Implementation Strategy for RUF Dualmode
Palle R Jensen
The overall strategy for RUF implementation is to start the system as 100% public transport from the start and then gradually let it evolve into a mixed system with both public and private vehicles using the guideways.
All over the world, huge amounts of money are spent on public transport systems. Up to now the systems have been based upon well-proven heavy technology. It is relatively easy to explain to the decision-makers what a train is. When politicians spend money on train technology, they feel safe and they show to their voters that they mean it seriously when they allocate huge amounts of money to train systems, even though congestion on the highway systems has never been eliminated by means of new train systems.
My point is that there is money available for public transport. Every society needs some form of public transport in order to offer mobility to those who do not own a car, or who are not able to drive it. This group is growing and in a short time it will be dominated by the 60s generation consisting of very active people with a lot of political influence. They will demand better public transport. They will expect it to be different from the present systems.
This is a chance to get a dualmode system started. All it takes is to get access to the decision-makers and get them to understand what the possibilities are. This may be easier in a small country like Denmark than in a huge country than USA. The distance to decision-makers in Denmark is short. You can happen to meet the Minister of Environment on his bicycle in Copenhagen on his way to the Parliament. Every citizen has a right to get access to the traffic committee for 15 minutes and state their case.
Which arguments can be used to convince the politicians that a dualmode public transport system is superior to conventional train/bus systems?
The economy is very important, but also very difficult to prove for an unproven system. Small-scale tests are absolutely essential. In RUF International we have been lucky to be able to use the synergy between the education system and Danish industry. The Engineering Highschool IKT in Ballerup outside Copenhagen has enough land to be able to host the test track for RUF. They benefit from the project in several ways. The school becomes very visible. Every TV transmission from the RUF test track will attract new students to the school which is good for the economy of the school. The Danish industry like to be sponsors for RUF because they become visible, so that the students will remember them when they choose where they want to work. Engineers are in short supply in Denmark.
The operating costs of a bus consists of two factors. The salary for the chauffeur is 60% while the hardware is 40%. In a dualmode system, where a large part of the trip is automated, the chauffeur salary is less important. On the other hand, small busses makes the economy worse than a full large bus. Since maxi-rufs can drive on the roads 3 at a time coupled together as an articulated bus and driven by one chauffeur, it is possible to obtain a very good utilization factor for the bus. During rush hours, 3 maxi-rufs will drive together, during off-peak hours, they will drive alone.
The cost of a the vehicle depends very much on the size. It is cheaper to produce many small vehicles than to produce few large vehicles. Small busses can use much of the same technology that is used in car manufacturing.
An important detail is the brakes. Normal busses use the brakes very frequently and they require frequent maintenance. Electric busses uses the electric motors to brake normally, so the brakes are not used nearly as much as in large busses. A lot of maintenance cost is saved.
The most obvious argument for dualmode is the possibility for a door-to-door trip with public transport. This is not possible with the bus/train/bus trip in traditional public transport. It is not possible in PRT systems either and it is absolutely essential in order to attract car drivers.
True door-to-door transport is possible if people drive a public individual ruf. If the user is not able to drive a ruf, the maxi-ruf can be used. It works as dial-a-bus to collect passengers at their doorstep but the long part of the trip is performed using the same maxi-ruf on the guideway as an Automated People Mover. It is not normally possible to offer door-to-door transport to all passengers in the maxi-ruf. This is why we use a flexible fare structure. Some passengers will pay more in order to get a door-to-door trip. They will be seated in a more luxurious seat than the others. This is only possible because of the way the maxi-ruf is organized: It has two rows of seats and a door for every seat. this means that the operator can control which seats are used by which passengers. This is very important in order both to offer a luxury door-to-door trip for passengers who can pay a higher fare and to offer a standard trip for those who wish to save money and are willing to transfer during the trip.
