It’s 2017. How many people thought that the model for transportation would be more futuristic in our biggest cities?
Unfortunately, transportation has not gotten to the point of the Jetsons as of yet.
And believe it or not, it doesn’t look like we’re heading the way of flying cars and floating gas stations anytime soon. However, that isn’t to say we won’t be seeing more and more automated transportation systems coming to our streets.
According to Ashley Hand, a former transportation technology strategist with the city of Los Angeles and a registered architect and green building professional, she says it will be automation and sharing of vehicles that will be our direct future.
“I think the future is going to be shared autonomous vehicles that are really maximizing the impact of a network effect of change. I think if we think about autonomous vehicles as one for one replacing the single occupancy vehicle, we will never see the impact on the advantages they could bring to communities and cities around the world, so I really believe that we’re going to start to see the automation of public transit fleets, micro transit, and even personal vehicles that are no longer owned in the traditional sense, but shared through various networks.”
Of course, those types of transportation are geared for people who already live within the heart of the city. What about those who make their commute from the suburban areas?
Hand believes that further investment in Trunkline transportation needs to continue.
“Ultimately, that’s going to be the most efficient way of moving large volumes of people in and out of an urban core. However, I think how we access those trunkline systems is going to get more and more innovative and more on demand and responsive to individual needs. Transportation in your daily life changes on the hourly basis, what it takes for me to move my whole family around is very different than how I move when I’m by myself going to a business meeting.”
So, no flying cars yet, but we will have automated cars, buses, and trains.
That’s all well and good, but as Professor Werner Antwieler of the UBC Saunder School of Business explains, it’s not just the vehicles on the road that are the future of transportation, it’s the way in which we use the roads.
“The available road space that we have needs to be more efficiently used; that means we can either us the space by densifying the traffic that is putting buses on those roads as opposed to individual vehicles. We can make vehicles higher occupancy by encouraging that, we already see it with HOV lanes, and we can look at similar kinds of effects that we encourage for city use.”
He says an example of this would be encouraging high occupancy vehicles by giving preferred access to parking.
We’re going to see more automation in our transportation, more densified mass transit and high occupancy ride sharing. We will discover new ways to transport large numbers of people from one place to the next. So what’s the catch?
“10, 15 years from now I can see that car sharing services, and similar autonomous services, will grow in market share. They will never take over completely because, keep in mind many people still live in suburban areas and they need to commute, and some people might never want to give up the pleasure of driving their own cars, so the idea of a motorist is more than the transportation service it’s also the pleasure, the consumption value of driving a motor vehicle.”
The future of our commute is changing fast. What does the immediate future look like for those who are a part of it right now?
“We’re going to see different type of transportation modes competing, with a bias towards mass transportation in urban cores. But when it comes to suburban areas, we’re gonna see a wild mixture, where there is enough density as in Surrey, we’re gonna see tram services on the surface because they’re cost effective. We’re gonna see road ways being built for more cars, but on the other hand the moment you build more road space, it’s gonna fill up.”
He says we’re still destined for congestion even with the addition of more and more roads.
The only way to relieve congestion? Figuring out forms of mass transportation that are effective, which also means looking at the pricing mechanisms that make that happen.
Despite all the technology we develop and the different types of vehicles we produce to move large amounts of people from one place to the other, there is one thing we do seem to forget when it comes to commuting around our cities, according to Hand.
“You’re seeing a real pivot even among those cities that have been maybe more car friendly than others across the world, and I think that has a lot to do with understanding that our cities are about people and not about cars, and so if we start to really think and design around people it’s really going to fundamentally shift the way that our cities will look for generations to come and I think that’s very exciting as an architect.”
The future of transportation is here… it’s just evolving slowly, kind of like how traffic moves along Georgia St. during rush hour.