Rethinking Mass Transit

Adapting urban transportation to the changing needs of the modern city.

Principal Designer Michael McDaniel and frog Fellow Jared Ficklin present The Wire transit concept at TEDxAustin.

The Wire adapts urban transportation to the changing needs of the 21st century city. Designed by a guerilla team working after hours in frog’s Austin studio, the concept presents an urban cable system (transporting riders in aerial gondolas) as an efficient, economic alternative to the city’s rail-based transit plan.

“We did a lot of design research, Shadowing riders around the city and shadowing fellow frogs as they rode MetroRail.” Principal Designer Michael McDaniel explains. “We started the concept design based on the research and it ended up validating a lot of the thinking about using urban cable for mass transit.”

The proposed system would significantly cut both emissions and costs but, for the team, the rider experience is The Wire’s core value—especially in a car-heavy city like Austin.

“If you really want to adopt mass transit in your life, you eventually have to modify your lifestyle and routine to conform to mass transit,” Michael says. “What was interesting about urban cable was that it was continuously running. There are no schedules. There is no timetable.”

“You don’t need to change your lifestyle to actually us it on a daily basis. For us, driving adoption and actual usage of the system by focusing on user needs was the driving factor for everything we did.”

“It’s not just mass transit,” Michael concludes. “We’re creating an experience with it. You’re not stuck in a subway car with eighty other people looking out a black window. We’re providing you a personal, safe space as well as dramatic views of the city. It’s a beautiful experience and there is not other form of mass transit that does that.”

The Human City


As the rapid rise of the world’s urban population—expected to surpass 5 billion people by 2030—intersects with the growing influence of the networked environment, new questions emerge surrounding the experience of individuals and communities within the connected city. What is the role of technology in creating a more responsive and resilient urban environment? Can the “smart city” be human? To celebrate the New Cities Summit, kicking off on June 4 in São Paulo, design mind presents a special collection exploring the evolution of the urban experience.

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