Tomorrow's Transportation - New Systems for the Urban Future


THE SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT was directed in 1966 [by Section 6(b) of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, as amended] to:

. . . undertake a project to study and prepare a program of research, development, and demonstration of new systems of urban transportation that will carry people and goods within metropolitan areas speedily, safely, without polluting the air, and in a manner that will contribute to sound city planning.

This report summarizes the findings of the "new systems" study. The study reflects the concern of the Department of Housing and Urban Development for cities and their people, as well as for their transportation. For assistance in performing the study, the Department engaged 17 contractors from industry, scientific research centers, universities and the foundations over an 18-month period. Economists, engineers, scientists, technicians, urban planners, systems analysts, management consultants, and transportation experts were employed. The results of their efforts and a recommended research and development program are summarized here. A series of more detailed technical reports, containing the specific findings of the contractors, will be forthcoming.

In brief, the study found that progress in urban transportation technology, rudimentary today, could nevertheless be greatly enhanced and accelerated by vigorous the leadership of the Federal Government--in cooperation with the private industries concerned--using a systematic, carefully designed, and reasonably funded research and development program as the major guiding stimulus.

The capacity and the capabilities of American industry and private enterprise stand ready. The scientific and technical manpower needed for increased research and analysis in the field of urban transportation is available. But a stimulus is needed to progress, to prevent future neglect of intraurban transportation technology and systems, and to develop means by which this progress can contribute to the quality of urban life.

A part of this report examines the promise of existing technologies to improve present urban transportation systems. It identifies some exciting short-run improvements that could be undertaken. But beyond immediate improvements, this report projects a continuing research and development effort which could turn innovation into application, and accelerate transit technology in a careful and deliberate, rather than accidental, way.

The research and development program recommended as a result of the new systems study entails a total program funding of $980 million. This time-phased program could continue and accelerate the $25 million program contained in the President's fiscal year 1969 budget. It would involve these areas: Improved analysis, planning, and operating methods; immediate system improvements; components for future systems; and the development of entirely new systems for the future.

The recommendations maintain these major objectives for using the transportation system to enhance and improve the total city system: To achieve equality of access to urban educational, job, and cultural opportunities; to improve the quality of transit services; to relieve traffic congestion; to enhance efficiency in the use of equipment and facilities; to achieve more efficient urban land use; to provide cleaner, quieter, and more attractive public transportation; to provide more alternatives to urban residents in mode and style of urban living; and to permit orderly improvement of urgent transportation problems without pre-empting; long-range solutions for the future.

Nearly 300 projects and proposals having immediate application possibilities were examined and evaluated. For example, to improve buses these possibilities were studied: Exclusive bus lanes; traffic flow control; passenger-activated traffic control; computer scheduling; better design of vehicles; and a dualmode bus that could operate on ordinary streets or on high-speed rights-of-way. Similarly, recommendations were examined for improving intraurban rail systems, urban automobiles, and the options and opportunities for pedestrians.

Other proposals of more general application were considered to improve fare collection methods, security of passengers and operators, methods for communicating station and passenger information, and, of particular significance, management and operation of urban transit systems.

For the longer-term future, the new systems study found many promising technologies which should be further explored, such as: Automatic controls for vehicles and entire movement systems; new kinds of propulsion, energy and power transmission; new guideway and suspension components; innovations in tunneling; and the application of these potentials for movement of goods as well as people.

The more promising of these new systems are:

· Dial-a-Bus: A bus type of system activated on demand of the potential passengers, perhaps by telephone, after which a computer logs the calls, origins, destinations, location of vehicles and number of passengers, and then selects the vehicle and dispatches it.

· Personal Rapid Transit: Small vehicles, traveling over exclusive rights-of-way, automatically routed from origin to destination over a network guideway system, primarily to serve low- to medium-population density areas of a metropolis.

· Dual Mode Vehicle Systems: Small vehicles which can be individually driven and converted from street travel to travel on automatic guideway networks.

· Automated Dual Mode Bus: A large vehicle system which would combine the high-speed capacity of a rail system operating on its private right-of-way with the flexibility and adaptability of a city bus.

· Pallet or Ferry Systems: An alternative to dual mode vehicle systems is the use of pallets to carry (or ferry) conventional automobiles, minibuses, or freight automatically on high-speed guideways.

· Fast Intraurban Transit Links: Automatically controlled vehicles capable of operating either independently or coupling into trains, serving metropolitan area travel needs between major urban nodes.

· New Systems for Major Activity Centers: Continuously moving belts; capsule transit systems, some on guideways, perhaps suspended above city streets.

The components and systems discussed in this report do not by any means exhaust the rich array of opportunities for innovation in urban transportation provided by the new systems study, as the forthcoming technical reports will indicate. The recommended research and development program, projected as it is into the future, is susceptible to modification as further knowledge is gained.

For more details on this study, see the paper by H. W. Merritt , written in 1993, 25 years after Tomorrow's Transportation was published.


Last modified: July 15, 1998