As part of its effort to improve public transportation the Miami-Dade County hosted the Fastrack Institute to launch their “Miami Mobility Fastrack” program last week.
Overall the event felt like part TED talk, part Singularity University summit, and part futuristic technology conference with a focus on transit and mobility.
The technology aspect was truly fascinating and inspirational, but yet I couldn’t help but feel a sense of skepticism given the size and complexity of the problem at hand… solving Miami’s mobility problem.
My concern is twofold, it has to do with TECHNOLOGY OVERLOAD and SILVER BULLET SYNDROME.
Technology seems to advance faster than we can implement it into our lives. The newest and best technology today is obsolete within a couple years.
How can we possibly pin-point a viable solution to solve our transit issues with this neck-breaking speed? The magnitude and scale of a transit system inherently means that by the time a system is fully implemented it will be outperformed by better technology shortly thereafter.
Given this rate of progress, how can a local government, which are notoriously clumsy, potentially choose the right technology to implement? It’s almost certain that they will be perpetually stuck in “analysis paralysis” given the overwhelming advances in technology… It’s technology overload.
Equally terrifying is this notion that autonomous vehicles will be the SILVER BULLET to all our mobility problems, and that investing any money in public transportation now is a waste of money.
The reality is that Miami is facing a transit crisis. Waiting for the magic cure is irresponsible. Particularly since we don’t know what we are waiting for. We don’t know how it looks, how it works, how much it will cost, or how do we prepare for it. The truth of the matter is we need solutions NOW.
What I found equally interesting and puzzling was a comment made by Brad Templeton. His point was that whatever we invest in needs to be FLEXIBLE. His analogy was about computers, and how we should invest in software and not in hardware. The reason is, software is scalable and can easily be updated as opposed to hardware which becomes obsolete rather quickly.
But how do we keep a transit investment flexible?… I’m afraid local governments will interpret this as “let’s do nothing until we find the cure.”
I do think there is merit in bringing the Fastrack Instititue and trying to position South Florida as an innovation hub for transit but I sincerely hope this doesn’t detract us from solving our current transit systems which is crumbling before our eyes.
I also must say I was surprised not to see any of the Fastrack speakers at the Live.Ride.Share conference the following day….
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