THE REVOLUTIONARY DUALMODE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
The Way to a Dualmode System
The guideway system must be a nationwide undertaking. Isolated city, county, or state systems where the guideways end at the city limits or state lines would have limited value. Further, the dualmode cars will be readily affordable only in large-scale mass production. Although it must be federally controlled, the national guideway system should be developed, built, and operated by private companies or a consortium. The system management might be comparable to that of our airlines: Those are independent of the government, but Air-Traffic-Control and regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration are essential to their operation, and to public safety.
The guideways need not be and should not be federally owned because, unlike the obsolete bankrupt passenger railroads, the guideways will be used by most people and will therefore readily pay for themselves. Each user will be automatically billed for each trip much as the telephone companies and utilities bill us. The guideway system will therefore be unlike the highway system since “freeways” have no direct income from their customers.
After the guideways are complete and most people have a dualmode car, all but a lane or two of the major highways could be torn up (Some highway capacity will still be required for loads too large for the guideways, and for recreational drivers and motorcycles). The surplus highway lanes, after they were freed of its concrete shackles, could be sold to adjacent farms and to business-strip developers. However, it may make more sense to keep most of the highway lanes we have and to continue to use them—but they will have far less traffic, few accidents, and will need little maintenance. Also, we must keep enough right-of-way to put in a second lane of guideway where it might be needed sometime in the distant future.
Compared to our invention and development of the atom bomb, and compared to our program to land people on the moon and get them back to earth safely, the development of dualmode will be technologically simple. The United States successfully achieved both of those great historical high-tech goals on schedule, even though there was limited related prior technology available upon which to base either one of them.
The REV dualmode system, on the other hand, will require essentially no new technology: We already have automobiles, maglev trains, synchronous linear electric motors, advanced computers, sophisticated software, integrated-circuit control systems, power-generation systems, highway and railway construction technology, advanced materials, and all of the other required bits and pieces. Technologically speaking, the development of the dualmode system will be a huge job, but much more of a routine design, building, integration, and testing effort than it will be one of new science and invention.
THE PROBLEM IS …
The development of our National Dualmode System will be locked behind the starting gate as long as the businesses and organizations that will have to design it and build it are not on board. Most of them know little or nothing of dualmode, of the 1974 National Dualmode Conference, or of the recent work that is being done on the concept. Except for the now-defunct National Automated Highway System Consortium, which backed the wrong horse, there have been no recent attempts to get government and industry together to develop a broad unified national solution to our transportation and related environmental problems. And the technical societies have for the most part kept their thinking and technical papers narrowly confined to the existing separate transportation systems. The writer urges all of the transportation industries and societies to start thinking about and working on dualmode systems. Entrenched traditional narrow thinking will be difficult to change, but it must be changed—for the survival of civilization as we know it.
THE WORK IS YET TO COME
Most of the dualmode proposals are little more than conceptual at this time. The engineering and technical work has hardly been started. THE REVOLUTIONARY DUALMODE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM will be an enormously large venture, probably the largest design and construction effort ever undertaken by mankind. It will require so many diverse fields of technology that no individual, group, corporation or department of government could design all of the details of the system, let alone develop, test, and successfully promote its adoption in all of the necessary places. Dualmode hasn’t been adequately considered, if at all, within the research labs or within the transportation industries and within government: It will require much broader thinking than most people in these industries and organizations are currently assigned to do, or are permitted to do.
Part of the problem is that there isn’t a single transportation industry, there are many: the railroad passenger and freight industries, the trucking industry, the automobile industry, the bus and other transit industries, the aviation industry, the fuel industry, and the electric power industry. These are largely independent of each other. They originated independently, and some of them compete with each other. These industries, for the most part, have yet to study dualmode, and to understand that joint efforts on a National Dualmode System will be to their great mutual advantage. They are not yet seeing the forest for the trees: The railroad people see only steel wheels, tracks, and a 19th-century system. The maglev people see only maglev trains. The automobile people see only cars on highways. The airplane types see only transportation upstairs. The fossil-fuel industries see only today’s profits. The computer and Internet people see only communication and entertainment. (OK, I exaggerate, but you get the idea.)
TO GO FAR WE NEED A CZAR
First we need government recognition, action, and support. But business-as-usual wouldn’t get us there fast enough. The appointment of a capable National Dualmode Czar is strongly recommended—a person similar to the one we had on the Manhattan (atomic bomb) Project. He/she should have powers broad enough to get the job done rapidly and efficiently; but of course there must be controls to minimize negative societal and environmental impacts. However, a dualmode czar won’t be appointed until The President and Congress become convinced that we must have a National Dualmode Transportation System. To effectively start at the bottom we must also start at the top.
THE TRANSITION PERIOD
As we have discussed, until the guideway system is fairly complete we will use internal-combustion-powered automobiles on the highways and on the guideways (by first driving them onto guideway pallets). But as soon as possible we should use true dualmode cars that require no pallets. Nonpolluting cars meeting all of the requirements for both modes will be highly preferable from the standpoints of the environment, guideway capacity, and out-of-sight gasoline prices. Some conventional automobiles will continue to use the highways, but highway travel will rapidly lose popularity after the guideways are available—even if fuel is still affordable then.
It will not be cost effective to convert our existing cars into dualmode cars. Many major changes and additions would be required. Anyway, since the building of the guideways will take at least a couple decades, our present cars will be worn out before we will need dualmode cars. The REV cars may look a lot like present automobiles, but under the hood they will be entirely different. Hopefully most of them will also be smaller, lighter, and green (regardless of their color).
After completion of the National Guideway Network a law might be passed, for environmental reasons, which would prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered dualmode cars. But such decisions will be left to public debate and to our lawmakers. The point is that the National System can be built to accommodate any types of cars we choose to declare legal.
