Today I listened to a webinar titled Making Cities Smarter hosted by the Sustainable Cities Collective. One of the participants thought that bicycles are a key aspect of smart transportation because they create healthy people and are available whenever you need them. Another participant took this a step further and said that infrastructure built for the pedestrian is an even smarter way to build.
Given our current infrastructure woes in the United States, the idea of driverless cars, or personal rapid transit is enticing because they reduce human fatalities and pollution. I would love feedback from readers about the following: do you think that driverless cars have an important role in the urban transportation infrastructure future of the United States or should we focus instead on updating our public transit systems and bicycle infrastructure? Below is my response.
I believe that the United States can either be the progressive, international leader of cutting-edge public transportation technology and implementation or fall into the background. Pedestrian focused infrastructure, like creating car-free central districts, better sidewalks and access to green spaces, public space that encourages people to sit for a while with friends and strangers, is the ideal. Most of our cities, however, rely completely on the automobile and thus changing them into pedestrian oases seems like a remote possibility.
I think that people are more open in this country to automobile focused solutions to our congested roads and highways than they are to public transit or pedestrian-based solutions. Therefore, the idea of creating personal rapid transit infrastructure is attractive because not only could it reduce congestion, but also it would lead to fewer deaths via car crashes. My idealistic personality, however, does not see this as the solution, and would rather work towards pedestrian friendly places that foster community and connection. Pedestrian based solutions implemented now can last for hundreds and even thousands of years.