Tomorrow’s Transportation: New Systems for the Urban Future is a 100 page document submitted to the U.S. Congress by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson.
Among its pages were a myriad of proposals to help curb growing urban problems like traffic congestion while promoting new technology in human transportation. Many of the ideas were good and made it off the drawing board and into cities. Many of the ideas were bad, and thankfully were never introduced. Here are a few that stick out:
The Dial-a-Bus — A cross between your standard bus and taxi, the proposed Dial-a-Bus system allowed individuals to call a service and schedule a bus pick up. Centralized computers would track the location of each bus, how many people were on-board, and the final destinations of each passenger. The closest bus would then be dispatched. This is a great idea, really, and it’s hard to wonder — with the Internet, GPS, and high gas prices — why something like this hasn’t taken off in areas where mass transit systems aren’t already in place.
Personal Rapid Transit — Think of this as a car, but on a track. Just like Disneyland! The Personal Rapid Transit idea proposed a network of rail-guided, private cars, each capable of transporting about what a regular sedan can. The system would be completely automated, with passengers entering in their final destination when entering the vehicle. I think I remember seeing this in some futuristic movie… Total Recall maybe, or Demolition Man. Regardless, it’s too much like a subway, and probably less efficient. While it would be pretty cool to zip around town in one of these, I don’t see any reason why this idea should have been implemented outside of theme parks. Sorry, PRT!
Dualmode Vehicle Systems
Dualmode Vehicle Systems — This is essentially the same as the Personal Rapid Transit system, only the drivers in the Dualmode system can operate the vehicle on or off the track. This is much more appealing to us American drivers, because let’s face it: we all want to be in control; we love the freedom a vehicle offers. So this begs the question: why have a track at all? A few years back there was buzz about an automated highway system that used magnets embedded in the asphalt. Cars with the built-in sensor could jump on the highway and allow the car to drive itself. Whatever happened to that?
Automated Dualmode Bus — Groovy, man. The Automated Dualmode Bus is similar to the Dualmode Vehicle, only it holds more people. The idea behind the bus is on longer runs — between cities, for instance — the bus would operate on a track. On shorter, inner-city runs, the bus could be driven independent from the track. Once again, why have the track at all? This idea tried to combine the city bus with, say, Greyhound — but what’s wrong with having two independent carriers? This would be cool, I guess, but I can see why it was never adopted.
Pallet or Ferry System — To understand the idea of the pallet or ferry system, think of a freight train, where pallets are loaded onto flatbed train cars and ferried across the country. Instead of crates filled with goods, the pallet system loads cars onto a flatbed and shuttles them around town on tracks. Okay, seems straightforward enough. There are a few problems, however. First and foremost, how would you load the cars onto the flatbed? It seems like it would take much longer to wait in line to have your car loaded onto a train than to simply drive to your destination. This would make much more sense on longer trips, of course. Even so, I like this idea; there’s something about a land-based ferry that seems fun, especially if you could get out of your car and walk around on deck as the train made its way across the country.
To see the full document, in all of its glory, head to Tomorrow’s Transportation: New Systems for the Urban Future.