Transportation Futures

Transportation Futures Splash Image

Transportation infrastructure and systems connect the people of our world to opportunity.  During the Industrial Revolution, liquid fuels and internal combustion technologies drastically reduced the cost, complexity, and impacts of constructing infrastructure and moving across any distance, making mobility and logistics services accessible to nearly anyone.

Today, another revolution in energy is being supercharged by access to massive datasets sourced from the crowd and stored in the cloud.  Coupled with an economy that operates on credit, anticipated cash flow, and the drive to employ capital to reduce operating expenses, the results of analysis can be used to support investment in infrastructure that is no longer funded by taxation.  Access to near-zero-cost energy through locally-owned resources is likewise a driver of efficiency, in a distributed and flexible network of energy production and transportation conveyances. Transportation infrastructure is the next frontier for individual investors. This same infrastructure can and will become a source of wealth for the hundreds of millions of people who can benefit from the success of the highway system as shareholders in their own transportation future.

Moving Forward

An economic system that allows for individual investment in and unrestricted access to the delivery of goods and services creates opportunity for everyone, even those with few resources. When infrastructure investments lead to increased quality and availability while reducing costs and risks to the consumer, the overall economic benefits play out across entire communities, across supply chains, throughout networks, and around the globe.

What leads to a reduced cost for transportation? What types of investments can produce a return that supports a transition away from government-driven taxation and ideologically-constrained transportation reductionism promoted by a scarcity mindset? How can transportation infrastructure instead support economic prosperity and individual advancement and security even in the absence of population growth, travel demand growth, and economic growth?

Our Work

Launched in 2018, the The Transportation Futures program at the Discovery Institute supports the work of the International Motorway Association, the ACES Networks and founding ACES Northwest Network, and the Cascadia Center for Regional Development. Discovery Fellow Scott O. Kuznicki was awarded the program’s first fellowship for 2019-2021 and is presently seeking opportunities to expand the program and provide fellowships through a program focused on diversity. Mr. Kuznicki remains responsible for the program’s structure, initiatives, and research activities as the the program manager and Founding Fellow.

Future contributions to this program will increase the diversity of ideas through fellowships designed for post-graduate researchers, mid-career professionals, and senior executives. In 2024 and 2025, the Discovery Institute will expand research programs supporting the first conclave of the International Motorway Association and pursue opportunities to broaden the reach of these revolutionary ideas.

Program Elements

Discovery’s Transportation Futures program is being delivered through three initiatives, focused on advancing the role of emerging technologies and public markets in transportation operations, infrastructure, and finance.

Launched in 2017, the ACES Northwest Network continues to advance the adoption of automated, connected, electric, and shared technologies in mobility, logistics and energy, in partnership with more than two dozen Northwest organizations. Joining together in support of this exclusive network of professionals and advocates, Network members, partners, and friends are addressing the edge of the ACES revolution by applying Pacific Northwest values of sustainability, equity, cooperation, and access.

Focused on transportation infrastructure development, the International Motorway Association is building a coalition of with industry expertise and roadway users. Motorways are limited-access multi-lane divided highways with a design that eliminates crossing and turning conflicts. Referred to freeways, turnpikes, autostrada, the autobahn, these facilities represent the frontier of low-cost, high-efficiency transportation. The IMA is focused on providing technical guidance addressing the safety and capacity challenges on motorways, with a focus on promoting order and unleashing the absolute flexibility of the motorway operational model. In addition, IMA experts are developing finance models that leverage the ACES technologies to drive down the cost of energy used on motorways while providing regional funding for the improvement of the adjacent environment, highway connections, and the travel experience. Mitigating the impacts of motorways ensures that their primary mission remains intact: Attracting traffic from lower-order roads in support of the goals of the safety initiative known as Vision Zero. Without a functioning motorway system, it is not possible to achieve Vision Zero!

Transportation Futures is also delivering a demonstration project focused on infrastructure management, safety, and connectivity in the Sheboygan River valley, stretching from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to Lake Winnebago. This initiative, known as as Forward STEP (the Forward Sheboygan Transportation & Energy Project), brings together local and regional to create the transportation system of the future in Sheboygan and Manitowoc Counties. At the core of the system is the motorway, the backbone of commerce and low-cost travel, a conduit for energy and nexus of finance. Motorway-driven finance of local projects will lead to a drastic improvement in connectivity and safety in the City of Sheboygan and across the region, facilitating the construction of roundabouts, active transportation facilities, and new link roads that attract traffic from lower-order roads, creating safer, calmer, and quieter neighborhoods while improving access to city centers and commercial areas.