This year, The Global Grid has expanded its horizons beyond the Top 20 lists covered for the past five years (urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture and engineering). This new list dives into active transportation resources - walking, biking, bus, and rail; methods other than the single-passenger vehicle. These are the most essential, and most visited, websites of active transportation professionals. We’d recommend bookmarking this now and subscribing to our Twitter list to follow these leaders. And if there’s a website that didn’t make this year’s cut, add them to the comments below and we’ll be sure to consider it for our 2018 rankings.
The Transportation Research Board (TRB), established in 1920, provides innovative, research-based solutions to improve transportation. Part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, TRB, is a non-profit organization that provides independent, objective, and interdisciplinary transit solutions. The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) was established in 1992, in partnership with the Federal Transit Agency (FTA); the National Academy of Sciences, acting through the Transportation Research Board (TRB); and the Transit Development Corporation, Inc. (TDC), a nonprofit educational and research organization established by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
Each year, The TCRP Project Committee meets to select topics of study, which are chosen based on five criteria. You, too, can suggest a topic. For TCRP, topics must be submitted by March 16, 2018, for consideration in 2018. The result of these individual studies is a collection of “concise documents pertaining to specific problems or sets of closely related problems.” TRB also supports research and publications for intercity passenger and commuter rail practitioners via the National Cooperative Rail Research Program (NCRRP). The NCRRP was funded through FY16 and its continuation is contingent on additional funding of the program. You can sign-up to receive notice of request for proposals (RFPs) should the program be further funded. For objective research and publications, we recommend you visit and bookmark the following pages based on mode; pedestrians and bicyclists, public transportation, and rail. You can also discover publications based on topics such as passenger transportation, safety and human factors, planning and forecasting, and more.
The U.S. Department of Transportation serves “the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.” This year the USDOT has established a five-year strategic action plan that responds to the trends affecting the current and future performance of the Nation’s transportation system. Promoting safety, improving mobility, improving infrastructure, and preserving the environment are the four major focuses of the strategic access plan. The hope for the completion of this plan is to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and safety of transportation systems.
Their site is divided into resources for individuals, partners, and government agencies. As an individual, you can apply to work for the DOT and discover student and recent graduate opportunities. Partners will find small business opportunities, web-based tools for travel data analysis, including data from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), and regulatory information. Government agencies will find DOT’s resources helpful for gathering information on Tiger Grants, Safer People, Safer Streets: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative (plus pedestrian and bicyclist trends), the Transit Benefit Policy, and Livability grants & programs. You can also search the site based on mode; bicycles and pedestrians, public transit, railroads, and more.
The Streetsblog Network is no newcomer to our rankings. In 2016, the site ranked #3 in our Top 20 Urban Planning Websites. They also ranked #18 in 2015, #3 in 2014, #4 in 2013, and #12 in the inaugural 2012 ranking of urban planning websites. With this inaugural active transportation ranking, they’re sure to be located here for years to come. Streetsblog Network covers national news to “reduce dependence on cars and improve conditions for walking, biking, and transit.” They offer coverage for the Southeast region, Ohio, Texas, and the cities of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, and St. Louis. Their coverage addresses local walking, biking and transit issues pertinent for each area.
Streetsblog, established in 2006, is produced by the non-profit OpenPlans and funded through grants, sponsorships, advertising, and donations from readers (that’s you). Streetsblog not only offers great articles, but you may just find your next active-transit job through their job board - or you could find your next hire. From the homepage, you can peruse their main issues; transit, bicycles and pedestrians, and smart growth, or discover their podcasts and Streetfilms. Its multimedia branch, Streetfilms, is home to nearly 500 educational videos about sustainable transportation and livable streets, with an archive going back to 2005; all freely distributed.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) is a truly innovative transportation resource because it is fully committed to raising the state of the practice for street design and transportation; “prioritizing people walking, biking, and taking transit.” NACTO views the transportation departments of major cities as effective and necessary partners in regional and national transportation efforts, promoting their interests in federal decision-making. By building a common vision, sharing data, peer-to-peer exchange in workshops and conferences and regular communication among member cities, NACTO continues to make transportation more transparent, and serves as a resource in the mission to “build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life.”
