Journal of Alta California

Reinventing the Wheel

IMAGINE THE CITY OF THE FUTURE: Los Angeles, say, or San Francisco — an urban landscape in which the streets have been reclaimed as public space. Visualize autonomous vehicles serving residents and making deliveries on demand. Envision a complex ecosystem of public and private transit: buses, light rail, subways, ride-sharing. Think about the use of bike paths, about sidewalks as pedestrian corridors. Consider mobility hubs — built-out transit stations that offer expanded services, such as bike-sharing, electric vehicle charging stations and ride-share access, all integrated via technology.

This vision seems close at hand and yet, at the same time, miles away. As cities have been revitalized in the past 20 years, urban transportation has come to a critical juncture — a crossroads, if you will. Our cities are gridlocked, with crumbling streets and insufficient parking. Our transportation systems are antiquated and, in many places, on the verge of failing. In New York City, $100 billion is needed to update and rebuild a subway system built at the beginning of the last century; in the Bay Area, BART is at the breaking point, with overcrowded trains and service outages and delays.

Now, a number of new technologies are arriving that could help mitigate many of these problems — and maybe some we haven’t thought of yet. Autonomous cars, bike- and ride-sharing, high-speed rapid transit, new thinking on traffic management and street design — all portend major changes in thinking about transportation

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