By Matt Phelps
Futurist and Kirkland resident Glen Hiemstra sees many factors driving regional transportation, including the growth of the retirement population, the success or failure of Light Rail and advancements in battery technology.
For commuters, he also sees choice.
Hiemstra, founder of the Web site www.futurist.com, envisions a day in the next three decades when people participate in a ride share system that provides a small electric vehicle from their residence to some kind of mass transportation hub such as light rail.
“Automobile travel is likely to become increasingly expensive,” said Hiemstra, who said that there will need to be major advancements in battery technology to continue on the path toward sustainability. “The lack of an alternative will mean that people will stick it out as long as they can.”
That fact will mean maintaining the current infrastructure. But the region has some restrictions in size and population.
“We have such an auto driven culture,” said Hiemstra, a consultant who also gives speeches, writes a blog and authored the book “Turning the Future Into Revenue: What Businesses and Individuals Need to Know to Shape Their Future.”
But the futurist predicts that will change over the next few decades.
“People will start to look for an alternative, and there will be increasing pressure for public transportation,” said Hiemstra. “Over the next three decades we might see an extension of light rail. But that is a big “if”: if light rail is viewed as successful.”
Hiemstra sees great pressure to extend light rail out of Bellevue and Redmond.
“There will be a shift from buses to light rail access,” he said.
He also envisions the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad or city streets as a place for light rail.
One factor contributing to the changes in transportation is the growth of the population over the age of 65. Hiemstra said that the retirement population could reach 25 percent in the next few decades.
“As local population ages there will be a greater need for large-scale transportation,” said Hiemstra.
He said the private sector could become increasingly involved in residents’ day-to-day needs.
Retirement communities that utilize vans for their residents and even private companies that provide service to the local population could become a way for people to reach shopping destinations, work and bigger hubs of transportation.
The increased efficiency of electric ride-share programs could have a big effect.
“You could have a bank of electric bikes or small one-to-two person car vehicles that would take you the last few miles to your house,” said Hiemstra. “There are already some companies providing it.”
That idea is already taking shape in Europe with some startup companies.
“We will have a much greater number of transportation options,” Hiemstra said.
One element that could reduce the need for more transportation is the rise of realistic three-dimensional communication through the internet or other yet-unthought-of communication systems.
“It would replace the need for business travel over the next three decades,” Hiemstra said.
He said that the expansion of freeways will eventually reach capacity and a point where adding lanes becomes non-productive.
“It will happen after about one or two more rounds,” Hiemstra said. “Our population will also max out. There has been talk about a freeway to the east near Redmond and Issaquah up to Everett. But it is more likely to be an expansion of Light Rail or something like that.”
As far as transportation across Lake Washington is concerned, Hiemstra does not see any use of maritime transportation such as passenger ferries.
“It would only service a few thousand people,” he said.
Matt Phelps is a writer for the Kirkland Reporter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.