Re: On the subject of mass transit
Hmm. Are you sure that rail infrastructure is more expensive to maintain than road infrastructure? I always heard the opposite.
The problem is, as you say, that the road network is packet-switched whereas rail is closer to circuit-switching. Rail needs a lot more flexibility. Plus the rail network is harder to upgrade on an ad-hoc, piecemeal basis than the road network.
A couple more suggestions for upgrading the rail network :
- some carriages dedicated to bike-racks / Segway racks to encourage interop between bike and rail.
- upgrade the signalling network with GPS in trains, sensors on the tracks, maybe RFID somewhere.
- some kind of newer, cheaper junction that makes it easy to connect new track to the existing one. Eg. including turntables for tight corners.
- open the network to let more companies run their traffic on it. For example, a big supermarket located near a rail-line should be able to build it's own connection, direct from the checkout to the railway.
- Better supermarket-trolley / train inter-op. Maybe an automated link. Pay for your groceries, watch as your trolley rolls away on rails, right out of the store and into a container for loading onto the next train. Pick it up at the station local to your home.