30 days of ideas – 24: Rollercoasters as public transport


Photo by stev.ie

I’m really interested in public transport, in the sense that I like it to be good, and I complain when it’s not. Every city should have trams, an underground rail network, and bicycle lanes, as far as I’m concerned.

But it seems to me there’s one public transport option that nobody’s ever considered – or have never implemented if they have considered it. And while this is clearly one of my less practical ideas, that doesn’t stop me liking it.

It’s the world’s most boring rollercoaster ride. I’ll explain how it works.

A mundane funfair ride
Every major street (and some of the larger minor streets) in a city and its outlying suburbs gets lined with rails alongside the footpath. On those rails, seats like the ones pictured above trundle along at just faster than walking pace. Maybe a jog.

If you want to get in one, you tap a big red button on the side of it, and it slows down long enough for you and a friend to get in, and when you put the bar down to secure yourself, off it goes again.

From there, you can just go where you like. The rails have intersections at every street, and you can navigate it to take you down to the shops, off to a friend’s house, or wherever you’d like to go. You can either predetermine the destination and have it work out the route – or you can ‘steer’ it: perhaps a “take the next left” button and a “take the next right” button. That’s all it would need.

Cars could come along every minute or so on both sides of the road. There’d never be long to wait – and once you got off at your destination, they’d find their way back to a pre-programmed route, trundling along to pick up the next passengers.

But the point is that they’d be slower than trains and buses, and faster than walking. If you have a bit of a hike and you’re carrying your shopping bags, for instance, it’d be ideal. They’d be reasonably safe in the sense that it’d be hard to damage yourself too badly by falling out of (or in front of) one, given the speed they’re going.

And they’d be fun. Not rolllercoaster fun, but fun nevertheless. I’d use one every day to get to the train station. Call me lazy…

Table of contents for 30 Days of Ideas

  1. The other way of following first
  2. Now we’re up and dancing
  3. 30 days of ideas – 01: Keymash
  4. 30 days of ideas – 02: Radio Alerts
  5. 30 days of ideas – 03: Only Famous (a romantic comedy)
  6. 30 days of ideas – 04: Modcasts
  7. 30 days of ideas – 05: Numberless Calendar
  8. 30 days of ideas – 06: SpringCleanr
  9. 30 days of ideas – 07: Street Gallery
  10. 30 days of ideas – 08: Smart Business Cards
  11. 30 days of ideas – 09: Recordings in Concert
  12. 30 days of ideas – 10: Vinyl scanner
  13. 30 days of ideas – 11: Photo Stack-and-Scan
  14. 30 days of ideas – 12: A Box of Cool
  15. 30 days of ideas – 13: Karaoke-Tube Celebstar Idol
  16. 30 days of ideas – 14: I Made You A Tape
  17. 30 days of ideas – 15: Newspaper download codes
  18. 30 days of ideas – 16: Pebble Splash
  19. 30 days of ideas – 17: Digital radio, somewhere useful
  20. 30 days of ideas – 18: Public domain music collection
  21. 30 days of ideas – 19: Blog cast-list automator
  22. 30 days of ideas – 20: The Retirement Pile
  23. 30 days of ideas – 21: Nationalise EMI
  24. 30 days of ideas – 22: The Stainless Steel Rat (the movie)
  25. 30 days of ideas – 23: WordPress Bandcampify template
  26. 30 days of ideas – 24: Rollercoasters as public transport
  27. 30 days of ideas – 25: Next-gen personalised music radio
  28. 30 days of ideas – 26: New Music Trust
  29. 30 days of ideas – 27: Tamagotchi Gardening
  30. 30 days of ideas – 28: Charity shop clothing subscription
  31. 30 days of ideas – 29: ‘Now Playing’ social music app
  32. 30 days of ideas – 30: House of Spare Ideas
  33. Mixtape for You by Ray Kuyvenhoven
  34. What can you do in 30 days?

One Response to “30 days of ideas – 24: Rollercoasters as public transport”

  1. Interesting idea. I’ve long thought about this kind of transport, where it’s publicly-owned but with individual cars. My preference when I was a child was for the cars to travel in evacuated tubes where the airflow would propel them (inspired by atmospheric railways), in order to improve their efficiency. I guess that would be quite high-cost, though.

    What might be quite interesting (now that we have the technology) would be small computer-controlled electric vehicles, either battery or wirelessly powered (or some combination, e.g. recharge at traffic lights). They would run at slow speed, as you suggest, to avoid fatalities. They could perhaps run on a normal road surface, if this wouldn’t be too inefficient, separated from other traffic by a simple barrier.

    Unlike an electric car, this would need no expensive purchase or maintenance on the part of the rider, there would be no need for parking, could use a narrower lane and, due to their computer control, could drive close together (thus benefitting from the slipstream effect). They would offer almost all the benefits of a car combined with almost all the benefits of a tram.

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