What A Commute in a Car-Free City Might Be Like
Imagine a commute in the year 2040.
Imagine a commute in the year 2040.
Look out any window in most urban areas and you’ll see streets lined with parked cars. Every year the arteries of the world’s biggest cities become more clogged. By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities, analysts estimate, creating a string of global megacities even more crowded and polluted than today. How will they organise daily life to promote safety, efficiency and the well-being of residents?
Now imagine a city without private cars. A city where transportation is emissions-free, largely self-driving and connected to the internet. A city where cars, as well as taxis, buses, trains and bicycles, are shared. Instead of parked cars and concrete, city streets might be filled with mini parks, markets and more.
Several trends are visible today that could bring about these reimagined transportation networks: the rising popularity of electric cars, a regulatory environment that is increasingly geared toward fighting climate change, and advances in technology from electric and self-driving vehicles to the spread of the Internet of Things.
Many obstacles exist. Autonomous cars are still more theory than reality today. Cities will have to pony up huge investments in new public transportation infrastructure. They will have to make technology and policy choices today to make car-free living easier for residents, including restricting private car ownership within the city, levying higher taxes on carbon emissions, making parking prohibitively expensive and shifting regulations and urban planning to favour shared, autonomous vehicles. And it isn’t certain that the public will give up owning cars.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McKinsey & Co., Deloitte, KPMG and others have outlined visions of what a city with greatly reduced personal car ownership would look like. Follow the urban dweller Bonnie as she heads home from a day at the office in 2040.
Before leaving the office, Bonnie books her commute—a shared bicycle to an automated train to a driverless shuttle that will take her to her door—via an app that is connected to a vast Internet of Things. Much of this technology has been available for years, but in 2040 it is ubiquitous.
Buildings, vehicles and transportation infrastructure are all linked, able to share widely and easily on ultrafast wireless networks. Self-driving vehicles communicate with traffic lights, for example, easing the flow of traffic and potentially preventing jams. Bonnie and other pedestrians wear connected clothing that warns vehicles of their presence, preventing many accidents and identifying her to the transportation she uses so her digital preferences can be installed automatically. Two big trends in the 2020s and 2030s drove this shift: the digitization of everything and the drive to eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.
When she looks out her office window, Bonnie sees only a handful of cars. The din of engines and honking horns has almost disappeared: Vehicles operating within city limits are electric, and public transportation and taxis are self-driving. Years ago, Bonnie’s city restricted private vehicle ownership within city limits and greatly expanded mass transit to fill the need. Where parked cars once clogged the streets, the city planted trees and built networks of hyperlocal transportation hubs.
Bonnie heads toward a local transportation hub, a drop-off point for several modes of transportation residents use to get around the neighbourhood, including shared bicycles, electric scooters and driverless shuttles. Faster trains and robotaxis are available for longer distances.
When Bonnie approaches the parked bicycle, it recognises her and unlocks. Apps connecting modes of transportation emerged more than 20 years earlier, but by 2040 they are more connected—platforms for collaboration between transportation companies and businesses offering services, such as charging vehicles on the fly, repairs, or advertising tailored toward individual passengers using augmented reality. Bonnie has chosen the premium option for her travel plan, a monthly subscription for all forms of transportation.
Bonnie’s premium plan includes a private pod on the train. After arriving at the station and taking her seat, the train’s network identifies her and adjusts the environment—the seat, lighting and temperature—according to her profile preferences. Screens in the pod automatically connect to her digital world, allowing her to instantly access work files or personal apps. She can check the fridge at home, order groceries online and time a delivery to arrive at her destination when she does.
Bonnie gets off at the train station near her home. A self-driving shuttle is waiting to take her the last stretch of the way. Like the train, it adjusts the environment to her preferences and grants her access to her digital world. Bonnie has a conference call with a customer in her calendar. The shuttle establishes the connection at the appropriate time and Bonnie conducts her meeting. At the end of the drive, the vehicle’s digital assistant asks Bonnie about several appointments in her calendar the next day and whether she needs to book a shuttle. Also, her daughter has scheduled a pod to go to her karate lesson but still needs Bonnie’s permission to complete the booking.
Bonnie’s shuttle informs her smart house of her coming arrival. When she gets home, the lights are on and the temperature is just how she likes it. A drone carrying the groceries she ordered en route is waiting for her.
If cities make the kinds of choices that Bonnie’s hometown did, 40% of all kilometres travelled by 2040 will be with shared mobility services, McKinsey predicts. If not, McKinsey says, the lack of regulation promoting emissions-free and connected transportation and inertia in consumer behaviour could result in a world in which private car ownership falls only 10% by 2040. That will make it even harder to roll out technology and transport system changes and reduce emissions.
