The Future Of Mass Transportation Systems
Apr 07, 2015
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.