Local Transport Today is the authoritative, independent journal for transport decision makers. Analysis, Comment & News on Transport Policy, Planning, Finance and Delivery since 1989.

Change as a constant

Local Transport Today
12 June 2020

You’ll have hopefully noticed that this issue is LTT's 800th, and part of our short feature to mark the occasion includes a list of many significant things that were just a twinkle in the eye or not even on the radar when the magazine was launched in 1989. For all or any of its omissions, it's still a quite remarkable list when you think it’s just a 30-year period. Lenin once said, “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”. That’s certainly the case at the moment as we grapple with the Coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.

One conclusion from looking back is that we don't always register just how much has changed, once the new things have become commonplace. So setting a ‘before and after’ date seems a good way to understand that massive level of upheaval, and how so many things that were so new at the time are now taken for granted. 

With the pandemic on top of everything else, the world and its human activity have been reshaped extraordinarily in less than a single lifetime, and arguably at an exponential pace. 

Does the essence of human behaviour really change that much that fast? How many people  comfortably embrace the pace of change that is the hallmark of modern society? Technology, engineering, electronics and even art are all developing at a rapid pace but are people and attitudes keeping up and matching themselves happily with our recreated world? Many are left behind or left confused. Strangely, the current 'lockdown' has created a potentially much-needed pause, and chance to reflect and recalibrate. That might mean that once things restart and we are urged to get the economy moving again, a significant number of people may feel an even bigger disconnect.

Might there be a resistance to the brave new worlds of virtual and digital, the spread of Artificial Intelligence and to recharged consumerism – all very much on the transport agenda – and instead a greater appreciation of the value on time spent with friends and family or just enjoying a walk in the fresh air? 

Who’d want to guess what might be on a similar list published in 30 years’ time? For sure, expecting ‘business as usual’ would be a fantasy, but might projecting forward the frenetic kind of change we’ve been used to miss a potential reset in our expectations too?

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