Mobility 2050/New Transit Modes

In 2050 there will be numerous changes to the transit industry in order better serve the needs of its users and the needs of the planet. The solutions we plan to explore are adaptations to the train and commuter rail industry today; new technologies such as AV ride sharing, smart roads, and e-bikes; or strategic improvements of the transportation industry, such as using mobility as a service or demand-responsive transit.

In 2050 the commuter rails will improve by addressing the following problems that exist in today's world: overcrowding, high pricing, and inefficient transit. Overcrowding will be addressed in two ways: 1) removing seating in some cars and 2) capacity signaling. Cities like Seoul in Korea are already experimenting with removing the seating in up to two cars in order to free up 160 square feet of standing room. In 2050 this will have expanded to more countries because removing the seating in various cars allows more people to use public transportation systems like commuter rail, and stimulates health in riders by making them stand in between busy work days. Capacity signaling is using technology to determine and display the capacity of a commuter rail unit to users so they can better disperse themselves within the trains. This can be accomplished with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) with cameras or machine learning models with sensors on the bottom of trains. With the use of camera sensors we can determine the percent occupied of a train; and sensors and detect weight differences as users enter and exit the train. Once the capacity is determined, there will be LED lights at the stations where the metros arrive to show which carts are most full and which are least. This will be done with red/yellow/green signals to demonstrate high sosh techniques.

The high prices of public transportation systems seen since COVID in 2020 are now addressed by benefiting the most frequent users of commuter rails. Users who ride the metro more than 3 or 4 times a day on average for six days a week have a special metro card in order to get reduced fare. If a user purchases a ticket at the station, they are subject to the changing fees based on the economic changes of the state. This encourages the use of public transit by reducing fair prices to its most loyal customers.

Inefficient transit will be addressed by using machine learning models to best optimize the number of cars operating on certain routes based on the capacity measurements above and frequency of high capacity around certain time frames. Addressing inefficient transit encourages the usage of public transportation as it will be seen as more reliable and efficient than using passenger cars, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Another major change we expect to see in the future is the widespread use of high speed trains. Mag-lev and Hyper-loop trains are now being used across Europe and the United States to replace short air travels. The mag-lev has proven to be efficient and successful in China and will pilot various versions of this until the Hyper-loop is developed. The Hyper-loop is an electric vehicle that travels in a vacuum in order to travel at speeds 30% faster than a traditional 747 aircraft. This major change will allow riders to make trips from DC to New York in approximately 1 hour. Major hubs in the northeast including Toronto and Montreal, Canada will now be connected via high speed train. The goal with this is to have such widespread use that costs eventually decrease to lower than that of an airplane, and less fuel consumption is used by the aerospace industry. Using electric vehicles over planes will decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the transportation industry.

Electric Bicycles, or E-Bikes, will also become more prevalent by 2050, and they will be increasingly available in public spaces. Electric bikes are an efficient, cost-effective, eco-friendly transit method that will be beneficial in both urban and rural environments. Between 2019 and 2021, annual electric bicycle sales were boosted by 240%, and in 2020, the sales of E-Bikes outnumbered those of electric vehicles by a ratio of around 2:1 [1].  This growth suggests that E-Bikes will play a pivotal role in shaping the sustainable and accessible mobility future of 2050. E-Bike ride-sharing will also be integrated with new systems, which will continue to allow individuals to navigate in efficient and sustainable ways.

