Step Up With Your Best Urban-Transportation Ideas

Tom Vanderbilt, the author of Traffic, is launching a month-long “hive” project at Slate called Nimble Cities. It asks for suggestions to improve urban mobility: “we want your best proposals for solving an increasingly relevant problem: how to move the most people around and between cities in the most efficient, safe, and perhaps even pleasurable manner.”?Tom thinks Freakonomics readers in particular might have some good ideas — you’ve been well-trained, after all — so head on over to Slate and make us proud.[%comments]


I think rechargeable electric motorcycles are a great idea given that most people travel alone -- especially if EESTOR's capacitors pan out.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

We have dying cities. For the first time it is not due to war and destruction but economic attrition. Ironically one of the greatest forces remodeling European and Japanese cites and permitting modern city design and transit was the US Air Force.

A wing of B-24 bombers clears out a straight vacant lot through city centers. When the cities were rebuild, transportation corridors were natural, involving rail, bullet trains, subways, and street cars. German and Japan cities were redesigned and are the best in the world in mass transit.

A dying city is an oppurtunity. New Orleans, Detroit, Cleveland are losing people wholesale. Make these experimental labs for modern city planning and transportation.

Buy up old land cheap. Make clear corridors where you plan to have commerece and business and shopping. Invest in modern transit system and have room to expand in the future. Give Detroit a Subway. Make New Orleans a hub of Monorails. Make Cleveland a Bullet Train hub for a model system and also for manufacturing.

We don't need bombs to clear out transit corridors when we have the mother of all bombs, the economy imploding. And for once the Not-In My Back Yard, NIMBY's, are on the retreat.



can i try this one out here first.
i think trains need completely redesigning. instead of having big beasts transporting hundreds of people at once they should be made to look much more likevehicles on the road - a mixture of everything from a one passenger vehcile to a coach type thing. they would be very light and (if practical) the pwer source would be external (they could attach/detach to a moving cable between the rails). at stations anythign wanting to stop would have to elave the main rail and go up a slip road. theyw ould of course be driverless (this is the advantage of rails surely)
the advantages would be: much more flexibility; more efficent (moving a higher ratio of passnegers to kit); more fun.



1) Tax the size of vehicles based on square footage occupied. Most vehicle taxes are based on value. Well, tax size. Spot every driver a vehicle the size of a smart car, and tax at exponential rates from there. Reducing vehicle size would increase flow, right? It would also save on costs for parking, considering a massive amount of vehicles sit idle (not idling, I hope) for most of the day.

2) What about some modular vehicles that could be coupled together when additional seats were required? If all vehicles were 2 seat vehicles, and addtional modules could be easily added, perhaps with a standard coupling, then more capacity could be added only when needed. Taking a long trip? Rent a rear module for the kids just for the week.

I think the ONLY solution is fewer, smaller cars (or "personal vehicles" if it isn't a car per se)

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

The most successful multi-mode transit system in the America works 7 days a week and 365 days a year. It never has breakdowns, treats passengers politely, never has worker strikes, is litter and graffiti free, runs on time 99% of the time, has no revenue problems and is real as your own vehicle. IT has been operating for decades without problems. And it is also fun.


Let the Disney Imagineers have a go at a pilot city. They have more working experience with monorail, steam trains, ferry boats, canoes, street cars, double deckers, horse and buggies, people movers, buses and even helicopters...than any transit district in America.

I want a Mickey Mouse Transit System!

Dr J

Light rail and decent buses? duh, nothing really more innovative since the 1890s - since GM lobbied to gut our public transport systems in the 50s most US cities are inefficent and congested disasters, real estate bubbles and fear of desegrigation created the suburbs which are incredibly ineffienct both in energy and land use - now we ask for new ideas? for what? so we can continue to live away from "other people" while still living in our suburban fantasy? move back to the city any pony up the financing for decent light rail and god forbid - live like europeans (who are twice as energy efficient per unit GDP) - oh the horror!

D. Stewart

Invent a time machine, go back in time, as many times as necessary (may not get it right the first time, may need to assassinate certain individuals or intervene otherwise), to create a more intelligent development pattern and dilute the influence of the car, oil, and tire industries in the stupid way the U.S. has developed.

Serious suggestions would require enough Americans to grow up, and I just don't see that happening. We have examples of what can work - Portland Oregon, Curitiba Brasil, setups in Europe and elsewhere where people don't rely on cars as much, walk more, bike more, use public transport more, and use a lot less fossil fuels.


Inner city transportation requires 3 things; simplicity, efficiency, and availability.

The solution is as easy as looking down: feet.

Simplicity - requires no new equipment or design. Put on decent shoes and walk.

Efficiency - designed by evolutionary processes, walking is the most efficient biological method of getting from point A to B.

Availability - pretty sure that 99+ % of humans have feet. Those who don't have wheelchairs, which are also very efficient.

And to top it off, there is no requirement for expensive government committees or funding.

Sam Gilley

SkyTran SkyPods. There are numerous articles floating about: Personalized Pods Tech News Future Travel

And the rechargeable motorcycle is a cool idea!


