SMOKE: Public Transport: Future Style

Originally published: 22 August 2005

A couple of incidents recently got me thinking about future transport.

When I was a kid I was given a book published in 1980 that had all sorts of cool future travel scenarios, which it breathlessly assured readers was going to all be in place by at latest the year 2000.

Sure bru - sure. I haven't seen one of them yet.

The book did inspire me in that it all just seemed so cool, however, and since then I've always thought the future is taking way too long to get here.

Two of the ideas from that book were refreshed in the last week with two separate incidents.

The first happened the other day when I was walking through the endless maze that is Canal Walk shopping centre - it struck me that there had to be a better way for shoppers to move through the centre without it all descending into the chaos of sweaty bodies jostling and pushing in a fever of shopping excitement that it currently is.

In that book I had they reckoned the sidewalks of cities would one day be travelators - moving conveyor belts much like baggage conveyors at airports, upon which you stand while it moves, hopping off along the way.

I'm not a lazy bloke (well, I am actually) but the thing that appealed to me about those travelators was not because I don't want to walk anywhere - it's because it's just so damn cool to stand and chill as you go along. You can put your bag down. Smoke a fag. Check shit out.

I believe Canal Walk - and other huge shopping malls which take five hours to traverse - should have travelators to make things more efficient and fun.

It works like this:

Instead of all the walkways - which you follow from one side of the centre to the other, branching out into different areas along the way - there should be two travelators, side by side.

One of them is punctuated every 10 metres or so by a little 'island' - a two-metre stretch of solid ground. You can get off at any of the islands and be no more than 10 metres max from the store you're going to, or you can simply walk across the island and hop back on to the travelator on the other side, and go for another 10 metres.

The other travelator is an express one, with far fewer islands. Centre management would have to decide what their three or four main hotspots are and the Express Travelator would have only three or four stops max on its way from one end to the other.

That would mean you could get off at main embarkation points and walk from there, and the whole trip would be a little speedier and less hassle.

I just dig the idea of standing on my travelator and avoiding body contact with people who have no concept of personal space. Pushers and shovers - you have no idea how much I loathe them.

I think it would give the whole centre a much better traffic flow and it would be a great attraction as well.

Who would fund it is a different story, but that's not my problem. Stop wasting money on drugs, would be my advice, and put it to good use making travelators instead.

The second public transport idea came from watching the movie The Island over the weekend - I wasn't thoroughly convinced by the movie but I did like the concept of the airbusses they had going.

I've always struggled with the concept of flying transport in a future city - cool as the cabs and flying cars were in The Fifth Element, to me free-flying traffic is too huge a logistical problem to be overcome anytime soon.

But in The Island the trains and busses were suspended from monorails which criss-crossed between the skyscrapers of the future New York, and that's something I can see happening.

They were stacked on different levels with about 50 metres between levels and there was this whole world of suspended public transport high above the city.

Embarkation points would be like cable car docking bays - you'd get off at the docking bay alongside a building and take the elevator down to ground level.

The only problem with this system is that you need lots and lots of tall buildings to make it work, and South African cities don't come with that many skyscrapers.

I know I'm not going to get either of these travel methods in my lifetime. I haven't even touched on concepts like hover-boards, jetpacks and rocket-propelled boots yet.

All we get is the bloody Segway Human Transporter, and even that is exclusive to America and fast becoming decidedly uncool.

Nah - I'm not impressed. I reckon okes are too busy with microtechnology and are missing out on the big stuff.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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