Saturday, February 20, 2016

Still Life With Robin: Transporting Ideas

Photo by M. Minderhoud via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

Now that the H Street Streetcar is close to becoming a reality (see – after running empty for so many months – it’s time for DC transportation planners to move on to other projects to make our city run better with less traffic and pollution. The following concepts are just a few of the ideas that have been proposed --some specifically for DC and some for other cities but possibly adpatable to the DC metro area-- that could figure into the picture of a less-car-choked future for all of us. They range from eminently doable in the here-and-now to wildly impractical even in a far-flung future….but still fun to imagine.

Air Gondola connecting Georgetown to Rosslyn:

The 15th Street Bicycle Lift:

Driverless “pod” cars:
The concept is currently on trial as a means of getting around London Heathrow, but there are plenty of places in the DC metro area where these pods could be of use.

The introductory video on this site conveys a sketchy idea of how the Sky-Tran would function -- and I mean sketchy in the literal sense of some animated sketches of the Sky-Tran concept, with no prototypes or even models showing how the system would work – but it certainly makes the Sky-Tran driven future look rosy!

Hyperloop vacuum tubes:
Elon Musk (the SpaceX rocket guy/Tesla carmaker) is backing this concept, with an eye toward its use for long-distance travel, rather than local commutes. But it does look like it could do both….as long as you don’t mind being shot through a pneumatic tube.

Jet pack taxis: They’re remote controlled, so you don’t need to learn how to fly (see for the description). At $200,000 per vehicle, it’s not something that a lot of people would own, but it might make sense for some bold entrepreneur to invest in, get a small fleet of them, and develop an Uber-like app that passengers could use to call one when needed. You would type in your destination and your personal jet would arrive at your door, take you to the address as directed, set you down, and the charge for the trip would go right onto your credit card. The only problem to solve is what to do about all that restricted airspace in DC. If this sounds like a travel method with a future, there’s still time for you to contact the Martin Jet Pack Company,, and get in on the action, before it really takes off.

Finally, here’s a website pushing a “top ten” list of futuristic and not-so-futuristic methods of getting around: …including a version of the electric “hoverboard” that we already have – you know, the one that turned out to be the flammable flop of the Christmas shopping season (it’s #6 on the list). Do any of the other nine have a practical use in Washington’s transportation future? Invest now, if you think you know the answer to that question!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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