To understand what transportation will look like in 2039, follow the big money.
Long-term investors who control tens of billions of dollars—private-equity firms, sovereign wealth funds, public pensions and the like—aren't betting on the proverbial jet pack of tomorrow. Instead, they hope to make substantial returns by focusing on more immediate—and boring—needs, like fixing bridges, redesigning airports and tweaking road and car technology.
Deals like Industry Funds Management's purchase of London Stansted Airport in 2013; Fortress Investment Group's ongoing development of Florida East Coast Industries, a regional rail system from Miami to Orlando; and Global Infrastructure Partners' recent sale of its stake in the Port of Brisbane to Canadian pension La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec show how private investors will have a big part in shaping the evolution of transportation over the next 25 years.
"History has shown that the public and broader market forces will look for the most efficient form of transportation available, and for the foreseeable future this probably means a reliance on current technologies using existing forms of infrastructure," said Dale Bonner, chairman of infrastructure developer Plenary Group USA.
"Current modes of surface, air and water transportation are likely to remain with us for the foreseeable future," added Bonner, the former California secretary of business, transportation and housing. "Most investors are betting on this also, since so much of the investment is in technologies designed to improve rather than replace these modes and the complex systems they rely upon."