OPINION: Why plan for the past when the future beckons?

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What’s holding our city back from moving forward?

We are.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

London, a city that has immense potential,  is currently lost. Not knowing its true identity, London’s leaders are embarking on projects such as Shift – rapid transit – simply because several other Canadian cities have transportation systems similar to the one we are trying to build.

London can be unique — a beacon for 21st-century public transportation around the world. We can be an example of leadership and the best community for innovative urban transportation technologies.

Although the intention behind Shift London or the proposed rapid transportation system is meaningful, the debate on whether we should invest in bus rapid transit or light rail transit is outdated and considered to be public transportation technology from the last century.

Imagine stepping onto a cold, chilly platform at two o’clock in the morning and only having to wait a few seconds for public transit to show up.

Imagine getting inside the ride and going directly to your destination without having to stop for any station.

Believe it or not, you’re imagining a concept that has been developed over the past 50 years.

It’s called personal rapid transit (PRT) and it combines all of the convenience of today’s automobile along with the efficiency of mass transit.

This urban transportation system can be found in places such as the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and South Korea.

The technology behind the PRT is more economical compared to former technologies, as the system is fully automated with pod-like vehicles.

The small automated pods — they fit two to six passengers — combine the desirable aspects of the car — private travel at any time — with the social advantages of public transport so there’s no daily congestion and parking issues.

Personal rapid transportation is more cost-efficient with about one-third the cost of light rail train systems.

It can typically halve the travel time for passengers compared to bus and light rail services with similar line capacity, and it can do so at a lower operating cost.

Personal rapid transit is an eco-friendly alternative to the regular public transportation system since it runs fully on electric energy or batteries and therefore does not generate exhaust emissions.

The system covers all necessary elements for the best green transportation solution including punctuality, safety, reliability, accessibility and privacy.

A big element to pursuing a PRT would be job creation and the building of a brand new industry.

There are a handful of companies in the business that build the cars, tracks and software and hardware engineering.

Three of the major players — 2getthere, ULTra and Vectus — are foreign-owned and could potentially build plants right here in the Forest City.

If London aspires to build the greenest city in Canada, then this is definitely one way to do it.

Policymakers clearly need to consider personal rapid transit and we as a community need to be first to embrace new technologies that improve quality of life and increase economic development.

Life goes on whether we choose to make the leap forward and take a chance in the unknown or stay behind, locked in the past, thinking of what could’ve been done.

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi

Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.

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