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What is the future of transportation?

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I see light rail as being what many medium sized cities are investing in in an attempt to future proof their cities...likewise larger cities (particularly fast growing Asian cities) are still investing in subway technologies that have been around for over a century. Have we made much gain in transit methods for our cities? Are existing technologies so well designed that they are the most efficient method available?

What is the future of transportation for our fast growing cities? What technologies are being developed and what types of transit should we stay away from if we really want to future proof the world in which we live?

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Light rail and Metro (subway) rail are not extremely different. Steel Wheel on Steel Rail has many advantages, and one of those is that it is cheap, tried and tested. It is about as conservative as you can get and still be mass transit.

Busses of course will always remain popular. Cheap upfront, most people still have difficulty thinking far enough ahead to see the ultimate savings trains provide.

Monorails prove an interesting anomally. They have the benefit of a guided transit way with the conventionality and cheapness of the rubber tired bus. Yet ironically they are seen as too futuristic and gimicky to be taken seriously. But as Asia and the Middle East start building more and more monorail systems, at some point they are going to become commonplace, and at that point we may suddenly see a surge of interest.

An interesting new technology is MagLev. Still relatively new, if promises hold true such savings in costs will end up making them highly desirable. But if they don't see those savings, they may become just another passing fad.

The real change in transportation will come, though, not in the technology but in the politics. Mass Transit systems are held to much higher standards than cars and busses. And they often are seen as a public subsidy and not a public convenience. But as more and more transit systems in other countries prove the US standards to be out of touch, and that public transit is more than just for the poor, those standards will change, and more systems will be built.

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I agree that maglev technology is in the cross-hairs for future transportation, but it is unfortunately just getting of the ground even though it has been around for some time. There are currently some studies being done for maglev projects like between the Chattanooga and Atlanta airports, but I don't have a great deal of faith for actual construction beginning any time soon for any of these projects. Maglev projects in the US can be found here: http://www.usmaglevcoalition.com/projects.php

You are most correct in the future of transportation being directly attributed to political willingness to pump money and faith into mass transit in America. Without it we'll always be stuck with the inefficient automobile network we currently invest most of our dollars into.

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You are most correct in the future of transportation being directly attributed to political willingness to pump money and faith into mass transit in America. Without it we'll always be stuck with the inefficient automobile network we currently invest most of our dollars into.

Totally agree. Especially about the money. Additionally, the light/commuter rail lobby is a powerful one. Yes it is cheap, but far inferior IMHO to other systems for various reasons. This is another contributor that will hold back change in many areas.

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You are most correct in the future of transportation being directly attributed to political willingness to pump money and faith into mass transit in America. Without it we'll always be stuck with the inefficient automobile network we currently invest most of our dollars into.

I have always been a proponent for government ran mass-transit systems, but after visiting the Tokyo region, I would love to see more encouragement for privately funded mass-transit. I was surprised to see that Japan's impressive rail system (at least in the Kanto region) is mostly privately owned and managed, much like how America's rail system had begun. Downtown Tokyo actually has two competing subway systems (much like how New York City's system had started) and there are at least a dozen regional rail companies in the area. Out of Narita Airport (30 miles East of Tokyo proper), I found two competing rail companies with three lines accessing central Tokyo: Keisei (one line) and Japan Rail (local CityLiner and express SkyLiner). I chose the pricier JR trains for the shorter commute and was impressed with how well maintained these trains were. Even the Tokyo metro trains were kept very clean (especially compared to NYC MTA trains) and ran on comparable schedules to NYC MTA system (of which I had always been impressed with prior).

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I am in conducting research about road conditions in Grand Rapids Michigan, its for a class project at Kendall College of Art and Design, If everyone can take my survey it be super helpful. All feedback would be helpful in the comments.

 
 

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Andy, you probably want to post that in the Grand Rapids forum to get more exposure.

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I've mentioned this in other topics before, but light rail has become the technology many cities in the US have tried to make into a one size fits all transport system. The biggest challenge with this concept is that when you mix rail with traffic, even if its a dedicated lane and lights are prioritized, it severely limits the speed to go longer distances and reduces the utility or competitive nature of the transport network.

 

The biggest factor isn't always inventing new forms of transport per se, but utilizing what we have now better. If Light Rail is going to continue to be the choice for cities to use both for local trips and for cross-town or regional service, it needs to be entirely in its own right of way to increase speed and performance.


However, rail can be useful in the street if its a smaller, limited streetcar service. In terms of limited, I'm talking length. If you have an in-street streetcar/tram type light rail service, it can revitalize an urban district and serve as a very useful local transit line.

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I see a future in smart cars. Basically cars that drive by themselves through a combination of new technologies. Cars can now drive by themselves through GPS technology. Sensors would prevent cars from traveling too closely to other cars. Some luxury cars already have this feature in cruise control. Cars will need to know when to stop and go at traffic lights. Cities would have to upgrade their traffic light systems so that they can communicate with smart cars. This would prevent collisions at intersections. Today smart phones can be used to park and retrieve cars. One day it may be safe to text and drive. I see a marriage between smart cars and smart phones in the years to come.

Edited by cityboi

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