The size of cities today are determined by the distance a commuter can reach from home to work in a car within an hour or two (typically 30 to 40 miles). In the Victorian age, the size of cities were determined by the commuting distance by railroad or street car. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, city size was determined by commuting distance by horse-drawn carriage or foot.
What if, in the future, improved engine and fuel tecnology enabled cars to travel safely and efficiently at speeds of over 100 mph, and computer systems ensured that even the most crowded expressways were accident-free?
Or what if private air travel (helicopters) went from the domain of the mega-rich to average households? What if Ford could release a new "Ford Heli" helicopter that sold for $30,000 and that could sustain speeds of 150 mph during your morning commute? What if every suburban rooftop could easily become a helipad?
What would cities look like without automobiles and without roads? Or with roads that enabled commuters to traverse 75 to 100 miles to work each way?
When this day arrives, will there be an inevitable explosion of suburban sprawl as residents scatter the maximum distance to achieve minimum population density and land cost? If there are no roads, what spatial patterns will the development take? Will it be clustered in centers around retail, schools, and hospitals? Or around lakes and rivers? Or will the population spread evenly like butter on a slice of toast?
When this new age of urban development comes, how can we ensure that it will be more environmentally friendly than the development of the past? What effects will improvements in transportation technology have on our environment in general?