Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Pondering the future of public transportation

For anyone pondering, mulling over, arguing about, or otherwise using mental capacity on the future of public transportation – and many people are – you should take a look at the recent special edition of the Journal of Public Transportation (available here), which is devoted to the topic.
As you might expect from a compendium like this, some contributions are more pertinent and incisive than others.  I’ll just mention a few highlights I find interesting:
Carol Schweiger explains the concept of “MaaS” – Mobility as a Service – and argues that we should redefine public transportation in terms of mobility rather than modes.
My old friend and colleague Jerry Lutin offers some very practical answers to how transit can adapt to and benefit from the development of autonomous operation technology, including:
·      Collision avoidance and emergency braking,
·      Steering and lane keeping,
·      Bus platooning,
·      Improved service to disable passengers,
·      Precision docking for buses, and
·      Autonomous BRT as an alternative to LRT.
Jill Hough and Ali Rahim Taleqani, in a paper on rural transit no less, go deep into the future, where no transit planner has gone before: flying cars (Jetsons!), teleportation (Star Trek!), and hologram telecommuting (maybe more near term, but I have to say: Isaac Asimov!)
Jarrett Walker is – as always – insightful and thought-provoking.   His essay, “To Predict with Confidence, Plan for Freedom,” bears careful reading.  My supercondensed version of his thesis is that transit planners should worry less about predicting future ridership trends – which is an unproductive task at best – and think more about urban form and the geometry of urban transportation.  I find his notion of mobility as freedom especially compelling.  If you find his arguments fascinating, as I do, you should check out his website, perhaps starting with a lecture/presentation video from Santa Cruz, CA (here).
All in all, plenty to ponder!

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