Peoplemovers look to the millenium

first_imgBYLINE: Lawrence J Fabian *BYLINE: * Lawrence J Fabian is Director of Trans21, PO Box 249, Fields Corner Station Boston Massachusetts 02122, USA.Tel: +1 617 825 2318Fax: +1 617 482 7417e-mail: LFabian@ compuserve.comPROSPECTS of an exciting future for automated peoplemovers emerged at the American Society of Civil Engineers’s 6th international APM conference in Las Vegas during April.Maintaining urban rail services has long been an uphill battle, and attracting new passengers seems to be getting even more difficult. As the 20th century closes, many cities around the world are struggling to subsidise rail operations. Most are losing the larger war – an ever-increasing portion of urban travel is made by private car. Even transit optimists find our fin de siècle limited. Others see it as outright bleak.But why such a cloud over mass transit? Too many rail professionals have been, as the old song goes, ’looking for love in all the wrong places.’ We are fixated on dense corridors, whereas today most urban growth is dispersed, making rail transit uneconomic. The debate at Las Vegas centred on harnessing new technologies to serve areas such as airports, shopping malls, office districts, and institutional campuses, or to act as feeders to regional rail. The findings may offer a brighter future for public transport.Service-proven After almost 30 years of vision and experimentation, the APM industry has started to mature. Airports were the first to benefit, with 20 peoplemovers now in operation and 50 more planned around the world. There is a growing menu of proven peoplemover options. Adtranz, Bombardier, Matra, Mitsubishi, and Otis have airport experience, satisfying rigorous, round-the-clock service requirements at costs of over $20 million per km. Now airport peoplemovers are reaching out beyond simple terminal connections to serve remote parking or link to regional rail services, as at Newark and Chicago O’Hare. Five consortia are currently vying for a US$1bn peoplemover network to serve New York’s JFK airport (Table I). With a 12 km main line haul, this will link the air terminals with a nearby subway station and a distant commuter rail hub. Full automation has been specified for steel-wheeled vehicles running on steel rails, offering the prospect of future integration into the Big Apple’s vast rail network.There is a growing number of automated peoplemover projects outside the airport sector. Four driverless metro lines are under construction in France, with others in Ankara, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Torino. Smaller peoplemovers in leisure parks, casinos and other small centres of activity add to the diversity of the industry. In total the current projects in the pipeline are worth some US$6bn.Technology development is reviving: Poma-Otis now has two test tracks operational. Doppelmayr, Garaventa, Leitner, Schindler and Yantrak are bringing new technologies to the market, and even the bus company in Uppsala, Sweden, is testing a marketable peoplemover. Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport will soon establish the Soulé SK technology as a serious player. The cutting edgeHigher-order technology and intermodal projects are also under way. Outside Boston, personal rapid transit is being developed by Raytheon and the Chicago RTA. A prototype vehicle was prominently displayed in Las Vegas, catching the attention of local television reporters. Raytheon is testing three PRT vehicles, in a research and development programme which entails precision engineering, advanced analysis and commercial patience. PRT promises service more akin to automated taxis than light rail, serving flows of 2000 to 3000 passengers/h for any guideway link. Such capacities may seem low for rail professionals, but it should be kept in mind that this is where the real need is – economic ways to serve modest flows and densities. Are PRT advocates looking for love in the right places? Will they bring a reliable, economic product to this potentially vast market? One obstacle to overcome is our fixation on linear corridors. PRT operates as a network. Ingmar Andreasson’s pioneering simulation work in Sweden has established that adding extra links can satisfy any demand that exceeds the capacity of a single PRT corridor. Meanwhile, planning is under way for PRT demonstrations in Rosemont, near Chicago O’Hare Airport, and near SeaTac airport in Washington state. So far no firm customer has materialised, but planners, investors and potential suppliers are watching with great interest.Innovative approachesThe 400 delegates at APM97 also heard about innovative approaches to public-private funding. A prime example is the recently-opened Mystic Transport Center outside Boston. A small, simple peoplemover, with a pair of Poma-Otis shuttles hauling passive cars over rails by cable, is the key to a bigger, intermodal project.The 235m line, elevated above rail yards, links a station on MBTA’s Orange metro line to the parking garage of an expanding office park along the Mystic River. MBTA is delighted that the US$3m privately-funded project delivers more passengers to its trains. The project has been privately funded as part of a larger parking scheme, supported by a long-term public lease of designated Park + Ride spaces. The simplicity and low cost of the project surprised many who gathered in Las Vegas.Leitner is working on a similar rail-to-parking project in Milano, and Doppelmayr has another shuttle linking two rail lines in Wien. In the early years of the next century, PRT, hectos and automated peoplemovers look set to become more and more common as part of the world’s urban rail framework. For many, the gamble of peoplemover innovation that started in the 1970s may finally be paying off. oTABLE: Table I: Turnkey contenders for the JFK airport access projectSupplier Engineer ConstructorAdtranz Kaiser Yonkers/TurnerBombardier STV Slattery/Perini Siemens-Matra DeLeuw Cather Ralph ParsonsAnsaldo-Breda Edwards+Kelcey RaytheonGEC-Alsthom Morse Diesel Fluor-DanielCAPTION: Is it transit? This privately developed peoplemover in downtown Tampa is both a local amenity and a public service. Supplied by Otis Elevator, it opened in 1985CAPTION: Simple and light, the 235m Mystic Center peoplemover outside Boston, Massachusetts, is part of an innovative Park + Ride strategylast_img read more