Transportation Solutions to Look Forward To

Reducing car traffic takes persistence, determination and innovation. Here are three hot new technol
Two of the 22 podcars currently zooming around at London's Heathrow airport

NOW

Many big employers, such as hospitals, build parking garages and charge employees to park in them. But garages cost millions of dollars to construct and they encourage people to drive. Enter Seattle-based Parkio, which offers a way for employers to discourage driving while encouraging alternate transportation. Instead of a monthly fee, Parkio’s software tools charge a worker a variable rate for parking based on the time of day—and adds money to the paychecks of workers who ride the bus or a bike. Parkio’s customers include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Seattle Children’s.

SOON

Gasoline taxes are based on a simple premise: People who use the roads should pay for the roads. But what if you use the road and never buy gas? That’s the problem posed by the electric car. One solution is a GPS-based “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT) tax, which could be levied on all cars, instead of a tax on fuel. You’d pay a road tax based on how many miles you drive, as measured by a GPS-based system. Several states, including Washington, have talked about a VMT, but nothing’s been done yet. In 2011, some lawmakers in Olympia tried another idea: Put a $100 surcharge on license tabs for electric cars, so owners would pay their fair share for roads. The measure failed to reach the governor’s desk, but as electrics and hybrids take up more roadway and gas tax revenues fall, politicians are surely going to look at a new tax or fee in the future.

FUTURE

Bus ridership is up in Seattle and King County, partly due to the struggling economy.  But you can’t beat the car for convenience. What if you could have the best of both worlds? Introducing “personal rapid transit” (PRT), or the “pod car,” which looks a lot like a Smart Car on rails. According to Seattle-based Get There Fast (gettherefast.org), “Riding PRT would be like surfing the Internet: on-demand and nonstop station-to-station (no schedules or missed rides!).” Skeptics call PRT a “techno dream” that competes with a “real” transit system, but a pod car system at Heathrow Airport in London is proving to be a success.