The Move to Sustainable Mobility

An NYC biker takes advantage of the Times Square bike lanes

I'm proud to be a New Yorker. I moved to New York City in the spring of 2008, shortly after the unveiling of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC, the city's sustainability plan. And, by walking the streets and living and breathing the New York air, each day I see the progress.

One of the areas critical to sustainability and most notable to me is the implementation of innovative mobility solutions.  The first thing I noticed in 2008 was the development of dedicated bike lanes on 6th Avenue and Broadway, with the portion of Broadway near Times Square designated as a pedestrian and bike-only zone. Like many others, I quickly got a bike and discovered the simple pleasure of biking to work. I save money, avoid having to wait in a hot, humid subway station for a train, and get my blood flowing before the work day.

I’m not the only one delighting in this new development.  A New York Times study estimates that the number of bikers in the city has increased 28% (from 185,000 to 236,000 from 2008 to 2009) and the city now has over 170 miles of designated bike lanes in its streets.

And last week, I learned of another major development, federal appropriation for bus rapid transit (BRT).  Faced with a growing population and an energy crisis, multi-modal transportation is now more important than ever.  NYC piloted a bus rapid transit system in the Bronx in 2008 with its Select Bus Service (SBS).  The pilot included colored lanes in the street designated for SBS buses with new, clear signs.  Eighty-nine percent of customers said the service was better than the previous “Limited” stop service.

Mexico City, which introduced its bus rapid transit system, Metrobus, in 2005 has experienced tons of success with the program. Metrobus now operates along twelve miles of the 18-mile long Avenue de los Insurgentes and has replaced 350 traditional buses with 97 new BRT vehicles.  The system has increased average bus speeds along Avenue de los Insurgentes from 14 km/hr to 21 km/hr and it reduces 35,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually!

NYC can learn a lot from Mexico City’s example.  New York has the motivation of subway crowding, unmet transit needs, slowing bus speeds, and limited capital funding.  BRT is an effective way to address these issues and is a feasible alternative to switching to fuel-efficient cars which, according to Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, would only reduce our fossil fuel needs by 4% over the next 10 years.  Expanded bike lanes and a bus rapid transit system could be just the ticket.

The next step for sustainable mobility and reducing city traffic is seamlessly connecting these multiple modes of transportation to make them convenient for use.  For more information on the role of technology in creating sustainable mobility solutions, check out the Ted Talk from Zipcar and founder Robin Chase at:


Contributed by Annie White and Veronica Clarkson