Taking the initiative: Top travel innovations - Pandemic-proof trams

2020 has made clearer than ever that drastic change is needed to achieve the standards of health, safety, and sustainability that our globalized world requires.

This year has marked a massive slump in the global travel economy, laying many a giant low. But many others have been able to rise to the occasion, developing new and exciting applications for safer, smoother travel. With cross-industry collaboration more important than ever, we're spotlighting some of our top picks for the most inspiring travel innovations to arise from the challenges of the global pandemic. Next up: pandemic-proof trams.

The Island: A driverless, contactless, electric tram

ponti tram 2-1

No driver, no fuel, no worries.[i]

Ponti Design Studio, based in Hong Kong, has designed an autonomous, electric-powered tram specifically aimed at encouraging the use of public transport while maintaining the safe distances recommended to prevent the spread of airborne diseases such as the coronavirus.


Social distance travel

Contactless fare payment is conducted at the tram stop, completely freeing the interior of payment terminals. Without a driver present, even more space is saved by removing the driver’s area, allowing passengers to spread out to the greatest possible extent. The Island is named for its circular seats arranged in the middle of the floor to maximize spacing and position passengers radially, so that facing straight ahead means breathing even less directly at your neighbor than on traditional benches.

The real kicker though? It’s a double-decker.

The Island has been proposed to the city and is awaiting commercial partners to help it become a reality.


Runner-up: The Passerella


The designer's vision of a chic social distance tram in iconic downtown Milan.[ii]

In the Italian fashion capital of Milan, designer Arturo Tedeschi has proposed another social distance tram that features high technology and an elegant way to encourage public health. A dynamic display is integrated into the vehicle body to transmit ads and route information while the abstract, high-end interior suggests a fashion runway (passerella in Italian). Seating areas are separated by plexiglass while the circles that make up the floor pattern double as social distance indicators.


The green elephant in the room

As a direct response to the pressures of the coronavirus outbreak, solutions like the Island have been granted special urgency by their ability to promote safe travel during a pandemic. However, they are even more remarkable because of their potential to combat the effects of climate change.

Solutions like the Island could help us shift to greener, cleaner travel.

But for many, the effort to cope with the virus in the short term has pushed environmental concerns further down the list of priorities. In fact, despite initially significant improvements in air quality around the world due to so much less traffic and industry activity, some scientists fear too shortsighted a response to the pandemic could lead to lasting negative environmental effects. It's up to all of us to make this global recovery a green one – as long-term and sustainable as possible.

And that effort has already begun, as our forward-thinking post-pandemic trams illustrate. The current push to reduce the effects of the virus may one day be remembered as one more battle in our larger effort to realign society for a sustainable future. Innovations like the Island are receiving special attention because of their timely focus on promoting health, but they should also be recognized and celebrated for playing an even more significant role in our shift to greener, cleaner business and travel.


Catching the green bug

Innovators in every industry are racing to futureproof their businesses and products for the virus and the global downturn it has caused. We’re also simultaneously adapting to entirely new paradigms of work and travel. The colossal rethink has seen environmental urgency shifted more to the mainstream than ever before.

With its 15-minute Paris project, the French capital became the latest urban center to announce its commitment to a safer, greener way of life. The project aims to make all the usual needs of a good-quality life – such as work, groceries, and childcare – within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from any point in the city.

Walking and biking are certainly admirable, but we at AirPlus wouldn’t dock them any points for adding electric social distance trams to the list.


[i] Photo by Ponti Design Studio

[ii] designboom.com/design/passerella-at-new-socially-distanced-tram-milan-06-09-2020/

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