Photos Capture the Unexpected Beauty of the Daily Commute

Nat Geo’s Your Shot community reveals a colourful view of urban transportation networks.

Transit networks keep our cities humming. They’re incredibly complex, and often we only notice them when they’re failing. As our cities expand, transportation networks will adapt with them, to cover more ground and carry more people. Transit stations are being reimagined too; commuters encounter unexpected art spaces, libraries, gardens, and smartphone charging stations. The future of urban transport looks to be more green—many cities are replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with electric buses and cars with bike-sharing networks—and may see a touch of science fiction made real, with advances like Jetsons-style flying cars and the Hyperloop potentially around the corner.

On National Geographic’s Your Shot community, we asked members to show us how they get around their cities. The assignment drew more than 3,000 image submissions. Photographers responded to the hashtag #urbantransit with a range of modes, from ferries and bikes to gondolas, rickshaws, and footprints in snow—and even a tongue-in-cheek bumper car.

To participate in a future assignment, check out Your Shot, where you can share photos and connect with fellow photographers from around the globe.

An iconic double-decker bus carries people through London’s streets at night. The city's public transportation system started with horse-drawn omnibuses in 1829 and has since become one of the largest, most efficient networks on the planet. Officials intend to further green the city’s various transit modes, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2020; electric buses, zero-emission taxis, and improved paths for cycling and walking are on the horizon.
PHOTOGRAPH BY IRFAN K., NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

A ferry departs Messina, a major port city on the Italian island of Sicily. Messina is separated from the mainland cities of Villa San Giovanni and Reggio Calabria by a five-kilometer-wide strait, but ferry and hydrofoil transportation has made travel between them simple and efficient. Citizens cross the strait daily, often living on one side and working on the other.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PAULA KAJZAR, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

A long exposure captures the bustle of central London’s Waterloo Station. When it opened in 1848, the station saw just a handful of trains come and go each day. Now it’s the busiest in the U.K., serving over 100 million passengers a year.
PHOTOGRAPH BY RAYMOND CHOO, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

A snapshot taken at a busy intersection in Beijing shows a city in motion. The world’s third most populous city, Beijing has almost six million cars on its streets. To combat congested traffic, Chinese officials are limiting the number of new cars being produced and have ramped up expansion of the city’s subway network, with the goal of building the world’s largest fully autonomous (driverless) system.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JACOB ROSENVINGE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

Once part of the Port of London, St. Katharine Docks (seen from a helicopter) now comprise a residential complex on the River Thames. Like other urban ports in Europe, its use diminished in the industrial age, as the city expanded and commercial ships grew larger, moving port activity downstream, closer to the open sea. Today the river is a growing commuter artery, as developers construct more homes near water taxi and ferry stops.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDRO LORIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

A bullet train leaves Germany’s Frankfurt Central Station at sunset. Europe’s high-speed trains can go almost 200 miles per hour and connect many cities on the continent. Originating in Japan in the 1960s, high-speed rail is more environmentally friendly than other forms of transport, producing fewer emissions.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CARSTEN BOCKERMANN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

Rental bikes line a Paris street. Like many cities, Paris has introduced a bike-sharing program; riders can pay by the trip or buy an annual pass for unlimited use. Paris has the largest system outside of China, offering one bike for every 97 residents. Over 712 cities in 50 countries offer similar programs.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREA DÓREA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

An aeroplane flies above Hannover, Germany. Commercial aviation is now in its 104th year, and over 3.5 billion passengers fly annually. “Aerotropolises”—entire cities built around airports—are increasingly common, cropping up around hubs like Dubai, Singapore, Paris, and Seoul. The next frontier could bring air travel within cities. Uber hopes to launch a fleet of flying electric vehicles capable of taking off and landing on rooftops by 2020.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREAS BAIER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

Header Image: A rainbow stretches across a tunnel in this unlikely art gallery: a subway station in Stockholm, Sweden. About 90 of its 100 stations have art installations. At 110 kilometres in length, the complex is the longest art gallery in the world. Showcasing a range of styles and materials, the art also references social issues, such as women’s rights, the environment, and inclusivity. subway station in Stockholm PHOTOGRAPH BY DOMINIK GEHL, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

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