Sic Transit Gloria: Made-in-B.C. Opportunity

Walking in the rain to a meeting in downtown Vancouver recently, I was struck by how few non-mass transportation options there are today.

Few single- purpose vehicles to move people around. Just mass. If you want to get from here to there, you either walk, drive, take transit to someplace vaguely near where you want to go, or cab it. Similar situations exist in most communities.

Take the second option, also the most common. To drive within a contained area, you have to use a multi-purpose car meant to carry several people, park it most of the time, and when you need it for a short trip, shepherd a ton of steel around. Not terribly efficient.

Smaller vehicle options? One of those new smart cars, but they cost more than $30,000, which isn’t great ROI. A scooter or electric bike, but weather and the gear you have to wear limit their use. Some are meeting the challenge with those super-efficient old right-hand drive Japanese cars or trucks – indicating a clear need – but there’s a limited supply.

So why isn’t someone producing a low-cost , enclosed single person vehicle dedicated to a specific purpose – scooting around contained geographic areas, or for commuting?

And, further, why aren’t we making them in a kind of regional feeder system in which economically starved towns produce these vehicles for communities that need them. Think some smallish business in a BC town that’s lost its economic base, producing a hundred or so of these useful vehicles annually. It’s a ready market, a sustainable business, and a job generator.

But to do that, we’d have to dispense with the usual BIG thinking. There’s no reason why a manufacturer has to be a multi-billion-dollar company mass producing vehicles. Many little companies could produce just a few specific-purpose runabouts.

(In fact, that’s the way the auto industry began. And power usually came from steam or electricity.)

I’m sure there are many impediments to this transportation conversion, but impediments can always be conquered. The first step is to change our thinking from mass to custom.

Agree, or disagree?