In the face of a looming global oil crisis, and given the effects of fossil fuel consumption on the environment, it falls to us to change our ways and develop alternative modes of transportation. We can certainly look toward the future and the latest scientific developments for new transportation methods; however, we can also look to the past – many so-called archaic modes of transportation would be perfectly acceptable in current times.
Of course, the easiest course is to walk whenever possible, or to use any other mode of active transportation: jogging, cycling, in-line skating, skateboarding or even skiing and snowshoeing in more northerly areas. Public transportation is an excellent alternative to driving private vehicles and many cities offer bus, subway, or light-rail in addition to ride-shares and taxis.
As more and more people move into city centres, it behoves us to establish more efficient means of moving people through heavily populated areas while minimizing traffic congestion and environmental impact. While converting to hybrid or electric cars will reduce the negative effects on the planet, a multi-passenger approach would be best to reduce the strain on roadways and shorten commute times for all. In cities originally designed for horse-powered travel, or car travel, development is limited by the city footprint; therefore, the best way to add new commuter systems to an existing infrastructure is to either tunnel below the city – adding subway tunnels or – or, following the lead of many European and Asian countries, expand skyward: monorails can be used for short travel on loops, urban cable systems (aerial cable cars similar to a ski lift) can be installed in business sectors, and personal rapid transit tracks allow small automated vehicles or pods to transport passengers along a guideway. For longer trips, to replace short-hop commuter flights, forward thinkers such as Elon Musk are developed Hyperloop systems where commuters would travel in pods through a network of high-speed tubes for excursions between urban centres.
Additionally, we could revisit rail travel for long-distance travel as electrified railways could be powered solely by clean and renewable energy sources. Freight shipping could also be handled by rail, or by waterways – once again reducing fuel consumption and relying on existing infrastructure and technologies.
Whether we choose to update older technologies for the new millennium, or create entirely new modes of modern transportation, we are limited by little more than our imaginations; at the turn of the previous century, airplane travel was deemed an impossible dream, and now hundreds of passengers can travel thousands of miles in a matter of hours.