The Big Rethink: Public Transit


How Public Transport Bounces Back
April 14, 2020 | 9am PDT | 12pm EDT

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars,” former Bogota mayor Enrique Peñalosa once said. “It’s where the rich use public transportation.” At the moment, America’s urban elites are definitely not taking transit. Trains and buses are empty save for lower-income “essential” workers. Coronavirus has once again demonstrated transit’s role as the backbone of cities — and triggered an unprecedented collapse in ridership that threatens its very existence.

A $25 billion federal bailout will backstop American cities through the crisis, but how can public transport – which requires riders to be in close proximity by design – regain the public’s trust once the pandemic ebbs? In addition to a healthy dose of disinfectant, one idea imported from Europe is simply to make transit free. Because at this point, what revenue do cities have left to lose? 

On this episode of The Big Rethink, NewCities and CoMotion join forces to discuss how public transportation can make a comeback. We’ll examine case studies from cities that have committed to free public transportation, identify key barriers and enablers to accelerating public transportation ridership, and discuss the significance of public trust in the post-pandemic world of urban mobility.

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Alice N. Bravo, P.E.
Transportation & Public Works, Miami-Dade County


Mohamed Mezghani
Secretary General, UITP (International Association of Public Transport)

John Siraut
Director, Economics, Jacobs

Greg Lindsay

Director of Applied Research, NewCities