The push for a greener tomorrow has led scientists, architects,engineers, and designers to explore new avenues in all types oftechnology and building. Among the most important areas of focus in this new age of exploration is public transportation. As the population isencouraged to rely less on individual cars and more on publictransportation as a means of reducing pollution, it is incumbent uponthose who design and build modes of public transportation to improvetheir efficiency, reliability, and convenience.
“As public agencies are being asked to do more with less, investingin smart technology is critical for improving system efficiency,optimizing the public’s return on investment, and creating a moreconnected transportation network,” said ITS America President and CEO Scott Belcher.
With this goal in mind, dozens of new concepts for vehicles,energy-generation tools, and transportation hubs have emerged over thelast decade, all incorporating a unique combination of cutting-edgetechnology and visionary design. Below are ten of the most creative andbizarre ideas buzzing around public transportation. Some are still inthe earliest stages of conceptualization, while others have already been successfully implemented; but all may well find their way into ourdaily lives in the not-so-distant future.
Bulgarian architect Martin Angelov originally designed the concept of the Kolelina City Zipline as a means of moving cyclists. But the idea of setting up a network ofcables strung above the city skyline has transformed, and is nowenvisioned as an affordable, eco-friendly way to transport commuters,who would move along the cables by way of battery-powered backpacks.Angelov’s design has yet to be made into a reality, but could be afeasible solution to cutting down on emissions from car traffic.
2) Energy Generating Subway Station Floors
Tokyo’s subway system is among the busiest in the world, withmillions of commuters passing through each station every day. Recently,the Japanese government decided to harness the power of all that foottraffic: in two of the city’s biggest and busiest stations, they’veinstalled 25 square meters of piezoelectric energy-generating flooringtiles in front of the ticket turnstiles. The tiles, made of layers ofrubber sheeting and ceramic, absorb the vibrations from individuals’footfalls and capture the resulting energy. The combined energy, whichyields about 1,400kW/sec per day, is then stored in capacitors andchanneled to the station’s ticket gates and electric lights anddisplays.
The Taxius Animalis is a one-person taxi, made of touch fabric andother lightweight, eco-friendly materials, that uses electric power totransport commuters from Point A to Point B in cities. The idea is still in the early stages of design and conceptualization, but offers apotentially viable way for commuters who don’t wish to operate their own vehicles to contribute to lowering fuel emissions.
4) Chicago’s Union Station
Congress has appropriated $1.1 billion to Illinois forthe development of a high-speed railway, as part of an $8 billionnationwide initiative. Once built, the high-speed rail system willrepresent a significant landmark in the shift to green transportation on a national scale. And Chicago will play a major role in this system,acting as the hub of Midwest rail network. As such, the new station that will be built to accommodate these trains and their clientele isenvisioned as a cutting-edge, airport-style facility, with retail andamenities for travelers as well as a tower for offices and otherbusiness uses — all built and run on green technology.
Velo-City is a closed-in, elevated network of paved tubes that serve as pathwaysfor bicyclists and roller bladers. Though in the conceptual designstages, Velo-City may soon become a reality in Toronto, Ontario.Enclosed and protected from the elements, Velo-City would provide asafe, efficient, low-cost, and highly eco-conscious way for Toronto’scitizens to commute.
6) Algae-Powered Airship
As far-fetched as it sounds, an airship powered by algae is not evenclose to the least achievable goal on this list. In fact, it’s already a reality: the Bullet 580, a 235-foot inflatable airship powered byalgae, has been built and successfully inflated, and is being readiedfor a test flight. The airship is covered with a special type of Kevlar, the inner hull filled with ambient air while lift is provided by asystem of helium-filled bags.
7) Wheel Rider
The Wheel Rider is a single-person vehicle comprising three layers: a protective outer body, the wheel itself — which has a diameter ofnearly six feet — and the inner chamber, which has a seating area,controls, and storage space. Conceived by Japanese designer YujiFujimura, the Wheel Rider is still a concept car, but Yamaha isresearching different avenues to bring the vehicle up to stringent green auto design standards.
8) SMART Technology Helicopters
Today’s helicopters play an integral role in military, media, andmedical operations, but are too disruptive and energy inefficient to be considered for daily use. But NASA is working on improving helicoptertechnology with the goal of designing a fleet of future helicopters that could carry as many as 100 people, with lower emissions and lessnoise pollution than today’s models. In particular NASA is focusing onSMART rotor technology, experimenting with the materials, shape, andperformance of the rotor blades in order to increase the distance ahelicopter can fly on the same amount of fuel.
Architect Garth Pearce founded MonoMetro in 1997, based on his design for a narrow gauge suspended railway. Thetechnology has since been adopted by many of the world’s foremosttransportation engineers and fabrication specialists, and a number ofgovernments and corporations worldwide are considering large-scaleadoption of the MonoMetro. Cost-effective, energy-efficient, safe, andreliable, the MonoMetro is in the final stages of approval in SaudiArabia and the UK.
10) Rail Cabs
The Rail Cab is a design for a modular railway systemthat updates existing railway lines and infrastructure withcutting-edge, wear-free linear motors. A feature of the Rail Cab system are small, remotely controlled vehicles that can carry passengers or cargo from place to place with no additional stops or layovers. The Rail Cab design is envisioned as both a replacement for traditional freight and passenger trains and as avital new part of individual public transportation.
* A version of this article originally appeared on Well Home.
The Strange Future of Public Transit originally appeared in Green Chip Stocks. Green Chip Review is a free 2x-per-week newsletter, is the firstadvisory to focus exclusively on investments in alternative andrenewable energies.