The following mind map shows prime factors, objectives and requirements for the new transport mode. Clearly it is essential to attract 80% of traffic away from cars by designing low weight and so low cost vehicles and track. The extent of the rural network depends upon the size of profits and the low unit cost of the network. Only a guide-way mounted on poles is sufficiently low cost, and devoid of serious impact on the existing road capacity. Low operating costs and 80% mode change are then prime factors.
The new mode vehicles should be comfortable, private, have the seating capacity of a car, with 5 seats, but be convertible to accommodate a wheelchair, a bicycle, or a 400kg freight container. Stops must be on the ground, accessible, and at the 300m proximity of current bus stops. Close stop spacing assures patronage. Metrino vehicle capacities are quoted and one standard size. TransitX has a variety of vehicles.
New mode trip times should be 4 times faster than a car, with an operating speed of 70kph and average speed of 60kph, requiring grade separation from other traffic and itself, having all connections between routes, two-way track, two-way access to stops, and no queues. No queues requires off-line stops and turns, fully automatic control and stops having 5 parallel bays, le mans style.
The new mode requires one vehicle per second directional capacity to attract substantial custom and free up existing modes, removing their congestion. Capacity twice that proposed has been proven with Taxi2000, but is not desirable, because having multiple routes down parallel streets delivers more direct service and has redundancy when routes are off-line for maintenance.
New mode low cost operation requires light weight vehicles of 300kg, demanding that they be suspended, and have low capital costs. The track, stops and vehicles, have a target cost of $13M/km that depends on availability of public right of way, on alignment standards with 3m curve radii, to fit connecting ramps within the right of way, and value capture at stops to provide cheap ground access to commercial and public properties. Suspended vehicles like Metrino weigh 300kg, and have half the weight of supported systems like the 850kg Ultra, have no stability problems, and are comfortable on steep grades. Cost estimates are derived from Metrino, and include two-way track, 3 stops/km, and 100 podcars/km.
Improved amenity requires major mode change to remove considerable car and freight traffic. The new mode exclusive track must be on poles and 10m high, to be unobtrusive and permit street trees underneath. It requires stop footprints to be small, the size of a bus stop, requiring 100% track grades, to avoid severance between sides of a street. Amenity requires vehicles to be as quiet as a Prius and electric powered.
Crash reduction requires zero crashes on the new mode from exclusive track and fully automatic operation, and to attract major custom to reduce crashes on existing modes.
CO2 reduction requires major mode change to low energy, electric powered vehicles, limited in speed to 70kph.
5% of profits should accrue as revenue to State and Local Government, being the owners of the ROW, and the new service should be priced for maximum revenue, subject to the usual provision of concessional fares.
The price elasticity of travel for the new mode with the faster, more reliable, lower priced service is expected to cause 80% mode change.
Sovereign risk clearly applies to projects dependent upon Government approval to their operation, and for use of the ROW. The Government needs to theoretically underwrite the project to counter that risk, yet actually collect the 5% rent.
Job creation depends primarily upon profitability, secondly on trip time, and third on reduction of subsidies. Policy for investment and skill development is required. Construction jobs are balanced by increased roadworks delay, but manufacturing is a net benefit.
Rural transport will need regulated subsidies from new mode revenue to extend the network and provide equity, but the new mode’s low vehicle operating costs should be recovered, enabling much more extensive rural service than at present and importantly, providing 24/7 instant availability.
Reduced exposure to stranger assaults on the new mode require private vehicles on private routes, with trips non-stop between origin and destination, and stops at bus stop proximity. This needs to be supported by video monitoring and audio communication between the vehicles, stops, base and PSO’s. Domestic assaults can also be addressed by the video monitoring, both as a deterrent and automated calling it out.
By far the best new option is an aerial podcar system, like “The Jetsons”, but hung from a guide-way, rather than high energy flying. It is able to out-compete the car on its own terms, using simpler technology than the common car and is very profitable, and therefore self-funding.