Our 21st century cities and the people who live and work in them have transportation requirements that have little in common with the historical patterns. Our actual service needs are closer to what we can see in successful car-based systems than the patterns associated with traditional public transport. That is to say, user requirements in this new life system are for the most part not linear, nor strictly time-cadenced. (This introduction is the first in a forthcoming series of articles on xTransit that will appear in these pages. And you can be sure it will not be the last. xTransit is an important part of our worldwide transportation future .)
The Third Way of Getting Around in Cities
21st century mobility requirements are highly varied over time and space, involving an ever-changing kaleidoscopic mix of many origins, many destinations, many different times and many different levels of traveller preference and economic and time constraints. Requirements that seemed to have been well served in the past, for a privileged minority at least, when our cities were far smaller, less encumbered, drivers relatively few, and the planet and its resources seemingly infinite by comparison to the burden of a system that served a small minority.
But we are living in a very new and different century, the picture has changed massively, and it now time to look afresh at the full range of options and possibilities capable of serving a many-to-many world without an abject dependence on own-cars. It is in fact time to reinvent transport in cities. Let’s start with the x factor of transport in cities.
xTransit was a name we dug up some years back in order to first to group and then to understand a broad and varied class of transportation services that have in common that they get people in and around cities in road vehicles, smaller than full sized buses, driven by real human beings, dynamically shared with others, and in best cases aided by state of the art communications technologies — and all of that as no less than the vital supplement needed to offer “car-quality” mobility in most of our ever-more crowded, ever-more environmentally stressed 21st century cities, without killing the cities themselves. Almost all of these services are what we can think of as “enterprise transport” and operate outside of the formal or (public) corporate sector, which is at once their great strength, and their weaknesses. But the latter can be turned around by wise governance and understanding. Let’s work together to give xTransit its chance.
This class of services is of course not going to replace all cars. Nor will they drive the traditional public transport providers out of business. But they are going to profoundly alter the transportation scene and user choice spectrum in our cities around the world. As you will see, the multi-level New Mobility configuration, of which they are an important element, draws together a comprehensive web of varied and complementary services.
What we call xTransit is by no means original to World Streets and is known by any of a number of names and modal classes, depending on place and the vision of those who assign it. Among these some of the better known include: Intermediate public transport modes, Intermediate Means of Transport (IMTs), intermediate transport, paratransit, private/public transport, enterprise transport, etc. (And by many of the more traditional providers of classic public transport services as “unfair transport”. )
In fact we might as well call it “ubiquitous transport”, since in truth you can find xTransit by any of hundreds of names in virtually every city on the planet, playing very important roles in cities in the developing world. Another way to think of it is as “invisible transport” at least when it comes to planning and policy where in most places it is all but entirely un-integrated into the city’s global. planned mobility system. There are of course problems as a results of this combination of ubiquity and invisibility, but once we have decided to work with them these challenges ca be faced and greatly assuaged.
There is a great deal of work that remains to be done, and blinders to be cast off, if one day in the near future xTransit and its many variants is to make its full contributions in the cities around the world. But if we get it right, our citizens and our cities will greatly benefit. And so too will the planet.
International collaboration and exchange to encourage and support adaptive innovation in your city.
Annex A: Some xTransit reminders:
What xTransit is not:
• You and at most your family in your own car
• Scheduled, fixed route transit service
• Active transport (Cycling, walking, running, etc.
• Individual motorized two/three wheelers
What xTransit includes:
Taxis (even in the single client variant, as least as an antecedent)
• Group Taxis
• Line Taxis
• Rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, pedicabs, cyclopus, auto rickshaws, etc.
• Shared Taxis (also called, among many others: Colectivos, Públicos, Peseros, Jeepney, Matatu, Gush Texi, Dolmus, Public light bus, Shirut, Molue, Bemo, Tro-tro, Poda-poda, Danfo . . . and lots more)
Demand Responsive Transport
• Dial a Ride
• Dial a Bus
• Taxi-Bus (Also Buxi, Busphone, Telebus, RufBas, ReTax, Sammel-Taxi, Texxi, etc.)
• Accessible transit services
• Lift-sharing (in UK also called carsharing. Watch out!)
Special Group Mobility Services
• Shuttle buses
• Feeder services
• E&H group transit
• Medical transport
• Small package and message delivery
• Grouped goods delivery/Clustering
• Freight Village
xTransit: World wide views in action
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This brings us to the end of our first introductory piece on xTransit. More will follow, but in the meantime here are some building blocks under development which you may find handy: