These are based on my brief closing comments at the WSTLUR conference in Delft.
We heard at the conference from two of the keynote speakers that “The Future is Uncertain”. While I don’t know if this is more true than before, it is certainly true. The question is: “How does one deal with uncertainty?”
In the Mike Nichols film The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character (Benjamin Braddock) is advised by Mr. McGuire about the future “One word – plastics“. This advice was not too bad for 1968.
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
I will rephrase that for the transportation and land use context: “One word – Plasticity”.
Plasticity is defined as the ability to change in response to changes in the environment. This may be good or bad (for instance, we might not want plastic deformation in structures). However, since we cannot accurately forecast, and the long-term is unpredictable, we need Transportation-Land Use designs which are adaptable – able to change function over time, and flexible – able to do many things at once.
How do we do this?
I don’t have answers, just challenges.
Now we focus on built environment, embedded infrastructure, and long-lasting constructs, which is essentially the definition of anti-plasticity.
Developing and evaluating new plastic, adaptable, and flexible designs for Transportation – Land Use systems, I believe, is the key research and policy question in our field going forward.