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B.C.'s transportation future may involve less driving

04/11/2015 07:20 EDT | Updated 06/14/2015 12:59 EDT
A transportation expert says smart city planning and new technologies will alter the way B.C. residents travel over the next few decades.

From the 1960's cartoon The Jetsons to the 1997 Bruce Willis hit The Fifth Element, every Hollywood depiction of the future seems to include flying cars. 

But Todd Litman, Executive Director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, is a little more realistic in his vision for the future.

Litman hesitates to make predictions, but he thinks the need for physical travel is actually on the decline. He is already witnessing a trend of more people choosing to live in walkable and transit-friendly neighbourhoods.

"I think that will be the biggest innovation. People are going to travel less. I don't think it will be revolutionary, it will be evolutionary," said Litman." People increasingly are shopping by internet and going to local coffee shops and stores."

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While there has been a lot of attention surrounding the evolution of self-driving vehicles,  Litman is skeptical that they will become a fixture in most family garages.

"I don't think in the foreseeable future you are going to be able to buy a car that you will trust your child or in-law to be driven around with no driver in the vehicle. It's premature to fire the chauffer." 

Over the years people have suggested building a bridge linking Vancouver Island to the mainland, but it just doesn't make economic sense according to Litman.  

"It turns out it would end up costing virtually the same amount in tolls to recover the cost as what you currently pay for the ferry and the travel time would be just about the same."

One idea he thinks should gain traction is increasing the volume of buses between Nanaimo and Victoria.

But not just any kind of bus. Litman envisions hourly coach buses equipped with Wi-Fi, bathrooms and espresso machines.

"Commuters from Naniamo coming to Victoria would look forward in the morning to getting on their bus and relaxing with that cappuccino," said Litman.

Litman notes that the idea of drastically altering transportation was based on the expectation of rising energy costs.

However new technologies are making fuel consumption more efficient and many projections overstate the growth of fuel consumption,

"I don't think that fuel price itself will be the major constraint at least for the next few decades."

B.C. residents will have to wait a couple of decades to see if Litman's predictions come true.

To listen to the full interview with Todd Litman, listen to the audio labelled Vancouver Island's Transportation Future

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