Problems of Single Mode Transportation
Palle R Jensen, RUF International
There is no doubt that PRT in Single Mode is far better than traditional transit systems. It deserves to be tested and used in places where it is most relevant. In dense parts of a town, it makes a lot of sense. As a connector between existing train systems and Major Activity Centers it will work perfectly.
The problem is, that this only solves a minor part of the congestion problem in modern cities.
Modern cities are much more widespread than old cities. Low density means that if a PRT system should appeal to car drivers, it would need to have many miles of guideway, so that the users can walk to the stations without problems. PRT can do it much better than traditional transit, but is it good enough. I think not.
We have to admit that the modern society is more or less created around the car. A person without a car will experience severe limitations is his or her possibilities. I see no way to change that in a democratic society. We have to make better transport systems which take this as a fact of life.
The basic idea behind RUF is that all the good things about PRT can be realized in a system which includes all the good things about the car. Guideways are much better than highways. Automated driving is better than manual driving on the main part of a trip. On demand transport is better than to have to rely on a timetable.
Then there is the question about the feelings. People tend to get emotionally attached to their cars. They think they can show their personalities by the way they choose their car and to some degree they are right. We all have a need to express ourselves. It is not a rational argument, but it is reality. Is it any fun to be rich if the other ones cannot see it ? If you drive a luxurious car, everybody can see that you are well off.
The problem is, that you are stuck in congestion together with all the others. This is a problem especially for rich people, because then they suddenly seem stupid. Why have I used a lot of money on this car when I cannot move ? These feelings will be a very strong motivating factor for rich people to buy a ruf. In a ruf they can again feel that they are in control, even if the guideway part is automated. They will feel intelligent and they will be willing to pay a lot to get this feeling.
Unless we go to the UPRT (guideways to every house in the city), a PRT system will never be able to compete with the car. A ruf equipped with fuel cells will be much more attractive and will be able to substitute the car completely.
PRT cannot substitute the car, but can PRT substitute public transport ?
I some cases it can, but not totally. In a dense city, PRT can offer far better public transport. On Demand transport with privacy is very attractive, but what about those who live in the suburbs. They will have to walk a long way to get to the PRT station.
A RUF system can solve this problem using a combination of APM and dial-a-bus based upon the maxi-ruf. It is too expensive to create a guideway to a location where only a few people live, but a bus which can use the existing road system can pick up passengers everywhere. A Single Mode system will never be able to do that.
The "baby-boomers" are between 50 and 60 now (2001). In a few years they will require good public transport. They will not be satisfied with bus/train solutions. They will live too far from a PRT system. On the other hand, they are not afraid of Information Technology. They will feel that it is natural to go to the Internet to ask for transport. A RUF system is designed for this group.
One Size Fits All that seems to be the philosophy behind most PRT concepts.
I think it is better to have a system, where it is possible to have different size of vehicles using the same guideway. Such a system will have a broader appeal than a Single mode system with only one vehicle size.
Politically it can also be an advantage to have a system which in the start reminds of a the well known bus/train concept. A maxi-ruf can be seen as a small bus and as a small automated train. This means that it will not create so much resistance from traffic experts and politicians. It seems to be a natural development even if it is a revolution.
As a conclusion, I think that a system which can be considered as PRT++ has a much better chance of a breakthrough than a "traditional" Single Mode PRT system. For that reason I find it worth while to solve the extra problems involved in Dual Mode.
Last modified: March 04, 2001