Book Review by Peter Muller
Most of what is written about PRT is too narrowly focused to describe its true potential. An Inventor’s Vision for America by Hengning Wu does not suffer from this problem. The book starts by describing Wu’s unlimited vision for the “Autoway” PRT system in some detail and then dives into related quality-of-life issues that could be leveraged by PRT or approached separately. His PRT description quite accurately captures how a modern PRT system should work and what it should do.
I was originally uninspired by the simplistic sketches of the system and the somewhat clumsy prose but, the more I read, the more I came to respect Wu’s grasp of PRT. He explains what PRT could do for America and why it has not yet caught on.
The book addresses many topics that go far beyond just PRT and which I am not qualified to comment on. Wu calls himself an “Edison-type inventor” and I think he is correct in relation to PRT. On that basis, his insights into the other topics are probably also valuable.
This book makes good reading for PRT enthusiasts and those wishing to learn more about it, but it goes well beyond that. I recommend it for anyone interested in improving America.
Look for the book on Amazon – coming soon!
by Robert Johnson
Work started in the Fall of 2019 on an underground Group Rapid Transit system to serve the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). The project is currently nearing completion. It has had unusually high public visibility because the system concept was developed by Elon Musk, one of the richest people in the world, and well known for his Tesla and SpaceX ventures. Musk has kept his 38 million Twitter followers informed of the progress of the Las Vegas system, as well as other proposed applications of his underground transportation technology.
While the infrastructure of the LVCC system in now (quite literally) set in concrete, the characteristics of the vehicles are still not clear. They have been shown in renderings as a mix of Tesla Model 3 sedans and larger 12-16 passenger van-like vehicles. The sedans seem unsuitable because of their low capacity relative to expected demand, slow boarding because of a low roofline, and lack of wheelchair access. In a setting such as the LVCC they might be offered as an option during periods of low demand.
In addition to the LVCC project, Musk’s tunneling company, The Boring Company (TBC), has proposed a more extensive system to serve Las Vegas from McCarran airport to the CBD. It would consist of tunnels running west from Terminal 3 of the airport and then north along Las Vegas Blvd (the “Strip”). Several dozen hotels and casinos along the Strip would be served by short spur tunnels. A longer spur would serve the new 65,000 seat Allegiant stadium.
The LVCC system is officially called the “Campus Wide People Mover”, while the TBC refers to it as the LVCC Loop. The term “Group Rapid Transit” is not used. However the LVCC system and the proposed system along the Strip seem to meet the definition of GRT that has been in use for many decades. In particular, all trips would be non-stop origin-to-destination, with intermediate stations bypassed.
The LVCC system is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2020. It should be of great interest to anyone working with GRT or Personal Rapid Transit (PRT).
THE LAS VEGAS CONVENTION CENTER SYSTEM
The LVCC system consists of parallel twin tunnels 0.85 miles (1.37 km) long, one for each direction of travel. There are three stations. At each end there is a surface station connected by ramps to the ends of the tunnels. The third station is located underground, about halfway between the two ends. Tunneling for the system was completed in May 2020. It was done with technology that was fundamentally conventional, specifically a Lovat Tunnel Boring Machine with a cutter head 14 feet (4.3 m) in diameter. The tops of the tunnels are about 30 feet (9 m) below grade.
TBC is currently proposing that all vehicles be battery powered and steer themselves along a flat surface without lateral constraint. This approach was pioneered by 2getthere with the ParkShuttle in the Netherlands. It is different from a system TBC demonstrated in December 2018 which had guide wheels similar to those used on curb guided buses.
The tunnels have a circular concrete lining with an inside diameter of 12 feet (3.7 m). Once the circular tunnel is finished, gravel and asphalt are added to its floor to a depth of approximately three feet (90 cm) in the middle. The final result is a flat driving surface about ten feet (3 m) wide.
The design capacity of the system is 4400 passengers per hour. This is apparently total boardings at all three stations rather than pphpd. The maximum speed is 35 mph (56 kph), and TBC has stated that vehicles will be spaced about 500-600 feet (150-180 m) apart when away from stations, suggesting a headway of about 10 seconds.
The ramps leading up to the surface stations are steep, and the lanes within the stations require the vehicles to have a tight turning radius. This gives a very compact layout. Based on drawings and renderings of the underground central station, it has mainline bypass lanes and sawtooth vehicle berths, but no acceleration/deceleration lanes (although it is difficult to be certain). The use of online accel/decel cuts mainline capacity but greatly simplifies station design.
TUNNELS VS. ELEVATED GUIDEWAYS
Major cost savings are possible if stations are placed at grade rather than below or above. Elevators and escalators can be omitted, and vehicle berths and passenger waiting areas are perhaps an order of magnitude cheaper. The difficulty is bringing vehicles up/down to grade from the mainline guideway.
