In the 1800s, when pneumatic tubes shot telegrams and small items all around buildings and sometimes small cities, the future of mass transit seemed clear: we'd be firing people around through these sealed tubes at high speeds. And it turns out we've got the technology to do that today – mag-lev rail lines remove all rolling friction from the energy equation for a train, and accelerating them through a vacuum tunnel can eliminate wind resistance to the point where it's theoretically possible to reach blistering speeds over 4,000 mph (6,437 km/h) using a fraction of the energy an airliner uses – and recapturing a lot of that energy upon deceleration. Ultra-fast, high efficiency ground transport is technologically within reach – so why isn't anybody building it?
Public transport systems offer many advantages over the personal alternatives when it comes to getting large numbers of people from A to B in style and safety - less congestion, less pollution and lower costs for starters. But while we certainly see plenty of impetus on the personal transport front here at Gizmag, fresh concepts for the future of mass transport don't seem to enjoy the same level of exposure, despite the fact that many cities around the world are still saddled with public transport infrastructure that's been in place for over a century. There are some radical plans in the works, however, and the 21st Century will undoubtedly bring with it a raft of people moving projects that redefine our notion of public transport. So just what will be pulling into the station in 50 years time? Read on for our pick of the most tantalizing concepts out there.