Comedy Gold for Urban Planners

18 02 2010

Whilst this is getting a bit away from being cycling related, I have shown PRT (Personal Rapid Transport pods) before here on this blog. I think they may even have a role to play in the future (unlike James Howard Kunstler the urban planning commentator who thinks PRT enthusiasts are a particular type of crank). I was thinking more of this type of company from Bristol, Advanced Transport Systems. At the moment PRT hasn’t really taken off anywhere in the world, except in airports. As a mass transit system they have limitations. The original one in West Virginia, or the one in Detroit seem to me to make the mistake of being too large and heavy, and hence expensive.

I think they need to be:

  • small, carrying at most 4 adults
  • light and run on efficient electric motors
  • able to carry a wheelchair or a bike
  • run on rubber wheels not rails
  • need only narrow roadways that need not be elevated (otherwise they’re just inefficient monorails, and monorails are already uneconomic and inefficient) except to avoid at-grade crossings
  • feed people to a station on a heavy rail system
  • be ticketed the same as all the other public transport in the city and region
  • be safe enough for small kids to go unaccompanied to school in with or without their bicycles

Maybe J.H. Kunstler had met the people behind the Interstate Traveler Company. Really this is the reason for this post. It’s really worth clicking on that link. Comedy gold!!! The Hydrogen Super Highway from the Interstate Traveler Company is surreal  lunacy, and they make the Michigan politicians look particularly daft for taking their suggestions somewhat seriously.

Yes an elevated maglev railway on stilts built over the whole US interstate system, so that the individual pods can carry, yes cars, which is what the interstate system was built for I think. I think the maglev runs on flower power or ether or some such (snake oil perhaps), and using their great broadband analogy, interchanges will be known as routers, and Americans could ping themselves from Miami to Seattle and back again at 250mph. I think they could even be filled with water to let dolphins go sightseeing across America too.

All forms of public transport are expensive; PRT, light rail, heavy rail, freeways. (How much sense does it make to have thousands of $25,000 private vehicles that are used only for 5 hours a week, the same 5 hours a week as every other private vehicle, and then have all the roadway infrastructure for that peak capacity over those 5 hours?)

Mr Kunstler  is right.  We do need walkable cities and then the cheapest form of infrastructure on top of that is bike paths with their small constructions costs, no running costs and small maintenance costs. After that you need some form of rail, heavy or light, depending on geography. But rail has the last mile problem. That’s where the bike paths, bike share, bikes on trains and secure bike parking comes in, and it is also the bit of the system where fit for purpose PRT could come into it. But it’s got to come from the sane end of the spectrum of PRT out there between Heathrow Airport and Loony Land.

Compared to the Hydrogen Super Highway my idea of having an interurban rollercoaster system is looking like a good idea.

They’ve thought of everything:

Illustrations used without permission and I don’t care.




5 responses

18 02 2010
Mister Sustainable

Since the Interstate Traveler Company is in final negotations for not one but two build contracts worth more than $500,000,000 each, you may wish to reevaluate your definition of funny. Besides, Corp! Magazine just imparted its 2010 Michigan’s Going Green Award to the Interstate Traveler Company. Are the editors of such a distinguished publication daft, too?

18 02 2010

Umm, yes. Does the system even work in model form? Is there a real life prototype? Where’s the test track? Are those claims about the energy use and sustainability at all proven? I won’t hold my breath for those 1/2 billion dollar contracts. It remains unproven technology, and yes, at this stage I’d say it is completely farcical. It won’t work. It’ll never get built. It isn’t fit for any purpose.

I also notice on Interstate Traveler Company (ITC) is listed right after the company that says “One of the banes of raising livestock is what to do with the accumulated animal waste.” My theory is that ITC paid Corp! Magazine for a tiny bit of advertorial space down there past the turkey manure.

In the words of tennis great John McEnroe, “You can’t be serious”

But feel free to use my dolphin tourism idea free of charge. It’s my gift to humanity and dolphin-kind.

22 02 2010
Another out there idea – velo-city « Wellington Region Cycleways

[…] Another out there idea – velo-city 22 02 2010 I do love a kind of good cycle related idea here on this blog. There was the bicycle elevator,  the flying bicycle cableway, and the PRT pods. And who can forget these crazy ideas for getting dolphins from one side of America to the other? […]

27 09 2010
Railcycles Past and Present « Wellington Region Cycleways

[…] PRT ranges from the nearly useful, but still yet to be operational Heathrow Airport system to the very ridiculous. PRT is a land for dreamers and kranks, but I guess there is room for innovation. Hey I think even […]

17 11 2011
Rimutaka Incline Railway Group proposes reinstating steam train to Manhattan’s High Line « Wellington Region Cycleways

[…] here at Wellington Regional Cycleways I’m not above mockery. (As you can see – mocking PRT enthusiasts, TranzMetro’s bus replacements, rubbish transport planning and eco-gnomic mismanagement). The […]

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