NACTO is a coalition of city transportation departments as well as a 501(c)(3) non-profit association that represents large cities on transportation issues of local, regional and national significance. Across the nation, NACTO has 22 member cities, 25 affiliate member cities, 6 transit agency members, and 4 international members. Your city could become a member too. They also provide six invaluable design guidelines that are sure to be useful tools: Urban Street Design Guide, Global Street Design Guide, Urban Bikeway Design Guide, Transit Street Design Guide, Urban Street Stormwater Guide, Bike Share Station Siting Guide. NACTO’s Design Cities Conference, in its sixth year, “will bring together 800 officials, planners, and practitioners to advance the state of transportation in cities.” Join them in Chicago on October 30-November 2, 2017.
If you’re a professional that works in the fields of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne passenger services, or high-speed rail, you’re bound to be a member of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Being an APTA member means that you have “access to unlimited networking, research, and educational and professional development opportunities” from a leading force in advancing public transportation; and access to member-only programs and services. The APTA online resource library includes the Public Transportation Fact Book, which contains national aggregate statistical data covering all aspects of the transit industry in the United States and Canada. You can also find reports and publications. We’d recommend reading Who Rides Public Transportation, Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit, and Millennials & Mobility: Understanding the Millennial Mindset.
Interested in networking? The best way to do that is to join an APTA committee. With over 14 categories and over 50 committees to choose from, we’re sure that you’ll find something to meet your interests and expertise. The APTA also hosts several conferences annually. While some of 2017’s conferences have occurred this year; save the date for their Bus & Paratransit Conference May 6-9, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. You still have the opportunity to attend their Rail Conference June 11-14, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland; and APTA’s Annual Meeting held October 8-11, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Since 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has worked tirelessly to develop a nationwide network of trails created from former rail lines. By connecting corridors, RTC has created 31,000 miles of rail-trails and multi-use trails and more than 8,000 miles of potential trails awaiting build-out. A non-profit membership-based organization, RTC depends on engaged members and their financial support. Becoming a member, or making a monthly donation, means that you’re joining the 160,000 supporters and members committed to “increasing our mobility, improving our health, spurring economic development and job creation, protecting our environment and creating powerful connections within, to and across communities.”
Interested in learning more about trail development and resources? RTC has you covered. Within their featured collections, you can discover the benefits of trails, trail enhancements, trail projects, policy, trail management, promotion, building, and planning. We recommend that you discover their Share the Trail Tips series of short videos. These films, no more than 30 seconds, remind us to be kind out on the trails. They’re helpful for newcomers, as well as great reminders for the veterans. Take a look at their YouTube channel, bookmark the TrailBlog, and get out on a local trail.
Did you know that before bicyclists there were wheelmen? The League of American Bicyclists, also know as The League, has been advocating for bicyclists since they were called wheelmen back in 1880. The League has since advocated for the “benefits and opportunities of bicycling.” Today, The League of American Bicyclists is a member and donation-supported non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Members receive their Bicycle Friendly America magazine, complimentary digital subscriptions to Bicycling, Dirt Rag, or Momentum and discounts at retailers and related business (all starting at $40/year). Worth it, right!
Want to know the most bicycle-friendly states or communities? The League has you covered. Their “Bicycle Friendly America program provides the tools for states, communities, businesses, and universities to make bicycling a real transportation and recreational option for all people.” The interactive map lets you click to discover the state, as well as community ranking. For example, a look into San Francisco, and you’ll find their report card, as well as a listing of statewide and local advocacy organizations, local bicycling clubs, bike shops, league cycling instructors, supporting businesses, and bicycling-friendly communities, businesses, and universities. Search for your city to see how it shapes up in comparison and become more engaged with your bicycling community. Need to brush up on your bicycling skills? Check out their smart bicycling films featuring riding tips, better bicycling, and bikes & gears. Here are two of our favorites: Where Should I Ride? and Signaling. If you’re ready to get involved in bicycling advocacy, save the date for 2018’s National Bike Summit.
