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Upper-Intermediate Instant Lesson™

The Shape of Things to Come

Pre-Reading Activities

A: Brainstorming

Public transport will become more important in the future as cities get larger and larger. With a partner fill in the table below.  Try to think of at least three things for each section. (Note: One example for each section has been done for you.) Be creative and inventive when thinking about what you think public transport will be like in the future.

Types of Public Transport
Advantages of Public Transport
Disadvantages of Public Transport
Public Transport in the Future
bus




 

usually quite cheap
often crowded
vehicles that hover just above the road

 

B: Information Exchange

Part One: Match the following words from today's article about public transportation with their meanings:

  route,    queue,    stop (n.),    hail,    destination

1.  to signal, to get the attention of the driver of a public transport vehicle (e.g. a taxi)
2.  the way taken to get from the starting point of your journey to the end point of your journey

3.  a place chosen for a bus or train to stop at

4.  the end point of a person's journey

5.  a line of people who are waiting for their turn to do something (e.g. get onto a bus or train)

Part Two: Answer these questions in pairs.

Do you use public transportation?  When?

Part Three: Using public transport is different throughout the world. Do the following task with your partner.
Imagine that your partner is a friend who has just arrived in the country you are living in now.
Choose ONE of the types of public transport below or one of your own choice and explain to your partner how to use it.

1. subway
2. bus
3. train
4. your own choice

Think about:

Where do you go to use it?
How do you pay for a ticket?
How do you know where to get off?
Who can you ask for help?


Reading Activities

A: Reading for Gist

Read quickly the first part of today's article and choose the sentence that best summarizes that part.

a. A new type of plant has been invented with special seed pods that scientists will be sending into space.
b. The things created by science fantasy writers are sometimes real.
c. A vehicle that you could imagine being created by a writer for a science fiction story has actually been invented and made by a scientist.
d. People will be using special travel pods to go to the moon.

Part 1
Travel Pod Makes Science Fantasy A Fact
by Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Sunday Feb 24 (Reuters) A shiny white pod that began road tests this month may well be the taxi of the future.

The pod, known as ULTra -- Urban Light Transport -- could make driver-free transport a reality and not just the stuff of futuristic fantasy.

"It will be the first in the world," said Richard Treychenne, director of business development at ULTra's makers, Advanced Transport Systems Limited.

The pod -- which seats up to four passengers -- is the brainchild of Bristol University's Martin Lowson, who is no stranger to making science fiction dreams come true.

His past projects include the Apollo Moon-landing program in the United States.

 

(Continued/...)

Article © 2003 Reuters Limited. Lesson © 2003 www.english-to-go.com


B: Scanning

Look at the following table and then read the next part of today's article to complete it.

The ULTra Project
Country:
City:
Year ULTra Project is planning to begin service:
Number of pods:
Maximum speed of pods:
Energy source used to fuel pods:
Weather conditions that cannot damage the pods:

Other factor that cannot damage the pods:

 

 
Part 2

The first stage of the ULTra project will have 30 pods circling the Cardiff Bay area in Wales by 2004 if all goes according to plan, Treychenne said. Next, the pods would move to the center of the Welsh capital.

At a maximum of 25 mph, ULTra may not reach cosmic speeds but should still speed past cars and buses stuck in traffic.

The battery-powered pods will operate on a single five foot track -- less than half the width of a single lane of road -- and recharge at every stop to keep their energy levels topped up.

Resistant to vandalism, snow, rain and ice, the vehicles will be designed to stop automatically if they sense an object in their path.

(Continued/...)

Words:
cosmic speeds
- the speed of space travel

battery powered - an item that uses a piece of equipment that produces electricity which gives it power

vandalism - to damage or destroy property, especially public property
Article © 2003 Reuters Limited. Lesson © 2003 www.english-to-go.com


C: Reading for Details

Read Part 3 of today's article.  What are the advantages of taking an ULTra pod compared to taking a taxi?  Write your answers below.  Find at least 3 advantages.

Advantages of ULTra Pod
1.
2.
3.

Part 3
Smart Taxis

ULTra pods could work as an automated personal taxi system. Passengers will "hail" the pod from a designated stop, where they select the required destination along a set route.

When the pod pulls up, the passengers swipe a smart card giving the travel details and ULTra carries them directly to their chosen stop.

Rubber wheels ensure a quiet journey and security cameras at every stop increase passenger safety.

Its designers say ULTra could spell the end of long taxi queues, because passengers would find on-call pods at designated stops at least 80 percent of the time.

This efficiency would come from a large number of pods in circulation, and by shortened journey times without conventional traffic jams.

(Continued.../)

 

Words:
designated stop
- a pre-chosen or particular stop

smart card - a card that looks like a plastic bank card except that it is an electronic card that stores lots of information about the owner and can be used to pay for many goods and services.

efficiency - no waste of time or money, etc.

