Sunday, November 21, 2004

More on Mass Transit to come.

I like the ideas I'm hearing. Let me mock up some transit authority commuter track layouts. Imagine a central city for example with outlying zones. The big city is the hub and the branching depots are the outlying supported residential zones. Heavy duty highspeed freightcars come into the city and can be disbursed to the outlying minor hubs for pickup by truck or picked up directly at the main hub. The outlying zones have high-speed commuter cars that bring them into the commuter network in the big city. Then imagine curvilinear overlapping off-center concentric circles of intracity travel or a curvilinear french curve intersection design for the intra-urban travel.

The normal model is either a square grid (inefficient)or a concentric centered set of circles with radiating spokes - "spiderweb" - design. Imagine instead two sets of concentric circles with the central circles intersecting at city center. An alternative as I said would be the french curve style curvilinear design. The idea is stop trying to make a people fit a geometry and instead find a geometry that will fit into the travel shortest-distances in people-space. Make the intersections fit the major activity centers and let the lines curve between them.

As der Fool indicated, this is an architectural concept already employed only since it's a city we just can't through up grass and then pave where the students make their own routes of shortest transit. Instead we have to look at city congestion patterns and identify centers of activity and routes that serves flows and then schedule commuter cars for the temporal flux of those flows. Then you have to design an equivalent L-train or M-train (magnetic car) type system to move people. There should be express cars for strict A to Z major centers of activity transit, and cars designed for pick up and drop off at various points probably one type in the first half of the transit (A to K) and one for the second half (L to Z) or even three types so you divide it into thirds.

And for God's sake if you're expanding or doing construction you need to do something similar but not exactly the same for roads. People do not live on a grid. We need to stop trying to impose a grid on people. That's half our problem right there. Let the people drive where they want to drive and build the roads to get them there.


At November 21, 2004 at 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two remarks. First a meta-remark: I perceive some difficulty with follow-up threads that tend to split discussions & individuals' attention. I for myself have less trouble checking out one thread than three. Just an observation.

Second, there is dynamism, AKA negative feedback AKA checks & balances in the system. Building "centralized/modular" transit paths will compel people & businesses to cluster around them, driving up real estate prices at locations with favorable transit connections, as well as deplete capacity (not too close to have the train/freeway in your bedroom, not too far to not get there within minutes). This in turn will compel players, most notably businesses, to relocate away from transit routes because of real-estate costs.

One important parameter in this is of course the oil price, and gas taxation (almost full circle). Where I used to live, gas prices were high, but still offered a good cost/benefit ratio for me. One part in this was that with rising gas prices, public transit fees were hiked as well (and commute car mileage was tax-deductible whereas train tickets were not, which has been fixed meanwhile). It is difficult to say whether it was because transit costs are largely pegged to fuel costs (directly or through wage inflation), or "because we can".


At November 22, 2004 at 6:40 PM, Blogger orc said...

"People do not live on a grid. We need to stop trying to impose a grid on people. That's half our problem right there. Let the people drive where they want to drive and build the roads to get them there."

The problem is that a grid is the best way to let people drive where they want to drive. That's why so many people don't like them; if traffic patterns change just a tiny bit, "where they want to drive" might put freewayish levels of traffic down a previously quiet residential street. The grid only becomes a problem when all of the lanes are wide enough to fit multiple traffic and parking lanes; footpaths and teeny narrow alleys let people walk where they want to walk, but they don't have nearly the impact.

At November 26, 2004 at 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The best starting place for researching new transit ideas is:

There's a lot of info there on personal rapid transit (prt) schemes, which haven't made much progress but which may be perfect for servicing decentralized metro areas in a high energy cost era.


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