METRO Magazine serves the public and private passenger bus and rail transit, and motorcoach industry. METRO is your best resource for green transit issues, bus and rail transportation safety, maintenance and more. They are also one of the oldest and largest magazines entirely devoted to public transportation in the world. It has “served the rail market since 1904 and the bus market since they were invented.” We encourage you to visit the bus, rail, sustainability and university sections of their website. These sections offer the latest news and blogs for each category. METRO also offers an array of whitepapers. Check out Fare Collection Trends in the 21st Century, Intelligent Transportation Systems: Connected Vehicles, or What You Need to Know About Passenger Wi-Fi, among their library of 20 other titles.
BusCon: Buses, Technologies, Solutions for the Industry, occurs on an annual basis. The next one will be held September 11-17, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. “Whether you’re looking to purchase a vehicle or technology that will help increase vehicle or operational efficiencies, looking to enrich your career through education, or just getting out to network with your peers … BusCon will give you the tools you need to professionally refresh...” If these are goals that you’re looking to check-off, then be sure to be there in September. They also offer exhibitors the opportunity to showcase their products and/or services.
You’ve probably seen Copenhagenize ranked as #16 in 2013’s Top 20 Urban Planning Websites and #19 in 2015’s ranking. We’re positive that we’re going to be seeing them on this list for years to come. Copenhagenize comprises a “team of passionate individuals who work towards making our cities better places to live. But they are not ‘cyclists,’ they’re people who get around cities on bicycles while knowing that increasing the number of bicycle users in any city is an integral part of improving the quality of life for all citizens.” They offer coaching services for cities and companies, planning & urban design, branding & communications, product design, study trips to Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Rotterdam, as well as keynote speaking services from Copenhagenize’s CEO, Mikael Colville-Andersen. Check out his 10 TED Talks!
Do you want to prepare yourself for the transformation of transport and life in our urban centers? If that’s you, you must enroll in Copenhagenize’s Master Class. Their three-day intensive course, in the idyllic setting of Copenhagen, covers “Bicycle Urbanism, Desire Lines, The Arrogance of Space, Citizen Cyclists and Life-Sized Cities, among other topics.” Can’t get away to Copenhagen? Visit their blog, where you can follow Mikael Colville-Andersen’s series on Desire Lines, The Car Industry Strikes Back, Subversive Bicycle Photos, Helmets for Motorists, and The World’s Youngest Urbanist, among other topics.
Planning a great public transit system can be complicated. With Remix, you can design routes in any city and immediately understand the cost and demographic impact of the proposed changes. With over 200 transit agencies utilizing Remix worldwide, you should request a demo. And their product just keeps getting better - with frequent updates listed on their blog. Need assistance? They offer webinars, a robust user guide, or you can always reach out directly. In the past year, Remix has hosted a series of six Transit Talks, which can be found on YouTube. Their latest talk, at the time of this publication, was entitled “Solving the First/Last Mile.” You can either watch the video or read their recap, “Solving the First/Last Mile Problem: Remix Transit Talk Recap.” And stay tuned for the announcement of their next Transit Talk.
Interested in working at Remix? We don’t blame you. Remix came about when four engineers met during their Code for America Fellowships. Remix was their passion project. “We built something so you could sketch a bus route on an online map and see how much it would cost, who would ride it, and whether it’d be a good investment. Somehow it got picked up by this planning blog and — almost overnight — all these planners started using it and emailing us saying, ‘Oh my god, I have been dreaming about something like this for years,’” stated Remix’s CEO, Sam Hashemi. Learn what it’s like to work at Remix and if there is an opening that’s a match for you.
17. Carfree Cities
We hope that you found this list useful. Are there other websites that deserve our attention? Let us know. We are always looking for new (and old) gems! Please share your suggestions for next year's list in the comments area below. And subscribe to our Active Transportation Twitter list so you don't miss any Top 20 news.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.