Transportation systems don’t just move people around—they can also be catalysts for moving cities forward. But too often, between state-level inertia and the lack of serious federal investment in infrastructure and public transportation efforts, US cities face gridlock when it comes to transportation reform. Hope tends to come from smaller-scale initiatives. In cities across the country, local politicians, transit advocates and commute-weary citizens are responding to the need for more sustainable, equitable, street-level transit solutions, delivering on promises to make daily commutes more multimodal and connect more workers to jobs. In the year of dockless scooters and city-led climate summits, new tech is spreading rapidly, while electric vehicles are being more widely adopted.

Curbed spoke with transit experts from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), Overhead Wire, Smart Growth America, the Eno Center for Transportation, and the National Resource Defense Council, asking them to identify US cities with progressive transit plans or intriguing proposals to solve difficult issues. None of these cities has devised the perfect transit system—and some of these ideas haven’t even been realized yet—but, taken together, they show different means to make transit more effective.