The NYC Subway system needs to be less Manhattan-centric. Why are there no North-South trains in Brooklyn and Queens? To go from many parts of Brooklyn to other parts of Brooklyn, you have to go into Manhattan and back. It makes no sense. Brooklyn is a major city in its own right, one of the biggest in the US, taken on its own. The world (and NYC) does not revolve solely around Manhattan.

Doug Rubin

The issue isn't the lack of good ideas (MTA and NJ Transit are loaded with them), or even the money to pay for them, it's the political agreement to get them done (e.g., folks who want the benefits of driving in a crowded public space such as downtown Manhattan should pay and help subsidize those who take public transit a la PATH or DRPA-PATCO).
Pegging road user fees, i.e., the "gas tax" to a sliding scale of what it cost to rebuild a lane of highway would allow it the transportation trust fund to be maintained instead of letting revenues stay stuck at 1970's rates.
Privatizing all parking spots - i.e., selling "street spaces" to the highest bidder - and then allowing the new owners to collect rents or reserve them for a single owner, establish cooperatives, and pay maintenance fees and taxes to the city would reduce automobile congestion, improve parking availability and generate incentives for off-street parking and transit.



I hate going out on a public holiday. I'll tell you why.

The cars are the biggest problem. It is always about the traffic jam that chokes up the whole street. The classical suggestion for clearing up the roads are always bus, trains, and carpooling.

One of the few things that affect the mode of transportation has to be the distance between the destination and the starting point. If my office is within walking distance, I'd definitely walk to work.

Traffic condition has always been the main concern when it comes to city planning. Most of the cities become too congested because they are so saturated with offices and shopping complexes. But then again, vendors love the crowd. If too many people are going to one place at a time, there goes your 2-hour of getting stuck in a traffic jam.

Perhaps this is the time we should move around on bicycles? Who knows? Rewarding those with an incentive for a low carbon footprint could be a great start.



3 simple solutions, all together been individually tested in european cities.

Tax car entrance.
Bus Lanes.
Bike commuting (ideally electrical foldable bikes) tax supported (VAT reclaiming by example)


Tax gasoline so it's price starts to reflect it's environmental costs. Use the money for bicycle transit 'highways'.

Eric M. Jones

The real problem is serving suburbia and other low density environments.

NYC is a good example of what is needed. There is every form of transportation one can imagine. But this only works when the population density is sufficiently high.


I belong to a website called 'couchsurfing' ( I use it to sleep on other people's couches when I'm travelling- absolutely free! Generally, I think community-based projects are great, such as craigslist or freecycle. Couchsurfing allows couch hosts and surfers to vouch for one another, so people can decide whether a person is trustworthy or not. What if something like this existed for carpoolers- You give your approximate starting point and destination and a little profile, wnad what you would provide: a car, a motorcycle, gas money. More people in the carpool lane, fewer cars on the road, fewer people need to use their cars. I think its great for the short-term until better infrastructure is created

David L

Ziplines everywhere!


Issue everyone a Segway.


The two problems I face with public transportation are:
1) safety
2) cleanliness

For example, I can take a people mover (like they have at airports) around downtown Miami and it is free. The problem is there are a lot of bums hitting you up for money and it just doesn't feel safe or clean. Luckily the car is air conditioned, but if I take it to the store, I never buy refrigerated items because the time it takes to walk from the store and board the train is about 10 minutes in the blazing heat.

I find that big problems of existing train lines in places is actually getting to the train. It is great if we all live in high rise buildings. Moving a few miles out of a city things spread out more. Adequate parking (safety is also a concern) and making the parking free (with a transit pass) seems like a good solution for bridging suburbia with a train.

Another problem is getting purchased goods from store to home. This is easy for a loaf of bread, but what about a pack of toilet paper? This becomes awkward to carry. Buying smaller amounts is fine, but here are a few problems:
1) going to walmart, target, costco or other large store saves considerable money (20-60% from drugstore or local grocery store prices)
2) taking the time for public transportation is much slower than driving. If you do that every day (as a result of buying less), you waste a lot of time vs 1 or 2 trips /week.

Ideally I could walk (within 1 mile) from my home to my office, the park and community center, the grocery store, doctors and dentist offices and a reasonable assortment of restaurants. Whether these are traditional establishments or some kind of drop off spot or temporary location that is just fine.

There are other needs for transportation (entertainment, doctor, sports, school, travel), but I think reducing the need for transportation is better than solving the overall problem of more efficient transportation.



It should be standard for workers to work one day from home.
Eliminate on & off ramps that close out. There should be a fifth lane designates for this & this only. This would eliminate
a lot of bottlenecks on the highways. Highway shoulders should be lane 6. So emergency vehicles and the police can get through or cars can pull over for accidents. It should be a law to pull over to the shoulder after an accident. Especially if your car can do it. Create more commuter rails for suburbia as well as extend the metro from one outer area to the next, like a circle. It's ridiculous to have to metro into the city just to travel back out to a neighboring suburb.