Radical ideas to improve transport

Transport is one of the most important activities and industries in the world. Moving products and people to relevant destinations is essential for society to function, even in a world where businesses can be run from a smartphone. However, as the world speeds up, so technology and the systems they run in must advance, too. There is a need to radically rethink the approach governments and businesses take toward transport in order to make the world more efficient. Let’s consider what these could be.

Ignore fare evaders

In order to facilitate easy-of-access and smooth transition into trains, buses and so on, many public transportation hubs installed restrictions of some kind. One of the easiest and most efficient methods was using turnstiles. These are barriers that allow for individuals to move through, but promotes fast entering and exiting certain areas. They lock and unlock through the use of access cards, usually, meaning only those who’ve paid can find their way into restricted sections. This is obviously ideal for commuters, since it shows they’ve paid for their tickets and can’t swindle the system by avoiding the machines.

But this is not the remarkable part, since turnstiles have been in use for some time. What is remarkable has been the use in Oslo, in Norway. As Wired points out:

“Today, bus, tram, and rail passengers in Oslo can use a tap card or smartphone app to pay their fares before the trip, without risking the howls of a gate-pinched toddler. The city’s transit agency is “moving away from trying to keep the non-paying passengers away to catering for the paying passengers,” [a Norwegian official] said last month. In Oslo and cities trying to update their fare payment systems, the general attitude toward transit scofflaws is, whatevs [sic].”

This only works because the city and country itself is so advanced. There are too many other countries which lack the infrastructure necessary to accommodate such interventions.

Public transport, particularly in poorer countries, requires massive, radical rethinking. In South Africa, Malijeng Ngqaleni, deputy director-general of Intergovernmental Relations noted:  “More than 60% of households spend on average 20% of their income monthly on transport. It can be as high as 31% in the rural areas. This is still the case despite of state subsidies to public transport operators increasing annually.”

Efficiency obviously matters to everyone, but it is of particular importance to those who already struggle in their daily lives.

Encourage bike riding

There are always hubs where most businesses happen. In this way, it might be easier to centralise precisely where people need to travel to. This is why bikesharing is increasingly being recognised as a viable option. As CityLab notes, bikesharing is “a form of super low-cost, fun, zero-emission, effortless bicycle transport”. Bikes are not new, but the system surrounding them is. After all, a city is asking its citizens to treat bikes respectfully and be willing to share it between other people. As one bike blog highlighted, there are ways to help guarantee the bikes are not stolen.

“Users check out a bike with a credit card, membership card, and/or by cell phone at a docking station. There is often no fee for the first 30 minutes for members, but a deposit on the credit card ensures the bike is returned to a parking kiosk.  Most systems have a membership fee for frequent users like people who drive to work downtown and need to run errands over lunch, but tourists and one time users can also use the system for a small fee.”

It’s used primarily because so often the destinations don’t require a long journey, but sometimes walking might be too far. Bikes are thin and small enough that they can be parked anywhere, provided you have a chain and lock. They’re also environmentally-friendly and produce zero emissions, while being used.

Get rid of (owning) cars

Perhaps the most radical idea to improve transport has been to eliminate cars altogether. This might sound contradictory until you consider the arguments proponents are making. There are several layers to this: first, get rid of the idea of owning a vehicle and encourage ride-sharing; second, encourage cities to be built such that people are within biking or walking distance of all businesses. Naturally, the second is much harder than the first, since this means a radical restructuring of the entire area where people live.

Ride-sharing is already occurring thanks to the success of Uber. But Uber is not the only way. Instead of owning a car, multiple people can own one car and simply share the expenses and necessary rides. Perhaps a car can be rented for necessary trips, but otherwise never be fully acquired. Many people think they need a car, but a lot of proponents are pointing out how much better life can be without one – eliminating the enormous payments, maintenance and difficulties when it comes to car ownership.