Talking Headways Podcast: Transport and Cities in ‘Star Wars’

May the 4th be with you! This week my good friend Jeff Munowitch of Populus is joining the show to talk about “Star Wars”! We talk about the top five transportation modes and our top five cities in a galaxy far, far away.

We have a full unedited transcript here, or the partially edited version below the player. So read or listen — these are the droids you are looking for:


Jeff Munowitch: So my number five is the levitation technology that they use for moving around cargo boxes and also land speeders. It seems to keep you about half a meter or a quarter of a meter above ground and you know, you can push it around relatively easily.

So like I don’t know much at all about this tech, to me this is like pretty black box setup, but like why couldn’t you use this for jet packs? Is it like something related to the gravity of that planet you’re on, or I just don’t know. So that’s like, we’re talking about limited power and jet packs, these things can just stay hovering constantly. Like it doesn’t seem like there is a time where the turned off speeder sits on the ground.

Jeff Wood: They never just kind of plop down.

Jeff Munowitch: Yeah. So why not for jet packs? What’s that reason? I’m sure somebody out there in the “Star Wars” fandom has a reason, right? Because that’s one of the great things about “Star Wars” and the group of fans that it has accumulated after so many years: there are reasons somewhere. Somebody said something.

Jeff Wood: In the extended universe they were called repulsor lifts and I remember that they talked about them frequently in those first books and going throughout, I think it was something that they picked up, but then after that it just kind of disappeared as an explanation because in the books you can explain more obviously. Right? But after that, I don’t think anybody’s ever really said “repulsor lift” in the cannon or one of the main shows that they run. But I do know that’s what they called them and they, they used them for all kinds of things.


Jeff Wood: Okay. So my number two is the many trains of “Star Wars.” There’s lots of trains in Star Wars, including the one that’s carrying the coaxium in “Solo” with that old western train heist situation going on. There’s the sand train in the “Book of Boba Fett” recently. All these old west themes. Right. There’s some really cool magnetic levitation trains that probably use repulsor lifts as well in the “Clone Wars” cartoon, including the episode where Ashoka loses her lightsaber. There’s a lot of them in that. And then you know, in the “Bounty” episode that I mentioned earlier with the space elevator, they basically go below the surface of the planet and then they take these elevator trains.

It’s kind of cool, it’s like a maglev type of thing where they’re going through these loops and every loop they go through the train kind of connects and goes through and I don’t know, there’s lots of cool stuff in there. So there’s tons of trains. There’s, I mean you can go in into all of the EU, you could go to the cartoons, even the comic books I’m sure and find millions of them. There’s even that bus-like vehicle that takes people from Ferrix outside of Ferrix to the inside of Ferrix.

So you know, if you got a lot of transit in “Star Wars,” but you’ll notice that there’s a lot of train like things and there’s also a lot of the ships that kind of operate like cruise ships and not quite like airplanes, which I think is really fascinating as well. But that’s probably another discussion. I don’t know what you think about all the trains of Star Wars.

Jeff Munowitch: And in the “Solo” heist, like beyond the storytelling requirements of like putting something on a track to get the old western like train heist, why effectively would you have this in this universe when you can basically fly in 3D, right?

Jeff Wood: Yeah. You could move all that coaxium like with the ship between two places. So why would you do it? It might be just like an old like mining operation that was before. I don’t know. Yeah, it’s a good question because there’s really no reason other to have it on the rails. But yeah they do have the rails. I think it’s probably because it’s balanced in our own kind of mythology, too. That’s probably like the old western themes and stuff. So you’re gonna have a rail, and you have to keep it going in a direction that you know it’s gonna go in order to, you know, have the heist as it were.



Talking Headways Podcast: The Indian Transportation Context

This week I’m chatting with Akshay Mani, a sustainable transportation planner who has worked for Cambridge Systematics in the United States and the World Resources Institute’s EMBARQ program in India. Akshay joined us from Chennai to talk about transportation and the growth of Indian cities. We discuss India’s rapid urbanization and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, a […]