by Robert J. Hoffman

 rideway1.jpg (82174 bytes) While marketability is essential to the success of any product or service, curiously we hear nothing about it when new methods of mass transit are advanced. Yet if the matter is approached as a marketing problem, there are possibilities significantly better than anything offered heretofore.

The essential requirements were given by Henry Ford II as far back as 1967 when he stated that there is nothing to "equal the automobile for speed, comfort, convenience, privacy, economy, and other qualities that people value." Thus these are characteristics that any approach to transportation must offer if it is to be successful in the marketplace.


Altogether, including the above, 18 features clearly are desired by commuters. These are:

Speed Comfort Convenience
Privacy Economy Door-to-door service
Reduced energy usage Eliminate parking Reduced smog
Assured security Immediate availability Unlimited availability
No transfers No human errors No stops for others
Improved safety Improved reliability Independence

The last, independence, was observed by Andres Duany, the noted city architect, as being the true cause of our "love affair with the automobile".

Mass transit does not address market demands; essentially it is the same service offered a century ago. Even the appellation, mass, implies non-marketable concepts. Customers truly want personalized service. For example, door-to-door service is a prime requirement for the commuter. Street corner-to-street corner or station-to-station service is no longer acceptable. And while speed is commonly touted, it's materially less than claimed because of frequent stops for loading. Regardless, marketability does not lie in speed; it's in getting rid of the many stops.

Further, immediate availability is wanted; people actively detest waiting. And while service, convenience, and independence gave the automobile a distinct edge over other forms of ground transportation, it is quite unsatisfactory in areas of air pollution, safety, reliability, and driver error.

Considering all these factors, can there be other transportation methods that offer most of the good features with fewer of the liabilities?

Even a casual analysis shows much of the difficulty lies in using independent vehicles on the highway or rail. So try reversing that arrangement: have the roadway move and the vehicle be a passive rider. Immediately there are major simplifications in the equipment. Only an occasional motor is needed to drive the moving highway or, in actuality, a conveyor belt. And all the engines, drive trains, and wheels for cars disappear. An immediate improvement is the significant reduction in fuel consumption and the resulting smog.

The conveyor is the Rideway which also is the name for the transit system.

The conveyance, which simply sits on the moving belt, is an elementary compartment with four seats, heating, cooling, ventilation, and a control panel. Perhaps television for diversion. Thus the cost of the car is not significant which makes it feasible to assign one to each user for their use alone for the entire trip. Thus, privacy!

This conveyance is the Ridecar.

The manner in which people enter the Ridecar is a major change. The conveyors move at 30 mph at least; thus people cannot enter or leave the car while it is on the belt. The car must be stopped and at rest on the earth. This is accomplished by a mobile crane which moves along the structure to join up with a Ridecar for removal and placing on the ground at its specific destination. Of course, the reverse happens when loading. This unique capability makes it possible to achieve all the marketing features listed above: the car can be placed or transferred on the conveyors anywhere rather than only at street corners or stations. This approach also caters to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act right from the inception rather than as an afterthought. The mobile crane is the Intraporter.


While this may seem very futuristic, servomechanisms routinely perform such functions in the automatic transmission of your car, the leveling of elevators at floor level, the pointing of guns on ships or aircraft, and the guiding of rockets in space. Clearly all the features would not be realized from the start. Yet this was true of all utilities whether electricity, telephony, even water and sewage. Nevertheless, with only one line the quality of service is greater than any existing or proposed method.

All the essential parts of the system are now present. So let's examine operation during a typical trip to work. Routinely, shortly before the commuter's departure time a Ridecar is delivered. If it should not be used within half an hour, the car would be returned to the conveyor. This morning the car is entered, and the user places the destination address into the control panel. To simplify addressing, the telephone number is used as opposed to street addresses which lack uniformity. The phone number is forwarded to the routing computer: the Ride Director. Here it is verified. If valid, the Ride Director returns the destination to the control panel as the actual address or, for businesses, the name. For example, in San Diego if the passenger enters 299-9811, the Ride Director responds with MACY'S FASHION VALLEY. Then the user indicates acceptance or corrects the entry. Upon acceptance the Ride Director determines the most expeditious route and instructs the Intraporter to load. On occasion the most expeditious route may not be the most direct route because of localized overloads, maintenance, or disasters

Being a fully automatic system, Rideway cannot be at surface level where children or pets could gain access to it. It must be either underground or elevated. An underground installation would limit flexibility somewhat, but the major bind -- a truly major one -- would be in relocating existing utilities. The only economically feasible arrangement is an overhead system which is normally anathema. Recognizing this, the Rideway structure is a departure from traditional design because there is little weight to support; thus less bulk is required. The width need be no more than eight feet which permits placing it over existing sidewalks. Much of the architecture is based on the Roman or Mission Style arch. Also, landscaping will be used around the supporting pillars. The goal is to enhance the environment, not to blight it.

For more details, contact Robert J. Hoffman, 6650 Amherst St., #8C, San Diego, CA 92115-2948

Phone & FAX - (619) 286-2930, E-mail:


Last modified: February 06, 2003