Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Take the Tube

Pneumatic travel
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Offices used to have plastic tubes in them to carry inter-office memos and such around. Nowadays you may see them at some banks: you put your check in a carrier and a vacuum-cleaner sound pulls the carrier up a clear plastic tube in to the teller.

Now imagine 7-foot diameter plastic tubes. Inside is a carrier with you in it. You select a destination and you are slowly accelerated toward the main travel tube. It's clear plastic, so you can see everything. The main tube is suspended from buildings, or freeways, or els, or even tall, slim bubble-blowing wands made of metal or concrete.

When you arrive at your destination, your carrier is diverted from the main tube and slowly descends to the street where you disembark.

One, two or multi-passenger carriers are available, which makes them as attractive as cars... without license or insurance fees. Eventually, they are directed by voice control... and enroute you are entertained by the music of your choice.

No pollution, little noise... vacuum and pressure are carried in channels on the side of the main tube, which also serve to reinforce the tube.

pitch, Jul 06 2000

Geodesic Airspace Tubes http://www.democrat...ransport/future.htm
being considered in Australia [pitch, Jul 06 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

the Fox TV show, Futurama http://www.fox.com/...ama/news/media.html
In 2999 A.D. this is how people get around. [johan, Jul 06 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Capsule Pipelines http://www.capsu.org/
There's more to this than Alfred Beach... [timski, Jul 06 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       The first subway in New York City, opened in 1870, was a pneumatic system. Alfred Beach (publisher of Scientific American) secretly built a 300 foot long pneumatic transportation system under Broadway near city hall to show that air-powered travel would be feasible. After being unveiled to some fanfare, the system provided demonstration rides for the public and press for a while. Although it was a popular (and to at least some extent, technical) success, the local political machine (Boss Tweed) prevented it from being expanded to provide actual transportation. The tunnel was eventually just walled up and abandoned.   

       The first public subway in New York would not be built until 34 years later, in 1904. It was, of course, not pneumatic.   

       In 1912 Beach's tunnel again came to public attention when a construction crew building the new BMT subway line came upon the abandoned tunnel (and possibly one of the terminals) at the site of what is now the City Hall N/R station.   

       Even if Beach had been more successful in maneuvering NYC's politics, the engineering problems in scaling up the system safely and economically seem rather formidable.
mab, Jul 06 2000, last modified Jul 08 2000

       The technology for clear-tube pneumatic transport already exists. You need only air pressure inlets and outlets and a means of valve control. Plastic can be made incredibly tough; all propulsive energy can be efficiently produced at a few locations. (Air pressure can be created from almost any energy source.) Computer control of pressures (perhaps even from onboard carriers) should allow several cars to travel as one, giving "coupling" for nothing. Collisions would be nearly impossible because of the cushion of trapped air.   

       But the best part is how easy it is to route; land doesn't have to be purchased in many cases, or only in very small amounts; in urban areas tube can be suspended between skyscrapers or across existing rooftops.   

       Consider the cost of construction and maintenance of one mile of freeway (millions) or light rail (tunneling under existing buildings in congested areas). Then consider the cost of a mile of clear pneumatic plastic and support: a support stick could sit in the corner of a suburban backyard with almost minimal impact, no anti-noise walls, little pollution.
pitch, Jul 08 2000

       I'd always assumed when I was a child that by the year 2000 we'd all be bald, and riding in these.
Scott_D, Aug 05 2000

       Considering what pneumatic travel would do to the average hairstyle, I think that baldness and tube travel would inevitably happen at the same time.
1percent, Mar 26 2001


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