The Future Is Here (And It’s Called Transit)

Want to get from New York to LA in 45 minutes? Take the evacuated tube transport, of course! Disclaimer: It doesn't exist. Image: ##http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=McpWcn-1RZU#!##Next Media Animation##

Professional innovation guru Dominic Basalt wondered aloud in yesterday’s Washington Post, “Has the new golden age of transportation arrived?”

Basalt, who heads a consulting firm called Bond Strategy and Influence (every word of which I find intimidating), is a little disappointed that we don’t have flying cars and levitating trains yet. Isn’t this the future? Science fiction totally promised us flying cars.

Basalt thinks hypersonic jets and “Star Wars-inspired hovercraft” and Google’s driverless cars are pretty cool, and those are already here. He gives space-age public transportation concepts a mention too: Tesla cofounder Elon Musk has a dream of a “hyperloop” between San Francisco and LA that “can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes 3 or 4 times faster than the bullet train,” and runs on solar. Sign me up — once you actually invent it. For now, the hyperloop is nothing but a dream. Oh, and for the record, so is the “evacuated tube transport” that takes me from my home in Washington, DC to freaking Beijing in two hours.

But you know what does exist? A magical capsule that speeds along a subterranean route to effortlessly transplant me from my neighborhood to any of 80 locations in and around my city. I don’t have to pay for gas, I don’t have to park when I get there, and I can sleep or read the paper the whole time. It’s called the metro, and it’s dramatically under-resourced.

Forgive me. But the whole futurism fetish feels like an echo of how our more short-sighted transportation officials look at the world. We have these incredibly important assets but we don’t even maintain them.

Think of it — there are 21,000 miles of rail in the Amtrak system and the Republican leadership wants to stop funding it, and we haven’t even figured out a way to free passenger rail from its subordination to freight schedules. Aging and outdated infrastructure keeps speeds down and people like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey get conservative street cred for refusing to invest in a rail tunnel so that one of the country’s most important commuter routes can lose its bottleneck. I guess that’s all too complicated. The simplest solution would just be evacuated tube transport.

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend everyone. Streetsblog will be back publishing on Tuesday.

  • Gerschneider

    We need to get this technology implemented worldwide as soon as possible.

  • Intelligent design, modern application of our technical abilities! This is the future of transportation BIG TIME!!

  • Jud

    This is so doable and would be a game changer! Imagine doing Disney World in the morning, having lunch in the “tube”, and doing Disneyland in the afternoon! Okay, I know there are more important uses, but just sayin’… 🙂

  • If only everyone who criticizes ET3 pulled the head out of their butts and started, perhaps, improving the idea (if need be), that would be so much more awesome. 
    (Not saying that people here do so. :)Honestly, I can’t wait till this is fully operational and I can travel to New Zealand in say 5-6 hours instead of the whole 1-2 days. This is the future!

  • KillMoto

    Repubilkan transportation and/or energy policy makes me want to evacuate my bowel tube.

  • You can do amazing things with existing technology and transit when it receives adequate funding.

  • Davistrain

    Yes, it would be nice to go to New Zealand in 5 or 6 hours, but are they enough people who want to go there to make high-speed transport (of whatever sort) economically feasible?  We’ve already seen the Anglo-French Concorde SST retired without replacement because there weren’t enough wealthy business people and show business stars to make it sustainable.
    And consider the “evacuated tube” system.  First of all, it’s the descendant of the Alfred E. Beach pneumatic subway that was built under the streets of New York back in the 1870’s–not exactly new technology.  Second, the infrastructure required to make it work would require massive capital investment: The tubes themselves, massive vacuum pumps, special stations, elevated structures, etc.  Would there be a westbound and an eastbound tube, or would this be so speedy that one train would shuttle back and forth all day? 

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