Response to Comments by John Hopkins Regarding the Problems and Potentials of a National Dualmode System


J. Richard Guadagno, Inventor of  InTransSys, Cimarron Technology. Ltd.

May, 2000

After reading your recent e-mail concerning the shortcomings of the HiLoMag dual mode transportation system, I find myself in virtually total agreement with your incisive analysis. The reason for this is that I went through precisely the same process a couple of decades ago.

Before I go on, let me introduce myself. I have a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science, and about 15 years experience in innovative mechanical design. But I consider myself primarily a thermodynamicist, since I subsequently spent another decade or so doing research and teaching in that field. Since 1971, I have been developing my own transportation system, known as the Integrated Transportation System, or InTranSys (we previously used the acronym ITS, but as you know, this has since been appropriated by others!). InTranSys is actually a triple mode system, since it combines private automobiles, public transit vehicles, and freight into a single integrated system. Its name comes not only from this fact, but also from its ability to serve interconnected urban and rural networks with equal facility.

It all started when, while working with a number of environmental groups concerned with growing air pollution, I decided to document why we should get people out of their cars and onto public transit. Being a technologist, I prepared a list of the advantages and disadvantages of both. Surprised to find that the list of advantages of the car was far longer and more impressive than that for public transit, I then turned my efforts toward finding a way to combine the advantages of both in a single system. The result was InTranSys, which has been described in great detail at my website.

Let’s go over your comments one by one in the order given in your reply to Mr. Reynolds. Instead of trying to "embody a tight integration between vehicles and guideways", I designed InTranSys to accommodate existing vehicles. As you noted, these come in an incredible variety of shapes and sizes, with each one reflecting both the needs and the personalities of their owners. The key to this versatility is the use of low-profile, low-drag platforms attached to system-bound vehicle carriers. These can be used to carry any four-wheel vehicle (plus those with dual rear wheels) up to 3.0 meters wide, 3.4 m high, and 6.5 m long. Even longer vehicles can be transported by using two or more articulated carriers. This means that such things as UPS trucks, stretch limos, and SUVs with boats or cargo cells on top can readily be carried.

After fiddling with Maglev and air suspension, I settled on steel wheels on dual steel rails for support and a linear synchronous motor (LSM) for propulsion. This combination, where the wheels and rails are never used for traction, steering, or braking, eliminates almost all track friction and wear, and assures component lifetimes several times greater than those found in conventional railroading. Together with the incomparable efficiency of the LSM, this system can fulfill "the promise of high levels of performance and efficiency" to a much higher degree than any other system, existing or proposed. An equally beneficial advantage of the constant speed feature of LSMs is that they allow traffic capacities which are many times greater than other systems. For example, a single pair of 150-mph rural InTranSys tracks can carry as much traffic as nine four-lane freeways.

You also stated correctly that "one major reason for the dominance of traditional . . . highway . . . technologies is their adaptability" which assures that "any road vehicle can operate anywhere". InTranSys not only retains this feature, but also expands it enormously because of the 3X higher speeds and total weather invulnerability that it offers. It also provides the opportunity for the traveler to devote his time to other things besides driving, both while he is in his car and after he has arrived.

The roles played by various governmental levels, which you detailed so well, would be retained with the construction of InTranSys. While the Feds would set standards and dictate where and how interstate connections would be made, the decisions as to the location and density of corridors within states and municipalities would continue to be made by those agencies. This would enable people to retain a better voice in matters concerning their own communities. The Federal Government would, however, play the major role in getting the system implemented, with both funding and technological help being offered.

The surface right-of-way problems you mentioned were precisely what induced me to decide on elevated tracks for virtually all segments of InTranSys. The only exceptions would be tunnels where practical in heavily urbanized or mountainous areas. Today’s "light-rail" systems built on the ground are creating traffic and safety nightmares wherever they have been introduced. New systems should never be allowed to be constructed where current systems now exist. With proper design and implementation, overhead rails can be installed within existing rights-of-way in both urban and rural settings without interfering significantly with existing travel corridors.

