But there will be big changes. How those changes develop, Leight says, depends on one question: "Will St. Louis turn back in and redevelop our core, or are we going to continue to expand outward?"

If St. Louis expands outward, cars will still rule the day — we just won't be driving them.

"The personal vehicle won't go away. There's too much freedom, too much independence there," Leight says. "A really big change that will happen in the next 20 to 30 years is automated cars."

Neurosurgeon Eric Leuthardt.
Theo Welling
Neurosurgeon Eric Leuthardt.
Sex therapist Linda Weiner.
Theo Welling
Sex therapist Linda Weiner.

By the year 2114, Leight predicts, all cars will drive themselves. Accident rates and fatalities should plummet, but the city's roads will be changed as well.

"Today, most lanes are twelve feet wide. If cars drive much more precisely, then we won't need lanes that wide," Leight says.

This is all great news, but self-driving cars also mean no more highway-patrol officers writing revenue-generating tickets. More sustainable fuel sources mean fewer funds from gas taxes. So if St. Louis sprawls, how will we pay for those new roads? One major idea that's being debated in the federal government is charging people a per-mile tax.

"The concern of that is Big Brother," Leight says.

Cars of the future are expected to be data-collecting supermachines. It's happening now. Little black boxes that record mileage, speed prior to accidents and other data are installed in more than 90 percent of new cars. As the data-collecting technology improves, revenue-generating uses for that data will increase. Privacy experts are wary of the potential for abuse.

"In 100 years the worst-case scenario is our cars will know where we are, where we've been and where we're going," says Nate Cardozo, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "They'll be sharing our data with private companies, advertisers, insurers, law enforcement, jealous ex-spouses, you name it."

If St. Louis turns inward, on the other hand, the future of transportation doesn't look quite so dystopian. Leight — whose firm currently consults with the Missouri Department of Transportation — says the development of north city will play a crucial role in how transportation changes in St. Louis.

"Infill developments, like Paul McKee's North Side Regeneration Project, are a big deal because redevelopment in the city results in higher densities, making public transportation — buses, rails, trolleys — much more effective," Leight says.

Despite the rapid changes in technology that are in store for the next 100 years, Leight says, the way St. Louisans get around won't be that different — it will just be better.

"People think transportation 100 years ago was fundamentally different, but it wasn't really," he says. "Back then we had steam- engine trains, trolleys, Model T's. Now we have diesel-electric trains, the Metro and, soon, automated cars."
—Ray Downs

The Future of Biking
One could say the future of transportation technology is already here.

"The city can stop waiting for flying cars — or even electric cars — because the transportation mode of the future taking hold in prosperous cities around the world is the humble bicycle," says Tom Fucoloro, a St. Louis native who now runs Seattle Bike Blog.

St. Louis has a twenty-year plan to connect the city, county and urbanized St. Charles County with 1,000 miles in bike lanes, which cycle enthusiasts say will drastically reduce the need for car travel a century from now.

"Fifty years from now, 100 years from now, it won't be a big deal to ride your bike home or to work," says Susan K. Trautman, executive director at Great Rivers Greenway. More bike lanes and trails will make getting from neighborhood to neighborhood easier and safer. "I think St. Louis in 100 years will feel very different. You'll be able to connect in ways you can't right now."

Trautman and Fucoloro imagine a future where a typical St. Louis child could rely on her bike, not cars and buses, to get to school. By the time she turns sixteen, she'll already be able to get around the city independently without getting her license.

Biking will also go a long way toward fighting the public-health concerns — diabetes, heart disease, obesity — that plague us today.

"All of a sudden, you've got this very vibrant, happy place where people are getting around and mixing it up," Trautman says.
Lindsay Toler

The Future of the Brain
By day, Dr. Eric Leuthardt is a neurosurgeon and the director of the Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology at Washington University. By night, he's a science-fiction author — his first novel, Red Devil 4, just came out this month. That means he spends his free time imagining all the future applications of the devices and procedures he uses in the lab now.

"Right now a common term people love to throw around is 'quantitative self.' That's kind of the whole movement where people wear electronics to monitor their physiology — Fitbits, FuelBands, Google Glass, cameras and video feeds on our faces," he says. "I think that we're going to get closer and closer to the point when it becomes very low risk to have either a procedure or something noninvasive done to you where you can access your brain."

« Previous Page
Next Page »