The Spotlight: What is the Future of Public Transportation?

As part of Travel + Leisure's new technology and innovations vertical, The Grid, we're rolling out a video series all about the ideas, products, and people shaping the future of travel. Next up: T+L's news director on the exciting things happening in public transportation.

If you thought the most exciting thing to happen to public transportation was the New York City metro trading coins for reusable passes, you may want to sit down.

Travel + Leisure's News Director Sara Clemence revealed some of the most amazing innovations we can expect from public transportation.

In Japan, for instance, Seibu Railway has proposed a train with a sleek, mirrored exterior that will seamlessly reflect its surroundings. Whether it's passing by the mountains of Chichibu or downtown Tokyo, the limited express train will be practically invisible as it passes by.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk (founder of Tesla and SpaceX) has promised to transport passengers in a supersonic Hyperloop. Basically, the pneumatic tubes that send your check from the bank drive-through to the teller could be sized-up to accommodate people. The ultra-high-speed network would feature steel tubes and aluminum people-pods, and could zoom back and forth between Los Angeles and San Francisco (currently a six-hour drive) in 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Hyperloop Transportation Technologies company is planning to connect Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. While plans are still in the research phase, it's possible that in the not-so-distant future, travelers could traverse 35 miles in eight minutes.

Even buses—a form of transportation that has gone virtually unchanged for decades—are getting a seriously futuristic overhaul. At a recent high-tech expo in Beijing, designer Song Youzhou presented a model of a mega bus that would straddle two traffic lanes and run on fixed tracks. The behemoth vehicles could carry 1,400 and take the place of 40 standard buses. For eco-minded travelers, the so-called "land airbus" could reduce carbon emissions by 2,500 tons and save 800 tons of fuel each year.

And now, commercial space tourism is on the horizon. But that's a conversation for another day.

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