Transportation Cloud Will Help America Recover from Suburbia

Levittown, PA (AKA - Suburbia)

Note: Part 1 of this 3 part blog, Integrating Ride-Sharing, Car-pooling & Self-Driving, can be read HERE.

In this continuation of our discussion related to the transportation cloud, we will look at the related issues of suburbia and urban planning.

Transitioning Away From Sprawl

The transportation cloud is on the rise, but it’s not here yet; and many city planners are instead turning toward transit-oriented development as a sustainable approach. This planning model, the brainchild of UC Berkeley’s Robert Cervero, argues that cities should foster large construction projects that are near public transportation. The transit-oriented approach has become incredibly popular around the country.

Proponents of this idea argue that by erecting large residential projects near the buses and trains, it becomes easier for individuals to forgo car ownership and instead rely on public transit.

Many planners consider the suburbs to be an extraordinarily frustrating problem. “Spread out with low population densities, suburbs are poorly suited to transit,” remarks sustainability blog Planning for Reality (PFR). “Planners would sooner reverse trends and have the population conveniently move to a more urban configuration.”

Public transportation is at its best when people are closer together: that close proximity optimizes efficiency while serving a wide range of residents. It’s not easy to build a successful bus system, for instance, when people are spread out in suburbia.

What About a Train?

Some urban planners have thought that you might be able to build a train to reduce traffic and drive positive growth. PFR gives the example of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART), a project in the North Bay of California that was approved by voters as a measure to fight traffic congestion.

Actually, SMART wasn’t just about managing traffic but attempted to direct the city toward a more sustainable future by providing an opportunity for transit-oriented development. In its official paperwork related to the train, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission mentioned that it hoped to generate large construction efforts within 800 meters of each depot. In order to stimulate the construction, the commission offered grants to cities that were taking steps to allow for 2200 new homes immediately beside the local depot.

In other words, these trains were not a careless idea but were intended to solve the common urban problem of traffic. However, Planning for Reality is unimpressed with the Sonoma-Marin train, noting that most of the people who will move into those buildings will own cars, making traffic on major thoroughfares even worse.

Although the Metropolitan Transportation Commission intended for SMART to push people toward trains, PFR is convinced that true sustainability is about redefining our relationship to the car: “With the transportation cloud cars will retain their crown as the most popular and common mode of transit outside of cities. Imposing needless, expensive rail projects will prove even more unnecessary.”

Planning for the Transportation Cloud

A network of driverless cars is a better fit for suburbia than a train is, argues Planning for Reality. Cars are small, which means that they can only hold five or six people. Since trains can fit hundreds of people and buses can fit dozens, many people think those larger transportation machines are more efficient. However, PFR argues that autonomous cars are the resource-efficient choice because they could consistently operate closer to peak capacity. Automobiles don’t output as many greenhouse gases per mile as trains do, and they will become more environmentally friendly as people combine their rides for lower costs through the transportation cloud.

PFR argues that the integrated fleet of autonomous vehicles will mean that recently adopted rail projects are obsolete.

Getting Out of a Bad Jam

Analysis of what roads will look like in the transportation cloud era reveals that rush-hour traffic jams will become much less commonplace and stressful:

  • As multiple parties carpool in single driverless cars, fewer vehicles will be out on the roads.
  • Traffic buildup that occurs due to aggressive passing and needlessly volatile fluctuations in speed will become less of an issue.
  • Autonomous vehicles will be able to link together at close range, signaling each other seamlessly and harmonizing their movements, allowing highways to fill up with more automobiles. In this way, self-driving cars will caravan on the “data-track” of the roads in a manner similar to train cars on an actual physical track – a number of different transportation parts acting in tandem.

As the traffic problems recede, more people will be able to live comfortably in suburbia, achieving the same end promised by transit oriented development. However, it won’t be necessary for everyone to live packed up like sardines next to major freeways and train lines.

As the transportation cloud matures, development will be able to spread across a broad area. “The pressure to build up around ‘transit corridors’ will be diminished,” PFR explains, “and towns will be able to preserve a more low-rise character.

People will be able to commute longer distances within the same spans of time, and traffic in local areas will generally be improved.

The Supercomputer Commuter

Planning for Reality is a little excessively feisty related to trains, but its discussion of the transportation cloud is helpful to understanding the far-reaching impacts of emergent connected-car technologies.  Ultra-efficient roadways will be managed through extraordinarily powerful cloud systems, ushering in the age of the supercomputer commuter.

What can the supercomputer-level caliber of cloud processing speed do for your business?

By Kent Roberts

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