UNCG Campus Weekly

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“Minicars, Maglevs, and Mopeds”: Selima Sultana examines transportation around the world

Have you ever heard of a SMART tunnel? What about a chicken bus? Flying cars? Bamboo train? Run-commuting? Which one would you choose?

A Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel (SMART) will reduce flash floods and traffic jams, but on a chicken bus, you could carry your livestock up top. For a flying car, you’ll have to wait a few years. A bamboo train is affordable, but you may have to disassemble your train car along the way. After run-commuting, you may need a shower.

“There is no single best way of traveling, and the possibilities of making our way are almost endless,” says Dr. Selima Sultana, co-editor of “Minicars, Maglevs, and Mopeds: Modern Modes of Transportation around the World,” a collection of mini essays published this year by ABC-CLIO.

Before “Minicars, Maglevs, and Mopeds,” there was not, to Sultana’s knowledge, a single reference book that covered a wide variety of contemporary transportation modes, technology and routes around the world. And maglevs, fast-moving railway systems that use magnetic force to propel a levitated train, are only the beginning.

The book can serve as a textbook for students, but can also be, as Sultana says “a nice coffee table book,” because of its vibrant photographs. It shows daily transportation across the globe, highlighting unusual forms and new technologies that will guide the transportation future. The essays can help readers understand how transportation has costs and consequences for the environment, human health and social structures.

“Transportation should be considered the center of attention for urban land-use policy,” says Sultana, whose research topics include transportation sustainability and how transportation influences social inclusivity, economic accessibility, health and cultural diversity.

Students in her courses design projects that center on national-scale topics, and those at a local level. They may study the economic effects of Charlotte’s light rail or the impact of walking and biking accessibility for children in Guilford County.

For the Travel Behavior Change project, students evaluate and change their own personal travel behavior with the goal of reducing their transportation-related environmental footprints and minimizing negative health effects associated with their modes of travel. Through this project they better understand Greensboro’s transportation options, as well as how they can reduce greenhouse gases through their transportation choices.

While Sultana has her own favorite modes of transportation – first trains, then walking and then the London Underground – co-editing “Minicars, Maglevs, and Moped” exposed her to some unusual and fascinating modes of transportation.

“Many of the contributors suggested entries that we had never heard of before,” she says.

One of those is the Copenhagen Cykelsuperstier, or an extensive bicycle road network where cyclists can maintain an average speed of 15 miles per hour, with few stops. Another is the Istanbul Tünel, which allows travelers to cross the Bosphorus 8.5 miles by rail, 180 feet below sea level in the deepest immersed tube tunnel in the world. A third is the vacuumed-train, which, theoretically, could travel up to 5,000 miles per hour through an evacuated tube, delivering passengers from New York City to Beijing in two hours. (Researchers have reached 580 miles per hour in vacuumed-train experiments, the same speed as airplane travel.)

“We learned a lot from editing these entries,” says Sultana. “Readers will be amazed by all the different forms of transportation that people use for their daily mobility in various parts of the world.”

By Susan Kirby-Smith
Photograph of South Korea’s Incheon Airport Maglev by Minseong King, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons