Today I had an interesting conversation that opened my eyes to a new problem. I was speaking with an entrepreneur who understands transportation better than most. It’s evolving rapidly. I’ll use myself as an example. I used to drive to work every morning like everyone else. And I’d drive on weekends and evenings to check things off my to-do list. Then, a few years ago, I began walking or riding a scooter to work. On weekends I’d use Uber to meet friends. I’d drive to run errands only if I couldn’t walk or take a scooter. My car became only one of many viable transportation options.
As the use of scooters and car sharing surged, infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, street signs, etc.) and planning didn’t change much. Scooter riders had to choose between sharing roads with cars and sharing sidewalks with pedestrians. In fairness, lanes were added in some parts of Atlanta, but not broadly. And it became common for traffic to be held up as Uber or Lyft customers began or ended their rides. Places like the airport and malls made changes but, again, changes weren’t evenly adopted.
As the disconnect between transportation and infrastructure was explained to me, I was amazed. There’s a huge opportunity to bring them back into alignment. Doing so—correctly—could change how we commute forever. Changing physical infrastructure isn’t the likely path—using software and other tools to rethink how we use infrastructure is.
The pandemic has inserted an additional variable into this problem, which isn’t yet fully understood. I believe transportation will change as a result of the pandemic, but I don’t think transportation and infrastructure will be brought back into sync. The pandemic will only increase the disconnect.
The entrepreneur I was speaking with today has a great handle on this problem and a creative solution in mind. I can’t wait to see it in action and find out what effect it will have on transportation.