Moving Ahead on Dualmode - a Different Approach
1. A quick response to Bill Turnbull regarding the Urban/Intercity focus
- Crisis - Way back in the 1970's I heard the urban situation described as a
crisis - and we are still functioning pretty well as a society without any
upheaval in transportation.
- The L.A. freeway projection - I find it hard to believe any type of study
that would say L.A. must double freeway capacity in the next five decades -
that's a long time and a lot can happen.
- Single lane dualmode potential capacity equals up to six or eight lanes of
freeway traffic - I'm still waiting to see the first reasonable study to
prove this - the NAHSC tried using both the close headway idea and the
platooning idea and couldn't make a convincing case. Show me!
- My view that the potential service gains are, at best, trivial - I still
need to be shown how you can achieve speeds like 80 mph on a dualmode freeway
in an urban area in combination with a "hands-free, hassle-free, direct to
his destination journey". It's only a great abstract concept - still far from
- Economics will prevail - Certainly they'll play a huge part, and that's a
key part of my "pessimism" - the practical difficulties of getting from
potential capacity to real world capacity and operations raise the economics
bar well beyond affordability, and believability.
But how do we resolve such differences of opinion?
2. First, another bit of philosophy
- You can try to sell a new concept system to a city or an activity center
but it's an almost impossible business. You can't begin a new transportation
system program wrapped around a single concept design. The National
Automated Highway System Consortium (NAHSC) program tried this using
the Steve Shladover short headway/platooning concept and, therefore: (1)
As biased advocates attempted to bury all the negatives of the
concept; (2) avoided addressing any other options; and (3) didn't step back
and figure out what the purpose or purposes of an Automated Highway System
program might be.
MEMO: I was fortunate to work at Boeing in 1958 on a program aimed at
figuring out how to get a man to the moon and back safely - a predecessor
study leading up to the Apollo program. We seriously looked at seven possible
ways to get there (including a direct shot and back with one vehicle;
building a bigger vehicle using assembly in orbit; landing "gas tanks" on the
moon next to the astronauts to fuel up for the return flight home; etc. The
program resulted in the selection of the approach of going into lunar orbit
and using a separate lunar lander. The point being that it is essential to
look at many concepts and the tradeoffs involved in order to get to the most
- Defining an acceptable (to the many key decision-makers) objective up
front, is essential to the acceptance of a good, solid new transportation
system program. The problems I have with an objective that starts with
Dualmode or AHS or PRT are (1) getting everyone to accept your definition and
feel it's reasonable (different concept advocates already have different
definitions); and (2) the risk of strong opposition to all or parts of that
- You can't set a short-term objective - e.g., to design and deploy some
entirely new system concept (other than, possibly, a limited area
people-mover) - within the next 5 to 10 years. There is just too much
uncertainty, risk and application complexity involved.
MEMO: The original transportation research organization I was in at Ford was
disbanded after I left - supposedly because the leader told the then mayor of
Detroit that he should forget about considering rail transit because Ford
could build him a dualmode system instead within three or four years. The
mayor called Henry Ford II to verify - and the organization was history.
3. How do you start a dualmode program and resolve mine and Bill's
differences? I suggest that a meaningful program should begin with a clearly
stated objective such as follows:
A joint public-private R&D program should be established whose objective is
the definition of a second generation Interstate Highway system (I2), which
could begin implementation within the next 20 years. This program will seek
to significantly advance highway system operations beyond today's
performance, which is becoming decreasingly effective, in one or more
dimensions, such as:
- Vehicle speed
- Level of automation, including the possibility of dual-mode operations
- Congestion control
- Safety and trustworthiness
- Quality of service
This I2 system design would be sufficiently flexible to be applied to either
modify or supplement current freeway operations, in their entirety or in
part, in different urban or regional areas. This program will include
simulation and practical experimentation as necessary in order to validate
important technologies and concepts.
I'm sure that there will be many objections and suggested changes to such an
objective - that's what a debate format is for. Concept advocates want
hardware development money; "monorail" type dualmode advocates, and separate
guideway advocates, won't like the highway emphasis; etc. Have at it.
Last modified: July 24, 2001