In 2012 it seems commercial air travel is worsening not improving. with overcrowded airports, higher baggage fees and delayed flights. It's enough to make you take the train. Except that, outside the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's charges are sky-high and its service rock-bottom, consumers complain.
Slow boat to China? Most ships these days basically go in circles. They're called cruises and they're hardly a way to get from Point A to Point B. Many, we're told, are similar to being locked in a bowling alley with a bunch of drunken louts for a week or so.
Will things every get any better?
Well, maybe. A company called Jacob Innovations has created a unique new design for airliners. It changes the plane's aisle-like seating structure by utilizing the height of the aircraft, which the company considers to be unused space.
The new seating plan consists of stacking individual seat compartments on top of each other instead of side by side.
For business-class flights and extended journeys the company combines the seat with an overhead bed and adjacent staircase allowing you to travel back and forth.
It’s sort of like a loft bed that has a thin mattress on top and a private seating area at the bottom.
The compartment also has large spaces for your luggage, big enough to store a giant family suitcase, so no more trying to stuff your bags in the narrow overhead compartment. In fact, there are no overhead luggage compartments.
For economy flights the company builds each row of seats one step up from each other, again, utilizing the upper parts of the aircraft to create distance and ample space for reclining.
The added space allows the sleekly designed chairs to shift almost vertically, allowing those in economy the ability to practically lie down, almost as good as first and business class.
All Jacob Innovations has to do now is sell its ideas to the airlines.
For those choosing railway over air, they may someday have the chance to experience the impressive Vacuum Train, disturbingly fast trains that define the meaning of both futuristic travel and beautiful innovation.
Vac-Trains, as they're known, have been on the drawing board since the 1990s.
Even before then, engineers like Robert Goddard have been trying to develop an underground tunnel that would have all of its air sucked from it, allowing trains to travel at speeds up to 2,500 mph due to lack of resistance.
Now, before you take your eyes off the webpage to roll them in disbelief, a group of researchers at Southwest Jiaotong University in China say they’ll have the first Vac-Train built in 10 years.
Other developers have been attempting to design an intercontinental vacuum tunnel that would allow one to travel from New York to London in about an hour. The train itself is small and capsule shaped, holding only six passengers each. So at least the boarding gate wouldn't be too crowded.
All eyes will be on China in the next decade to see just how the highly evolved train will actually work, because its success will most likely impact the decision to create intercontinental Vac-Trains and tunnels.
Daryl Oster — who is creating a Vac-Train of his own called the ET3 — says it can move at speeds up to 4,000 mph. The American engineer has already sold six licenses to China for possible use.
Not only could Vac-Trains make airplanes the slower way of travel, they could ultimately make the world a much smaller place. Just imagine living in Washington State, for example and making a trip to the Great Wall of China on a quick weekend excursion.
The idea of the Freedom Ship was conceived by engineer Norman Nixon and his company Freedom Ship International, and it's a floating city of condominiums that circles the globe every two years.
The ship would have an airstrip aboard so you wouldn't have to go to an airport if you wanted to fly to the mainland.
Freedom Ship International says about 18,000 people could live on the ship, which would actually be a flat-bottomed barge, rather than a traditional cruise ship. People could also find employment on the barge, as it would be a functioning city with companies, stores and schools for the children.
The floating condominiums were supposed to be completed back in 2001, but the company has yet to finish construction due to financial problems. However, Nixon hasn’t made any announcements of throwing away the idea, and it’s quite possible something may be built in the future.
Since there has been no word about progress, it could be that Nixon has given up, or he may be secretly working under the media radar. Time will truly tell.
None of these projects are close to being incorporated into our everyday lives yet, but they are far from being merely good ideas stuck on drawing boards. All of these innovations are at least in the development stages and have gotten some financial backing, and companies have ironed out some of the necessary legalities.
Both developers and the companies behind them are still in the selling-the-idea phase, but it may not be too long until commercial travel is completely turned upside down. Which would probably be a most welcome development.