Good Ideas in Transportation – A Streetstorm

Ok, Streets.MN folks, this is a survey.

We bloggers are well known for complaining about things. Transportation seems to progress slowly, yet we know it can go faster.

Well, what are the best ideas in the transportation field? We don’t want to talk about specific projects, rather what are the “best” ideas, policies and technologies that are not yet widely deployed here. (Define “best” as you wish)

I will seed the list:

Please add more in the comments, along with rationales or advantages and disadvantages. In the spirit of positivity, don’t judge or say mean things (like “that won’t work” or “your idea is stupid and your mother is a taxi”) about other people’s ideas. The ideas can and should be original, so even if it has never been said or thought before, please say it here.

14 thoughts on “Good Ideas in Transportation – A Streetstorm

  1. Mike Hicks

    I suppose it's pretty widely deployed already, but online mapping services have changed the way I get around, and there's still room for improvement. Metro Transit has had the ability to plan out trips on their website for a long time, but Google and others have done a good job of integrating transit schedules. I think that's a "killer app" for smartphones since riders no longer have to carry around armfuls of schedules.

    Along those same lines, travel websites should become more multi-modal. is one site that shows Amtrak mixed in among airline trips, and they probably should add in Greyhound/Jefferson Lines, etc. Alternately, I wouldn't be surprised if Google, Bing, and others try to enter into the airline travel market, allowing you to punch in specific start and end addresses and try to find the best combination of services to get you from point A to point B with the best balance between time, money, and perhaps carbon emissions.

    Back to local transit, there are going to be a lot of changes to fare systems in the coming years. I really like using Metro Transit's Go-To card for getting around the Twin Cities, since I always hated trying to scrounge up coins to pay my fare. It's also really fast, only taking a second to validate. Credit cards and smartphones are starting to get the same technology built in, though I'm a bit skeptical about how well that's going to work. Some transit agencies are also looking into using text messages and smartphone apps for fare payment (that only really works on proof-of-payment systems, though).

  2. David Greene

    There are too many wild & crazy ideas already. We largely already have what we need in terms of technology and ideas. What we lack is political will.

    Rail and buses solve a good part of the urban transportation problems. Fix-it-first policies for roads and improved transit service will get us most of the way there. Beyond that, spot roadway improvements are necessary but we don't need a mega-bridge to Stillwater and we don't need to expand 494 to three lanes all 'round. Those projects are wastes of resources.

    Most importantly, we need to address equity. We've got to plan our transportation system so it includes EVERYONE. It is no longer acceptable to try to get away with building an LRT without stations in the most transit-dependent neighborhoods. It's no longer acceptable to put a diesel commuter train layover facility right in the middle of a neighborhood's redevelopment plans to lift itself out of poverty.

  3. Jay Wetmore

    Casual Carpooling and Slugging (Also known as dynamic ridesharing)

    Going somewhere where lots of other people are going and there are lots of empty seats in their cars. Fill one of those seats.

    See and Zimride

  4. Paul Minett

    David is right, partially. Not sure it is just political will, but we need people to want to be passengers more of the time. That is what will reduce the amount of traffic. Now, does that take political will, or marketing? What is needed, perhaps, is research to provide a good answer to that question, as well as resources to test all the different ideas to figure out what it takes to change the amount of traffic in a corridor.

    We set out a research program on

    Main point of difference to what David said being: there is not enough capacity in rail and buses, and they are relatively expensive solutions. Sure we need to fill that capacity up, but there is many times as much capacity in the private vehicles that follow the buses, and we need to figure out how to co-opt that capacity to make it part of the public system.

    Self drive cars will make a difference – but only if we can share them so that we have less total traffic.

    Time of Day pricing will make a difference – but if we travelled more as passengers we would not need to do it.

    HOT lanes – ironic that we would sell HOV2+ space to SOV. Seems like accepting defeat.

    Pay as You Drive Insurance – this is a tough one. We already have pay as you drive gasoline, and car maintenance in some cases is triggered by distance driven. Do these make a difference to total VMT (vehicle miles driven)? Worried that the admin cost of paydi will make it difficult to sell.

    Bike sharing – an important part of making it easy for people who didn't drive today to get around during the day

    Jitneys/shared taxis seem to make so much sense, though why not just use existing private vehicles in a casual carpool/slugline style of solution?

    Skinny cars (neighborhood electric vehicles) will only reduce overall traffic if they are shared or just used for the first mile to get to a shared system such as express carpooling, vanpools, buses, or trains.

    Car free zones can create excellent spaces, as can shared space, making an area much more livable, without automatically (it seems) making the surrounding traffic worse.

    Other ideas to throw into the mix:

    SOV-free zones, like the carpool rule in NY post 9/11;

    Circulator buses that run small circles making many destinations more accessible as a 'last mile' solution for people who share transport to the destination zone;

    Car-sharing, particularly peer to peer, as a solution for people who share transport to the destination zone, when they need to do longer trips during the day.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  5. Mrs Z Khan

    Shared space, a good idea? Not if you're visually impaired or disabled – especially with the new breed of hybrid cars that go all silent (I notice the September post on this subject with reference to Kansas makes no mention of disabled people.)

  6. Janne

    Parking meters? Or, more specifically, demand-responsive parking pricing. HOT/congestion pricing for roads plus more realistic parking pricing harness economic forces to smooth out demand and incentivise reduced usage.

    Then, transit combined with last-mile tools (shuttles, bike sharing, or just plain bikes) is on a much more even playing field. And let's not forget that making places that are good to be outside of a car.

  7. Mary Morse

    Car sharing and peer-to-peer (once we figure out the insurance problems) will continue to revolutionize urban transport. As people begin to jettison their cars, all of the other internal combustion-focused strategies become less relevant. Who needs a HOT lane when most folks aren't driving?

    HOURCAR in the Twin Cities has barely scratched the potential market for sharers. Let's hope it gets the support it needs to build its business, or we'll end up with non-local, profit-driven multinationals running our sharing programs. (Full disclosure: I work for the NEC). Our community got behind local bikesharing, now let's do the same for a system that reduces driving.

Comments are closed.