Article © 2003 Reuters Limited. Lesson © 2003 www.english-to-go.com
 

D: True or False

Look at the following statements and then look at Part 4 of today's article to find if they are true or false.

1.  Old car parks and shops will be changed into express stations.
2.  Passengers won't be able to take their bicycles or prams with them on the pods.
3.  People with disabilities will be able to use the pods.
4.  Passengers who share their pods will pay less than people who take a pod alone.
5.  All of the tracks will run along the ground.
6.  The ULTra design team is worried that the ULTra system will not match the architecture of the Cardiff waterfront area.

Part 4
Cheap Ride to the Future?

Advanced Transport Systems estimate that building an ULTra network would cost about one-third to one-half of the amount needed for a light railway.

Connecting Cardiff's city center to its waterside region is expected to cost 45 million pounds ($65 million). Old car parks and shops will be converted into express stations for hospitals and other focal points in the city.

The pods will be accessible to the disabled, as well as passengers with bicycles or prams, with lifts taking people up to high-rise stations.

Designers hope that the experience will cost about as much as an ordinary bus journey, or even less if passengers are prepared to share their pods.

Wherever possible, ULTra will run along the ground, but some routes might require tracks to be raised on pillars above roads, creating a truly futuristic look.

"In a modern development like the Cardiff waterfront area we feel that the system will match the architecture very well," said the ULTra design team.



Words:
disabled
- a person whose body does not work the way it should

converted - to change something into something else, so it can be used for a different purpose

Article © 2003 Reuters Limited. Lesson © 2003 www.english-to-go.com


E: Summarizing

Below is a text summarizing some of the information from the article.  It has some factual mistakes.  Read it and correct the mistakes.

ULTra is a shiny white vehicle which is now being used to circle around Cardiff Bay area. If there are no problems with the plans and designs, there will be 30 pods going around the Cardiff Bay area by 2004. The pods use petrol and they need to fill up at every stop. The pods use a single track which is 5 feet across in width. This width is less than half the width of a single road lane. Because it doesn't use much space, the planners think that building an ULTra track around Cardiff will cost less than it would to build a railway line system.

A pod takes four people, with one person driving the vehicle. The pods are weather proof and cannot be damaged. The pods will be safe and quiet because they have security cameras and wheels made of rubber.

To pay for your journey you will need to have the correct amount of money to give to the driver. Designers are hoping that using ULTra will cost about the same or less as taking a bus if you share a pod with someone else.

 

F: Language

Either by yourself or with a partner, use each of the words in the table to make as many words as possible. The words are from today's article. Then find two other words from the article and make word families for them. Think about the use of prefixes and suffixes.

automated
operate
converted
select
direct
safety
word from article:_______
word from article:_______

 

 

             

 


Post-Reading Activities
You may do one or more of these.

A: Group Discussion

Discuss these questions in groups of three or four.

1.  Look at the article again.  What problems or disadvantages do you think the ULTra transport system might have?
2.  What is one advantage of the system, compared to other kinds of transportation, that was not mentioned in the article?

 

B: Listen and Draw

Science fiction writers create imaginary worlds that often have strange inventions. For example, the author Jules Verne (1828-1905) wrote about space travel a century before a space program began. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an inventor, as well as an artist. He drew plans for aircraft.

Imagine that you have been asked by a motor vehicle company to design a vehicle for family use in fifty years time. Petrol and gas are no longer available and there are often power shortages.

Follow these steps:

1.  Draw your own futuristic vehicle.
2.  Write a description of it. Use as much detail as possible as your partner will have to draw it before he / she sees your picture. For example, you will need to describe: the shape and color, how many people it seats, how you get in, how you steer it, the wheels (if it has any), lights, windows, etc.
3. Find a partner and describe your vehicle to him / her. Your partner must draw the vehicle as you describe it. When your partner has finished, compare your drawing with your partner's drawing.
4. Now draw as your partner describes his / her futuristic vehicle.

 

C: Writing

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper describing a problem with public transport in your village, town or city. Briefly describe what the problem is and what you think should be done. Keep your letter no more than 100 words. If possible, you might be able to send your letter to your newspaper for publication.

 

D: Solving Traffic Problems

Your city has major traffic problems. Each member of your group must choose one of these roles to play:

city planner    pedestrian    a bus driver    a cyclist    a commuter who travels by car

Your group's goal is to come up with an overall solution to solve the traffic problems in your city.  The city planner must report your group's solution to the class. 
Read through the list of problems first and then as a group discuss how these problems could be solved.  Remember that each person must give their point of view depending on the role they have chosen.