The Logistics section of the InTranSys technical report, which is included in its entirety on the website, advocates the first stages of construction of the system to be located within cities. Federally funded subsidies should be used to induce selected communities to build such demonstration projects. The success of these would then convince other cities to follow suit, while at the same time inducing the residents of the first communities to demand rural lines connecting them with other areas surrounding them.

Urban InTranSys lines, even running "only" at 60 mph, would have traffic capacities much higher than the total of all the streets within their service areas. The streets would then be freed up to handle greatly reduced local traffic, much of which would consist of short jaunts to and from the InTranSys stations. With a fully implemented InTranSys network, crosstown street travel would virtually cease, allowing the removal of stoplights and greater use of these corridors by bicycles and pedestrians. Pavement would last many times longer than it does now, both here and eventually on rural roads as well, since trucks would be used only to transport cargo pods (visualized for InTranSys decades ago and now existing on intermodal freight systems) between stations and origins or destinations. People would still "have the functional equivalent of current vehicles" running at lower densities on the same "very large network of conventional roads" which we use today. The only change is that these vehicles may all have to be electric ones in the future.

The "mean time to failure for the vehicles" – actually the vehicle carriers – on InTranSys would be many times greater than for any ground transportation system in use today. The motors have essentially no moving parts, leaving only wheel bearings to absorb any significant wear. It is now feasible for these bearings to be diamond-coated for cooler operation and longer life. Synthetic diamond manufacturers (who mistakenly banked heavily on the gem market) are now desperately looking for clients, and the polycrystalline coating process is quite inexpensive. Vehicle carriers would also be checked periodically as are today’s airplanes (sometimes). When this care is combined with the absolute control offered by LSMs, the safety of InTranSys should easily set records unattainable today for any transportation form.

The installation of InTranSys would not force anyone to give up his present vehicle. In fact, it would encourage him to retain it – perhaps for another thirty years, since most people, given the choice, would opt to do most of their traveling via InTranSys and to drive their cars only for short distances at the ends of each trip.

Surprisingly, there are two other proposed automated transportation systems whose feasibility would be enhanced by InTranSys instead of being displaced by it. Personal rapid transit (PRT) could be reduced to minuscule networks located within the broader InTranSys net. The PRT vehicles could be delivered to nearby InTranSys stations and then automatically transferred to the InTranSys tracks to other stations near their destination. At the other end of the scale, high-speed Maglev tracks (and anything less than 300 mph is a toy) could also be combined with InTranSys to carry private cars, buses, or has-to-get-there-now cargo from any InTranSys station to the nearest Maglev station. There, like the PRT vehicle above, it would be automatically transferred to the Maglev system for the long-distance leg of its trip, and then back to InTranSys again. This combination would offer door-to-door travel faster than airlines for distance up to about 1500 miles, and would largely replace most domestic air travel.

After the first energy crisis of 1973, I used my thermodynamic expertise to calculate both the expected date of exhaustion of the world’s petroleum resources and the probability of this fuel being readily replaced by alternatives such as natural gas, oil shale, tar sands, coalbed methane, alcohol from biomass, or methane hydrate lying on the deep seafloor. Like all the others who have bothered to conduct such calculations, I concluded that the world will be out of oil by the year 2020, and that none of the proposed replacements is likely to extend the internal-combustion-engine age for any appreciable amount of time after that date, if at all. This means that by the year 2030, the entire world will either have in place new transportation systems powered by electricity derived from direct photovoltaic conversion of solar energy – or else it will have no transportation systems at all.

It is this feature of InTranSys, then – long-term sustainability (on the average, more than half of the energy it requires can be garnered solely from solar panels mounted on the track structure itself) – which completely overwhelms all of its other advantages. And it is the concentration on efficiency (deemed excessive by some of InTranSys’ competitors and critics) in a petroleum-less world which sets it aside from all other prospective alternatives.


Last modified: May 17, 2000