Technology is transforming how we travel, and it's crucial to put the right systems in place to benefit from these changes. Three major trends in transportation are emerging: aerial mobility, connected and automated driving, and vehicle electrification. To effectively leverage these trends, cities and regions must develop an integrated approach that ensures equitable access for everyone.
Aerial mobility is one trend that has attracted a lot of attention, and the concept of "flying cars" has become a popular topic of discussion. However, the future of aerial mobility should not be about private vehicles for the wealthy. Instead, we must integrate aerial vehicles into a network of transit options that work together to get people where they need to go. These vehicles can function as "aerial bus routes" that take people from transit hubs in their communities to other locations, such as work, medical appointments, cultural events, and social gatherings.
While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is developing guidelines for vertiports and other infrastructure for urban air mobility (UAM) services, it is up to cities and regions to ensure that the ground aspect of UAM is accessible to everyone. Public transit agencies must work with elected leaders to create multi-modal hubs that integrate with the regional network. This will require developing safety protocols and measures to protect passengers and those nearby, as well as facilities for landing, recharging, and transferring passengers between aerial and ground vehicles.
Another major trend in transportation is connected and autonomous driving. While there have been setbacks and concerns about safety, the overall goal of this technology is to save lives, reduce injuries, and increase efficiency. Integrating connected vehicles into regional transit networks will help reduce traffic congestion and provide more reliable service for commuters. However, this will require a modification of the traditional hub-and-spoke transit model and a more distributed kind of service that enables people to get between suburban destinations more easily.
Electrification of vehicles is also bringing significant changes to public transit. However, it's essential to ensure that the source of electricity is "green" or renewable to achieve a net carbon-output benefit. Stakeholders, including customers and political leaders, are becoming increasingly savvy about the source of the electricity used in public transit vehicles. This is why hydrogen has become such a big part of the question around carbon-neutral public transit.
All of these changes require a rethinking of how communities help their people move. It's an opportunity to make major improvements in transportation and its infrastructure, and it goes beyond just ensuring that trains, subways, and buses run on time. By developing integrated transit systems that leverage aerial mobility, connected and autonomous driving, and electrification, cities and regions can create a more equitable, sustainable, and efficient transportation network that benefits everyone. It will require collaboration between public transit agencies, elected leaders, and other stakeholders, but the result could be a future where transportation is more convenient, accessible, and environmentally friendly.
Read the original article in its entirety in the January edition of Passenger Transport.