The running surface of the LVCC tunnels is approximately 40 feet (12 m) below grade. This results in about twice the vertical distance to reach grade compared with vehicles coming down from an elevated guideway. However as the LVCC system shows, most of a ramp coming up from below can be covered over and is thus invisible. In contrast, the ramp of an elevated system coming to grade is a visual and physical intrusion along its full length.
Another consideration is that gravity will help decelerate vehicles arriving at a surface station from below, while it accelerates vehicles departing on a down ramp. This is the opposite of the situation with an elevated system.
The LVCC system may very well demonstrate that tunnels can be a cost-effective alternative to elevated guideways, particularly if most stations are at grade. Its location at an important Las Vegas attraction might help popularize this technology.
by Jim Schroder
Development Manager – Industrial Applications
Please see link below for full article :
By Burford Furman
San José State University
25th JULY 2020
A team of engineers, architects, and urban planners from San José State University, Southern Illinois, and the International Institute of Sustainable Transportation, with support from the Mineta Transportation Institute, is examining the benefits and challenges associated with creating a solar powered automated transit network (ATN) that will link areas near the north and south campuses of SJSU.
The overall project is composed of two sub-studies. The first study (Energy Systems) is focused on answering the question, “Can solar photovoltaic panels located along the guideway network deliver the energy needed by a large transportation network?” The second study (Visualization) is focused on answering the question, “Will immersive, dynamic computer visualization help decision makers buy into radically new transportation approaches?”
Solar photovoltaic panels (PV) applied directly to the guideway of an ATN system have been promoted by various individuals and developers since the 1990s (Furman, 2018). However, for solar ATN to gain serious consideration by decision makers, there must be evidence that it can actually provide the energy needed to operate the system and stations reliably and resiliently. Thus, the Energy Systems project proposes to define the solar-energy collection, energy storage, storage-to-vehicle and propulsion, grid interconnection, and distribution system requirements for an ATN system and passenger catchment area near the SJSU north and south campuses.
Besides the ‘nuts-and-bolts’ engineering development and verification that must be done for solar-powered ATN to become a reality, significant knowledge is needed by planners, architects, and developers to be able to weave ATN systems into the urban fabric in ways that will be acceptable to community stakeholders. The gathering of feedback from stakeholders has improved in the past few decades with the rise of the internet and social media and their ability to provide information and solicit comment from the public, however the visualization and virtual ‘experiencing’ of proposed major changes to the urban fabric from large transportation projects is stuck in the dark ages and tends to stifle innovation. It is hard to overstate the value of immersive, dynamic modeling of a cityscape in comparison to static, two-dimensional depictions of what things will be like as a result of proposed changes to transportation systems, however the development of immersive, dynamics models, such as those from companies like Encitra/4Dialog is a relatively complex, time intensive process.
Thus, the Visualization project seeks to streamline the process for creating and mainstreaming dynamic ATN models to make them more accessible for those without extensive training or background in software to develop models and to use them effectively in the decision making process for proposed new transportation systems.
More information on the research project is available at : https://transweb.sjsu.edu/csutc/research/utc/Solar-Powered-Automated-Transportation-Network-San-Jos%C3%A9
Furman, B., Swenson, R. McDonald, S., Ramasubramanian, L., Fogelquist, J., Chiao, Y., Pape, A. (2020). Solar Powered Automated Transportation Network for San José. Mineta Transportation Institute, Project 1948. https://transweb.sjsu.edu/csutc/research/utc/Solar-Powered-Automated-Transportation-Network-San-Jos%C3%A9
Furman, B. J., (November 19, 2018). “Solar-Powered Automated Transit – Its Time is NOW! ATRA Pulse. http://www.advancedtransit.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/BJF-ATRA-Newsletter-Article-for-December-2018.pdf
Lawrence Joseph Fabian
City Planner, 1945 – 2020
Lawrence (Larry) Joseph Fabian of Roscoe, New York, passed away on February 21, 2020 at the age of 74. Born in Cleveland, OH, he was the son of Henry and Julia (Dulski) Fabian. Larry was the brother of the late Geraldine Pofok, and father of Mitra Fabian, Niora Fabian, and Matthew Fabian.
He graduated valedictorian from Parma High School in Parma, OH, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Dartmouth College in 1967. Larry earned a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
As a young graduate, he joined the Peace Corps and was sent to serve in Iran. There, Larry made life-long friends, and met his former wife, Shemiram Fabian. After welcoming their first child into the world, the family returned to the United States, and Larry began his career in transit and urban planning. An employee at Cambridge Systematics for over 12 years, he also founded Trans.21, publishing newsletters, consulting, and speaking at industry conferences as an expert in his field.