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) as well as driverless taxis will be seen and used on public roads by 2050.  Seeing as 35 U.S. states have introduced or are in the process of writing legislation regarding AV usage[2], public interest as well as research and development have propelled AVs into public usage.  There are a variety of issues that will have to be addressed in the next decades such as carbon emissions due to the computing power of the autonomous algorithms[3] as well as the convenience of the rides prompting more car rides per day per person than currently with manual cars[4].  As the U.S. transitions to renewable energy, electric vehicles with high energy consumption will demand a stronger and more unified national electric grid.  Because the importance of personal liberties vary between countries, it would be unlikely to see a human driver ban in some countries, though a model of Berlin suggests that such a ban with the use of driverless taxis could reduce overall congestion and carbon emissions[5].  As recently as October of 2023 the California Department of Motor Vehicles has suspended Cruise, a major driverless taxi corporation based mainly in San Francisco, due to its cars’ performance being deemed unsafe for public operation[6].  Complaints from many citizens of cities with driverless taxi deployment such as in Austin, Phoenix, and San Francisco of the cars being a nuisance to other drivers to more extreme issues such as blocking emergency vehicles and killing pedestrians[7][8].  Despite similar issues being raised in a public hearing in San Francisco on increasing the deployment of driverless taxis, the commissioners still decided to allow it[9]. All of these issues will likely slow the development of driverless taxis as a new mode of transit but will not inhibit it from becoming widespread by 2050.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which aims to integrate various modes of transportation into a single platform, will become increasingly prevalent and will serve as an efficient way to promote more sustainable transit, such as biking, walking, public transportation, and ride-sharing. Helsinki, Finland has already begun to do this with the app Whim, which integrates various transportation services in the area into a single service. MaaS platforms will use advanced algorithms and real-time data to optimize routes, reduce congestion, and provide users with efficient and more sustainable options for their transportation.  MaaS will become an integral component of developing sustainable urban cities by promoting shared mobility and reducing traffic emissions.

Demand-Response Transport (DRT) systems will also be used effectively in 2050, by analyzing data, such as through artificial intelligence, from various sources, such as passenger requests, traffic conditions, and events, to optimize transit routes and minimize waiting times. DRT will allow transit services to dynamically adjust routes and schedules based on real-time user demand. This will be implemented for existing public transit systems, like bus routes, and will also be used in vanpool sharing, which will be useful in rural areas without extensive transit infrastructure. In 2023, many cities have begun to implement pilot programs implementing DRT, such as the “Metro Micro” van sharing program in Los Angeles, or London and Auckland’s integration of DRT for bus services. These trials will allow for better implementation and serve as a basis for creating robust DRT systems in 2050.

As many countries have made it a priority to be fully powered by green energy by 2050, many methods of transit will have to adapt to the challenges that will arise. In 2050, this could mean advancements in increased energy efficiency, more sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels, and improved transit infrastructure like more charging stations and smarter city planning. Also, current emerging technologies will have to overcome the current challenges, as well adapt to evolving demands as we approach 2050 and they integrate into our daily lives. It is very likely that innovative and unpredictable forms of transit will come into the market or that the market will surpass the transit that seems promising now in 2023.

By 2050, the predicted transit modes above will tackle current transit concerns, like traffic, high prices, unsustainable practices, and others to better support people and the environment . From improved and new transportation technologies, like enhanced commuter rail systems, high speed trains, E-Bikes, and AVs, to new transit systems, like MaaS and DRT, the future of transit will allow for more substantial improvements in mobility, equity, and sustainability. Ongoing green energy efforts will continue to drive advancements in energy efficiency and more sustainable options, creating a better transit system for the future, and as we approach 2050, the integration of new technologies and advancements will bring a promising transit future.

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  5. Carreyre, Félix; Chouaki, Tarek; Coulombel, Nicolas; Berrada, Jaâfar; Bouillaut, Laurent; Hörl, Sebastian (2023-08-04). "On-Demand Autonomous Vehicles in Berlin: A Cost–Benefit Analysis". Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. doi:10.1177/03611981231186988. ISSN 0361-1981.
  6. "DMV Statement on Cruise LLC Suspension". California DMV. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  7. Dave, Paresh. "Dashcam Footage Shows Driverless Cars Clogging San Francisco" (in en-US). Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. 
  8. "The backup driver in the 1st death by a fully autonomous car pleads guilty to endangerment". AP News. 2023-07-28. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
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