New Mobility Concepts: I
Confronted with increasingly crowded urban roads and responding to mounting pressures to "civilize" the car, European automobile makers are experimenting with a variety of new mobility concepts. These are described in detail in a new report published in the United Kingdom by FT Automotive.* The report classifies the initiatives into two categories. One is development of a "City Car;" the other is experimentation with a variety of marketing schemes that sell mobility services rather than just cars. In this two-part series, Innovations Briefs summarizes the highlights of the report.
Amtrak: Headed for Oblivion?
Congress has once again come to Amtrak's rescue, but criticism of Amtrak is intensifying. The latest salvo has come from an unexpected quarter. He is Joseph Vranich, former executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, a railroad advocacy group, and later Amtrak's official spokesman. Vranich has just published a book denouncing Amtrak as a "colossal failure." Calling Amtrak "an experiment that has failed," Vranich thinks Amtrak should be liquidated and its services transferred to state governments and private operators. We offer below a sample of Mr. Vranich's views.
Innovations in Transit Service
Our Brief, "Public Transit - Searching for New Paradigms" provoked a lively response from our readers. "Thank you for an upbeat assessment of a much maligned industry," wrote one subscriber. But some readers had a more skeptical reaction. "Much as I applaud the transit leadership's call for reform and innovation, I doubt very much that their appeal will have a widespread impact" wrote another subscriber. "There is just too much built-in inertia in the transit industry and too few incentives and rewards to innovate..." Our own assessment is more positive. While signs of change are still spotty, some transit systems have been truly innovative. We feature two of them below.
French Traveler Information Services
France possesses one of the most extensive public traveler information networks in the world. Currently, five radio stations broadcast on a single frequency (107.7 FM) and cover more than 2,800 miles of autoroutes. Regional traffic management centers collect data on traffic conditions utilizing police patrols, loop detectors, TV cameras and aerial surveillance. This information is processed and broadcast 24 hours a day. Motorists can receive traffic information relative to their own sector (60-120 mile radius) as well as for the entire national autoroute system. Now, traveler information is being raised to a new level of sophistication with the launching of a commercial traffic information service called "Visionaute," and its transit counterpart, "Infobus."