Future of Transportation – Futurists Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat #transit

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its fourth twitter chat  on Thursday, January 20, 2011 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. hashtag: #futrchat. You can find information about the first three here . (education, money, work) 

Is 21st c transportation just more of the same?


During the 20

th century, transportation innovations exploded. You might even call it the century of transportation. We not only invented new types of vehicles; we created new infrastructure and new lifestyles celebrating them. Technology transformed from walking and animals to bikes, boats, trains, cars, trucks, buses, planes, and spaceships. I even adore some oddities like dirigibles and segways.

High speed transportation is sexy, no doubt about it. We have a love affair with these coolest new gadgets. And it’s cost us immeasurably. Cars in particular caused new development to stretch further and further from city centers. And they use fossil fuels. Both are now seen as huge mistakes.

Embedded as transportation is with energy and politics, arguments in the US may wage battle well into midcentury. Meantime developing countries aim for that middle class image, wanting cars before decent housing and causing traffic jams that last for days. But that’s now.

We want to talk 2020, 2030, 2050 – what will be our needs, what constraints, and what options will we have for transportation?  What does mobility mean in twenty or thirty years?


Backlash and penalties

Slow cities, car free cities, transit oriented development, walkability, smart growth, density, and so many other urban trends tie to strategies to reduce the influence of the car on our lives.

One massive debate is: better cars or live car-free? In fact, better cars such as electric do little to reduce greenhouse gases unless we have power plants that produce renewable energy.

It’s easy to see transportation as a topic of things; vehicles are objects. However, they are deeply integral to our daily lives, affecting how we behave, our friends, where we live and work, how healthy we are, even our personal identities. Are you a walker, a rider, a driver, a co-user, or a telecommuter?


Transportation 21

st century style

How will we travel in 2030 or 2040? What is the impact of the internet, telecommuting, and social media? How will augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence change transportation options? How will transportation be different in mega-cities, smaller cities, towns, rural, across the globe, or into outerspace?

What new technologies could transform the way that we travel and commute? What is the impact of life safety, security, and crime on transportation? What new infrastructures are worth the expense and trouble to build? Will sharing bikes and cars go mainstream? Will there be a crash or a wimper after peak oil? What aboutautonomous vehicles, robotics, and road trains? And (wincing), what’s holding back flying cars and jetpacks?


Will transportation transform our lives as it did in the 20

th century? Will we become smarter about choices and their consequences?  Will we choose to ‘un-tech’ our mobility?  Will we choose to stay still?

I bookmarked almost 200 links on the future of transportationhere and 140 on transithere

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat and voice your views on the future of transportation. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education, the future of money, and the future of work. These chats are fast and intense. I always learn enormously, like scanning futurists brains.

Jennifer Jarratt and I will co-host; Jennifer with intriguing questions and I with ideas, more questions, and retweets. You can do the same, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and help us think more clearly, more vividly about the future of transportation.  

What do you think about the future of transportation?

Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #futrchat in your tweets, and the Question #, as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. 

As alternative to twitter.com, here are two sites where you join the chat.

Images:Nissan Torii,Shweeb monorail 



21st century cities: D is for Disasters

This month, I’m writing a series: the ABC’s of 21st Century Cities. In previous entries, I explored Artificial Intelligence, Backward Futures  and Co-creation. Today is disasters.

and Brazil are suffering deadly disasters; I hope you recover rapidly and fully.


One year ago, Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake. Over 300,000 people were killed. The core of Port-Au-Prince was virtually leveled. One year later, less than 5% of the rubble has been removed. One million people remain homeless, living in tent cities.

The first disaster happened on January 12, 2010. The second one is ongoing. It’s a double crime – unsafe construction and terrible response.

For 21st century cities, disasters are a way of life

Do you have a nagging sense that there’s an uptick in disasters? It’s true. There are four times as many natural disasters as twenty years ago. The trend is still climbing.

No one is immune. Fifty poorer countries led by India will suffer the most deaths. A recent report estimates we will see one million deaths a year by 2030 . Industrialized countries will pay more in economic and infrastructure loss, estimated at $157 billion annually.

Disasters are reshaping our human geography.

  •     Over one billion people  in over 100 countries are at risk of becoming climate refugees; 98% live in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Middle East (pictured Lilypad2 Refugee Floating Island).
  •     The current number of climate refugees is 50 million people, mostly displaced by flooding. By 2050, the UN estimates as many as 200 million climate refugees.
  •     People will migrate to places with food, water, security, education, health, and jobs, away from floods, disease, famine, drought, and conflict.
  •     In the US , the predicted hurricane damage on the gulf coast by 2030 is $350 billion , equal to a Hurricane Katrina every 7 years. New York and Miami  hold the highest risk for massive infrastructure damage.
  •     NBC news reporter Ann Curry’s tweet helped doctors and medicine land at a Haitian airstrip.  Is twitter a robust grassroots communication network ready to serve in disasters?

