Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The end of traffic jams?

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Innovative study suggests scientific solutions to global transport problems within the next 50 years

Juliette Jowit, transport editor
The Observer
Sunday August 26 2007

Two New Zealand professors trot out all the usual guff about how technology is going to solve all our current problems.

Actually I think that fifty years will see only some of these technologies emerging, and then being far from all pervasive.

What is missing from the article is how technology could be used to make transit better. My specification for future transit is something better than a bus but cheaper than a taxi. It needs to have no driver, but must be utterly safe. It should be usable as a private mode or shared mode at the choice of the user. Not exactly door to door but at least curb to curb. Zero emission of course. Capable of conveying wheelchairs, buggies, shopping trolleys or rolling suitcases. It won’t need to carry bicycles because of the flourishing of power assisted recumbent bikes with optional weather protection. It will link itself up to other like vehicles on arterial routes, where it will have priority when in shared mode over other modes. Freight versions will take care of distribution from railway and waterway depots.

It will operate the way that taxis work in the movies – it will appear exactly when you want it and vanish when you have finished with it. It will offer privacy (at an extra cost) or sociability with small groups of users. It will always be able to pull up right outside where you want to be, as there will be no more need for on street parking of anything. Or very much off street parking either. This will free up vast amounts of space for better uses. It will also offer communications technology so that people will no longer want to drive much of the time as they would rather be internet surfing, emailing or watching tv or movies on demand, or even interacting socially. Now there’s a thought!

For longer distance transport there will be high speed trains de luxe (with real dining and sleeping cars) airships and cruise liners – sail assisted of course. There will still be cars, but they will not be allowed to dominate cities. City centres will be pedestrian zones and cars will have to drive around them – never through them. The privilege of driving will only be granted to the socially responsible: the price will be far greater supervision, and much less freedom to drive wherever and however you want. Transit will be so good that the notion of “owning” a car will seem quaint , and will be largely confined to the older generation.

As for “flying clothes” – I don’t think so, Tim.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 26, 2007 at 9:17 am

One Response

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  1. “Transit will be so good that the notion of ‘owning’ a car will seem quaint , and will be largely confined to the older generation.”

    I really hope so… Of course that will be met with howls from the auto industry, and as long as driving schools keep putting out posters saying to young people “Your own car = coolness and mobility” (as the local one does here) than we have an uphill battle. I look forward to the day when such advertising is seen for the irresponsible lie it is…

    Andy in Germany

    August 26, 2007 at 11:38 pm

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