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The Future Of Mass Transportation Systems
Apr 07, 2015
Eleonora Di Flora
3 comments
Our cities would be chaos without it; three billion people use it every day. And, in the next 30 years, with more than 75% of the planet’s population destined to live in urban settings, it will have to handle the daily needs of nearly seven billion people.  
 
But from a power perspective, today’s urban mass transit systems and railways simply can’t keep up with the increasing demand that this shift is placing on regional infrastructure. Indeed, investment will be crucial. However, we can’t meet increasing power demand by this alone. It must be coupled with net gains in efficiency.
 
We see this trend in every major urban center. It’s on top of many government agendas in terms of infrastructure development plans. Today’s urban mass transit systems and railways will need to recover from long-term underinvestment and make a marketed shift towards more efficient, more reliable, safer, smarter and high-performance technologies. 
 
The specifics of this change are difficult to forecast, but there are some general megatrends that we cannot ignore.
 
In less than 30 years from now there will be numerous cities that will have merged into mega-cities becoming unique conglomerates of people living in close proximity over hundreds of kilometers. Take for example the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou area, home already to 120 million people. Indeed, as these metropolis transform into urban corridors, we will no longer speak of cities but of regions that host hundreds of millions of people. How we will transport them seamlessly and efficiently is a question fundamental to the survival of these areas. 
 
These are not just futuristic projections. It’s already happening. We already mentioned China, but it’s a trend that is spanning the globe. From the Boston-New York-Washington corridor to Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, in Brazil people have decided to live in highly concentrated urban areas. It’s for governments to bring the needed infrastructure to support. 
 
For a large part this will consist of revamping existing rail systems while building new modern and efficient solutions to meet the coming demand. The key to success will be in part reliability while the second part of the equation will be efficiency. 
 
It won’t be easy. It won’t be cheap. But it has to start now. Otherwise in the coming decades these urban areas will simply not be able to mitigate the impact on economic growth and sustainability that will come from failing to meet the transport needs of millions of people. We have the technology today. Smarter solutions and more integrated systems for moving passengers and freight exist. It is linked with increased electrification of our rail systems (or upgrading those that are already electrified), which can lower transportation costs significantly and transform the global economy.
 
Electrifying key routes will mean more reliable and comfortable travel for people, but also a more competitive and more sustainable transportation mode, based on clean energy rather than being fuelled by a derivative of crude oil.  
 
This is why many governments are committed to investing in programs of electrification that will help transform railways as part of their plan to providing their countries with a sustainable world-class transport system. 
 
GE’s high-technology solutions and expertise in system electrification will help this vast system operate with highly reliable and efficient electrical power while guaranteeing a much brighter future for the world.
 

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Comments

Przemek
An interesting post, but I must disagree when it comes to electrification as the backbone for future rail transports. We've got electrified rail in Europe which is good in Sweden or Norway, where electricity comes from renewables, but not so good in e.g. Poland which generates approx. 95% of its electricity from coal, thus impacts both the environment as well as human lives. Next, rail infrastructure is (alike any other infra) prone to damages caused by extreme weather phenomena from which we'll most probably suffer more and more due to climate change. Talking about future, I would place my bet on transport automation, though it has its drawbacks as well, like software flaws or the possibility of hacking. But on the other hand, it could result in time savings (both concerning transfer time and people not needing to focus on driving), eco-benefits (lower fuel consumption) and reduced traffic loss of life. Nearshoring has potential too - instead of shipping goods from other corners of the world, megaregions could have their own satellite production plants or even just around the corner like in the case of plants cultivated and harvested in buildings - this could also cut down transport routes.
Peter Tan
How has electrification of the mass rail transit system change over the past 25 years?
Philip Arlidge
I have an idea for mass transit who do I contact?

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Eleonora Di Flora
Eleonora is currently serving as Senior Commercial Manager in the Industry Vertical of GE Power Conversion, charged with commercial activities to support and boost worldwide complete electrical solutions offering for the Mining, Power Generation, Power Quality and Rail business. 
 
Originally from a consultancy background, she joined GE in 2008 and has held various positions in risk management and business process transformation building indepth knowledge of improving end-to-end business perfomance. 
 
Eleonora holds a Master Degree in Engineering and Industrial Management.