When I was four years’ old, I asked my mother if I could have a ride in a stage-coach. She told me that stage-coaches no longer existed: that they were made obsolete by the steam-engine; but that now trams and trains were being made obsolete by the motor car and buses.

In the months and years that followed, as I played out transport systems in our backyard, I wondered what mode of transport would make the motor car obsolete.

Back-garden Transport Systems
My father took me and my brothers for a ride on the last then-remaining Dublin tram, the Howth Tram. It took us nearly all day to have a ten-minute trip on the tram. That was because we had to catch two buses (that stopped many times on the way) and do quite a lot of walking and waiting.

When we went down the country, we took a taxi even though that was a lot more expensive than going by bus or train, because the taxi could take us at a time to suit us rather than a scheduled time, and because it took us Door-to-Door from our own house to our holiday destination.

I figured that the system of transport to replace motor cars should take users Door-to-Door and at their own choice of time.

The system I visualised that could do this was a system of Capsules travelling in Tubes.

At first this system appeared very complex. One day, when I lay in bed with the ‘flu, in my fever I was tormented by an image of the world wrapped in a great swirl of tangled passenger Tubes stretching between all possible destinations around the globe. When I recovered from the fever, I took out a copybook and worked out how the tangle of tubes could be unravelled. Actually, it was very easy – a net of bendy tubes spread over the surface of the land, like a net of chicken-wire, reaching every local destination, and straight tubes, fed by the bendy tubes, connecting cities and continents.

Chicken Wire basis for Network

When my father had to clear a blockage in the local sewer, I knew my plan was feasible. All the houses were already connected by a tube: the sewer pipe. The narrow pipe, serving the houses, connected to a wider district pipe, wide enough for a man to crawl through. A little wider, and it could accommodate a capsule. Travel-tubes did not need to be underground and would take up no more ground-space than a footpath. They did not need to have an outlet to every house: one cab-stop could serve a group of houses. Instead of ending at the sea, they could circle back, forming a circuit.

Routing Capsules through the network visualised in my childhood was achieved by each travelling Capsule displaying its intended destination, and workmen setting shunt-levers to send them on their route. Revisiting the scheme after 40 years, the human controllers are now replaced by computers, and routing is automated. The algorithm is simple: a route-map consists of a list of points at which a cab changes tube, each having a unique identifying number. The cab broadcasts the identity of the next such point and the shunt-lever with that number is activated by this broadcast.
To me as a child, all this was for the distant future. The motor car would first have its day. Now I find that the motor car’s day is done. The distant future has already arrived and Krunchie’s Cab is needed now.

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