1.  On days when there is no wind, the pollution from all the cars and buses which run on diesel and petrol is so bad that it causes a haze over the city. A survey found that more people would walk if the pollution wasn't so bad.
2.  In most cars that are driven into the city, there is only one person.
3.  The city center has bad traffic jams between 7:30 - 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
4.  Parking is a problem in the city center.
5.  Every year pedestrians trying to cross roads are knocked over by cars in the city center.
6.  There is a train station but it only goes to the suburbs, not into the city center. This means that people have to catch buses into the city center.
7.  Buses and trains are expensive because not enough people use them.
8.  When it rains, people get wet as the bus stops are not weatherproof.
9.  There are no cycle paths for cyclists around the city center. Motorists don't see cyclists.
10.  There are lots of taxis but they are expensive and increase the pollution.



TEACHERS' NOTES AND ANSWER KEY

Pre-Reading Activities

A: Brainstorm - Sample Answers

Types of Public Transport: bus, train, motorbike
Advantages of Public Transport: usually cheap, you don't need to own your own vehicle, helps reduce pollution

Disadvantages of Public Transport: often crowded, traffic jams, may not arrive on time

B: Information Exchange - Notes

Part Three: Students may repeat the activity with more than one partner.

B: Information Exchange - Answers

Part One
hail
- signal to get the attention of something (e.g. a taxi)

route - the way taken to get from the starting point of your journey to the end point of your journey

stop (noun) - a place chosen  for a bus or train to stop at

destination - the end point of a person's journey.

queue - a line of people who are waiting for their turn to do something (e.g. get onto a bus or train)

Reading Activities

A: Reading for Gist - Answer

c. A vehicle that you could imagine being created by a writer for a science fiction story has actually been invented and made by a scientist.

B: Scanning - Answers

The ULTra Project
Country: Wales

City: Cardiff or Cardiff Bay

Year ULTra Project is planning to begin service: 2004

Number of pods: 30

Maximum speed of pods: 25 mph

Energy source used to fuel pods: battery

Weather conditions that cannot damage the pods: snow, rain, ice

Other factor that cannot damage the pods: vandalism

C: Reading for Details - Answers

Advantages of ULTra Pod
1. rubber wheels would ensure quiet journeys
2. security cameras at every stop increase passenger safety
3. no long queues because on-call pods would be at designated stops at least 80% of time

4. shorter journey times because there would be no traffic jams

D: True or False - Answers

1. True,  2. False,  3. True,  4. True,  5. False,  6. False

E: Summarizing - Answers

ULTra is a shiny white vehicle which is now being used to circle around Cardiff Bay area.  (only being tested at the moment.)
If there are no problems with the plans and designs, there will be 30 pods going around the Cardiff Bay area by 2004. Correct

The pods use petrol and they need to fill up at every stop.  (batteries and will recharge at every stop.)

The pods use a single track which is 5 feet across in width. This width is less than half the width of a single road lane. Correct

Because it doesn't use much space, the planners think that building an ULTra track around Cardiff will cost less than it would to build a railway line system. Correct

A pod takes four people, with one person driving the vehicle.  (no driver.)

The pods are weather proof and cannot be damaged. The pods will be safe and quiet because they have security cameras and wheels made of rubber. Correct

To pay for your journey you will need to have the correct amount of money  to give to the driver.  (use a smart card as there is no driver.)

Designers are hoping that using ULTra will cost about the same or less as taking a bus if you share a pod with someone else. Correct

F: Language - Sample Answers

1. automated: 1. automatic; 2. automatically; 3. automation;   4. automate.
2. operate: 1. operated; 2. operation; 3. operator; 4. operates; 5. operating; 6. operative
.
3. converted: 1. conversion; 2. convert; 3. convertible; 4. converts; 5. converting
.
4. select: 1. selects; 2. selecting; 3. selected; 4. selection;   5. selective.

5. direct: 1. directing; 2. directs; 3. directly; 4. directed;   5. director;   6. direction; 7. indirect; 8. directive.

6. safety: 1. safe; 2. safely; 3. unsafe.

Post-Reading Activities

A: Group Discussion - Suggested Answers

1.  People could get on and not pay, especially if other people were using the pod. People might feel that the stops were unsafe at night. The ULTra routes may not take people exactly where they want to go. This is a problem in wet, wintry weather. Currently the ULTra does not include the city center, which is where many people work. People like the convenience of having their own vehicle that takes them directly to and from work whenever they want.
2. One main advantage not mentioned in the article is the fact that the ULTra system will help reduce pollution.

B: Listen and Draw - Notes

You could start this activity by drawing your own vehicle, then describing it to the whole class. After describing your vehicle, put your picture up on the board and see which student has drawn anything similar. It is a good idea to have colored pencils / crayons available if you can. This activity encourages listening and describing / fluency skills. It will be a bit chaotic but fun and well worthwhile.

D: Solving Traffic Problems - Notes

This is a role-playing activity in which everyone in the group must participate. It is important that the city planner from each group reports back the group's solution, so make sure you put a time limit on the group discussions so that there is enough time for a report back session.

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