Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)
Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4271/961663
Suggested Citation: Frank, A., "A Technical Solution for Future Transportation Using the Existing Roadway and Urban/Suburban Infrastructure and Policies," SAE Technical Paper 961663, 1996, doi:10.4271/961663.
THE PROBLEM - Due to our modern technologies and societal desires, we have created a comfortable low density lifestyle that is the envy of the world. However, the population has increased to a point where certain areas such as the major cities in the US and the world are congested with private vehicles moving from low density living areas to high density working areas using an enormous amount of ever more scarce fuel and polluting the atmosphere. People in these places loose valuable productive time in their lives. The commuting time has increased from minutes to hours.
The solution used to solve congestion and poor societal conditions in the past was to use Cost Effective Mass Transportation . Today we require the same conceptual solution for the society, the city layout and life style we have created for our selves, using the modern ideas and components of automation, communications and advanced materials to create an affordable, fuel efficient, low emitting, more convenient, and faster system.
A SOLUTION - Simply create a mass transit system for people and their vehicles rather than only people. Of course, a mass transit system to carry 5000 LB (2200 kg) Cadillacs could be created, but to be cost effective in space and practical, we should consider a system for small mini cars such as the new small vehicles in Europe and Neighborhood cars running on electric or near zero emission fuels to be the transported vehicle. On board recharge could easily be available. Current production small vehicles could be used to design a transport system for now. Transporting vehicles en-mass is much more effective in increasing roadway vehicle volume (by a factor of 10 or more) than the proposed Automated Highway System which can at best provide a factor of two. This system can be implemented at a much lower cost with much simpler and reliable mechanical hardware and advance electronic systems than other alternatives. Further, the system can fit into our social and legal structure with no changes.
This paper shows that such a mass transit system for cars with passengers can satisfy the current urban condition and the lifestyle that the public clearly favors, provide the safety necessary to meet the current liability laws, reduce the cost to one which is competitive with all forms of transit, including the automobile itself, and allow commuting time to be productive, all these and more with no change in the infrastructure. This vehicle transit system requires a shift in conventional thinking, and if adopted will lead to a more comfortable, productive and affluent society. The alternatives proposed by others using conventional people mass transit leads us to the past with high density city dwellings and all the attendant social problems we have moved away from and is not acceptable to the expected environmental standards of our current society, in addition the costs are too high for our present social structure as is evident from every mass transit system in the world. The reason is that our society is now much more productive than the past so that the cost of conventional mass transit is no longer viable. As a matter of fact, the faster the conventional people transit system, the higher the cost and the less effective it becomes in transporting people because the separation between vehicles become larger. Simply compare the number of people per hour for every system including the passenger car as in Fig. 1 . This figure shows that the automobile is the best from door to door because there are no stations and there is no waiting, in addition, the number of vehicles per hour on each highway lane is more than any other system. The bus has a high potential but ridership is a problem because of the fixed route systems and the fact that the distance to the station is limited to how far a person can walk in 5 to 10 minutes.
Thus the concept introduced has to be better than the automobile in traffic in every way and it must move our society toward supporting many more people in a much greater area with higher productivity. Further it must use much less fuel creating much less pollution and most of all, there can be no change in the infrastructure. This paradigm shift is possible because we now have and in the future will have higher capacity wireless communications, computer control and material technology. Some other features of the concept which make it attractive is the concept of privatizing personal comfort so that the rolling stock can be very simple and automatic and have very low operating costs which will allow privatization of this transit system.