Getting from here to there in the United States today can feel a lot closer to an episode of The Flintstones than The Jetsons. Every day we deal with problems that should be relics of the past: congested highways full of single-occupancy cars, mass transit systems continually under threat of service cuts, and aged infrastructure on the verge of obsolescence if not total collapse. For all humanity’s advances, our daily haul can still be a nightmarish experience that reduces productivity, increases stress, endangers public safety, and hastens global climate change.
Fortunately the future is not all bleak. The flipside of these challenges is a bounty of ideas for how to improve travel in and around America’s cities. We’re recognizing the limits of our current highway systems, finding ways to increase transit efficiency and expand its development, and preparing for the not-so-distant day when our cars will drive themselves (and our “smart” streets will guide them). For every commuting obstacle we face there’s a brighter dream of better mobility.
Welcome to The Future of Transportation—a special nine-month series on The Atlantic Cities that will examine the full extent of America’s transportation challenges and explore how U.S. cities are reinventing the way we navigate them. By future we don’t really mean futuristic (sorry, Hyperloop). Instead we’ll focus on the initiatives and technologies being developed right now that will change the way we move around cities in the next 5, 10, and 25 years.
The series will be split into three parts. We’ll begin with the elusive search for “The Perfect Commute,” exploring new and better ways to enhance what can be the most infuriating part of the day, the journey to and from work. Next we’ll examine “The Smartest Trip,” focusing on the crucial connections between transportation progress and achieving sustainability. Finally we’ll document the current state of “Design in Motion,” sneaking a peak at the technological and planning innovations that will fundamentally alter America’s transportation landscape.
Our weekly dispatches from this horizon will come from correspondents reporting on the ground in cities across the country. We’ll get the latest on sustainable transport in Los Angeles, light rail expansion in Houston, bus rapid transit in Chicago, urban highway teardowns in Syracuse, and more. Along the way, we’ll also hear from planners, scholars, and fellow travelers, as hopeful as they are frustrated.
Support for this endeavor comes from The Rockefeller Foundation, whose mission for more than 100 years has been to advance a more resilient and equitable world. It’s our view that there may be no better way to achieve those goals than affordable, reliable transportation, and we thank The Rockefeller Foundation for their deep understanding and commitment to this issue. We hope you enjoy the series, and that you’ll join in along the way with your comments, tweets, and insightful feedback.