What Cities Can Do to Increase the Use of Alternative Transport
A few weeks ago, we invited people to share their thoughts with us about what their cities could do to make alternate modes of transportation more realistic options for more people. Over the course of about two weeks, we received more than 125 responses from 26 countries, offering personal, insightful ideas about how their cities could be better. Submissions seemed to fall into the 10 themes, outlined below.
Encourage Employers to Do Their Part
“Companies could help out by being a bit more lenient about work hours,” says Meredith in London. “If an employer said, ‘wake up at the same time, do everything you need to do, and then come into work a “greener” way,’ I think people would see the opportunities in that.”
Another reader said employers who offer employees transit vouchers should get a tax break, while those who include parking spots as part of compensation should be taxed.
A reader from Henderson, USA, explained policies the city is pursuing: “Businesses recognized as bike-friendly will receive a bike-friendly window decal to display, and cyclists will be encouraged to visit these businesses to will receive discounts or other incentives from the business."
Encourage Multi-modal Commutes
Beyond simply having multiple modes of transport connect, readers asked for adequate bike storage on busses and trains. “Racks on buses would allow people to take their bikes on the bus if they didn't want to bike in both directions,” allowing people to bike the easy down hills and take the bus to avoid the difficult up-hill rides in hilly Wellington, New Zealand, according to Anna-Marie.
Streamlining transfers between modes was also popular, especially “so that municipalities use a single fare and payment mechanism [between modes like the bus to the train], rather than the current assortment of prices and methods.”
Rethink How Cities Are Developed
"It would be appropriate to include schools as part of a mixed-use project," said Lynn from Toronto. Including schools in mixed-use developments that combine retail, residential, and office space in denser buildings close to public transit would reduce car traffic because fewer parents would need to drive kids to school.
Another common topic was the distance between where people live and work. Suggestions included cities working together to address “conurbanization” - when people live in one place, work in another, and study in a third - and developing housing that is closer to the business districts where the jobs are.
Make Available Public Transport More Comfortable
"Why not small screens showing funny commercials? news? events in the city? Free wi-fi in order to listen or view what you want during commute time?" posed a reader from Brazil.
Readers wanted more interesting commutes, but also safer and more comfortable commuting experiences. "I do not always feel safe traveling on the trains, and the stations are worn out and very dirty in some places. It is also brutal to travel on the trains in our very cold Chicago weather," according to a reader from the Windy City. "So the number of heating stations on platforms should be increased."
Use Legislation to Make Alternative Transport Safer, More Effective, and More Accessible
Several respondents wanted city governments – or employers – to provide “safe and secure bike storage and supporting facilities, such as showers and changing areas at destinations.”
Incentivizing people to use modes other than cars through congestion pricing was a popular response. A respondent from Mashhad, Iran raised this idea to address a particularly interesting challenge: “In my city using private cars is cheaper or somehow has equal price compared with public transportation so people prefer using their personal cars,” said Fatemeh.
Educate the Public
Two responders thought the regular driver’s licensing test represents an opportunity to require drivers to learn about cyclists and how cars and bikes interact on the roads. One even suggested that people should be required to pass a rules-of-the-road test on a bicycle before taking the car test.
Another set of answers focused on understanding the environmental impact of cars and changing the public’s perception of them. They advocated city-run campaigns to prove to people that public transportation is cleaner and more time efficient than sitting in a car idling in traffic, as well as having city officials and other role models publicly adopt alternative transport to decrease the status of cars.
Improve Bike Lanes
Several people emphasized the importance of protecting bike lanes more effectively, while others pointed out that in many places bike lanes stop suddenly or are simply non-existent.
“Protected bike lanes would be a big plus in Nairobi,” responded Teddy Odindo on Facebook. “Segregated bike lanes and a change in drivers’ attitudes” [would help]," tweeted Lean from the hilly Leeds, UK.
Another popular idea was to be sure bike lanes are safer and more functional by: adding better bike lane traffic lights and overpasses at big intersections to ensure lanes don’t end abruptl;, making sure they go anywhere highways go; and clarifying and enforcing laws around car-bike interaction.
The need for “complete streets”—streets designed thoughtfully to safely and comfortably accommodate everyone using them, regardless of transportation mode—featured in several responses.
Responses emphasize fixing curbs for safety and to promote wheelchair access, separation of sidewalks and bike paths from roads, and walkable overpasses. They want safer sidewalks, more walkable connections between places in walking distance, and more efforts to restrict car access in walking-heavy areas.
Apps for route optimizing were a popular idea. “Imagine this: before going out to work or any other trip, I could easily calculate the best route to my destination – including all possible means of transportation and commute time differences” mused one reader from Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Another idea from readers is for cities to support robust ridesharing apps, possibly by optimizing riders’ route overlap, to reduce the number of cars on the road.
Discourage Use of Cars through Market Forces, Design, and Legislation
Readers also had ideas about city regulations, city design changes, and even ways to use market forces to discourage car usage. These included congestion pricing, restricting downtown areas to cars, sometimes on specific days, and even banning the use of cars on certain days – a policy already in place in Morelia, Mexico, which they call “Ciclovia Recreativa.”
One response suggested cities “stop building parking garages in the central business district,” to make parking cars in the downtown area inconvenient and expensive.
These are just some interesting ideas from all the responses we received. If you didn't get a chance to participate, share your ideas in the Comments section below.