Some Simple Ideas For Improving Urban Transportation

These fixes won’t take years and millions of dollars to implement.

Benno Martens
10 min readMar 10, 2020


I could watch that video of Copenhagen on a loop for hours. It’s like witnessing an urban ballet. But there isn’t a city in the United States that is on a par with Copenhagen when it comes to transportation.

In researching this piece, it was infuriating how awful mass transit in the United States compared to the rest of the world. It’s embarrassing to try to put even our best transit cities in the same league as mediocre ones in Europe and Asia.

Before any American city becomes the next Copenhagen, there’s a ton of work to be done and a host of countervailing forces working against progress.

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Funding for public transit improvements is at the mercy of the federal government and state legislatures, which at this point in time are mostly pretty hostile to anything that doesn’t involve automobiles. There are also regional interests (i.e. suburbs) that advocate only for getting people into and out of the urban core as quickly and efficiently as possible. The United States continues to pump money into roads and highways while choking off funding for alternative modes.

The Transport Politic found, in researching its annual update, that “Overall, American cities added more than 1,200 miles of new and expanded transit lines between 2010 and 2019, spending more than $47 billion in 2019 dollars to do so.”

That figure is laughable compared to the rest of the developed world.

But the car is king in the United States, which “added an estimated 28,500 new lane-miles of arterials — roadways like Interstates, highways, and the four-plus-lane “stroads” that constitute many of our cities and suburban areas…That’s roughly 24 times as many new roadway miles as improved transit miles.”



Benno Martens

Community development professional. Writing about city planning, development, and placemaking.