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By: AnnaLisa Meyboom, Assistant Professor, UBC Clean Energy Research Centre and author, Driverless Urban Futures
Transportation is key to accessing jobs, services and to increasing general productivity – less time wasted getting places. New technologies have the potential to get everyone where they need to go more conveniently. The term “everyone” is also important – our societal goal should be to provide access and ease of transportation to all ages, abilities and incomes. This will strengthen our social fabric as well as our economy.
What technologies are coming that could enable this?
Mobility as a Service
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) brings all means of travel together: one app to route and pay for your trip all in one place, whatever the mode. It makes trip planning and payment easier, and could increase the convenience and usefulness for transit, bike share, car share, or other modes of transportation. This could support healthier lifestyle choices, greater sustainability, and new ways of looking at existing transportation services.
Autonomous vehicles and public transportation
Autonomous vehicles are another future technology which will revolutionize how we move around. They have the potential to address many of the challenging aspects of public transit. For example, on-demand shuttles or shared autonomous vehicles could ferry people between their homes and transit stations.
Service at night could be maintained with on-demand systems providing better safety and service for those who need to travel during later hours. Transit systems could adjust service in real-time to meet demand and deploy more vehicles as needed; advanced booking systems could even reserve seats so riders do not have to stand. An agile and responsive system could allow for smaller vehicles and reduced wait times. These changes would revolutionize public transit and, by providing faster and more responsive services, could help attract more riders.
Reimagining road space
While demand for road space could decrease with mobility as a service or autonomous vehicles, other emerging modes, such as electric bikes or kickboards, could place new demand for urban space. Even now, we face difficulties in managing space for all road users.
We will need to take part of the street to facilitate emerging transportation modes rather than have them compete for sidewalk or bicycle lane space.
Looking at the future of transportation, perhaps the best way of organizing streets is not by mode, but by speed. Meaning specific lanes for pedestrians and vehicles of three different speeds: slow (e.g. bikes), medium (e.g. light electric vehicles) and fast (full speed automobiles/trucks). In our region this may mean planning lanes for new modes of transportation.
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