By Syd Stone
You’ve seen flying cars in shows like the Jetsons, but could they be the future of public transportation in America?
On this week’s Best New Ideas in Money podcast , economist Stephanie Kelton and MarketWatch reporter Charles Passy asked the question: What is the best new idea in public transportation and what cities and towns are breaking new ground?
One district in Illinois tried out hydrogen fuel cell buses. Researchers at MIT are even developing an autonomous bike sharing program. And Hyperloop is running tests of trains that carry passengers through, essentially, a vacuum tube.
But experts aren’t so sure about the practicality of these options.
“I will give my professional opinion that hyperloop and flying Ubers, and even to some degree, automated and self-driving cars are likely well into the future,” Ryan Harris, a transit planning manager with engineering firm STV in New York, said on the podcast . “It looks flashy and it looks great, but likely not realistic.”
But just because flying cars might be a distant reality doesn’t mean lawmakers and businesses aren’t trying to make advancements in public transit.
In November, Congress passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that allocates $108 billion for transit. A lot of that money will go to repairing or replacing transportation systems that have been failing for a long time.
Legislators like Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), one of the architects of the bill, say addressing climate change is crucial in public transportation innovation.
“Those climate provisions in the bill, they’re going to make states measure their greenhouse gas reductions and they’re going to condition grants on things that deal with equity, greenhouse gas reductions,” DeFazio said on this week’s Best New Ideas in Money podcast.
But climate change isn’t the only focus for the future of public transportation. Experts say the pandemic drastically changed who uses public transit and how they do so.
“Transit is at an existential crossroads right now having lost so much of its ridership due to the pandemic that likely will never return to the way that it was before,” Ryan Harris, a transit planning manager with engineering firm STV in New York, said on the podcast. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that transit is a dead industry.”
Learn more in this week’s podcast . And tune in every week to MarketWatch’s Best New Ideas in Money podcast with Stephanie Kelton, economist and a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University, and MarketWatch reporter Charles Passy. Each week, they explore innovations in economics, finance, technology and policy that rethink the way we live, work, spend, save and invest.