some benefits and drawbacks.
The candidate’s introduction in this IELTS sample writing is satisfactory as they introduce the topic in the first few sentences and give some background facts about it. They then clearly give their opinion in the final sentence.
However, their first body paragraph does not really answer the question. Although they correctly discuss the benefits of public transport, the benefits discussed do not relate to congestion or pollution.
Instead, the candidate writes about prices and costs. It is important to keep the essay on topic.
"Not having to find a place to park" is relevant, but this is only in the last sentence.
The second body paragraph is better. The candidate discusses how using cars less will improve people’s health, which is directly relevant to the prompt.
The third paragraph is relevant as the candidate suggests that the speed of public transport will improve people’s quality of life.
The conclusion then correctly summarizes the candidates point of view.
It is clear from the candidate's IELTS sample writing that they understand the basics of how to organize an essay, with an introduction that contains background information and a thesis, body paragraphs with different points and a conclusion.
However, these can be improved.
You should always try to have one central theme in each paragraph. The topic sentence in body paragraph one tells us that the paragraph is about how “public transportation saves a lot of money”, but then the candidate talks about “finding a place to park” in the last sentence. This does not fit with the topic of the paragraph.
Similarly, in the second body paragraph, it is not quite clear how the last sentence fits with the topic of the paragraph.
Check all ideas fit with the topic sentence (this is the purpose of planning your answer first), and avoid placing a new idea in one sentence at the end of the paragraph. All ideas should be fully explained and one sentence is not usually enough to do this.
Also, ensure all paragraphs are long enough. The third body paragraph is only one sentence. Three sentences are the minimum length for a paragraph.
Grammar and Vocabulary
The vocabulary in this student's IELTS sample writing is basically adequate to answer the question and the grammar errors do not cause too much difficulty when reading the essay.
The errors, though, are quite frequent and show that the candidate is proficient at writing but not at a high level.
I agree with the way to solve this problem by encourage people to use public transportation
This should be:
I agree that the way to solve this problem is by encouraging people to use public transportation