Toward a Performance Specification of an Ideal Rapid Transit Technology

The following criteria and features are proposed for use in defining the attributes of an ideal Rapid Transit technology. It is expected that they will evolve over time as additional viewpoints and objectives are set forth. Persons interested in encouraging the developers working in this field are invited to provide their suggestions for improvement in the performance specs provided here.

Type of Operation

Automated vehicles, ticketing and control; 24-hour service, demand-responsive, fully-developed vehicle prepositioning capability (i.e. placing empty vehicles that are ready for use in locations where demand is expected to materialize).

Network Characteristics

One-way loops, some adjacent for two-way travel in particular corridors, adapted closely to site requirements

All stations are off-line

One or more storage/maintenance depots, located to minimize the movement of empty vehicles around the network.

Distance between Stations: Around 500 meters or less

Line Capacity: From 1,500 to 8,000 passengers per hour each way; on certain lines with higher capacity to be achieved later

Station Dimensions: The smallest possible footprint/structure

Elevation of structure variable, depending on each particular case

Station capacity: At least 300 passengers per hour per berth

Station Numbers and Locations: Numerous enough and sited so that around 85% of potential patrons can walk to/from in 5 minutes or less

Geometric Characteristics

Minimum radius of curvature: 30-50 meters

Possible grade: up to 10%; superelevation on curves desirable

Quality of service

Minimum required characteristics:

Length of trip, ride time, average speed

-- 2 km, 6 minutes, 20 km/hr

-- 4 km, 9.6 minutes, 25 km/hr

-- 6 km, 20 minutes, 30 km/hr

-- 8 km, 20 minutes, 40 km/hr


Reasonable possibility of recovering Operating and Maintenance (O&M) costs; covering some capital costs and making a profit  desirable

Vehicle Comfort and Convenience

All passengers seated

Space provided for parcels

Easy access for elderly people and children

Special on-call vehicles for disabled persons and wheelchairs

Climate controlled (heating and cooling)

Safety and Security

Workable emergency evacuation capability from vehicles and elevated structures

Monitoring and response systems capable of dealing with a variety of people and their personal safety concerns

Urban Installation

Structures should be able to be installed on streets less than 20 meters wide

Construction should not require substantial and lengthy disruption of adjacent areas

Visual appearance

As unobtrusive as possible; structural flexibility designed to be as attractive as possible; customized to satisfy local tastes.

Stations custom-designed to satisfy local desires Storage/maintenance facilities sited and sized to minimize local impact

Noise pollution

Much less than that of a heavily traveled arterial street (standards need to be defined)

Capital Cost considerations

Capital costs: Should, in general, be less than $10 million (2008) dollars per system lane-kilometer (including stations, vehicles and all other necessary facilities)

Operating costs (to be determined)


Possibility of increasing the initial capacity later on , with minimal disruption to service

Possibility of improving the initial network as well as extending it into other nearby areas. Possibility of adapting the initial system to new vehicle and control technologies as they become available.

Vehicles capable of carrying containerized and non-containerized goods, automated loading/unloading possible

Manufacturing flexibility, system component requirements can be met in more than one way

Maximize use of widely available components having multiple, well-established suppliers in most parts of the world

Modular design capable of being built by a variety of licensed manufacturers

Suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Source: Modified by J. Schneider, in 1996, from an article by Remi Kaiser, published in PRT II, 1974, pp 48-49.

Last modified: February 09, 2008