How did I miss this? Somehow, I went nearly my entire life without hearing about the great horse manure crisis of the late 19th century.
This spring, I happened to catch a PBS documentary on the history of the car. I learned that at one point, there were 100,000-plus horses on the streets of New York, producing 2.5 millions of pounds of, well, byproducts, every day. It had to go somewhere, so suffice it to say, buildings weren’t the only things in the Big Apple rising into the sky.
Henry Ford helped reduce our reliance on horses by making automobiles affordable to the masses, and with that, he and other auto pioneers helped change our urban mobility landscape.
Cities today face their own set of challenges (with far fewer flies, I should hope). Today’s problems have to do with congested central corridors, inadequate traffic control, limited curb space, unequal access to new mobility offerings and an infrastructure some say is underfunded and ill-prepared for an age of electrification and automation. Plus, even when public transportation is available, completing the last mile of travel can prove difficult.
In this issue of Shift, we explore how these and other urban transportation challenges are being addressed, through efforts such those being led by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and an array of other public-private partnerships. We also find out how even a “smart” city had many lessons to learn.
The cities of the future are on the horizon, so saddle up.