Once the car/guideway interface standardization decisions have been made, the automobile companies can start to produce the vehicles, and guideway construction can get underway. As local 60-mph guideway systems are completed they will be opened for use in order to reduce local traffic problems. The building of the long-distance high-speed guideways and the integration of the entire national guideway network will follow.
If, for any reason, a state or city should refuse to join the dualmode system, the national guideways could simply bypass it. It isn’t likely that a region’s rejection of dualmode would last for long however. In most cases towns will plead for and compete to get interconnecting guideway service as soon as possible, the same as towns fought for railroad service a century ago. It was often the cities with early railroad connections that grew and prospered. History will effectively repeat itself.
Eventually there will be many times more miles of guideway than there are miles of railroad track: All towns will have dualmode guideway connections to the rest of the country. But if there were holdouts, the residents of those towns would have to drive to the next town in street mode in order to get onto the guideway system.
Little of the automatic guideway parking proposed in Chapter 13 will be available initially. Such parking facilities will be independently funded and will belong to the buildings, companies, or organizations providing them, just as present private parking is. Organizations will add guideway parking when and if they see fit, so parking growth will be incremental. Competition and parking income will encourage businesses to provide automated guideway parking.
The newspaper headline read: “Politics ties up action on transportation.” So what else is new? The politics involved in getting things done are almost always daunting; and the realistic view says it will be doubly daunting on the huge and Revolutionary National Dualmode System. But does history offer any reasons for optimism in this case? Referring again to the bomb, a little over fifty years ago this country successfully completed the vitally important and extremely difficult Atom Bomb Project in a very short period of time, giving us the means to end WW-II rapidly. But that was done under wartime conditions and a few courageous leaders unilaterally made some major decisions in minutes or hours, which we would debate for years today.
A few decades ago the Soviet Union, our “cold-war” opponent, was ahead of us in “the space race,” and our pride was hurt. Jack Kennedy set a national goal of putting Americans on the moon by 1970. We did, and we bettered our president’s nine-year-old timetable by five months! Putting people on the moon was a far greater technical challenge than the National Dualmode System will be; yet this system will be far far more important. We can only hope that our desperate need for solutions to our transportation problems will motivate us as much as did our desire to overtake the Russians in space.
The English-Channel Tunnel was politically difficult because it physically connected two nations that were historically antagonistic. However, the “Chunnel” was completed successfully in less than ten years. We will have only ourselves to disagree with on dualmode—and the “Yanks” are already coupled to the “Rebs” by highways.
The guideway system will employ hundreds of thousands of people productively during its design and construction, and the dualmode car builders will employ hundreds of thousands more.
In 19th century England the “Luddite” organization of workers destroyed new labor-saving machines to protect their hand-labor jobs. Dualmode won’t be replacing much hand labor; but there will be some changes made. Service-station workers may need to learn battery-charging and how to dispense hydrogen, some highway workers will need to become guideway workers, fuel-producing jobs will change, and we will need fewer bus and truck drivers since the guideways won’t require their services. But considering its diverse positive effects on business and the economy, like most major innovations of the past dualmode will produce many more jobs than it will destroy.
With no political wrangling, with strong leadership, smooth sailing on the engineering and construction fronts, and an all-out national effort we could conceivably have some of our 21st century transportation system operating in as little as a decade. Unfortunately our usual course is to spend billions of dollars and many years on study contracts before anything is designed or built. But our rapidly expanding traffic, rapidly melting ice caps, and rapidly disappearing fuel aren’t going to wait; we must hold the study contracts (also known as stalling tactics) to a minimum and spend those billions of dollars and years of time to actually design and build the system. Will our “best effort” produce it in twenty years?
Great interest in the broad subject of transportation already exists because of our daily transportation frustrations. The National Dualmode Transportation System will be much easier to sell to the populace than rapid transit because it will serve the majority of travelers, the automobile-driving public, not just a minority. We won’t be buying highly subsidized transportation to give to hoped-for bus or train passengers, we will be investing in our own high-speed low-congestion system, and we will be buying new cars for ourselves, not buses and trains which we personally don’t even intend to use.
Quoting a newspaper article, “Since 1969 the vehicle population in the United States has grown six times faster than the human head count. Between 1969 and 1995, the number of vehicles climbed 144% according to a Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey” (of the Federal Highway Administration). The number of households without vehicles fell during the same period from 20% to about 8%. The number of households with three or more cars grew from 4.6% to about 19%. There are over twice as many families with three cars as there are families with no cars.
Our ability to foresee the future of dualmode transportation is much better than was our ability to foresee the future of the airplane when the Wright brothers flew in 1903, or to foresee the future of the automobile when Henry Ford decided to produce the Model-T. At that time the need for better transportation wasn’t really evident—those radical transportation innovations exposed the needs. Our present needs however, are most painfully evident. We know that unless a revolutionary step is taken our traffic and environmental problems are only going to get worse. I hope and believe that the seriousness of these burgeoning problems, combined with the great promises of the dualmode approach, will be enough to assure its implementation.
We won’t give up the convenience of personal cars, and the traditional systems can’t relieve the traffic jams, the fuel shortages, or the environmental problems. We have a choice between a dualmode system and national gridlock. We can continue to complain about the traffic, pollution, highway deaths, global warming, dependence upon foreign oil, the constantly higher price of gasoline, and all the other problems caused by our present transportation systems until it is too late; or we can take the one big dualmode step now and fix most of it. Dualmode is the only known answer that will work without petroleum and still be welcomed by the majority of transportation users and by the environmentalists.
Next: CHAPTER 20
Dualmode will be Difficult to Sell
Back to: CONTENTS
Last modified: August 02, 2006