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Roaming houses.

An above-ground subway in Paris
Photo: The New York Times

When people ride on an elevated train in the city, what do they usually do? Look out the window. Sure, it might be because they're bored, but there's also a lot to see. Sometimes, it's even beautiful. The early morning sun rising over the downtown, children laughing and running in a park in the middle of the day, the glistening skyscrapers at midnight.

But for the majority of the time, those train tracks – vast amounts of space in the middle of dense urban habitats – go unused. Some of the best views in the city sit unappreciated, forlorn.

What if people could have small, completely self-contained homes about the size of a subway car that permanently reside on the tracks? They would slowly roam around the city, from one location to the next, in constant communication with the rail system so as to never be in the way. So you could wake up in the morning next to the lake or the waterfront, and then your house would migrate to the stop nearest your office at breakfast, go park while you work, make its way back to your office to pick you up after work, and take you on a meandering tour of the trendiest neighborhoods as the city enlivens and then drifts off to sleep.

Periodically, when you were out of the house, your house would go to a docking station to refill on freshwater and natural gas, and top off its batteries; dispose of gray or black water, trash, and your recycling; and perhaps let your dog out for a run and a wee. The docking station would also have a storage facility, a place to park your cars, some green space, and perhaps a pool as well. Roaming houses could elect to connect to each other, perhaps for Sunday brunch, an evening soirée, or visiting relatives in a rental sleeper. And the best part? Nothing puts you to sleep faster than the gentle rocking motion and rhythmic ticking of a train picking its way along the tracks.



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