Have you been caught a disaster?

If so, were you ready? It’s more than just individual procrastination; we even vote to avoid fixing infrastructure.

  •     Elected officials get cheered and then re-elected when they respond to a disaster, as they should. But amazingly, when they beef up infrastructure, they lose elections. For every $1 spent in preparation, we save $15 in recovery.

“The benefits of prevention are not tangible; they are the disasters that did not happen.” Kofi Annan

  •     Nature or humans? Imagine if Haiti’s construction had been quake-resistant? In New Orleans, Katrina wasn’t the killer, a failed levee was. The two are so deeply intertwined, it’s always both.
  •     Mississippi and Alabama, each devastated by Katrina, refuse to enact building codes. Florida suffered 40-50% less damage and fewer deaths.
  •     Some recoveries take half a century, like Berlin. Others leap forward, like London. Still others take centuries and even millennia, like Rome.
  •     Flooding may steal the great coastal cities from future generations; there may not be future “Romes” to serve as historic markers of today.

Can we rebuild better than before?

Some cities revitalize and thrive after a catastrophic event. Others collapse, becoming a shadow of their most robust past. Jared Diamond believes collapse occurs when a society fails to adapt to new ecological or economic environments.

In other words, to recover, a city has to clearly imagine a revitalized future in a dramatically altered landscape and have the capacity and resources to act.

  •     The best time (if there is such a thing) to experience a major disaster is when your country or region is on a growth cycle. The worst is when your city’s in decline already.
  •     Will disasters become the reality tv of tomorrow?
Rotterdam is a miracle of resilience
After a catastrophic flood in 1953, Rotterdam leaders decided to rebuild beyond anyone’s imagination. Forty four years later, the Maeslant Barrier opened. It is an engineering marvel, designed to withstand a 10,000 year flood event.
  • Gumption. Building on Boyd’s OODA decision-making loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act),Vinay Gupta identifies Drive as the missing link between orientation and deciding to act, in other words, leadership and vision.
  • Wrong-mindedness. The most difficult problem is not inaction but wrong-minded action. Is New York rebuilding a 2050 future or a 1950 rehash?
  • Mindfulness. In contrast, after the 1989 earthquake destroyed the massive Embarcadero highway, San Francisco tore it down and re-established access to the bay from the adjacent neighborhoods. They chose a new, unique future.
  • A future of parity. For New Orleans to build a levee system for a 500 year flood event the estimate is $70 billion. The current repair to the levees is costing $15 billion for a 100 year flood. The entire city’s future remains unstable.

Images of the future

A number of organizations are fully mobilized such as the UN’s Resilient Cities program and Architecture for Humanity. Here’s a few still in the future.

  •     Communication networks include our mobile phones. Flying disaster relief robots support a local network.
  •     Video games can aid in preparation and emergency response training.
  •     Sensor networks provide real time data on locations of people and resources.
  •     Mobile hospitals will be flown into remote locations, such as solar airships.
  •    Temporary housing is being designed as prefab or created locally with salvaged materials.
  •     Future housing will be created on-site via 3d printers.
  •     Modular solar power enables off the grid energy.
  •     Geoengineering attempts to turn back atmospheric change to avoid the most extreme consequences of global warming.
  •     Sensors for emergency alert systems continue to improve

 Disaster-ready future cities

Several trends help: localism for food, distributed power especially the use of solar energy, walkable and biking neighborhoods w/ shops and services, DIY initiatives for making things, bartering/trading/sharing networks, communication networks such as twitter and other mobile devices, and so on.  A global push for city response plans, strengthening infrastructure, implementing building codes, and building higher and away from oceans is critical.

  • The 9/11 Report described New York as a failure of imagination. Can imagination help us?
  • The strongest efforts come from within a community. Someone steps up; some vision captures hearts and minds. People begin a million small actions towards recovery.
  • If a catastrophic event hits your city, are you ready? Is your neighborhood? Your family? How will you be safe? How resilient is your city?

Disasters destroy normal. Many cities and communities find their true mission, and rebuild even better. It can be a moment of deep reflection and learning, committing, and inspiring.

The next post, E is for Education. I am failing at my goal to post daily so I will try some new strategies. Thank you for reading, tweeting, commenting!

Images: Disaster historic statistics, Haiti tent city, Rotterdam Maeslantkering, Pakistani flood refugees, Lilypad2 floating city, flying disaster relief robots, video games.


Three Ideas That Will Shape 21st Century Cities: Urban Divide, Megacities, and Poly-Centric Regions


The past two days, I covered a list of 20 items from The Futurist magazine’s Outlook 2010 (Nov-Dec 09 issuehttp://bit.ly/xFR5C) that will shape 21st c cities.http://bit.ly/w1po5 Now I am adding other trends, ideas, and forecasts beyond their list. First, a bit of context.

