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An XE40 battery-electric bus operated by TriMet in Portland, Oregon, connected to a SAE J3105 (OppCharge) overhead recharging station (2019)

An XE40 battery-electric bus operated by TriMet in Portland, Oregon, connected to a SAE J3105 (OppCharge) overhead recharging station (2019).

Credit: Steve Morgan / Wikipedia

Urban Mobility

Call to action:

Build cities with affordable and accessible low-carbon public transit.

Cities and urban areas generate 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, roughly one-third of which are from ground transportation. By building dense cities with comprehensive public transport, we can not only lower emissions but also regenerate cities into vibrant hubs for safe, healthy, and inclusive living.

Action Items


Take shared or public transport. Choose to take buses, underground rail systems, trains, ferries, or cable cars as your preferred means of transport. The benefits of public transportation are well documented on both social, economic, and environmental fronts. Your behavior will also signal increased demand for public transit to city officials, who are more likely to allocate resources to such projects in the future. By doing your part in regularly using public transport (if it meets your accessibility and safety needs), you can support reduced air pollution, congestion, and emissions and improve community health and mobility. First-time users can plan their trips using mapping applications such as Transit, City Rail Map, or Google Maps.

Try car sharing. If you are unable to use active mobility or public transit, several cities are facilitating EV car-sharing programs with sliding-scale rates to support access to affordable and clean transportation. If you are in a city in the U.S., you can sign up with one of these five equitable car-sharing programs.

Purchase an electric vehicle if you must own a car. For some individuals, it may not be possible to avoid car ownership, either because of the lack of public infrastructure or other access needs. If you intend to purchase a car, consider an electric vehicle instead. Here is a guide that may help you find the best EV for your needs. See Electric Vehicles Nexus.

Speak up. Write an op-ed to a newspaper or post on social media about transit needs in your neighborhood. Consider writing longer pieces for online sites such as Medium, like this one about the application of some of Copenhagen’s transit policies to cities in the U.S.

Campaign for better public transit. Coalitions of advocates and local leaders have been driving efforts to improve and expand transit services all around the world. The Transportation for America Fight for Your Ride tool kit helps advocates take steps toward building a local coalition and campaign that will successfully convey to representatives the need for preserving funding for public transit. Examples of transit improvements that one can advocate for include increased service, improved access to transit, and the elimination of cost barriers.


Transport Planners

Provide affordable transport. Use public financing such as bonds or subsidies to ensure public transport is affordable for all. Plan to integrate fares so that passengers pay only once for trips across transit modes. You can also offer student fares and concession passes to non-earning passengers.

Ensure accessible transport. Integrate universal design principles to ensure transit is built for a wide range of physical and mental abilities. This involves paying attention to a number of factors, including signage, lighting, seating, elevation, acoustics, and technology integration to accommodate diverse users.

Plan for gender inclusivity. There are well-documented gender differences in access to and use of transport. Designing urban mobility that is centered on women and children has secondary positive impacts for everyone. Gender-responsive design in urban mobility can look like creating separate sections for female passengers in buses and trains, ensuring proper lighting, guaranteeing affordability, and employing more female transport workers.

Implement transit-oriented development (TOD). TOD is a type of mixed-use planning that clusters jobs, housing, services, and amenities around public transport hubs. Portland, Tokyo, Cape Town, and Curitiba are some cities that are leading the way in implementing TOD. Here are some considerations when developing a long-term TOD vision for your city. See Fifteen-Minute City Nexus.

Integrate informal transport providers into the mobility network. Informal transport is an essential part of how people get around, especially in cities of the global South. Informal transport usually refers to private systems that offer transport services in the form of buses, mini-buses, three-wheelers, motorcycles, and pedicabs.

Integrate micromobility with mass transit. To encourage passengers to use micromobility for the last mile of their journeys, planners can integrate infrastructure such as micro-vehicle and bicycle stands near train and bus stations. Additionally, planners can provide clear guidelines on the dimensions of microvehicles that can be carried on public transit to ease last-mile connectivity planning for users. See Micromobility Nexus.

