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The Future of Transportation Is Not All Flying Cars

What we've learned from our 9-month series on tomorrow's urban mobility.
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We've had the future of transportation wrong since the final scene of Back to the Future. When Doc Brown tells Marty that "where we're going, we don't need roads," then lifts the DeLorean right off the ground, we all took him to mean the next big thing in mobility was the flying car. Well it's October 10, 2014, just a year and a couple weeks shy of the futuristic date Doc punched into the dashboard, and delivery drones aside, we don't really have flying cars. (Though wouldn't you know, we might be getting automatic shoelaces.)

But if we'd taken Doc's words a bit more metaphorically, we might have been right all along. American cities have started a gigantic pivot away from complete car-reliance toward multi-modal transportation systems that balance the needs of drivers alongside those of bus and train riders, pedestrians, cyclists, and taxi users. Instead of only a car key in our pocket or purse we have a metro card and a bike-share fob and a smartphone with an e-hail app. We're going to need roads where we're going, but we don't need just roads, and we don't need to use them the way we use them now.