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Reimagining Public Transit

“Transportation is the center of the world! It is the glue of our daily lives. When it goes well, we don’t see it. When it goes wrong, it negatively colors our day, makes us feel angry and impotent, curtails our possibilities.” -Robin Chase

The Story

Imagine a city ten times the size of London, whose population is twice the state of California. It’s difficult to wrap your head around it since nothing like it exists today. But that is exactly what Lagos, Nigeria is set to become.

Current estimates project that Lagos will become the world’s largest city sometime this century, with a population of over 88 million people by the year 2100.

And yet, if you went back and visited Lagos in 1960, you would find a small city surrounded by a few semi-rural villages…

(Scroll to the bottom to read the rest of The Story!)

Public Transit of the Future

Ryan Popple is the President and CEO of Proterra, a startup that designs and produces electric buses. Ryan worked at Tesla in the early days and was a partner at Kleiner Perkins where he led cleantech investments in mobility and transportation.

Ryan explains why public transportation might be free in cities of the future and how Proterra wants to be a part of that shift. (Teaser: Turns out some buses are actually worse for the environment than cars!)

“If we crack the code on a city being a sustainable place for humans to thrive, our impact on the planet will be significantly lower than it is today.”

Listen to the Episode!

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The Story (continued)

…In two generations, Lagos grew 100-fold, from under 200,000 inhabitants to 20 million today, one of the five largest cities in the world.

With that exponential growth, Lagos has significant challenges.

Many residents are not connected to piped water or a sanitation system, and live in informal settlements.

This situation creates a predicament: How do you plan the future for a city like Lagos? We have never seen this type of growth in human history.

Lagos is transforming into a megacity and it is far from unique. Places like Bogotá, Kinshasa, Mumbai, and Shenzhen are poised to become megacities in the very near future.

If city planners are going to succeed, they must match these unprecedented challenges with unprecedented innovation.

We don’t live in megacities quite yet, but we will be someday. And to prepare us, we have to start thinking now about the impact of housing, transportation, building materials, and sustainability.

Long-term thinking is about having a vision of the future. And it is the only way we will be prepared for mass urbanization, be able to provide disaster relief, and create healthy, happy places that will survive.

It might seem impossible to plan for a city of 88 million people like Lagos. And it probably is impossible for one person to come up with such a plan. But thousands of people working together and raising their voices to improve their community can make a huge difference.

And one MAJOR component of city development is public transit. To explore transportation’s role in city planning, we spoke with Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra.

Who knows… maybe the city bus will someday be something we look forward to riding. 😉 🚌

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Reimagining Public Transit was originally published in The Mission on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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