Cars are great. They have provided us with unprecedented mobility and prosperity. But we have paid a heavy price for those benefits – in noise, congestion, poor air quality, and crash injuries and fatalities. And this isn’t cheap either. AAA estimates that Americans spend about 60¢ per mile to drive a sedan. We have come to accept this as the inevitable price of modern life. But is it?
Recent advances in Automated Transit Networks (ATNs) have created the opportunity to build a new kind of community where cars and streets are replaced by automated electric vehicles (called pods) that travel on a network of narrow overhead guideways. Stations are small and simple, but there are lots of them, so there’s always one nearby. At a station, you will often find an empty pod waiting for you. If not, one will be automatically dispatched to pick you up. Once you’ve punched in your destination, your pod is automatically routed through the network without intervening stops or transfers. As you approach the end of your trip, your pod pulls off the main guideway into the station, so that other pods can pass.
So far, most proposals to implement ATN systems have involved retrofitting them into existing environments that were designed with the car in mind. But if we start from scratch, we can design new developments that cost less to build and deliver better results. And we can do it without any need to disrupt people’s lives.
Shanta Bonsall is an Environmental Design firm specializing in these new car-free developments. Environmental Design comprises architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and infrastructure – everything that contributes to the feeling of a place and how it functions. In these pages we will be previewing these new development concepts. Of course these ideas will not appeal to everybody, and that’s ok. There isn’t a city anywhere that suits everyone. But many people find that there isn’t a community anywhere that offers them the lifestyle they want. For them, there should be expanded options. As we move forward, we will be posting additional information on what this might look like and how it will work. In the mean time, we invite you to start thinking about what it might be like to live and work in park-like surroundings, while still enjoying the cultural and economic richness of the city.