Saturday, May 08, 2010


Evacuated Tube Transport

Transportation, its Importance and Requirements

By John Taylor; 2010 May 08, Jamal 10, 167 BE

Comments on reading

I cannot emphasize too much the extreme importance of transportation not only to our physical well being but also to mental and moral health. It is also essential spiritually and politically. The right to travel and live where we please is one of the most important of democratic rights, yet it is a right that nobody but a tiny elite can hope to have. It is a right that we will only have when we become real world citizens.

Meanwhile, the higgly piggly transport system we have is eating away at us.

George Monbiot in his book, Bring on the Apocalypse, wrote a thought provoking essay called "The Anti-Social B-'s in our Midst." He asks a pointed question: has the automobile perverted our moral fibre? He suggests that the hours we all sit in our automobiles has made us selfish and antisocial. Our experience as drivers makes us think that we have unlimited power just because we hold a steering wheel in our hands. We think we steer our own destiny, when it is just an illusion. What we are really doing is devoting our best hours of the day to a menial job that would be better done by machines.

It would not be so bad if there were no alternative, but there is.

I have long advocated capsulated and evacuated tube transit, which would be a quicker, quieter, cheaper, faster better way to get around than our present system of planes, trains and automobiles. I just came across a website ( which offers better arguments and more statistics for this idea than I have mustered. They even let you buy a "license" in their enterprise for a hundred dollars. This gets you invested in the idea, which they claim to have somehow patented, even though the idea was not new in Jules Verne's time. The technical details that they offer as to why this idea is superior to existing transport are fascinating.

They propose that in 1900 less than 5 percent of the population had seen an automobile, but in thirty years they were everywhere. Why should that not happen with tube transport? They suggest that by using the open systems approach of software like Apache or OS's like Linux, it should be possible to let the idea catch fire fast.

I am the most enthusiastic proponent of tube transport, but realistically I do not see this happening without a world government. Only a planetary body would be universal enough to see that everybody everywhere agrees to the same standard infrastructure around the world. Only a world regulatory body could set the standards, break down tariff and customs barriers, raise capital and muster public opinion in favour of such an enterprise.

What is more, we are totally invested in private property, which does not fit with integrated projects like tube transit. Worse, the education of experts is is too fragmented and specialized for a universal mega-project like this to work. If you want to build tubes everywhere you would have to integrate architecture with transportation technology, and these specialities do not speak the same language.

In order for evacuated tube transit to reach its potential it would have to be fully integrated into the entire superstructure of cities. It would have to connect every point of departure to every destination using compatible software and a fully containerized transport system, for both cargo (which we have already) and for travellers (which we do not). RFID devices in the capsules would need to identify the destination, supervise its journey there and sort out the costs. This is not a big problem for present-day computers, but it would be a deal breaker in the distrustful climate of rival sovereign states. If we cannot even agree on how to stop carbon emissions, how could we build an entire new transport system?

This is why I am writing the chapter on infrastructure in my present book-in-progress. We must reform the entire infrastructure, housing, transport and power all at once. We are not educated to think in this universal way, but this is a must if the human race as a whole is ever to thrive. The only way, in my opinion, is to start afresh completely with new cities built in new ways.

I just did a search of the Baha'i Writings for the word "transportation," and this is what I found. The Master certainly was of the opinion that transportation is an important part of modernity. Speaking to his fellow countrymen, He wrote,

"Would it conflict with the worship of God to establish law and order in the cities and organize the rural districts, to repair the roads and build railroads and facilitate transportation and travel and thus increase the people's well-being?" (Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, 101)


"Therefore, thoughts must be lofty and ideals uplifted in order that the world of humanity may become assisted in new conditions of reform. When this reformation affects every degree, then will come the very Day of the Lord of which all the prophets have spoken. That is the Day wherein the whole world will be regenerated.

Consider: Are the laws of past ages applicable to present human conditions? Evidently they are not. For example, the laws of former centuries sanctioned despotic forms of government.

Are the laws of despotic control fitted for present-day conditions? How could they be applied to solve the questions surrounding modern nations? Similarly, we ask: Would the status of ancient thought, the crudeness of arts and crafts, the insufficiency of scientific attainment serve us today? Would the agricultural methods of the ancients suffice in the twentieth century?

Transportation in the former ages was restricted to conveyance by animals. How would it provide for human needs today? If modes of transportation had not been reformed, the teeming millions now upon the earth would die of starvation. Without the railway and the fast-going steamship, the world of the present day would be as dead.

How could great cities such as New York and London subsist if dependent upon ancient means of conveyance?

It is also true of other things which have been reformed in proportion to the needs of the present time. Had they not been reformed, man could not find subsistence."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, pp. 279-280)


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