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    The California Infrastructure Institute (CALII)

    August 27th, 2015

    ATRA-295x100The California Infrastructure Institute (CALII) is a non-profit corporation formed in the public interest to be a catalyst for collaboration between governments, businesses and academia. Our purpose is to begin a process that will lead to automated transportation networks (ATNs) that are tested, proven and sufficiently standardized such that local authorities can purchase a system with an acceptable level of risk using normal procurement processes.

    Despite small-scale ATN operations in Heathrow, Masdar City and Suncheon Bay, other cities that have expressed interest in such systems find themselves ‘stuck’ due to the inherent risk and uncertainty regarding what is perceived to be an unproven technology. Cities and other local authorities are understandably hesitant to adopt innovation that may or may not be both operable and acceptable to the public.   While there are enthusiasts who are ready to move forward, often having decided upon a specific vendor’s system, the politicians and planners are both more skeptical and more deliberate.

    Which system is best, or least likely to become a ‘technological orphan’? Which company has the financial resources such that the buyer can be assured that they will be around when new parts are needed, technological advances must be incorporated, or simply to deal with problems as they arise? Have any of the vendors really proven their system can operate as a complex network as advertised? Will an elevated track be acceptable to the public? The skeptics see technical, economic, social, environmental, regulatory and political risks — the sum of which means it is easier to say “no” than to actually move forward.

    The Aerospace Corporation, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), is a technically competent and technology neutral organization that studied ATNs for the City of San Jose. They recognized that the existing small systems have demonstrated their viability, and could serve Mineta Airport. The vendors had not, however, shown that their claims of being fully scalable and able to expand to serve a larger city had been demonstrated.

    There is a need for demonstration, not on the streets of a city but on a Proving Ground for independent third party assessment and certification of ATN systems. Such a proving ground is where technical glitches can be worked out, standards for fit, form and function established, human factors tested, movement through stations of various sizes modeled, physical and cyber-security advanced, and where public acceptance can be demonstrated.


    A proving ground is where computer models can be extended and pushed to their limits, subsystems can be tested and, where necessary, modifications can be made before use in the public domain. Such a facility would provide training for designers, network planners, operators and maintenance staffs. It would also provide a place for regulators to learn how to regulate such new systems and certify their safety for public use. (An ATN is not a train.) Operations on a proving ground would provide data to extend economic and environmental models, again reducing risk and uncertainty for local authorities and transit operators.

    We believe a proving ground, similar to the ones the FRA has for railroads in Colorado and MIRA operates in England for automobiles, would help vendors prove the worth of their proposals – and such independent testing would just as surely expose their weaknesses. The proving ground would make it easier for vendors to bridge both the technological and commercial ‘valleys of death’ where they now appear to be stuck. With the development of technical and quality standards, multiple vendors will be able to compete, thus reducing single-source risk.

    Local authorities that participate in this process will be able to set objectives for systems in their jurisdictions and can learn how ATNs might solve the actual transportation problems they face. By linking vendors and potential buyers in a collaborative relationship, technologies will not be developed in a vacuum but can be directly related to promising pilot projects in urban areas. The local agencies will learn how to effectively procure complex technical systems, thus reducing risk before large decisions and expenditures must be made.


    CALII is a group of interested private citizens with diverse and relevant professional qualifications. As a non-profit formed in the public interest, we are non-partisan, entirely independent, pro-bono and technology agnostic. We expect to be a reliable repository of objective information and an enduring voice of reason in order to educate the public and public officials regarding new infrastructure technologies.

    We intend to promote, engage in and sponsor research in both the pure and applied sciences for the advancement and betterment of urban transportation and related civil infrastructure to serve a public benefit.

    We provide a medium through which public and private entities – cities, counties, metropolitan agencies, ports and airports, businesses and all other persons interested in the development and deployment of advanced transportation and associated civil infrastructure can sponsor research and development for the public benefit.

    Author:   Catherine G. Burke

    The Missing Links for a Sustainable Future

    July 14th, 2015


    by Chair Rod Diridon, Sr., US High Speed Rail Association, Emeritus Executive Director, Mineta Transportation Institute,Chair Emeritus, APTA High Speed Intercity Rail Committee.


    Ridership is up dramatically on all modes of public transportation especially rail transport. The wonderfully aware and responsible millennial generation have decided to try to save the world for humanity by being sustainable.  They, the Pope, and the vast majority of our population know that climate change is out of control and 40+% of that terrible threat comes from carbon-powered transportation. In addition, in the Sunbelt areas with expanding populations moving more employees and products, traffic is becoming seriously problematic with congestion reaching near terminal gridlock levels.

    The states, with some help from the federal government, are working hard to find remedy’s and are expanding all modes of transit. Light, metro, commuter, and intercity rail ridership is up dramatically. Finally, high speed rail is now under construction in California and serious planning is moving ahead in the north east corridor, Florida, Texas, and from Chicago to St Lewis. But the missing link in those systems is the first and last mile that delivers the commuter from home to rail transit and from the job-end delivery station to the employment location.  Those two aspects seem generally overlooked as the rail systems are planned.