Short and predictable travel times are also very important. The transfer between bus and train is a limiting factor in traditional public transport. Waiting time is a big problem especially if you dont know how long it will be and you stand in an unpleasant place where you cannot do anything productive. The fact that a maxi-ruf can drive both as a bus and as a train solves this basic problem. It is the chauffeur who will have to transfer from one maxi-ruf to another while the passenger can remain seated while the bus becomes a part of a train. The only waiting is the time it takes for the chauffeur to leave the maxi (approx. 10 sec.).
Travel comfort will have to be high in order to convince car drivers that public transport is an option. Old fashioned busses are not able to do that. Their ride is unpleasant, they are noisy and they smell bad. There is no privacy in a bus as well as in a train. In the maxi-ruf, every passenger has a seat of his own. Nobody has to worry about who is going to sit next to them. The maxi-ruf is electric. It will provide a pleasant ride, make very little noise and absolutely no bad smell.
The service level in public transport is not always as high as it should be. The chauffeurs have a lot of stress because they have to stick to the timetable and take care of the fare collection from all kind of passengers. In the RUF system, most payments will be taken care of electronically and there is no timetable. Before long, information technology (IT) will penetrate the transportation market massively. The passengers for the RUF system are used to IT. Many of them are previous car drivers. In the near future many trivial tasks can be managed via the mobile phone. That includes the payment of fares so that the chauffeur can concentrate on driving.
Accessibility is important. The car is accessible anytime anywhere (almost). A scheduled bus or train is not accessible during night and outside of the route network. The maxi-ruf is much more accessible because of the dial-a-bus service. A public individual ruf is even closer to the car. A third possibility is a RUF taxi. Anytime and anywhere, you can call a RUF taxi. It will bring you to the rail network, where the ruf will work as a horizontal elevator (PRT). Close to the destination, the RUF taxi will again be driven from the rail system to your destination. It is a lot cheaper than taking a taxi all the way and it can be used anytime.
Another aspect of accessibility is the access to the vehicle itself. How easy is it to enter the vehicle?
A normal bus is not easy to enter. The passenger has to climb stairs and to walk through the middle of the bus while the chauffeur has to accelerate and turn in order to keep up with the timetable. Sometimes he has to brake suddenly and if you are still standing, you may be badly hurt.
A maxi-ruf is different. There is a door for every seat, so entering a maxi-ruf is as easy as sitting in a chair. Once you are seated, the door closes and the bus drives off. At no time do you risk being hurt. For elderly people this access is perfect.
In any complex system, there are advantages and disadvantages. Which are the disadvantages of the RUF public transport? I have found 2 disadvantages:
The main disadvantage is that it is as yet unproven. You cannot see it running anywhere yet (Jan. 2001). This will change. The political will is present in Denmark to see it tested. A test track has already passed the "proof of concept" phase and funding is available to continue the tests.
The second disadvantage is the the slot running through the middle of the vehicle makes it difficult to get from one side to another. Normally this is good, because the passengers have much more privacy than in a normal bus because of this separation. However it can be a problem if the maxi-ruf has to stop in a busy street and somebody has to leave from the wrong side.
There are several solutions to this problem:
Most of the problem can be avoided by the way the system allocates the seats. In most cases it will be possible to organize it so that passengers who are going to leave the maxi-ruf in a busy street always get a seat in the right side (nearest the sidewalk).
In busy streets there will normally be organized bus stops. Since a maxi-ruf is 2 m wide and a normal bus is 2.5 m wide, it will be possible to stop at an angle so that the rear of the maxi-ruf protects the passengers leaving from the left side.
A simple warning device (a flag with a stop sign) can warn the traffic that somebody is going to leave the maxi-ruf towards the street. After all, people leave their cars this way all the time.
I am convinced, that this form of public transport will become so popular, that the politicians will use part of the investments for Public Transport to create a startup system based upon RUF dualmode technology. Once the startup system has proven to work properly, it will be easy to take the next steps and before long an extensive dualmode guideway network will become a reality.
Last modified: January 28, 2001