May 26, 2012 – Vol.17 No.10
TOMORROW’S TRANSPORTATION. IDEAS WANTED.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
"There must be another way to get around!" That's what a cousin shouted after yet another grueling commute in the metropolitan New York area. “We need a new kind of transportation!”
He’s right. We do. That would be fantastic wouldn't it? A new way to travel from point A to point B that was as flexible and personal as the automobile yet wasn't prone to congestion ... or pollution ... or accidents.
Maybe we should take to the sky to add a third dimension (UP) to our daily commute. Think of all the space over our heads! Plenty of room to spread out, no congestion. An acquaintance said once that she was going to stay in the clean transportation business until electric cars were invented that could fly above the traffic. Sounds perfect? Not really.
Flying cars have been invented and at least one is now commercially available, but it's gasoline fueled so it pollutes. There's also an electric plane under development in Europe, even a solar powered one. But these solutions require long runways and airports which are really few and far between. As much as flying cars seem like a good way to move people around without roads and congestion, the accidents would be horrific. Imagine how many collisions with buildings there'd be. Imagine cars flying by your second story bedroom window. There’d have to be one very sophisticated (and expensive) air traffic control system to keep fly-cars from hitting each other.
So for personal transport, we're stuck here on the ground on bumpy roads. For mass transportation there are more options. Roads with buses. Rail as in subway, light rail, heavy rail, high speed rail, monorail, trams and shuttles. We can take to the water where there is some. And of course there’s flying in big airplanes, but none of those will take us from A to B directly. Oh yeah, there’s helicopters. A to B for sure, but I can’t imagine a sky full of them.
Aside from being stuck on asphalt and concrete. We're also stuck with something new in many economies: budgetary constraints. Nearly all transportation systems need some kind of public funding. Whether it’s building a new roadway or rail system or improving and maintaining an old one, there’s big bucks involved that only governments or investors (through bonds) can pay for.
So if governments can’t solve global gridlock, private industry –perhaps with a little help from governments when it’s obvious that money will be saved – will have to do the job.
Private industry fully understands the business potential of finding new transportation technologies. Yet private industry doesn’t necessarily have any fresh ideas.
One company, Bombardier, a global leader in mass transit technologies, is reaching out, well, globally for those “fresh ideas” using the Internet, social networking and crowd sourcing through its YouCity multidisciplinary Innovation Contest which focuses on shaping “the Future of Urban Mobility.” Here are a few points about the contest from the YouCity website:
--- The online competition is open to students and professionals with a vision for the future of urban mobility from developed cities to emerging cities of the future.
--- In order to participate in the contest, you have to register. As a registered user you can not only submit your proposals and become eligible for the prizes, but also read, evaluate and comment on any other participant’s proposals.
--- Candidates can participate individually, or decide to form a team of up to 5 participants. New teams can be formed or members added as long as registration is open.
--- To focus the contest, Bombardier has selected three cities to represent the different markets for urban mobility around the world: London, UK (mature market), Belo Horizonte, Brazil (BRIC market) and Vientiane, Laos (emerging market). Each candidate/team will choose one city on which they will base their proposal.
--- The teams and individual candidates will then be asked to develop their concepts in one of three work streams focused on: engineering (product definition, technical concept), business (business model, stakeholders, financing strategy) and urban planning (network layout, urbanism concepts, integration).
--- The competition will consist of three tasks. (The third being a bonus task.) In each task, participants will be asked to answer some general questions. Their answers will have to be presented in a one-page document, with no restriction in terms of layout. This document will be the base for the expert evaluation. Candidates will nonetheless be able to attach any additional document they want to detail or further illustrate their proposal.
Task 1: The candidates will start by drawing an overview of the current and upcoming issues and bottlenecks of their target city's urban mobility, and provide a more detailed analysis of the most important one(s).
Task 2: The second task is about a fully comprehensive and holistic approach. How does the proposal fit in the global picture for that city? This final proposal should combine all of the 3 aspects: Engineering, Business and Urban planning.
There’s more of course. You'll have visit the website to read.
This is a contest, so there’s a prize for the top 3 winning teams. The winners get an expense paid trip to a 4 day workshop in Berlin as well as 2000 Euros ($2500).
Got an urban transport idea? The contest is open until June 10. As with all contests read the Terms and Conditions first.
(Even if you don’t have an idea be sure to visit the website and check out others. Better, visit and join so you can comment.)
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