    First, at the commuter-shed end there must be Transit Villages built atop and around the rail stations and parking at high densities.  This is done throughout the world but less so in the US.  The construction of a cement podium a level above the station, tracks, and parking creates a new area for living, a new tax base for the community, and avoids unserviceable urban sprawl. Overlooking the expanse of grass atop the podium would be the high rise towers juxtaposed at angels to preserver sight lines.  The future commute, as with other countries, will be by elevator to the rail station then by rail to work.

    But the other important missing link is the employment-end, last mile which is where Automated Guideway Transit comes in. AGT can connect the rail station in a general industrial and commercial area via continuously moving automated pods or vehicles that provide cross-platform transfer access from the arriving rail system directly to the employment location stop by coding that stop into the vehicle.  These lighter, elevated system are less expensive to build and operate and can use current boulevard medians diverging into major employers reception areas to allow direct access for employees or visitors without having to brave the terribly congested and unpredictable roadways.

    The technology for AGT and for Transit Villages is tried and proven in other countries many of which are now in compliance with the old Kyoto Accords for air quality. All we require to accomplish that seamless system for the US is the political courage to zone the increased density at the commuter-end stations and negotiate with the public for either the tax support or public-private partnerships to build the AGT connectors at the employment end.  If we intend to leave a livable world to our children, we best find that political courage very soon.


    Hope that works.  Good luck!


    TRB 95th Annual Meeting: Call for Papers

    June 9th, 2015

    trbKey Considerations for Automated/Driverless Vehicles on the Airport Terminal and Ground Transportation Network

    The Standing Committee on Airports Terminals and Ground Access (AV050), is seeking papers exploring how automated/ driverless vehicles might affect airport terminals and airports’ ground transportation network. Automated vehicles could change:

    • Airport parking space requirements and more importantly airport parking revenue
    • Curbside zones
    • Internal circulation systems
    • Luggage handling
    • Roadway networks
    • And many other aspects

    Details here:

    The winner of the first annual Martin Lowson paper award

    June 8th, 2015

    monica_zarafu_lowson_awardThe winner of the first annual Martin Lowson paper award is: Monica Zarafu, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia.

    Due to the generous support from the Lowson family, an annual student paper award has been established. The late Martin Lowson was the visionary behind the ATN system at Heathrow airport. He loved working with students and fostering their creative and innovative ideas. Due to his dedication, hard work and entrepreneurially qualities the modern ATN vision was realized. ATRA thanks his family and honors his legacy with this award.

    ATRA fosters the development of automation and networking to advance the quality and sustainability of transportation, particularly for our urban areas. The objective is to recognize high quality, original work that advances the thought and practice of fully automated networked public mobility systems. The emphasis in the inaugural 2015 award was on Automated Transit Networks toward sustainable urban mobility. Congratulations Monica Zarafu!!

    Monica Zarafu is a transport engineer specialized in transport technologies with a Master by research in Built Environment from University of Technology Sydney. Areas of expertise include travel demand estimation and forecasting infrastructure needs, multi-modal transport systems, and integrated transport and land-use evaluations, with academic, local government and industry practice. Her research interest is in identifying and evaluating innovative transport solutions for twenty-first century urban forms, with a focus on finding a sustainable equilibrium between individual and collective interests. Under a collaborative research program funded by the Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, Monica investigated how effective a Personal Rapid Transit system could be in retrofitting edge cities using a local business park, Macquarie Park as a case study.

    This paper is available on our Papers page:

    Beyond Traffic – Choosing the Future

    May 19th, 2015

    A new white paper from ATRA has been published.

    Beyond Traffic – Choosing the Future has been developed in order to bring attention to different driverless car-centric and driverless transit-centric futures that could emerge.

    Automated Transit Networks paper from ATRA

    August 29th, 2014

    Implementing_Automated_Transit_Network_Solutions_Principal_ConsiderationsImplementing Automated Transit Network Solutions, Principal Considerations is a new paper from ATRA that discusses the key benefits and obstacles common to all ATN systems and examines the specific case for four different applications; an urban regeneration project, an airport, a campus style estate and a legacy park project.

    The First Annual Martin Lowson Paper Award

    August 9th, 2014

    martin lowsonIn honor of the inventor of the first commercial PRT system

    $500.00 paper award
    ATRA fosters the development of automation and networking to advance the quality and sustainability of transportation, particularly for our urban areas. ATRA academic committee has instituted an annual paper award to recognize contributions in that area. The objective is to recognize high quality, original work that advances the thought and practice of fully automated, networked systems. The inaugural competition will be 2015. ATRA will accept papers that have been authored and/or published between January 1, 2013 up until the end of March 31st 2015. The papers may have been submitted to journals and/or conferences (in fact ATRA encourages this), or may be unique to the ATRA competition. The emphasis in 2015 is on Automated Transit Networks toward sustainable urban mobility.

    The First Annual ATRA Paper Award 2015

    Contact information:

    Rules of the competition:
    Submit paper to
    Follow TRB paper guidelines for a blind peer review process

    Network RUS: Alternative Solutions

    July 16th, 2013

    Network Rail ATRANetwork Rail have published a Route Utilisation Strategy of Alternative Solutions. It looks at (among many other things) how the Rail Network Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) could consider PRT for increasing access to the Rail Network.

    Does the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) currently used in locations such as Heathrow Terminal 5 have wider applicability to increase access to the network?

    Rail Network Route Utilisation Strategy: Alternative Solutions