Transit Technologies for Congested Cities in the Environmentally Sustainable World

Innovative Transit Technologies for Congested Cities in the Environmentally Sustainable World :
Transportation accounts for 23% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2), which is major component of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide.

Usman Uddin (MBA 2010)

With Contributions from Usman Uddin.
Usman Uddin, MBA (2010, George Mason University, Virginia, USA), is a federal technology expert serving both commercial and government industries. Usman has also been in key management roles in some of the world’s largest corporations.

Automobile and aviation traffic are major producers of the GHG emissions, as shown in the Allianz figure, whereas mass bus and rail transit operating on diesel fuel produce about one-third CO2 emissions. Moreover, automobiles are the major cause of congestion on city roads, which results in significant user time delay and wastage of fuel.

Credit: European Environment Agency/Allianz, SE

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) data for the United States shows that between 1970-2000:
• Number of vehicles increased by 58%
• Vehicle-mile traveled (VMT) increased by 148%
• Fuel economy of cars increased by 62% but fuel use also increased by 8%

The U.S. DOT estimated 43.8 million total person-hours delay in 2003 at 25 hour delay per person cost in urbanized areas resulting in 15 gallons fuel wasted per person. In 2007 average fuel consumption was 2o.4 miles per gallon for cars and 5.9 miles per gallon for trucks; total VMT was 3,030 billion in the U.S. (58% cars and 41% trucks). These statistics indicate that fossil fuel addiction of American commuters and transport technologies are polluting cities endangering public health and congestion is causing delay and stress on drivers, as well as unsafe traveling conditions resulting in thousands of fatalities each year. The evolving gridlock problems and their societal and environmental impacts require innovative solutions as urban growth and vehicle use increase.

Transit Services, Beijing, China, April 2008


Shanghai Maglev Cruising at 300 km/h to Pudong Intl Airport

Environmentally sustainable solutions to mobility requires a combination of multimodal strategies with reduction in gasoline vehicles, increase in mass transit running on natural gas vehicles (NGV), biofuel, maglevitation (Figure shows Shanghai Maglev operating at 300 km per hour), and other energy efficient and less polluting technologies, as well as reduction of cars on congested roads. The evaluation of the competing transport technologies requires comparison of life cycle costs, user savings, and societal benefits as reduction in emissions. The high speed rail technology (HST) is being planned in several regional corridors in the U.S. where it will compete with regional aviation traffic. The HST is not an appropriate solution for urban and suburban commuters because it requires costly right-of-way due to expensive real estate prices in cities and metropolitan areas.

Mass Transit Technologies

Dedicated “people mover” and personal rapid transit (PRT) systems have been in operation in Morgantown, West Virginia and on some airports using traditional electric power. The answer to environmentally sustainable transport is the use of a “right” vehicle technology for a PRT system, operating at medium speed of 50-60 km per hour, that can be light-weight, energy efficient, and almost pollution free. A PRT system is the answer to the urban commuter problem, operating on dedicated elevated transportation pathways maximizing the use of existing right-of-ways of public roads. This innovative transportation approach requires massive initial capital investment in dedicated infrastructure and light vehicle manufacturing in the U.S.

It is estimated that a 50-km installation at a cost of about 80-100 million dollars with adequate number of PRT vehicles (operating on efficient electric power or maglev) will employ hundreds of people, spur PRT vehicle manufacturing in closed car factories, and provide jobs to construction materials industries, engineers, and skilled workers. The cost will reduce as the demand increases. The system will reduce congestion on roads, improve air quality, reduce reliance on imported crude oil, and pay off investment within few years.

Dr. Uddin’s note: Further information on the environmentally sustainable urban personal rapid transit technology topic discussed in this post is available in the following paper:

Uddin, Waheed and Usman Uddin. “Sustainable Personal Rapid Transit Strategies for Congested Cities and Urban Communities.” Second International Conference on Transport Infrastructures, 2010 ICTI, August 4 – 6, 2010, São Paulo, Brazil.

The impact of transportation related emissions and mitigation strategies are discussed in the following book:

Uddin’s chapter 23 “Mobile and Area Sources of Greenhouse Gases and Abatement Strategies,” Handbook of Climate Change Mitigation. (Editors: Wei-Yin Chen, John M. Seiner, Toshio Suzuki and Maximilian Lackner). ISBN 978-1-44419-7991-9, Springer, 2012.

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