Commentary: Moving people is the exciting new urban frontier | Remark

I saw the future of city living, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was whistling all around me in New York on a recent visit.

My wife and I were there to do the most Christmas thing: see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show with the Rockettes. It’s great, and you should see it if you can, but that’s not what upset me.

What has upset me figuratively and on a few occasions almost literally is the new urban mobility.

I saw the future of urban transportation, rushing all around me every time I ventured across a street. Like cities around the world, New York has installed bike lanes, but they have been taken over by what one might describe as space-age commuters in amazing configurations.

These dwellers of new mobility have rushed to electric bikes, electric unicycles, electric skateboards, single-wheel gyroscopic electric skateboards and, of course, those ubiquitous electric scooters. I didn’t think it was the end of civilization as I knew it. Instead, I wanted to be much younger so I too could join the transport revolution.

You might not like this new command, and almost certainly if you’re over 50, you’re not ready for it. Yet here it is, it’s happening, and it’s the first exciting thing in cities, maybe since the traffic lights.

The future of urban transit is not what transit advocates like myself have been arguing for for decades: more buses and trains.

City visionaries like Scott Sellars, city manager of Kyle, Texas, a small town of 60,000 fast-growing residents between Austin and San Antonio, are looking beyond what they call “public transportation.” of destination ”to new ways of moving people or, more accurately, new ways of letting people move.

Kyle made the bold decision that the future of urban transportation does not belong to buses and trains, but rather to ridesharing companies. He made a contract for Uber to become the city’s main mode of public transport. Sellars explained the concept on Digital 360, a weekly Texas State University webinar that I attend regularly.

Sellars told me that Kyle has a subsidized contract with Uber to take care of those who can’t afford his fares. Residents eligible for assistance receive a voucher and app on their mobile phone and can take any local trip for a standard fee of $ 3.14. There are even vouchers for the unbanked. But there is no way to use the service yet if you don’t have or have access to a cell phone.

To avoid having to take lanes from cars, Kyle was able to build an alternative system called the Vybe, which is 12 feet wide and can accommodate all passengers, including golf carts, bikes, and all those electric wheels. . who are now running around New York. There are charging stations for golf carts and other electric carriers on the Vybe. The Vybe runs through most places people might want to go and also serves as a right of way for utilities of all kinds.

While many of us thought smart cities were going to be about super-electric connectivity, few of us realized that the first installment of urban intelligence would come with new forms of transportation, spoofing or defying the car, the bus and the train.

The transport revolution is not limited to the surface of cities. Elon Musk’s Boring Co. continues to dig with fast underground tunnels, currently being implemented in Las Vegas and investigated in Los Angeles, Miami and many other cities.

Also take a look. There is a plethora of companies working on urban drone-style air taxis that will transport you from your home to an airport or office tower.

Above ground, on the ground and below ground, urban mobility is itself on the move. Hang on to your hat.

King Llewellyn is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. He wrote this for

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