Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In

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

12:45 PM EDT on August 31, 2012

Want to get from New York to LA in 45 minutes? Take the evacuated tube transport, of course! Disclaimer: It doesn't exist. Image: ##!##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 Aging and outdated infrastructure keeps speeds down and people like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey get conservative street cred for refusing to invest in a rail tunnel so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.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

NYC Debuts Public E-Bike Charging for Delivery Workers

Finally, they’re taking charge! The city’s first public e-bike charging station opened in Cooper Square on Thursday — the start of an overdue six-month pilot that is part of a “Charge Safe Ride Safe Action Plan” for delivery workers that Mayor Adams announced last year.

March 1, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Have Questions

What's an optimal rebate to get people to buy e-bikes without wasting money on those who were going to buy one anyway?

March 1, 2024

To Recruit Transit Workers, More Than Just Higher Pay Is Needed

Labor shortages continue threatening public transit systems, and a new report adds another layer to the conversation.

February 29, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: Streets for Skateboards

Aaron Breetwor on skateboards for transportation and designing streets for safer skateboarding.

February 29, 2024

Agencies Need to Use Federal Funding to Buy Land for Transit Oriented Development

Transit agencies do not prioritize transit-adjacent housing development often because they lack funding to acquire land.

February 29, 2024
See all posts