The Urban Century

As of 2007, more of us live in cities than not, which is an historic first. Furthermore, during the next four decades, the world population is predicted to add 3 billion more people and nearly all of that growth will be in cities.http://bit.ly/4DMSUD

In other words, during the past 10,000 years of civilization, we grew to the point that 3 billion people live in cities. Now we will add that many again by 2058.

Think about it: Are our cities prepared to deal with doubling size in the next forty years?

Cities In Crisis and Opportunity

Urban change will not be entirely incremental, just more and more of the same; cities will fundamentally transform, in many parts beyond recognition.

The reason I say this with such sureness is by looking backward. To see what lies ahead, futurists become great students of history. We look backward in order to see forward. If you look at 1950, cities are nearly unrecognizable. And 1900, even moreso.

A Very Brief and Recent History

When forecasting, I think about time in blocks or at particular milestones.

  • In 1900, London was the largest city, eight of the top ten largest were in Europe or the US, most people lived without in-door plumbing and many without power, and one of the largest problems was horse manure overwhelming streets. http://bit.ly/3qYMXD
  • By 1950, New York emerged as the first megacity and power and plumbing were solved in developed countries. However, cities beyond the industrialized west began to fall behind in their technology. The societies remained primarily agricultural.
    • You might say that’s the period when the urban divide emerged. Before industrialization, all cities were primitive – that is, they employed basic construction technology - and societies were primarily rural. Now cities diverged into two distinct paths. Power, transportation, and increasingly complex infrastructure arrived in some cities, and lagged in others. For those cities who industrialized, life changed immeasurably during the first half of the 20th century; it was a transformational change, not just more of the same.   
  • By 2000, Tokyo was the world’s largest and a sea change hit the rest of the top ten list. Only London and New York remained from prior lists. The other largest cities are entirely in developing countries. By 2015, London falls out of the top ten. Furthermore, Tokyo and New York hold their spots by retaining, not adding, people. They are barely growing.

1.      The Great Urban Divide

Growth in Asian cities is exploding. Mumbai, Delhi, Shanghai, Calcutta, and Jakarta lead the world through a combination of rural-urban migration and population increases (not true for China of course that has low fertility rate).http://bit.ly/1Fabe9 Each country has its own problems. While China has organized massive long-term development plans, they build sub-standard buildingshttp://bit.ly/3cBtnB and their cities’ air is the most polluted in the world.http://bit.ly/15i1cj. India struggles with squatters villages, infrastructure, transportation, education, and jobs.

Cities in developing countries grow at a rapid clip of 3 percent annually yes, those cities will gain the lions share of the next 3 billion people – while developed countries that have long been urbanized are maintaining existing population. Therefore, developing countries’ concerns are with massive amounts of new infrastructure, institutions and services while developed countries are repairing, renovating, and re-inventing. The Great Urban Divide looks to continue until the world population balances in mid- 21st century.

2.      The Rise of Megacities

Defined as cities with populations over 10 million people, 20-25 mega-cities will exist by 2015 (depending on how you define the circumference).http://bit.ly/16E5JR  While 6.9% lived in mega-cities in 1990, over 12% will be in the 23 largest cities by 2015. That represents an increase urban population from 98 million to 378 million people.

Imagine, in this 25-year period, 23 cities are adding 12 million new people each! Just the housing and infrastructure required is mind- boggling, much less jobs, education, health care, banks, shops, and so on. Look at your city and think about that magnitude of change. 

Moreover, almost all of that growth is occurring not in Toyko, New York, or London, but in India, China, and Indonesia. Even mega-cities are experiencing an urban divide. There are two forms: those more or less built by now, and those that are still building. They have one thing in common: all are scrambling for resources.

3.      Polycentric Cities

While developing countries are squeezing enormous numbers of people into incredibly dense megacities, developed countries are sprawling and eventually converging in what Sir Peter Hall dubbed the polyopolis, or poly-centric regions.http://bit.ly/3M3Pvk The distinction between mega-cities and poly-centric cities is due to transportation and historic growth. Polycentric regions emerge with multiple cities and urban cores, linked by networks in economically beneficial collaborations. Hall identified eight European areas as mega-city regions and three or four in North America.

Polycentric regions tend to be areas of highly developed technology and with historic social and political patterns. The problems are split governance and enabling a division of resources. In effect, with regional relationships paramount yet without centralized government, a new field of urban diplomacy and legal negotiations is emerging. 

Looking Ahead

While it may seem like this tale of divided problems means we don’t need to worry about urban troubles half way around the globe, that is folly. Two things are shared and deeply linked: the environment and the world economy. Collaboration, risk, opportunity all converge.

No one has yet to build the perfect city. We can learn from each other.

Next I focus on some technological ventures: floating cities, robotics, and geo-engineering.