Larry was a devoted member of the Baha’i faith, and loved reading, travel, meeting new people, and languages. He will be missed by many. Family and friends are invited to a memorial service in Dorchester, MA, on Saturday May 30th. Please reach out to the family for details. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Larry’s memory to the Tarbiat Foundation in the Dominican Republic, where Larry spent many hours volunteering. Either by check to Fundación Tarbiat, sent certified mail to Calle Caonabo# 91, San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, or GoFundMe: gf.me/u/xqkxt3
In this Day, let us celebrate humanity transformed.
by J. Edward Anderson, first ATRA President.
2004 – The Twenty-Ninth Year.
Please click on link below for Year 29 history.
by John Foley, 2020
Please see link below for article:
IF PRT IS SO GREAT, WHY DON’T WE SEE MORE OF IT?
and how ATRA can help fix this issue
by: Peter Muller, ATRA President
There are many reasons why PRT has been slow to catch on. They include competition from established transit systems, the fact that PRT usually needs to be acquired by a transit agency (not an individual or city like a car or driverless shuttle), a complicated regulatory environment, etc. I am reading a book (Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann) that I believe goes to the crux of the matter: confirmation bias, disconfirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. The book suggests some antidotes including “thinking grey”, “Devil’s advocate” and “don’t trust your gut” which you may like to read about but which we can hardly thrust upon PRT naysayers. However, the book describes some historic ideas that were slow in catching on, that we can learn from.
In 1912, Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift. He even found fossil evidence in support. However, he was not a geologist and was unable to explain the mechanism by which continents could drift. The theory “…sat uninvestigated by mainstream geologists for forty years until the new science of paleomagnetism started creating additional data in support of it…”.
A nineteenth-century Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis investigated the fact that the death rate of mothers giving birth with the help of doctors was 10 percent while it was only 4 percent for mothers aided by midwives. He determined the probable cause was that the doctors were not washing their hands after handling cadavers and had them do so with a solution of chlorinated lime. The death rate immediately dropped to match that of the midwives’ deliveries.
The next part of the book is worth quoting more fully:
“Despite the clear drop in the death rate, his theories were completely rejected by the medical community at large. In part, doctors were offended by the idea that they were killing their patients. Others were so hung up on the perceived deficiencies of Semmelweis’s theoretical explanation that they ignored the empirical evidence that the handwashing was improving mortality.” Semmelweis’s ideas only took hold twenty years later after “…Louis Pasteur’s unquestionable confirmation of germ theory”.
Both Wegener and Semmelweis “…noticed obvious and important empirical truths that should have been investigated by other scientists but were reflexively rejected by these scientists because the suggested explanations were not in line with the conventional thinking of the time. Today this is known as a Semmelweis reflex. Individuals still hang on to old theories in the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence-it happens all the time in science and in life in general. The human tendency to gather and interpret new information in a biased way to confirm preexisting beliefs is called confirmation bias”.
While ATRA can do little to combat confirmation bias, I believe we can learn from the key commonality in these stories – in both cases, the ideas caught on once there was more credible supporting evidence. While PRT is now well proven in a few niche applications, its effectiveness as a solution to urban mobility, congestion and climate change has not been so well proven. There are only a small number of studies that have investigated applications where PRT is deployed on a wide-area basis. Those studies that have been completed for large deployments are either out of date or were underfunded and undertaken by consultants lacking strong credibility and statistically-valid local travel data or both. ATRA may be able to help get large feasibility studies undertaken by credible consultants with sufficient resources to obtain strong data about the public’s propensity to pay for riding a large PRT deployment and the cost of building, maintaining and operating it as well as all of the other direct and indirect costs and benefits.
There are several US communities such as Greenville and Atlanta, and many more elsewhere that would like to undertake large PRT feasibility studies but are struggling to raise the necessary funds. There are also many large philanthropies anxious to fight climate change and willing to fund applied research in order to do so. Most of these philanthropies will not fund government agencies or for-profit companies. ATRA is a 501-C3 charity and is eligible for this type of funding.
ATRA could apply for and obtain philanthropic funding for supporting PRT feasibility studies aimed at understanding how to mitigate climate change and congestion by implementing solar-powered PRT in communities suffering from low transit use. ATRA could then entertain requests for funding from these communities and provide some of the funding needed while also helping ensure the studies are undertaken by credible consultants giving educated consideration to the PRT option based on statistically-valid data. ATRA could then also support presentation of the findings by its members at appropriate conferences around the world.
I am excited to announce that the ATRA Board believes this could make a difference and has decided to pursue an initiative along these lines.