Provide real-time information on public transport. Real-time information systems provide passengers with estimated arrival times so that users can plan their travel. Studies suggest that this improves ridership, especially when integrated across a larger network of buses and trains.

  • The Move PGH TRANSIT app is one example of a technology platform that integrates all transit options within Pittsburgh to improve and simplify mobility access for all.


Commit to being a fossil-fuel-free streets city. Join more than thirty mayors around the world who have committed to transforming their cities towards fossil-free mobility by 2030. You can read their declaration here.



Support flexible work schedules. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen remote working become the norm across industries where it is possible. While remote working typically reduces emissions from daily commutes, the exact change depends on employee lifestyles and other company practices. Still, tools such as Watershed allow companies to model the impact of remote work policies on their company's greenhouse gas emissions. Flexible work policies also take pressure off public transit infrastructure and allow for safer travel during pandemics.

Pay for transit passes for employees. Commuter benefits are becoming increasingly popular. These benefits allow companies to reduce payable taxes while supporting employees to pay for public transit.

Support parking cash-out programs. Under parking cash-out programs, employers give a cash bonus to employees who do not drive to work. For example, Seattle Children’s Hospital offered each employee a four-dollar bonus every day they didn’t drive to work. As a result, 9 percent of hospital workers biked to work, almost double the city average.

Ride-sharing companies

Redesign ride-sharing apps to lower emissions. Studies have shown that ride-sharing results in a 69 percent increase in emissions over the trips they displace. To reduce emissions, companies must rapidly transition to EVs, encourage pooled trips, minimize passenger-free miles, and integrate their services to complement and not substitute for public transit.

Support gender and accessibility needs. For some users, ride-sharing may be the only accessible or safe option to travel within a city. For such necessary trips, companies can ensure that they have features that support screen reading, incentivize wheelchair-accessible riders, and allow service animals, to name a few needs. To ensure safety for marginalized genders, companies can raise existing security features, such as storing emergency contacts within the app, introducing two-way vehicle identification, and supporting more women drivers.

Navigation and mapping applications

Provide emissions data per trip. Most navigation tools, such as Google and Apple Maps, allow users to toggle trips according to cost, walking distance, and number of interchanges. Navigation tools can consider providing estimates of trip emissions and allowing users to sort using emissions preferences.

Include accessibility information. Planning trips across cities can be unpleasant for people with disabilities, as urban infrastructure often does not take their needs into account. By flagging routes as wheelchair accessible, for example, navigation apps can help make public transit accessible for all.


Phase out internal combustion engines. Several countries are recognizing that gas or diesel-powered cars are the technology of the past. Many are set to ban them altogether, with deadlines set for as early as 2025.

Stop new highway expansion. Highways only serve cars, and in many cities around the world, have fragmented or demolished neighborhoods, cutting communities off from the rest of the city. Halt any further highway construction, and additionally consider retrofitting existing highways with a community land bridge, such as in Rondo, Minnesota.

Expand the public transit network. In transit deserts or underserved neighborhoods, especially, dedicate funds to public transit access. In the short run, legislators can put in place regular city bus services while simultaneously committing funds to longer-term projects such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), rapid transit (metros/subways), or light rail.

Ensure affordable access to public transport. Follow in the footsteps of Austria, which has launched a 1-2-3 climate ticket, which allows residents to travel within their state for 1 euro, within their neighboring states for 2 euros, and throughout the entire country for 3 euros a day.

Assess and plan for accessibility. Public transit design can be sensitive to different user needs based on ability, gender, and age. Your city can take inspiration from international best practices, such as implementing real-time information, pedestrian safety guidelines, and wayfinding infrastructure.

Bad Actors

Automotive companies are reported to be among some of the key opponents of climate action. Lobbying from the car industry in the U.S. and Europe has blocked and delayed efforts to reduce emissions in the transport sector. Influence Map’s research suggests that since 2015, the following companies in particular have been among the strongest opponents of legislation that meets the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 º C warming limit:

Ride-sharing companies have used lobbying efforts in forty-one state legislatures to pass protections for their companies against local regulations that limit the number of vehicles on the road or improve driver’s working conditions.



Life on Wheels: Transportation for a New Urban Century (Prime Video)


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