Saturday, August 7, 2010

Normal Future Transportation Needs

I came across an article about city planning and how difficult it is to know what the future needs of a city will be, especially in terms of transportation. The author starts the article with the example of city planners in Europe in the late 1800s thinking that horse manure was going to be the biggest problem for cities in the future. Obviously, they were wrong.

I thought it was particularly appropriate to think about the issue of future transportation on the day of the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Normal Transportation Center. The Transportation Center plan is based on the assumption that people in the future will still give priority to efficiently traveling from one place to another, thus having a hub for trains, buses, and taxis makes sense. The article, on the other hand, suggests that perhaps that kind of view is ignoring the important role of information in our transportation needs/uses. Perhaps our future transportation won't merely be physical movement from point a to point b, but will require the transportation itself to provide our means of work and/or leisure. The article mentions holding meetings on trains and having a mobile day care as examples.

Maybe we've already started moving (sorry for the pun) in that direction: people are texting and talking on cell phones as they drive -- conducting business, handling social issues, etc. We are already combining information with transportation.

I am absolutely no good at predicting the future (even what's going to happen in the next 30 minutes!), so I have no ideas beyond what that article suggests. Good thing I'm not a city planner.

There is a saying that might apply to this issue: it's the journey [that's important], not the destination.

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