IMT - Individual Mass Transit (formerly UTI)

   by Jim Beregi

The IMT system will transform automobile travel and provide funding for state and local governments. Commuters will no longer sit in snarled freeway traffic. Current commute times will plummet to 1/10 of current rush-hour travel time. Long distance travel times will drop to less than 1/2 of current travel times. Emissions from vehicles will fall to zero vastly reducing green house gas emissions overall. Dependency on foreign oil producers will vanish and significantly reduce the US trade deficient.

The IMT is Individualized Mass Transit utilizing electric or hybrid-electric cars. The IMT is a three tiered dualmode transit system. First tier is street-level using existing roadways. The second tier is an elevated local loop signal lane guideway. This 50 MPH single lane guideway has the same traffic handling capacity as four lanes of expressway. The third tier is a high-speed interconnect single-lane guideway with the same capacity as 6 lanes of expressway. Full implementation in an urban area would have second level guideway entrance an exit stations every mile or so depending on need. The guideways would be laid out along existing roadways in an elevated grid with north-south and east-west guideways spaced 2 miles apart. The third tier guideway is access only from the second level guideway and is for high-speed long distance travel.

IMT would be accessed from exiting roads using only specially designed electric or hybrid-electric cars. These cars would eventually replace conventional cars. The IMT cars would have control facilities for both street level conventional driving and guideway automated travel. Once on a guideway the driver becomes a passenger as the guideway and the car work together to take the passenger(s) to the designated exit station. The guideways provide electric power for the electric cars while they are on the guideway.

Guideway power comes from three sources: (1) conventional electric power generation, (2) solar power, and (3) from cars exiting the system (braking regenerative power). The guideways are elevated single-lane concrete channels covered on top to shield the roadway from rain and snow. The top cover is a base for solar panels to provide supplemental power. With thousands of miles of solar panel covered guideways this would become a significant source of power.

A trip on the IMT would start at a street-level station. The IMT electric car would be driven into the station where motion control of the car would be taken over by the IMT station control system. The car's systems would be checked for faults and if none were found the driver would be asked where he wanted to go. The exit station would be determined and the cost and time for the trip would be displayed. If the driver accepts and pays the fee, the car would enter the entrance ramp. (Estimated fees: $1.50 per trip of 10 miles or less and $1.50 for each additional ten miles.) The station control system would accelerate the car up the ramp to the guideway and merge it into an opening in existing traffic. The guideway control system would control speed and spacing between cars. The car would follow an electronic map and ''look for" the requested exit station. When the car arrives at the exit station, the exit control system takes over and brings the car to a stop in an exit stall. The driver can once again take control of the stopped car and drive off at street level. During the trip the driver would be free to read, eat, sleep, watch TV, or just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The electric cars would be a new design from the ground up. To fit on the guideway the chasse must be standardized with two sizes: a single car size and a double size car taking the space of two cars on the guideway. The chasse contains the batteries and or fuel cells. Each wheel assembly would have a steering motor and a power motor. These drive-by-wire cars would be four-wheel drive and have all-wheel steering. On-board micro-processor control systems would manage power, steering, guideway tracking, failure detection, path and exit selection. The body and passenger space can be any style with any amenities. Some may be traveling offices, or very comfortable with entertainment systems, or dining cars, or very utilitarian (low cost) or sleeping cars for long distance travel. All cars will have to fit within a liberal length, width, and height standard similar in size to medium SUVs.

The key to this system is the guideway control system that manages vehicle speed and spacing. This proprietary technology would be based on computer network packets that provide continuous vehicle speed and position control. This technology would allows very close vehicle spacing. Position control is measured in fractions of an inch. This same technology would handle all aspects of vehicle motion. Merging vehicles into a high speed stream of vehicles is a critical task which this technology could do easily and flawlessly.

The economic impact would be significant. The cost to build the system for a large metropolitan area would be $10 to $20 billion. However, the construction and cost would be spread over 10 years, and the cost could be paid by usage fees. This construction effort would provide a major economic boost for an area. A side benefit would be the revenue stream generated for state and local governments from usage fees. The difference in energy cost to power the guideway cars versus conventional cars would provide significant redirected money from petroleum products to money for schools and social services. The average ten-mile trip energy cost would be approximately 40 cents less than the cost of gas for the same trip, based on a gas cost of $1.55 per gallon**. For example if 35 to 40 percent of the trips in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area were guideway trips, the revenue to the local governments would be over 1/2 billion dollars per year, without increasing the cost of those trips over what is paid now for fuel. This redirection of funds could provide much needed revenue for social services without increasing taxes.

For a description of what an IMT trip might be like from a user's viewpoint, see this description.

** Average trip is based on 10 miles and 6 stops, initial data from a Maricopa Association of Governments study in Arizona.

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Last modified: February 23, 2004