Slate’s ‘Nimble Cities’ Hive Mind Project
Dear readers, I’m currently overseeing, for the next month, Slate’s second ‘Hive Mind’ project. The first was about how to live a more efficient life, personally, in energy terms; this one’s about how to make transportation in and among cities more efficient (not to mention safer, more pleasant, etc.) in the 21st century.
Here’s a taste to get you started, but I urge you to submit your own ideas (and I know readers here have ’em), and vote upon those you think most worthwhile.
You probably have a friend like Campbell Scott. Or, rather, the character Campbell Scott played in the 1992 film Singles. You remember: the idealistic transportation planner flummoxed by all the congestion generated by single people (caution: metaphor ahead!) driving alone. “If you had a supertrain,” he tells a friend, “you give people a reason to get out of their cars. Coffee, great music … they will park and ride. I know they will.” (To which his friend replies: “But I still love my car, though.”) This is the sort of person who waxes lyrical about things like modal splits and commutersheds; gets a wistful, thousand-yard stare as he reminisces about the 1970s personal-rapid-transit demonstration project in West Virginia (and can finger the culprits in its demise); and conspicuously vacations in places with active streetcar networks.
Or maybe you are Campbell Scott. Maybe you’re the one–sitting in a Mumbai traffic jam, waiting on a tube platform in London’s Elephant and Castle station, lost between connections at Tokyo’s Narita or cycling over the Willamette River–who, in a moment of pique or boredom or inspiration, suddenly envisions a better way of managing the commute. Perhaps it’s a sweeping, inefficiency-killing overhaul or maybe a minor design tweak that just makes the experience ineffably better: the “flash of genius” that does for traffic what the intermittent wiper did for windshields. And then you want to tell the world, or at least the taxi driver or pub companion who’s stuck listening to you, all about it.
Here is your chance. Welcome to “Nimble Cities,” the second in Slate’s Hive series, a project designed to harvest the world’s collective wisdom to solve the world’s most pressing problems. We are asking you, essentially, to become transportation hackers (and we’re talking not simply cars but the whole of urban and interurban movement). We are looking for your best ideas. They may be your own wild brainstorms, or they may be examples, whether grand or mundane, of things you’ve experienced in your own city or while traveling. But we want your best proposals for solving an increasingly relevant problem: how to move the most people around and between cities in the most efficient, safe, and perhaps even pleasurable manner. And then we want you to vote on which of those submissions you think are best.
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