If you’ve ever visited a water park, you’ve probably seen a “Lazy River” ride like Castaway Creek at Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon or Rambling Bayou at Adventure Island in Tampa, Florida. They are shallow channels of water with a strong current. You can sit in an inner tube and just ride the current, or you can swim with the current, and get a boost that makes you feel like an Olympic swimmer. Some parks are completely encircled by a Lazy River that serves as a kind of transit system. The river is the guideway, and the stations are steps or ramps that lead into the water. In a Lazy River, traffic jams can actually be fun!
Sometimes it seems like the growth of a city is accompanied by even more growth in traffic congestion. At least that’s the impression I got living in Los Angeles during the years when most of its freeways were built. But was my subjective impression really true? The traffic patterns of real cities are so complicated that it can be difficult to discern the basic underlying principals. There are countless factors, not all of which are knowable, that influence the behavior of a transit system. So we have chosen to analyze a simple idealized traffic network to see how it works. If you’re curious, you can find the technical note How Transportation Network Size Effects Congestion on our Publications page.
In a recent presentation at the Podcar City 8 conference in Arlandal, Sweden, a new Chinese company called Tubenet Transit described their new PRT system, and how it could be used to accelerate eco-restoration and urban reforestation. As the name suggests, the pods run inside of a tube with guide rails above the pod, and a support surface below. The top of the tube is covered in solar panels. The bubble-shaped pod is only two meters long, with an empty weigh of 150 kg (330 pounds), and a carrying capacity of 250 kg (550 pounds), seating two adults and one child. (Remember China’s “One Child Policy”?) They described three tiers of guideways, supporting speeds of 40, 60, and 80 km/h (25, 37, and 50 mph).
On November 23rd, I had the opportunity to attend a student design workshop for a new Automated Transit Network (ATN) system. This interdisciplinary project of San José State University involves the departments of structural, mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science, industrial design, urban planning, business, and public administration. The students and their faculty advisors have actively sought out the advise and counsel of ATN experts from around the world. The Mineta Transportation Institute (also at SJSU) and the City of San José Department of Transportation are also in communication with the student team.