Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Intensive care

Now, that was an intensive day!

10am to 10pm, with a short break after the official sessions.

It feels daunting to make a fair summary of all the day's speeches and presentations. Let me phrase out what stayed topmost in my mind.

ULTra was presented in fair detail, and it seems like a wonderful system, indeed (special cleaning vehicles are used for shoveling snow if needed; an issue that always made me wonder on their design). However, the track still looks heavy and the "safety fences" are told to remain there even after construction is done. Not a delight.

Frost & Sullivan had a commercial look into the PRT business. That was interesting. They're estimating it to start booming around 2016-2020, with essential growth already in 2012 (estimated at 30 000 M$ year if I remember right). They split potential customers to various categories, biggest of which were airports, eco cities and tourist destinations (I may be a bit vague on the details here).

Vectus was presented as a "step down from regular rail". At least that was the feeling I received, and the presenter himself had worked in regular rail construction before coming to PRTs. I'm sure there's a market area for it, too, like feeding real train or subway lines. However, I fail to see why I would ride such a 4 person vehicle all by myself. For some reason it feels much bigger than the other two.

Dutch 2GetThere (Robbert Lohmann) presented their Masdar case, which seems far further than I guess most of us expected. It will be (should be) ready by the end of this year! (only one part of the track, but still)

This was the day's last presentation, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one weary at its start. But it was the most energizing one. One could notice the silence and concentration of the audience. Before that, there had been ample presentations of Heathrow, ULTra and one on Vectus. But now, it felt different. These people are all over the work itself, not doing prestudies or safety surveys.

Some details:

- By its look and measures 2GetThere's Masdar vehicle resembles ULTra
- Designed by Italian car designer (because the customer wanted so)
- Traffic in original ground level; the whole city will be elevated one story up leaving original ground level as "basement". Pedestrian level is above it and no unauthorized access to the basement level is allowed.
- 3-4 lanes wide system, with sniffer modules in the road and "leaking cable" communication from above the vehicles
- 3rd and 4th lane are used for speeding up/slowing down traffic
- rubber tires on concrete (or similar) floor
- li-ion batteries worth 60-70km (recharge in 1h)
- speed 40km/h

The use of a full "level" of transportation allowing for the wide lanes makes this a completely different kind of case as a PRT that would be confined to poles or tunnels. The authorities will use special "emergency mode" to clear the road of pods if needed and the system would be seen to carry as well freight (about 20% of vehicles) as passangers. A curiosity is having two levels of pods; regular and "vip", which would be having more expensive finishing and equipment.

The track layout has no crossings, only loops, and will eventually cover 40-50km and have 50-100 vehicles.

Freight vehicles are based on the same parts as the passanger ones; only tougher. They can carry 2 containers each 800kg in weight.


Mr_Grant said...

Masdar: I can understand the need for a two-class system in this case. As a model eco-city there are going to be lots of visits by government officials including heads of state. If they are going to be traveling around Masdar, it will be by PRT and not motorcade. Thus the need for vehicles with special equipment, and giving vehicles travel priority when needed.

Gaius Julius Caesar said...

"This, of course, is not quite true. What Heathrow currently has is a (being built; ready later in 2009) point-to-point track between Terminal 5 and VIP parking lot. That hardy qualifies as a PRT track, more like automated golf carts I would say."

The Podpeople(tm) will take this comment as "proving" that PRT hasn't been tried yet, when Heathrow abandons the "automated golf carts" sometime after the first system meltdown. Then they'll be waiting for "success" in Dubai at Masdar. Of course, before such longed-for "success" for Pods possibly could occur, Dubai will go belly-up when its real estate bubble pops. You Podpeople plebians are well, plebian in your notions.

akauppi said...

There actually is no cars in Masdar. Once you come to the edges of the city, you need to leave the car there and continue by foot, PRT or Segway.

That is a very interesting and good approach in my opinion. I am a bit doubtful about using PRT tracks for emergency traffic, though. But it could be that since the ground level (the _new_ ground level = pedestrian level) is not meant for vehicle traffic at all, even emergency vehicles would not fit in.

But how on earth to pull in a firetruck in PRT lanes? Maybe they've forgotten something? :P

akauppi said...

To Julius,

the BAA people would say exactly the opposite. They seem extremely pleased with the ULTra project in all aspects and I'm sure it will become a good working solution.

They do have plans to cover most of northern Heathrow (hotel connections etc. even people working from nearby homing areas), but there's no timetable on those developments, yet.

I can see ATS being busy with airports for the forseeable future. As to using the same in general public transport, I think other approaches may turn out to be better.

We also need to give ATS some credit on their consistency with this matter. They started at 1995 (now 14 years!) and "kept coming and coming, and way said 'no'. Until we realized there might be something to this." (quote of a BAA technical manager). I'm glad they endured.

Mr_Grant said...

The epithet "podpeople" indicates Julius is an ally of Ken Avidor, if not Avidor himself. Welcome Julius!

Avidor said...

I'm not Caeser and I'm not this guy in Ithaca... and I wasn't one of the more than 100 people who were "angry and upset with Daventry District Council's (DDC's) proposals for a personal rapid transport (PRT) scheme in Daventry".

In Heathrow, PRT offers some cheap greenwashing for airport expansion much opposed by the surrounding communities and environmentalists.

Gaius Julius Caesar said...

"the BAA people would say exactly the opposite. They seem extremely pleased with the ULTra project in all aspects and I'm sure it will become a good working solution."

We'll see. It remains to be seen if the little toy-like vehicles stand up to even moderate usage--assuming they can keep the thing going for more than a few hours at a time.

Mr_Grant said...

Ken seems to think even community problems in central England can be reduced to a fight over PRT, rather than typical struggles between citizens and government, and competition between jurisdictions.

Interesting but predictable: Ken's Daventry blogging cherrypicks excerpts, conveniently omitting this --

However DDC leader Chris Millar said... the leaflet distributed to residents was "propaganda".
He said: "To those residents in receipt of this information, I can assure them that they will be fully consulted on any firm proposals for a pilot route in the town centre as and when that occurs.
"Unfortunately representatives of Daventry District Council were not invited to this meeting to put the facts to the public and hopefully
allay any fears created by the misinformed leaflet."

Avidor said...

The headline:

"Pod Off! Residents oppose Daventry PRT scheme"

Avidor said...

This is what the Daventry Council had to say about the lack of citizen input:

"Daventry people have not been apprised of the full extent of the infrastructure required to operate the proposed PRT system. This lack of information clearly denies them the opportunity to make reasoned judgement and comment."

Mr_Grant said...

Quick Ken -- how many Daventry Councils are there? Answer now! Don't Google it!