When I was in school, I wrote an essay on redesigning the car. It seemed to me if you were going to start from scratch, you'd tackle the transport quite differently. I never understood why we push around two tons to get our shopping home.
Later in life, it continued to strike me how much land we cede to cars. Back in Melbourne, I used to drive past Victorian mansions on thoroughfares like Hoddle Street and Punt Road. Two streets over and they'd be architectural marvels. Here, on the noisy main road, it's marginal commercial real estate.
More recently I was in Seattle. A beautiful city that's cleaved in two by the I-5 freeway, amongst others. What if that was open space instead? Boston did this when they created a tunnel for the I-95, creating North End park. Called the "Big Dig," it was sadly a plagued project with numerous controversies. However, as a visitor, it's hard to miss how this project transformed the North End of Boston and opened up the city.
It's not only space taken by the roads. It's also the parking spaces, the noise, the redirection of pedestrians. Technology can bring amazing new things to the world. It can also reinvigorate something that sits on the margins.
With electric and self-driving cars, there is great potential for transformation. Roads and parking become public space. Some may become quieter and cleaner. Some might become more pedestrian friendly.
This transformation of road space has the potential to change our cities. And to revive some of those blighted Victoria mansions. And make a decent return. With the future of transport, where are the mini Real Estate booms going to happen?