InTransSys -- Frequently Asked Questions
Q. If each of the platforms has to be capable of carrying an auto, small bus, or cargo container, what would be the weight of a platform?
A. Platforms are needed only to transport private automobiles. Buses and cargo containers are connected directly to the carriers. The weight of each auto carrier would be no more than a few hundred pounds. We anticipate acceleration and deceleration rates of a mild 0.2 g (6.44 feet/second/second), while maximum upward acceleration forces in the sharpest curves would be 0.414 g. Stresses due to these factors will thus be negligible. Far greater g-loading is now encountered in all autos, trains, and airplanes.
The weight of carriers, including their magnets, has already been considered in the design of the structures. It actually represents a tiny fraction of the weight of a maximum-load cargo container. It is this weight which determines the minimum strength of the structure. It is hard to conceive of any circumstance in which a carrier must be able to withstand a sudden deceleration. Under normal operation, all deceleration is just as carefully controlled as acceleration (indeed, the nature of linear synchronous motors causes each load to automatically generate additional energy for the system). "Several G-loads" could occur only if some very large extraneous force were to be applied specifically to a carrier but not to its load. Since carriers are almost completely enclosed within a continuous and very strong structure, the accidental application of such a load is out of the question. Even in the case of sabotage, which would require a rather large bomb or its equivalent, measures have been taken to reduce damage to a much smaller amount than would result from using that same bomb to blow up a highway bridge.
Q. Wouldn't the structure required to handle the masses and speeds involved need to be larger than what is pictured.
A. The track structure was designed by Figg Engineers, probably the most advanced firm in this field. The seemingly light structure is due to the fact that maximum loads (for which all such structures must be designed) will be much lower than for today's highways. For example, to carry a 40,000 pound load in a semi, you need at least an equal weight of truck, engine, fuel, and driver. For InTranSys, this tare weight would be reduced to just a couple of thousand pounds. Moreover, highways must be designed to handle the additional load occasioned by the bouncing of the trucks over irregularities in the surface. These, too, would be eliminated in InTranSys.
Q. Can the system described handle pedestrians, bikes,or motorcycles?
A. Pedestrians cannot be carried by cars, buses, trains, airplanes or even horses, mules, or tricycles, either, since the passenger ceases to be a pedestrian as soon as he mounts the vehicle. But InTranSys will make life for pedestrians much sweeter in another way: the vast majority of the vehicular street traffic with which a pedestrian must now compete would be eliminated. The safety and comfort of such travel will thus be greatly enhanced.
InTranSys has been designed to accommodate bicycles. Buses can easily be equipped with external bike racks where the rider places his bike before taking a seat inside. He then retrieves it at his destination station.
Motorcycles have not been considered so far, but they too could easily be accommodated. The best way would be for them to be carried on small platforms propelled by small carriers. These bikes would be laid flat and clamped down by simple hooks. While most people could not tolerate a 150-mph wind in their faces, motorcyclists have already demonstrated that, like dogs, actually enjoy this.
Q. You connect an electrical cable to your car and then some magical clamps hold your car to the platform, no matter what the dimensions and design of the undercarriage, firmly enough to fly through the air at 150 mph. Is it possible for a vehicle coming off the clamps at speed and really flying through the air?
A. The clamps to be used for automobiles will connect to the insides of the steel rims of the tires, and will work on any vehicle with at least four wheels. The probability of these coming loose in transit will be no greater that that of the vehicles' bodies coming loose from the wheels. And even if this should happen, there would be no tendency for the car to "fly through the air", since the constant speed feature of LSMs allows us to design all curves for precisely the track speed, thus eliminating all lateral forces. This is another distinct advantage of InTranSys over all present modes of travel, and was included for comfort as much as for safety.
Q. It is likely that the public will trust flying under computer control, 7 seconds from the next platform?
A. People won't travel 7 seconds from the next platform, but only 1/10 to 1/4 second, depending on the speed. The seven-inch spacing is between the end of the volume taken up by one vehicle and that of the adjacent ones.
