We need a vision for auto-jitneys and livability
Every week brings news of another place where auto-jitneys are being deployed. We in the New Urbanism need to develop a vision of how that emerging technology will support neighborhood life. If we don’t do it, nobody will. We are the ones who can shift the focus from the technology to the places it serves.
I wrote a white paper (link here) for an educated, curious, but general audience. The paper explains how social hubs in neighborhood commercial areas can integrate auto-jitneys and express transit together. Three interlocking parts would work together:
• Each social hub would not be just a retail destination; it would serve the daily needs of a populous, balanced community: it would be designed to build community.
• Riders would make place-to-place trips using buses and trains. People going to the same places would travel together, so they would often enjoy chance meetings.
• Local auto-jitneys would make local trips. Each auto-jitney would be an extension of its neighborhood.
According to this vision, hubs would serve four to several dozen neighborhoods: a critical mass of residents sufficient to support robust shopping, workplaces, and institutions. Express transit would link these to each other, and auto-jitneys would collect people from the surrounding urban fabric. These auto-jitneys are already being tried out across the globe. The prospect of autonomy coming to conventional buses is significant enough that bus drivers’ unions are starting to notice. The paper also discusses what the personal experience might be like—along with upcoming opportunities.
The white paper citations are worth investigating on their own. Perhaps readers will draw different conclusions from that of the white paper. In any case, let’s draw up with some physical visions for social hubs.
I also suggest that people might want to read this compatible vision.
I believe that our best task relative to autonomous vehicles is placemaking, not engineering. Most of the visions for AVs focus on novel new infrastructure rather than on livability. Livable social hubs, though, are the ultimate infrastructure for networks of autonomous vehicles.