Most generations have witnessed a quantum leap in transportation technology in their lifetimes – from horse & buggy to cars; trains to planes; canoes to sail boats to motor boats; the list goes on. With all of the technological developments the 21st century has witnessed – the cell phone in your pocket is likely a stronger computer than most scientist had access to 50 years’ prior – transportation has not developed on an equal trajectory.
We take this moment to look at the current state of transportation – what modes are being used today vs. years’ prior, how does modern experience compare, what new methods are being developed, and the general state of our transportation means.
The ‘Golden Age’ of air travel is often considered the 1950’s & 60’s. During this time, there were no airport security lineups; no limitations on travelling with liquids; no fees for basic checked luggage; complimentary food & drinks and were served on every flight; the average coach seat had roughly the equivalent legroom as modern day business class; and planes actually travelled faster back then than they do today (due to less concern about fuel costs)! The general consensus is that the experience of air travel has deteriorated significantly over the years.
While this is likely true, it’s important to look at the flip side as well. Flying in the 50’s and 60’s was expensive – that extra leg room built into every flight typically cost the consumer 40% more than what travelers pay today, adjusted for inflation. Air travel today, while not particular comfortable, is at least safe – today, for every 100,000 hours that planes are in the air, there are only 1.33 fatalities – making flying one of the safest ways to travel. In 1952, that number was 5.2 fatalities – which doesn’t even take into account the far more number of people flying today than back then. Nor does it consider that potential health effects of flying in a plane filled with cigarette, pipe, & cigar smoke!
All in all, we’ll have to call air travel of past vs. present a draw.
We’ve come a long way since using slave labor to build tracks for coal burning trains. From an environmental perspective, train transportation is great – a relatively clean source of energy transporting a large group of people. If only environmental was the only concern…
While high speed trains do exist, travelling at speeds between 200 and 250 km/h (124 and 155 mph), you’d be hard pressed to find them in North America. In fact, train transportation in North America is usually one of the slowest methods of transportation – the 6 hour drive for Los Angeles to San Francisco is 10 – 12 hour train journey with transfers, and a similar time lag exists with travel between New York & Montreal. The Eastern Corridor of the U.S. offers some reasonably paced rail travel, but the price often makes the bus a far more economical option.
All in all, train transportation is lagging in modern day North America.
There is little doubt that cars are safer today than they were 50 years ago. For further illustration of this, check out this video of a head on collision between a 1959 & 2009 car. Nevertheless, the number of cars on the road has increased beyond the capability of most major city’s infrastructures. The fact that we are still using fossil burning, smog creating, congestion causing cars as our primary means of transportation is certainly not the 2016 envisioned by most 50 years earlier. Tesla is a pioneer in the field, offering luxury emission free cars with even auto drive capabilities, but the state of the car might be the most disappointing non-development in transportation in our lifetimes.
The future appears cautiously optimistic, with some truly revolutionary technologies in the ‘oven’ – Hyperloop conducted preliminary tests, striving to offer airless train tubes travelling at 800 mph; Urban transport pods remain a dream of some to revolutionize intra city travel; and cars continue to strive to be smarter, more efficient and more autonomous.
The future of transportation certainly has hope, but there is a long ways to go in achieving these goals. In the meantime, Evolve Tours will be keeping up with the most safe, efficient, and emerging transportation technologies to include in all your future tours.