The city fathers in Milwaukee, WI pushed hard to get $69 million in Federal funding for a $128 million streetcar project. Milwaukee had streetcars in the late 1800s through 1950.
Then the system transformed to trackless trolleys tethered to electric lines and eventually diesel power buses. Now tracks are going back in for more fixed route streetcars. Nostalgic? Maybe. Effective? No.
Foxconn is building a $10 billion facility just south of Milwaukee in Racine County. It is expected to have upwards of 13,000 jobs. The massive movement of people and materials in and out of the plant requires rebuilding of the Interstate highway serving the area from six lanes to eight. The most adventurous part of the project is equipping the ‘shoulders’ of the road to carry self-driving vehicles. None of the governmental units involved proposed the autonomous vehicle lane on the highway; Foxconn did. While the local leaders were thinking 2 years down the road, the business leaders were thinking 20 years out.
Let’s go back to Milwaukee. There is a huge presence of motorized electric scooters for rent by a California company called Bird Rides, Inc. The theory is that you look at a map on an app on your phone to find a location where someone left a scooter after their ride. You rent that scooter for $1 plus 15 cents per minute via the app. It unlocks the scooter for you and you drive it wherever you are headed to. Then just leave it when you are done and the next person will take it from there. These scooters had ridership of almost 7000 in the first two weeks of operation. People went where they wanted to go when they wanted to.
All of the technology available today is forcing us to not just think, but to dream of the possibilities. We all laughed the first time we heard that Amazon was looking into using drones to deliver packages. It has moved from funny to serious in a very short time. Our world is changing faster than we ever imagined.