Future City Lab: NYC Transportation System

Social Studies, Civics

Grade Level: 8-12
Keywords: Transportation, Pros/Cons, Infrastructure, Editorial

Essential Questions

What actions can the city take to improve transportation for its residents?


Students will:

  • be able to create an evidence-based flyer/poster supporting their position to the debatable question: Should NYC invest in streetcar projects or ferry service projects?
  • learn about different proposals that could help New York City address challenges facing the current transportation system.
  • cite evidence to support an argument about funding different projects.



Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.


Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form that anticipates the audience's knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.


Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from or supports the argument presented.


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the specific task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.


Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


  1. Do Now
  2. Ask students to write answers to the following questions: How do you get to school? What mode of transportation do you use the most? What do you like and dislike about it? 

  3. Read Aloud
  4. Have the class read excerpts and decipher graphs from World Cities Best Practices: Part 1: New York City. Gather information from the graph above.

  5. Identify
  6. Based on the World Cities Best Practices: Part 1: New York City report, ask students to identify what they think is the biggest challenge for New York City’s transportation system. Have them cite specific evidence to support their claim. 

  7. Group Work
  8. The mayor of New York City has proposed multiple ways to improve access to transportation for the city’s residents.  Ask students to debate which of these projects they believe would be the best investment for NYC’s future development.

    Divide the class into four teams. Two teams will be asked to argue in support of funding the mayor’s streetcar proposal, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (also known as BQX). The other two teams will be asked to argue for support of funding the mayor’s Citywide Ferry Service project. 

    Each team will receive The New York Times articles below. Give students time to read the articles and have them discuss the difference between a newspaper article and an editorial piece. 

    “Mayor de Blasio to Propose Streetcar Line Linking Brooklyn and Queens”

    “De Blasio’s $325 Million Ferry Push: Rides to 5 Boroughs, at Subway Price”

    Room for Debate, “Transportation Improvements Beyond Manhattan”

  9. Research and Design
  10. Students will perform online research to acquire editorials written to support their assignment proposal/project. Using their research, the students will create a flyer/poster advocating for their proposal/project. 

  11. Present and Debate
  12. Each group presents their flyer and makes their case for their project. They should make arguments for why their project should be funded instead of the opposing project. Have the students weigh the pros and cons of each project and take a class vote on which project they would fund.

  13. Homework
  14. Have each student write a “letter to the editor.” They can defend or denounce one of the projects from the class discussion. They can also propose another project as long as they support their argument with evidence. 


New York at Its Core lesson plans were developed in conjunction with a focus group of K-12 New York City teachers from public, private, and parochial schools: Maryann Cooke, Maria Diaz, Sasha Domnitz, William Fong, Gina Giannone, Peter Lapre, Edina Lawson, James Randle, Judy Sokolow, and Matt Thoren. We thank the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Social Studies for supporting the public school teachers’ participation.