MicroRail Personal Automated Transport (PAT) System
MicroRail is a PAT concept that is currently (2001) being developed by MegaRail Transportation Systems, Inc. located in the Fort Worth, Texas area. It is basically a scaled-down version of the MegaRail concept that is described in some detail at the MegaRail website and it also includes some details about their MicroRail concept. A brief description of the MicroRail concept is given below.
MicroRail provides a basic PRT (PAT) service with small, low-profile four-passenger cars. In operation, it and the larger MegaRail are identical. MicroRail will initially be a single mode system, will later offer a dualmode electric car capability with a three-passenger dualmode car that drives on the street or runs on the MicroRail guideway along with the PAT cars. Later on, a MicroRail dualmode Automated Transport (DAT) capability will be developed that will enable car drivers to leave and retrieve their cars at PAT stations with the cars being automatically stored by the system. The DAT cars will be capable of being driven to their owner's homes or other preferred destinations.
The MicroRail guideway is smaller and less costly than the full-sized MegaRail guideway which is currently expected to cost less than $2 million per mile.
MegaRail Transportation has built a full-scale MicroRail guideway and will then follow up with a demonstrator MicroRail Dualmode Automated Transport (DAT) electric car. The primary reason to design and build the DAT car is to obtain public attention rather than to build and sell such cars as a part of any near-term system. See two other photos of the MicroRail guideway test segment.
If a near-term customer for the first MicroRail system can be found, MegaRail Transportation indicates that it could have the system in service sometime during 2004 in a manually operated "train" mode with a plan to later upgrade it to single-car fully automated operation as soon as control system testing is completed. The initial line would be a short, point-to-point line with the potential to become a part of a city-wide system in the future.
In the manually operated "train" mode, the vehicles would be equipped with spacer hitches that link the vehicles together and provide hard wired controls from the lead vehicle to the other cars of the train. An operator in the pilot vehicle that will look a lot like our MicroRail Dualmode vehicle, controls speed, braking and door operation control to all of the vehicles making up the MicroRail "train." The control system of the pilot vehicle reads vehicle position and speed and provides information to the human operator as well as information via the system communications system to a central dispatch and control center. All of the automated control systems are present in the vehicles, but are not used for the manual operations.
When in manual mode, MicroRail would be operated in almost exactly the same manner conventional light rail trains are operated. Consequently, the risk level for initial MicroRail is about equivalent to that of conventional light rail systems. No one has to worry about the chance of what most people assume are "high-tech" fully automated systems not operating safely and reliably.
MicroRail will be capable of operating at speeds up to 65-mph for cross-city lines or at 20 to 30-mph speeds on local service loops such as in downtown business areas. All stations are off of the main lines to allow through traffic to proceed past stations. In the initial manual operating mode, the system will provide service equivalent to that of light rail systems but will be able to provide faster through service because of the ability to pass stations without stopping.
Passenger movement capacity in the manual mode will be similar to that of light rail systems, but in the automated mode, the passengers per hour will exceed that possible with light rail systems by a considerable margin. The system is designed to provide a very low-cost, total public transit system for cities with seamless point-to-point PAT service. Unlike most previous PAT systems, MicroRail is not intended to provide merely a supplemental system to conventional light rail or monorail systems.
The gross weight of the MicroRail cars is expected to be approximately 1,800-lbs. The self-supporting rail structure is designed to allow one car per each 48-foot span with only a small deflection to assure good ride quality. From a structural load carrying point of view, the rail structure can safely carry far greater loads. The rails and support columns are constructed of non-rusting, dull finish stainless-steel to provide a pleasing view and minimize maintenance requirements.
The MicroRail guideway is a scaled-down version of a larger MegaRail guideway. The MicroRail guideway consists of a pair of 26-inch high and 10-inch wide rail boxes separated by about four feet of open space to provide a total guideway width of approximately five and one-half feet. Because of the open center nature of the guideway, it will cast a minimum shadow on the ground below. The guideway is supported by stainless-steel columns mounted to 24-inch round concrete piers spaced at 48-foot intervals. The sizing of the guideway makes it possible to place it over the street sides of city sidewalks with the support posts located in about the same locations as normal city street lighting standards. (Street lights are supported from the MicroRail columns. Street light electrical wiring would be contained inside the MicroRail rail boxes. These rail boxes are also designed to carry other electrical and communication cables that may need to be relocated to install the MicroRail lines.)
Although the MicroRail cars are low-profile cars slightly higher than automobiles, they offer walk-in entry to the seats from passenger stations by way of a side and top opening entry door. Opposing seats are provided at the the door opening. Seating is two-abreast. Each car is also equipped with emergency escape doors at each end to allow escape to an emergency walkway located between the guideway rails. Passengers will be able to walk through cars in emergency stopped situations.
A special, on-call wheelchair version of the car will provide full ADA compliance. This car will be equipped with a fold-down ramp for access from the station platforms.
Initial use of the system under manual control enables the system to be built and placed into operation on a near-term basis with risk levels comparable to that of conventional light rail systems. The basic system really differs from conventional systems only in that it uses much smaller cars, much smaller and lower cost guideway, and uses a different type of rail than conventional systems.
For more details about MicroRail, see the MicroRail FAQ and/or contact Kirston Henderson at MegaRail Transportation Systems, Inc.
Last modified: September 20, 2002