SAN FRANCISCO — It's here.
A report out Tuesday that foreshadows the future of urban transportation in the United States, but the futuristic vision, in a study by the Public Interest Research Group, already is happening in some places. In addition to car and bike sharing and real-time transit information available on mobile devices, the report cites ride sharing and apps that connect taxis or limousine service as harbingers of a transition away from the car-centric culture that developed in the 20th century.
"Places like Washington, New York and San Francisco are certainly ahead," said Phineas Baxandall of PIRG, "but it isn't only the big cities. There are other places like Madison [Wis.], which are taking off. There are hundreds of university towns which have really made enormous headway. University of Maryland introduced real-time information on its transit system and saw ridership increase by a quarter really quickly."
It is all seen as a significant shift in lifestyle and transportation made possible by technological advances and driven by a millennial generation that came of age at the dawn of the Internet era.
It is a generation that makes no move without mobile phone in hand, and mastery of that device has opened an unprecedented array of transportation options.
In Washington, for example, your smartphone can indicate when the next bus is coming, how many bikes are available at the nearest Capital Bikeshare station, and whether a Zipcar or Car2Go is waiting just around the corner. It can summon a taxi or the Uber car service in an instant.
A Washington Post poll of District of Columbia residents this summer found that 13 percent of those surveyed said they had used a smartphone app to call a taxi or limousine. Nineteen percent said they had used car sharing, almost double the number of three years earlier, and 21 percent of those who had not used it said they were likely to in the future.