Urban Transit of the Future: 12 Intriguingly Efficient Ideas

Future Transit Main

We’ve got to face the facts: relying on individual fossil-fuel-powered vehicles for transportation in congested cities just doesn’t make any sense. Luckily, there’s no shortage of ideas that could seamlessly integrate into our current systems, drastically reducing urban pollution and reducing traffic headaches while still getting you where you need to go – fast. Here are 12 concepts, from cables strung between buildings to buses that hover over vehicular traffic like moving tunnels.

Car on a Stick

Future Transit Car on a Stick

Bubble-shaped cars powered by solar panels zoom down the streets by day, and are stored atop telescopic poles at night to keep the ground free of parked vehicles. The pods can carry four passengers as well as their bags and personal belongings, making them ideal for busy shopping districts.

Elevated Urban Bus Concept

Future Transit elevated urban bus

Even the most ardent supporters of public bus systems can get a tad annoyed when stuck behind a slow-moving bus making a lot of stops. That’s what makes Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co’s idea for an elevated bus system so refreshing. The 3D Fast Bus, developed specifically for China, runs on two rails that straddle the roadway. The elevated two-lane vehicle passes over the road, leaving plenty of room for cars, and has a bright and open interior lit by skylights. Each bus can accommodate up to 1400 passengers, runs on electricity, and is cheaper to build and operate than a comparable train.

Electric Backpack Harness System

Future Transit electric backpack harness

Bulgarian architect Martin Angelov envisions a backpack-based transportation system that carries single passengers around town via harnesses attached to overhead wires. The user places their legs and arms through the straps of the harness, which contains a battery bag powering the light engine on the steel cable above. A separate cable system transports checked luggage.

Metamorph Car Doubles as Apartment Balcony

Future Transit Metromorph

With the Metamorph car, you don’t even have to leave your apartment to get in your vehicle, and unloading groceries would certainly be a cinch. This wildly futuristic concept car is more than just personal transportation – it parks itself right outside a special entrance to your apartment, tripling its function to include elevator and balcony.

People-Moving Pod Gondolas

Future Transit Gondolas

Could public transportation pods strung between buildings help clear the clutter on the streets? This concept for high-flying people movers was designed for Austin, Texas. Cheaper than a subway system, the gondola system can move up to 10,000 people an hour. Of course, there are downsides – like potential troubles with wind – but such a system could replace 100 bus trips or 2,000 car rides per hour.

The Bug Urban Electric Mini Car

Future Transit Bug Mini Car

This zero-emissions electric car is a two-seater meant for urban settings. Small, aerodynamic and lightweight, the “Bug” is ultra-efficient, and made of recyclable and renewable materials.

Maglev Train

Future Transit Maglev Train
Here’s another building-to-building people-mover concept, but this one is faster. A lot faster. The Maglev Public Transport System uses magnetic levitation to send carriages around the city, with skyscrapers acting as the new boarding station. The wing-like appendages on each carriage, which attach them to the wires, rotate 360 degrees, enabling them to zip around tight corners.

Photosynthesis Car

Future Transit photosynthesis car

Could the energy created by plants during the process of photosynthesis be used to power a car? This concept seems pretty far out there, and it’s certainly light on the technical details that would make it possible, but it’s an intriguing idea.

High-Flying Cables

Future Transit bicycle Cables

A second concept from architect Martin Angelov lifts bicyclists off the streets, placing them on steel cables suspended about 14 feet in the air. Not just any bicycle can be used on it, of course; the bike tires would be slotted into a steel furrow and anchored to the two horizontal steel cables, ensuring that riders couldn’t lose their balance and fall off. Angelov doesn’t envision the system replacing biking altogether, but rather relieving congestion in the busiest areas of cities.

Magnetic Slot Cars

Future Transit Magnetic Slot Cars

What if electric cars could get energy from the road system, eliminating the need to plug them in? This would drastically relieve worries about the range of these vehicles, making them more accessible as a large-scale replacement for gas-powered cars. German designer Christian Förg imagines a Speedway Transport System  using a network of linear motors to propel electric vehicles along the highway. The motors could be installed in existing roadways, rather than requiring a drastic change in our transportation system.

Bicycle Monorail

Future Transit Bike Capsules

The Google-backed Shweeb concept integrates the properties of both recumbent bicycles and a monorail for small, people-powered personal transportation pods. A prototype for the concept has been built at Agroventures Park in New Zealand, and the company has announced that it will soon build the first Shweeb system for public use.

Superbus Project

Future Transit Superbus

If the Superbus looks like a futuristic limousine, that’s because it basically is. It’s a luxury public transportation option for people who are too fancy to get on the regular bus with the plebes. Taking you straight to your destination without any changeovers, the Superbus has seating for 23 with separate interior compartments for individuals and groups. It runs on rechargeable batteries and is designed for the current road system.