What if you could have your car brought to you? Here’s how – in Flint, Michigan

This week, the city of Flint, Michigan, announced that it would begin the process of installing curbside storage for its new streetcar line. It is scheduled to open in 2022, to increase the reliability of the line by storing cars close to where they are meant to operate.

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There are many good reasons to keep vehicles (cars and trucks) accessible to passengers in transit. Curbside storage allows them to board the streetcar easily if they need to disembark for the occasional call or to pick up someone. The success of the pilot program will depend on whether enough cars can be rolled out in sufficient numbers for commuters to find it convenient.

Even in modern megacities where access to public transit is more readily available, car and truck repairers are often often posted in far-flung parts of the city. Sometimes repairers are working in places that are easy to access, but are inaccessible to large numbers of customers. The driver service now mandated by law must be pretty reliable, and access to services like delivery or repair could be greatly improved if the driver provided his or her own pickup point instead of being forced to make lengthy trips to the dispatch station.

Operating costs can be high for any system, and installing curbside storage reduces costs by keeping cars and trucks close to their terminals, potentially saving an additional $30,000-$35,000 annually. It would also be a good idea to make public transit more attractive to users. The streetcar could be available day and night to passengers, charging a rate that is commensurate with cost of travel.

Architect Mike Bergeron from Baker Engineers captured some of the reasoning for a similar initiative by a Dutch municipality during the beginning of the 2000s, when cities throughout Europe were building transportation systems as public space enabled lower levels of waste.

“In the past 20 years there has been an incredible technological explosion,” Bergeron says. “We are finally starting to see transit systems built in a way that encourages and facilitates transportation, inspires ridership, and makes people more conscious of the benefits of traveling in transit.”

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Bergeron explains that a model of centralized learning and integration that had once been used in school and engineering education has mostly been undone. With the introduction of high-speed digital technologies, resources could be pooled and information shared among new systems.

It is that paradigm shift that Boston has experienced when planning for its new mass transit project and more recently, when The LA Travel Plan was announced.

“A large development center was a great experiment,” Bergeron says. “The city [was] able to do a great deal and some cool innovations that did not have any cost to the program itself. But they couldn’t do a lot of the things in a way that was possible without some extra labor.”

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