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Navigating the Future: 12 Forward-Thinking Urban Transit Systems
By SA Rogers,
Web Urbanist, 14 November 2016.

Integrating fairly seamlessly into existing city infrastructure, making use of renewable energy and solving the ‘last mile’ problem plaguing most public transit systems, these designs make some major advancements from the buses and trains already in use today. With some already in development around the world and others representing ideas that could provide inspiration for real-life solutions, these futuristic urban transit systems aim to get around traffic congestion and provide safer, more efficient rides.

1. Hyperloop for Dubai by Bjarke Ingels Group


Residents of the United Arab Emirates could get from the cities of Dubai to Abu Dhabi in just twelve minutes with the hyperloop transportation system recently announced as a deal between Hyperloop One and Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.


Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the system will carry passengers in 6-person pods contained within a pressure vessel ‘transporter’; the units are small to allow for on-demand travel and reduce wait times.

2. Self-Driving Bus by Mercedes-Benz


Already tested on a 12-mile route in Amsterdam, Mercedes-Benz’ new line of self-driving buses avoids human error while performing their usual duties, with a driver only present to take over when the route isn’t suitable for automated driving.


Short-range radar, satellite-controlled GPS navigation, sensors and cameras help it on its way, and it communicates with the route infrastructure via wi-fi to take advantage of rolling green lights.

3. Skytran for Tel Aviv


The world’s first magnetically levitating skytTran system is set for development in Tel Aviv to reduce congestion, making routes faster, less expensive, more comfortable and more earth-friendly.


Individual two-seater pods feature point-to-point service so travelers can reach specific destinations, and you can request one via a mobile app.

Following completion in Tel Aviv, commercial skytrain systems will be rolled out worldwide.

4. Next Future Modular Transportation System


The self-driving modules envisioned by Next Future can link up like a typical transit system or go their own way on existing roadways, with users ordering them through a mobile app. Like the skyTran, this system takes care of that ‘last mile’ problem, automatically calculating routes.


The 8×8’ modules, which hold ten passengers each, can link together in a ‘swarm’ or split up. When they’re linked, you can move from one module to the next to find the one that’s headed in the direction of your destination.

5. Greenery-Filled AirTrain


Trains suffer from air quality problems inside their cars, even while they’re helping to reduce pollution outside. Vittori Lab offers up one potential solution with the AirTrain, which uses living plants to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from passengers and release oxygen.


They’re contained in clear compartments running along the sides, getting just enough sunlight and rainwater through a smart hydration system. It’s an interesting idea that solves a real problem in an inexpensive way, and can be adapted for all sorts of transit systems.

6. Pininfarina Vectus Personal Transit System


‘Personal Rapid Transit’ (PRT) by Italian design agency Pininfarina and Korean urban mobility company Vectus enables on-demand service via a system of small self-driving vehicles.

They also carry passengers to their final destination passengers in individual pods travel from one point to another without mandatory stops in between to cut down on travel time.

7. Road-Straddling Buses in Beijing


When Chinese engineers released plans to built a traffic-straddling electric bus, it seemed like a fantasy concept that would never come to be. But the Transit Elevated Bus is now real, and it actually works, cutting through the most congested of traffic by driving right over it. A single 69-foot-long carriage can carry as many as 400 passengers.


One real-world problem that’s been pointed out about the design is its mere 7-foot ground clearance, which poses serious problems with tall vehicles; another is the difficulty exiting the freeway when the bus is passing over.

But it’s an interesting and creative idea, and could potentially be adapted for more efficient functioning.

8. Mini Elevated cTrain Concept for Boston


Designed with Boston in mind, the C-train concept that won MIT’s Climate CoLab competition aims to solve the problem of integrating transit systems into existing cities without adding to traffic congestion or creating an eyesore.


The tracks are light and pass right over roadways, with cars running at an average speed of 62 miles per hour and stopping at elevated terminals. The design keeps the sidewalks free and runs independently of any traffic problems below.

9. Airflow Hovercraft for Helsinki


The Airflow Solar Hovercraft solves specific transportation problems in the coastal city of Helsinki, ferrying passengers on the water. The hovercraft tech was chosen because the water in Helsinki frequently freezes, halting marine traffic - but this design can keep moving over rain, ice and snow.


Solar panels take in the abundant sunshine that can last up to 19 hours a day in summertime, and the hovercraft has bicycle storage on its sides.

10. Horizon Mass Transit System


Entirely electric, the Horizon System is a hybrid between a plane and a train, using a maglev-style mechanism to pick up small SkyLink trains full of passengers at local SkyStations and transport them by air.


The aircraft - technically a gigantic drone - never touches the ground, as the train pods speed along a track so they can be scooped right up.

11. Bolzano Cable Car Concept for Italy


Future transit technology needn’t be limited to urban centers, of course - it can be useful in all sorts of scenarios, including tourist attractions in rural and remote areas. One example is the Bolzano cable concept by Snohetta, connecting the steep Virgolo Mountain of northern Italy to the city below.


The journey takes just one minute to ferry passengers from the base of the mountain to the apex.

12. Wastewater-Processing Solar-Powered Bus


It looks like a big weird deep sea creature and seems awfully bright and sunny inside, but the SKhy Bus concept is also lightweight and fuel-efficient thanks to its aerodynamic body, solar cells on top of the bus, and the hydrogen it produces by processing wastewater.


How, exactly, this process would work is a bit of a mystery, as details on the design are few and far between.

Top gif image: Hyperloop One's Dubai-Abu Dhabi hyperloop system. Credit: Image created from BIG/Vimeo.

[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited. Top image added.]