When thinking about what comes next for transportation, we must first look at how we got where we are. Modern transportation (cars, trains, planes, roads, etc) provides us with many benefits, but most of this infrastructure was created before we were aware of the negative side effects of doing things like burning large quantities of fossil fuels and dumping chemicals in the air, water, and soil.
What we must now do is try to keep as many of the benefits of our current system, but significantly reduce the negative impacts that all of this activity has on the life-sustaining ecosystems on which we all depend.
In the words of a great philosopher, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." But if I had to make one...
This problem is so big that we must stop looking for a silver bullet and realize that we'll have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at it. We won't get everybody to ride bikes. We won't get everybody to use mass transit. Electric cars won't be enough.
What we'll probably need is to attack from all angles: Much more bike-friendly cities, more walkable neighborhoods, with people living closer to where they work. Modern transit (light-rail and high-speed rail) will also be needed, and electric cars will play a big role too (especially outside of urban areas where the solutions I just mentioned probably won't be realistic for most people).
This isn't a very "out there" prediction, but when looking ahead, I believe that what matters is practicality and to work on something that will get us where we need to go. There are no extra points for originality or difficulty.
Michael Graham Richard
Michael Graham Richard has been with TreeHugger since 2005. He started out as a part-time writer, but after about a year (circa February 2006) he made the transition to full-time editor-in-chief. He held that role until January 2008 (the highlight of this period was of course the acquisition of TreeHugger.com by the Discovery Channel
), and he's now editor of the Science & Technology
and the Cars & Transportation
categories (his two main loves).
He's also the editor of Discovery Green