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: November 9, 2021.
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Vacationers scratching their travel itch this season are sending prices through the roof. Here’s how some are making trade-offs.
Capri Coffer socks away $600 a month to help fund her travels. The Atlanta health-insurance account executive and her husband couldn’t justify a family vacation to the Dominican Republic this summer, though, given what she calls “astronomical” plane ticket prices of $800 each.
The price was too high for younger family members, even with Coffer defraying some of the costs.
Instead, the family of six will pile into a rented minivan come August and drive to Hilton Head Island, S.C., where Coffer booked a beach house for $650 a night. Her budget excluding food for the two-night trip is about $1,600, compared with the $6,000 price she was quoted for a three-night trip to Punta Cana.
“That way, everyone can still be together and we can still have that family time,” she says.
With hotel prices and airfares stubbornly high as the 2023 travel rush continues—and overall inflation squeezing household budgets—this summer is shaping up as the season of travel trade-offs for many of us.
Average daily hotel rates in the top 25 U.S. markets topped $180 year-to-date through April, increasing 9.9% from a year ago and 15.6% from 2019, according to hospitality-data firm STR.
Online travel sites report more steep increases for summer ticket prices, with Kayak pegging the increase at 35% based on traveler searches. (Perhaps there is no more solid evidence of higher ticket prices than airline executives’ repeated gushing about strong demand, which gives them pricing power.)
The high prices and economic concerns don’t mean we’ll all be bunking in hostels and flying Spirit Airlines with no luggage. Travellers who aren’t going all-out are compromising in a variety of ways to keep the summer vacation tradition alive, travel agents and analysts say.
“They’re still out there and traveling despite some pretty real economic headwinds,” says Mike Daher, Deloitte’s U.S. transportation, hospitality and services leader. “They’re just being more creative in how they spend their limited dollars.”
For some, that means a cheaper hotel. Hotels.com says global search interest in three-star hotels is up more than 20% globally. Booking app HotelTonight says nearly one in three bookings in the first quarter were for “basic” hotels, compared with 27% in the same period in 2019.
For other travellers, the trade-offs include a shorter trip, a different destination, passing on premium seat upgrades on full-service airlines or switching to no-frills airlines. Budget-airline executives have said on earnings calls that they see evidence of travellers trading down.
Deloitte’s 2023 summer travel survey, released Tuesday, found that average spending on “marquee” trips this year is expected to decline to $2,930 from $3,320 a year ago. Tighter budgets are a factor, he says.
Wendy Marley is no economics teacher, but says she’s spent a lot of time this year refreshing clients on the basics of supply and demand.
The AAA travel adviser, who works in the Boston area, says the lesson comes up every time a traveler with a set budget requests help planning a dreamy summer vacation in Europe.
“They’re just having complete sticker shock,” she says.
Marley has become a pro at Plan B destinations for this summer.
For one client celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary with a budget of $10,000 to $12,000 for a five-star June trip, she switched their attention from the pricey French Riviera or Amalfi Coast to a luxury resort on the Caribbean island of St. Barts.
To Yellowstone fans dismayed at ticket prices into Jackson, Wyo., and three-star lodges going for six-star prices, she recommends other national parks within driving distance of Massachusetts, including Acadia National Park in Maine.
For clients who love the all-inclusive nature of cruising but don’t want to shell out for plane tickets to Florida, she’s been booking cruises out of New York and New Jersey.
Not all of Marley’s clients are tweaking their plans this summer.
Michael McParland, a 78-year-old consultant in Needham, Mass., and his wife are treating their family to a luxury three-week Ireland getaway. They are flying business class on Aer Lingus and touring with Adventures by Disney. They initially booked the trip for 2020, so nothing was going to stand in the way this year.
McParland is most excited to take his teen grandsons up the mountain in Northern Ireland where his father tended sheep.
“We decided a number of years ago to give our grandsons memories,” he says. “Money is money. They don’t remember you for that.”
Chima Enwere, a 28-year old piano teacher in Fayetteville, N.C., is also headed to the U.K., but not by design.
Enwere, who fell in love with Europe on trips the past few years, let airline ticket prices dictate his destination this summer to save money.
He was having a hard time finding reasonable flights out of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., so he asked for ideas in a Facebook travel group. One traveler found a round-trip flight on Delta to Scotland for $900 in late July with reasonable connections.
He was budgeting $1,500 for the entire trip—he stays in hostels to save money—but says he will have to spend more given the pricier-than-expected plane ticket.
“I saw that it was less than four digits and I just immediately booked it without even asking questions,” he says.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Self-tracking has moved beyond professional athletes and data geeks.