Monday, October 5, 2009


I have been witness to the worst foliage season in recent New England history. It has rained almost every single day I have been here, and just been dark and cloudy the rest of the time. This has led to lots of time in the cabin, and I have had plenty of time to think, especially about the things the cabin lacks, like unending water and electricity and gas. It occurred to me that once upon a time, all water and fuel had to be delivered in person. This, in turn, got me to think about PRT as a pipeline, much like a utility. Actually I was mostly thinking about freight. Has anyone really analyzed what automated delivery would do for the world?

I personally believe that the big story here might not be, so much, PRT per se, but rather the automatic aggregation, transportation and distribution of physical objects, much like a the utilities I am presently lacking. Consider electricity from a variety of sources; wind, coal, hydroelectric, etc. It is mixed in the wires and sent out only where needed, where it is measured out into exactly what the end users require, where and when they need it. The utility can just read the meters and send out the bills. Isn’t PRT really the evolution of transportation into a similar model, except with people?

I have been hard at work trying to imagine a system that would work for people, mail, cases of cola, etc., and I’ve come to the conclusion that “one size” does not “fit all.” at least not with vehicles or their bogies. That is not exactly true with the track, however. I believe that a track design standard could be established that could accommodate various bogie styles and functions. In this approach the system would be highly modularized. Bogies would reside inside the track and various carriage styles for numerous functions would “snap” on. We could call it something like Small-scale Modularized Automated Rail Transport System. (That’s right. I invented SMARTS.)

I see something like four flavors of track, where for example, a PRT “pod” would be precluded from track that was primarily industrial, (it might allow extreme maneuverability, using super tight radii and cog technology for vertical travel) but the industrial bogie might use a public guideway. (Perhaps late at night) There could be a low speed, low profile, indoor (shroudless) track that would be for bogies that don’t require upper guide wheels, (too slow) but can be hug between the floors of buildings. There could be a very high-speed long distance variety, although I do not see it as being much different than ordinary PRT track, although the bogies would obviously be built for speed. (unless it’s fitted with Inductrack or something)

I will be posting more on this in the future, but for now, I am still out of town, and my laptop is ailing. (It crashed four times writing this, and won’t even recognize a thumb drive anymore) I will therefore get this posted, while this little library is open and this darn thing still works. That’s all from rainy NH.


akauppi said...

Somewhere it was said:

"Every major transport model has started with personal traffic, but expanded to freight which became much more important."

This applies to rails, ships and maybe also airplanes.

Mr_Grant said...

I am beginning to think the only thing we can standardize at this point are the support posts. If you're really considering serving industrial needs, the supports will have to be beefy, impacting cost.

cmfseattle said...

As usual, got links:

I ran across the Federal Bridge Gross Weight Formula wiki page. I need a synonym for "distributed" because I think it could serve as a nutshell descriptor of small-vehicle AGT's advantages.

efficiency 101.

PRT design inspiration.

long article, but highly recommended: THE STRUCTURE OF TRANSPORTATION REVOLUTIONS
it's on a website maintained by Prof. Schneider, the actual
"Library of Congress of PRT."

Anonymous said...

There is a webpage devoted to automated freight that might be helpful at

Dan said...

Dan The Blogger Responds-
Gentlemen; Sorry for my long absence, and thanks for commenting. Sometimes I’ve got more to do than I have time. It helps when people keep some fresh stuff coming in.

Akauppi, I hope your talk went well. I hope to write more on the freight issue in the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Grant, long time.. Thanks for stopping by. I would never, ever, suggest short-haul (PRT) track that is any heavier than is required by compliance with the ADA. In fact I have suggested various means of skirting using bumper-to-bumper weight of ADA compliant vehicles as the means of establishing requirements for guideway “beefiness.”
The fact is that with the average occupancy of 1.2 passengers per vehicle, everything from the vehicle on becomes “beefier” than economics, good social and transportation policy would dictate. Cmfseattle’s Wikipedia link on the gross weight formula gives good guidance as to my thinking on this subject. Weight can be safely added by spreading it out more. Lastly I would note that, like people on a bus, freight has been influenced by the concept of moving things in big groups. But just as the buses run nearly empty sometimes, so do the trucks. Just as people on a bus sit through many stops, so too does cargo. How much of the industrial size you refer to is just the old way of doing things? (in mass)

Cmfseattle, Thanks for more to chew on. I haven’t searched the references, but I would like to find the federal guidelines for bridge construction based on vehicle weights vs. the weight limitations for the vehicles on existing bridges. You are right, of course, that the article leads directly to an advantage of small vehicle transit. You kinda took the wind out of my sails with the “AGT” reference. Who needs to coin an acronym like “SMARTS” when “AGT” would do, and actually be more inclusive? Anyway I have already included “SMARTS” in my next post…

Anonymous, thanks for the link. I’ve been on the page before, but I bet most readers have not. I certainly have not read every article. Between those and Cmf’s “The Structure of Transportation Revolutions” (skimmed only) I have my homework cut out for me.