There is no doubt that fashions come and fashions go, that is the nature of life and the cycle of it. People think that they invent things but in many cases it is actually often a re-invention of something already created. a good example of this is what is today called “Disruptive Technology”. At first sight it seems to be a somewhat negative picture, as the image of disruption is well actually negative and somewhat troublesome.
In my head when I think of disruptive technology I think of people protesting and agitating those that they disagree with. I suppose that the best example would be a hunt saboteur for those who remember fox hunting before Mr. Blair decided that the savage killing of foxes by well to do members of the landed gentry accompanied by a pack of hounds who are trained to kill the fox was not acceptable so he banned it.
Before the legislation was passed members of the anti hunt community were skilled in the art of making sure that they disrupted the whole affair by making false trails to confuse and distract the Beagles. They were in my view truly disruptive, quite literally. However, how does that fit with public transport and the new or should that really be old world of disruptive technology.
The truth is that disruptive really means replacement technology, if you look back ever since the wheel was invented man has been evolving newer and better ways of improving transport. The horse was replaced by the train and the car, rail replaced canals, and then the car replaced everything else. In the nineteen twenties the bus started to appear and replace the horse drawn trolley bus, then bit by bit the bus with its flexibility it’s cheapness started to replace the expensive and inflexible rail network.
Interestingly enough the modern disruption some suggest is to the detriment of the bus industry, and with patronage beginning to decline both inside London and outside maybe that is a factor. But does uber, and its like really make that much difference to bus customers. Are more people borrowing bikes more and using less bus services? Or people not catching buses because they are slower than they should be because there are more cars and more congestion.
In addition does not the implementation of cleaner air zones have a potential direct benefit to the bus in terms of one bus saves seventy cars an old argument but still a valid one. Is not the real issue that the trigger points for people to move from using their car to the bus need to be understood. There was a famous advert circa the early nineteen nineties was made by BMW, back in Germany, it showed a nice house with a shiny BMW sat in the garage. The owner then comes out looks at the car then walks onto the pavement outside his house and catches a bus. The caption then comes up that basically says that a smart car owner is the one who knows when to use it, and when not.
I can never in a million years imagine a UK car manufacturing Company ever thinking of an advert where the passive aggressive message is buy a car but when you can use the bus. Where I live in “car city” or Birmingham UK the car industry was fundamental to the expansion of the City since the Industrial Revolution, Austin Rover was once a highly admired brand worldwide. Today, the factories are gone and long since replaced by new technologies, but are these disruptive technologies or are they simply evolved and better technologies.
Big questions and not easy to answer in fairness, but there is I think a bigger better picture. Cities world wide are all recognising the need for good, efficient and clean mass transit solutions, as the focus on cleaner air gets more attention than ever it requires new ways of thinking that will enable clever public transport solutions. Is that progress or is that disruptive technology? Not sure I know the answer but an interesting question.