Thursday, September 10, 2009

Transportation with perspective

In the search for alternative transportation that gets us out of our cars, but gives all the advantages of the automobile some are choosing monorail solutions. They can be built over current streets and highways so they require no major land appropriation. Even on the ground, only pillars and possibly stations will take up space. Monorails get up us up over the town, and while we won’t get a bird’s eye view, we will be viewing cities from a new perspective. We might have huge glazed buildings on either side of us or, all the glass left over from thoughts of endless oil, giving us a view into people’s offices and work lives. Window shopping might take another turn, stores might be on the second or third floor and we will see their displays as we wiz by.

Some buildings will still be low enough to see their roofs, maybe even gardens on those roofs where food for the lunch we will eat later is growing. In more open terrain we might have lovely views of rivers, living areas with houses and parks. Concert music may waif up to us as we fly by the bandstand in the park.

This might sound like a tale of the future, but in Uppsala, not far from the capitol of Stockholm, Sweden, a Korean firm is testing the impact of weather upon a monorail system. Safety has already been approved by Swedish Rail and the first of three cities is gearing up. In 1994, A Tale of the Future, a book written from the research of 35 budding Futurists, described the motivations for a monorail system like this:

“The Monorail project is based on the vision that the Monorail should facilitate harmony in the life of the city. The Monorail was designed with the view to contribute to all of man’s various possibilities to live a good life in the city and not just get to work. The designers have seen to the totality of man’s needs. The trip on board the Monorail is organized so that the riders will have a pleasant, inspired, and educational ride, since people’s lives continue even during a trip. Eating, working or studying are possible on board. It is even possible to relax in peace and quiet, socialize or be alone. The monorail is also built to be pleasant even for those not onboard. It runs quietly and is built a little above ground so that it doesn’t cut across any walkways or bicycle paths.” (A Tale of the Future is available without cost online.

In a totally different part of the world, namely, Caracas, Venezuela, politicians struggle with the huge, steep slum areas that get more permanent every day. A think tank came up with the idea of providing transportation where none existed. One area, the San Augustine Neighborhood is visible from the city due to its hillside location, but transportation to Caracas is very poor. This one neighborhood houses 40,000 people and was a good place to try urban cable cars (pictured above), with five stations around which services would be built, health care, day care, supermarkets, and recreation facilities.

These transportation systems with perspective may be a sign of what to expect in mass transit in the next 50 years, but like energy and many other problems that need new solutions, the result may well be different, and adjusted to local conditions. A wonderful consequence of this is that when we travel in the future, the true promise of going to another part of the world will be fulfilled once again. We will once again see variety in how people get from place to place and live their lives because local conditions will have been satisfied. Perspective will not only come from traveling with the birds, but from realizing that copying the West will be a dimming trend and solving the problem of sustainability will be the leading motivation.