As to public acceptance, let me paraphrase a part of the InTranSys video: "Imagine a white-knuckled motorist struggling through a snowstorm at ten mph, unsure of where the side of the road is and not at all certain that he will arrive at his destination. Overhead he dimly sees others moving along at 150 mph, warm and secure in their cars and not at all concerned about the storm. How long do you think it would take him to decide which is the better way to travel?" Before being opened to passenger traffic, each new segment of InTranSys would be thoroughly tested using freight vehicles to assure that everything is working properly. Prospective customers could thus see for themselves how safe it is.
Q. How long the acceleration/deceleration on and off ramps be?
A. As mentioned earlier, acceleration and deceleration would take place at 0.2 g. The length of each ramp is thus determined by the speed of mainline travel.
Q. How many access points would there be?
A. The number of access points (stations) would be determined by demand. It is estimated that they would be about one mile apart in urban residential areas and closer together in commercial districts. In rural regions, the spacing would depend on population density, but are likely to be 5 to 15 miles apart.
Q. How many platforms would be required so that there is always one waiting in a stall when you arrive?
A. The number of carriers and auto platforms would also be determined by demand. They could be shuttled back and forth between stations depending on hourly, daily, and specific demands. Even if a driver should enter a station which was temporarily out of carriers, he would probably have to wait nor more than a few minutes before one was delivered -- about like waiting at a stoplight today.
Q. How would InTransSys reduce air pollution, since the first few minutes are the dirtiest of a commute?
A.The first few minutes of a trip do indeed produce a higher percentage of unburned hydrocarbons. But this is important only for very short trips, and in nearly all cases this would occur while the person is driving to an InTranSys station. On the other hand, longer trips produce far greater quantities of oxides of nitrogen (which is not removed by catalytic converters) and, for trips of more than just a few miles, of other pollutants as well, since such trips consume by far the majority of fuel.
Installation of InTranSys would induce the vast majority of drivers to switch to electric cars, since their present disadvantages (poor performance and limited range) would cease to be of importance. This tendency will be greatly accelerated when world petroleum resources are exhausted after 2020, and the price of artificially manufactured substitute fuels rises to $10-20 per gallon or so
For those who choose to stay with internal-combustion-engine powered cars, there would be a mandatory electrical lockout which would prevent them from starting their engines while in transit. This would keep the exhaust gases from being delivered directly into the air intakes of cars following immediately behind them. Such cars, if used in cold climates, would have to be provided with electric heaters similar to those now found in electric cars. Insulation would help as well.
Q. In cold or hot weather, won't people run their cars while in flight, in order to keep the air conditioning or heaters running, addition to pollution?
A. Electrical power will be supplied to each vehicle traveling on InTranSys. This is a far more efficient way to supply heat and especially cooling. All such pollution would thus be avoided.It is true that conventional car heaters and air conditioners depend on a running engine. But even car air-conditioners are actually electrically powered, even though that power is provided by a horrendously inefficient internal combustion engine (ICE). You have probably noticed that every time your own air-conditioner goes on, you can feel the sudden deceleration and sluggish performance of the great amount of energy that is required to cool a car by this means. It would be far more efficient and quite easy simply to connect the A/C directly to the line supplying electricity to the vehicle. Ironically, it is that same gross inefficiency which makes it practical to heat cars with waste power from the engine. Since the vast majority of the gasoline's chemical energy is simply turned into heat (instead of helping to propel the car) there is plenty of waste to tap. Since drivers on InTranSys will not be allowed to run their engines while in transit, future electric car heaters, including those installed in ICE powered cars, will be permanent, and not portable, accessories. The additional energy required for heating/cooling would be but a tiny fraction of that now wasted by ICEs.
Q. Won't there still be considerable congestion around the access points in an urban area?
A. Congestion around stations has been recognized as the limiting factor of the carrying capacity of InTranSys. It will automatically be limited by the fact that the same streets would no longer be used for crosstown traffic. It can be eased even further simply by building more stations
Last modified: May 27, 2001