Riding into the Future on a Moving Walkway

A future without personal automobiles will require not only a change in attitude, but new infrastructure, as well. One suggested solution is moving sidewalks. Illustration courtesy of EPFL, via swissinfo.ch.

Have you ever tried to imagine a world without personal automobiles?

A four-year research project called the PostCarWorld, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, asked people to do just that, and came away with what might seem surprising to some: folks in Switzerland could, indeed, imagine a future without personal vehicles, swissinfo.ch reports. While this vision of a possible future does not completely eliminate cars, the project found that people liked the idea of efficient public transport and walkable urban settings. Of course, there were lifestyle considerations, such as online shopping and telecommuting, but the responses also called for infrastructure improvements.

One of the most fascinating of these improvements was the notion of using moving sidewalks for commuting. In a report presented this week before the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), postdoctoral researcher Riccardo Scarinci found that, if properly designed, moving walkways could move 7,000 commuters per hour, as opposed to roadways, which may accommodate up to 1,800 vehicles. Considering that so many commuters are the sole occupants of cars, the numbers can be quite eye-opening. While this vision may be decades from becoming a reality, it suggests huge, exciting opportunities for those in the business of manufacturing people-moving equipment.

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