The Next L.A. / Reinventing Our Future : Transportation : “Beam Me Up?”--Dream On, Scottie


Fred Flintstone powered his car with his own feet. Speed Racer drove the Special Formula Mark Five. The Jetsons flew rocket ships. Wonder Woman piloted an invisible aircraft. Captain James Kirk beamed up to the star ship Enterprise. Captain Video hopped a rocket named Galaxy. Captain Midnight flew the Sky King to battle the evil Tut and Ickky.

It’s not that these characters faced snarls of traffic on the freeways. But they and countless others, all had the same basic desire: To travel faster than everyone else.

From the fundamental to the fantastic, zany ideas of how to travel from one destination to another have long been the legacy of transportation. Thwarted by man’s limitations, many fertile minds have devised alternatives, such as beaming up to space ships, or matter transport.


Possible? We don’t rule anything out. In your lifetime? Not likely.

“Matter transport--as in Star Trek--has the undesirable side effect that the people who are transported that way are actually killed and resurrected later. It is barely, marginally within the realm of physical possibility,” said Gregory Benford, professor of physics at UCI and a consultant for the television show, Star Trek: The Next Generation. “It would create a duplicate of the person and some people would tell you that’s enough. But speaking as an identical twin, I can tell you it’s not enough.”

Nor are these slightly off-the-wall transportation options limited to the fictional realm of entertainment. A seemingly under-utilised resource--like the L.A. River--catches someone’s imagination. Then it becomes: Why don’t we do something with that?

A Texan once proposed setting up a Disneyland-like monorail over the L.A. River bed. And county officials contemplated deploying hovercraft, which travel on a layer of compressed air, in the L.A. River basin in 1985. The idea, however, was scrapped when the vehicle’s engine wouldn’t start.