How Transit Planners Are Shaping the Future of Public Transportation


In your job as a planner, we know you're often fielding basic questions about public transit. We hope this Remix Primer blog series offers another resource as you educate your constituents.

It’s not hard to imagine that in the not-so-distant future, the transportation systems that power today’s world will have fallen behind the needs of a growing America.

Though public transportation provides immense benefits to the modern commuter, it is predicted that the infrastructure of the U.S. transportation system is heading towards catastrophe without a major overhaul. The U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx outlines the worst-case scenario in a haunting report, “Beyond Traffic.”

Along with President Biden’s nearly $450 billion funding proposal for transportation infrastructure, what can city planners do to continue to shape the optimal city? The answer lies in considering their responsibility to build a brighter future for future public transportation with a foundation of data and careful analysis.

What Is the Current State of Transportation?

A report by Ohio University notes that as modern Americans gain more awareness about environmental concerns, there is a continued downturn in personal vehicle purchases by Millenials and Gen Z.

As a result, the growth of public transit ridership has outpaced population growth. Especially in heavily-populated metropolitan areas, subway and rail system ridership is rising in the millions. This signals looming strain on public transit systems.

Though the statistic on personal vehicle ownership is changing, the idea is certainly not dying out just yet — with more than 214 million licensed drivers in the United States. Of these millions, a heavy majority continues to drive to work alone. The state of modern transportation is trending towards a more eco-conscious future, but its current form is still far from perfect.

How Will Public Transportation Change in the Future?

Likely, technology such as self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, and hyper-speed transportation solutions may help transit planners in the far-off future. In the immediate future, though, there are several public transportation solutions already poised to change the face of transit.


Ridesharing is one of the most well-known offspring of the sharing economy — an unprecedented shift in preference towards peer-to-peer services and collective resources. Ridesharing provides commuters with access to a vehicle through several different methods

  • Carsharing. It connects drivers with access to a vehicle on an as-needed basis.
  • Microtransit. It uses a privately-owned fleet of on-demand vehicles or a semi-set carpooling route.
  • On-demand Ridesharing. Classic on-demand ride-hailing connects riders with available drivers and vehicles. Ridesharing often involves ride splitting with fellow commuters.

Shared Micromobility

Micromoblity is on the rise. This trending form of transportation allows single riders to access small vehicles like bicycles, eBikes, and electric scooters. In popular shared micromobility models, users utilize the vehicle on an as-needed basis.

Riders often connect with vehicles for their last-mile needs. They use larger forms of transportation to get near their destination before using micromobility in the last leg of their journey.

Some forms of micromobility use unmanned kiosks or a more organic model in which riders check-in via an app when they find their desired vehicle. When they’ve reached their destination, they check out and leave the vehicle in a designated public space. Fueled by a bike and scooter renaissance, shared mobility is gaining popularity in dense urban areas.

Smartphone Apps

As shared mobility becomes a common part of life, apps have become the catalyst for connecting peers in a variety of ways. With 96% of all Americans owning a cell phone, it’s no secret that people are more connected with their smartphones than ever before.

Naturally, apps figure heavily into the future of public transit. They continue to expand their capacity to host:

  • Community awareness
  • More growth in ridesharing
  • More widespread carpooling
  • Passenger information systems

Zero-Emission Buses

From its humble origins as a horse-drawn omnibus in the 1820s, the bus has seen immense growth over the past two centuries as one of the most widely used forms of public transportation. Now the bus is continuing its evolution from a cost-effective staple of transportation to one of many sustainable transit options for the future.

Across the U.S., transit agencies and transit authorities are striving for a zero-emissions future for their fleets. In cities like San Diego, California, public transportation entities are investing in a greener future. San Diego has promised a completely emission-free fleet by 2040. Ambitious plans like this one are expected to mitigate emissions by upwards of 40% and drastically improve the air quality in the city — all in service of improved city design.

What Responsibilities Do Transit Planners Have When It Comes to City Planning?

When it comes to city planning, transit planners shoulder an immense amount of responsibility. They must not only shape future public transportation in a way that benefits the community and environment, but they must also shape it in a way that is sustainable for years to come. As they strive for the optimum transit system design, planners have the opportunity to use analytics and planning tools to make informed, data-driven choices for their community.  

If there is any lesson the COVID-19 pandemic has taught transportation planners, it is to stay flexible and keep moving forward. While the pandemic exposed inequities and inefficiencies, it has also illuminated an afore underutilized city-planning tool — quick action. When transportation planners have the right tools, they can make quick decisions and act expeditiously to address issues in their transit systems.

For example, Remix’s Geographic Information System (GIS) helps planners quickly gather relevant data on commuters — including origin-destination data, collisions, ridership, and custom GIS layering. Having access to this data allows transit planners to unearth outdated processes, track the success of current initiatives, and fully comprehend important safety considerations.

Another essential tool is Remix’s Shared Mobility Software. This innovative software can help unlock the future of the sharing economy with exhaustive data points, network visualization tools, and valuable insights into the infrastructure of the city.

How Can Transit Planners Improve the Mobility of Cities?

Transit planners can improve the mobility of cities by focusing their efforts on future public transportation and smart city design. As they imagine ways to streamline people’s interactions with transit, planners must move toward an equitable, safe, and sustainable future.

A sustainable future has been on the horizon for decades now, with Vision Zero and Complete Streets looming large. To learn how these policies trickle down into the design level, download Remix’s e-book, “6 Streets Project Metrics to Achieve ‘Complete Streets’ and More” and start measuring your progress in city planning.