Driverless Urban Transit Futures, British Columbia, Canada
School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia

The future of public transit is one of the most exciting topics surrounding AVs because of what is at stake: on the one hand there is the potential to re-imagine what public transit could be using this technology; on the other, the potential for the loss of public transit completely. 
Automated technology has the potential to address many of the negative aspects of public transit: last mile issues could be solved by on-demand shuttles, or by local SAV networks. Transit systems could adjust live to meet demand and deploy more vehicles as needed; advanced booking systems could reserve seats so riders do not have to stand. Transit vehicles could be smaller because the system is more agile and responsive and this will allow more vehicles to be deployed to reduce wait times. The system could even ‘learn’ to deploy vehicles in anticipation of demand in areas. 
Adopting AV technology for transit will support the operation and expansion of large scale mass transit such as subways and light rail which will, in turn, will reduce congestion and free up road space. However, this optimistic scenario requires public transportation providers to retool their operations, adding new technologies and investing in autonomous technology. It is far from certain that this will happen quickly. 
The urgency to act is clear and the stakes are high. 
Illustrated Scenario
Alan and Alex Astor are hard-working partners in a small-size tech start-up downtown to which they commute daily. In 2040, the public transit system has expanded into an extensive network of automated regional trains, arterial streetcars, electric buses and community shuttles throughout the region, all of which are on-demand AVs. The Astor family takes advantage of this network by almost exclusively using transit. Both children are registered as minors in the transit system and have automated notifications sent out to their parents of their trip status and safe arrival each time they use the system.
Alan and Alex commute into work by meeting an on-demand last-mile shuttle a short distance from their home. Alex calls a shuttle with her smart phone. Since the system adjusts in real time for passengers, they can always be assured of seats on both shuttles and the train involved in the trip. She then checks in Asher and Alice to the community school bus and the whole family walks to the end of their residential street. 
By day's end, Alan had made one trip to a meeting cross-town, again using public transit. He knows one of the fixed-route shuttles runs every 2 minutes on this particular route downtown and he hails the next one at his stop. 
After school, Asher and Alice make their way to the already waiting on demand public shuttle for unaccompanied minors. This system is connected to Alan and Alex’s app so they can set alerts, check the status of the children in the system or  contact the caregiver on each shuttle. The service drives Asher to her piano lesson and Alice to her soccer practice. 
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