1. 8

  2. 11

    Transportation in the US is not so much a technological problem as a social one.

    1. 5

      Yep, a social one with relations that’s influenced our urban planning coupled with geographical differences.

      One of the better analyses (and I’d love to read more of them) I’ve seen was Aaron Patzers attempt of trying to justify PRT in the bay area - his analysis at the time (2011) concluded autonomous cars are the answer: https://web.archive.org/web/20140723180502/http://swiftprt.com/blog/2011/12/the-future-of-ground-based-transportation-systems/

      It’s worth the read just to realize the sunk cost problems of existing population density (which isn’t improving in the bay area due to various political reasons) and how that influences cost of whether to build a road versus a track.

      “The future of transportation is still the concrete and asphalt road, for the simple reason that at $17 per tonne of asphalt versus $900 per tonne of steel or $10,000 per tonne of copper, roads are the only thing cheap enough to be ubiquitous in lower density areas.”

      1. 2

        “… roads are the only thing cheap enough to be ubiquitous in lower density areas.”

        Drive your cars all you want in your suburbs but if you wanna come into the city, kindly use a train.

        1. 1

          Agree. I own a car in the city but take the bus to downtown, and take the bus+lightrail to get to the airport, and try to use my bicycle when I can.

          The car’s more for skiing/hiking trips, 1-2 nighttime trips/week to further out neighborhoods that transit is too agonizing for. One of my big todo list items is to calculate whether it’s really worth keeping the car over just using reachnow/car2go/zipcar/lyft/buying an e-bike.

        2. 1

          You can’t build a new track, and can barely build a new road, anyway. Not in an existing population center. There’s nowhere to put it.

          1. 3

            If you have the money, there’s physical space: build tunnels, elevated lines, etc. Other cities do somehow manage it— London has been building new train lines of various kinds almost continuously for the past 50 years (the DLR, Jubilee extension, Crossrail). Copenhagen built a completely new metro system right through the city center from 2002–2007. Etc.

            Even the U.S. used to do it, especially during a flurry of construction in the ’70s. The Market Street Subway in SF was built in the ’70s; the D.C. metro was built from scratch starting in 1976; Atlanta likewise from 1979. But construction and expansion of all these systems stalled in the ’80s for political reasons.

            1. 3

              There have been a couple of interesting stories on why infrastructure costs are so high in the US. One problem is that local governments lack engineering staff to act as general contractors or even to properly monitor the projects so they cannot control costs as well as e.g. cities in Europe or Asia.

      2. 2

        I read a couple of thought provoking articles about the ripples of change that self-driving transport could cause throughout the economy, based primarily on the (substantiated) projection that self-driving electric cars/trucks/etc. will be much cheaper per mile:

        https://perspicacity.xyz/2017/08/10/when-delivery-is-free-will-ownership-survive/ https://perspicacity.xyz/2017/06/07/will-you-hire-a-robot-to-be-your-chauffeur/

        I think these articles were a lot more focused than the article linked here, which meanders between different issues and doesn’t seem to give any consideration to patterns of use, which I think are likely to change significantly in the presence of self-driving cars.

        It’s hard to predict the future of course, but it’s really interesting to think about the possibilities.