How Design is Reimagining Transport in a Clogged World

People. There are over seven and a half billion of them sharing this planet, and over half live in cities. That’s three billion people with transport needs. With our burgeoning population expanding exponentially, the need to re-think urban transportation is crucial. So how are we to tackle more feet on the streets and cars on the roads? Elon Musk thinks he has the perfect, if literally boring, solution.

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Sound of the underground

The billionaire engineer is proposing a system that takes transport underground. Of course, cities the world over have had networks of subways since London first opened its inaugural tube station in 1863. Musk’s plans borrow conceptually from this space-saving travel marvel, but go several steps further. Several layers and many more stations even.

Musk’s idea is an express transport system through swiftly-bored piping beneath city landscapes. Similar in nature to the Hyperloop, it’s all about super-fast delivery through weather-proof piping at convenient stops dotted liberally throughout the city. The Tesla creator has stated that if the city’s needs demand greater use, simply keep on boring for yet more piping! Easier said than dug, but it’s a theory that holds a little water, if not yet actual vehicles.

From personal to public

Musk’s design was originally set up to accommodate personal cars carrying just a single passenger. Not exactly mass transportation. Following these concerns however, the idea was literally opened up to the possibility of public transportation. Promises of 16 person capacity pods and – somehow – access for cyclists have been made, the consensus being that there is a greater need for mass transportation than there is personal. Mass congestion is, after all, a mass problem.

Inner-city concern is to channel traffic away from the heavily congested streets to more manageable and efficient alternatives. So, whilst Musk’s method still appears quite literally a pipe dream in the making, city planners are taking more legislative steps to thin out the roads.

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Congestion charges around the world’s major cities have aimed to reduce heavy traffic by way of deterrent. It’s a policy that aims to drive the public to shared transportation systems, but as yet doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope with the demand. With innovations such as Musk’s, there is at least a concerted effort to come up with a viable alternative. (It’s certainly one better than the curiously unworkable traffic-straddling bus of two years ago.)

Perhaps what’s on the horizon then, because it’s certainly in the planning stages, are cities with fully integrated smart technology. We’re talking infrastructure that aids congestion by feeding data to vehicles in real time; driverless automated vehicles working on technology already in development  that aims for a safer ride. We’re edging ever closer to streets built with technology that enables swift, problem-free travel in mind.

From Uber to Universal

We’re not quite there yet, and even the ideas aren’t fully developed enough to become reality quite yet. Musk’s urban loop system has a few logistical holes that could do with filling before the idea is developed further.

Regardless, both the impetus and need are strong, so civil engineers and town planners are working to get busy streets moving again. Taking a less personal approach to a more public problem should see big changes in the way we manoeuvre our urban living spaces in the future.


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