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A concept transport system aims to push the 10^3 to 10^4 mpg efficiency envelope, and promises the creation of an entire new industry.


Description

Brief Summary

 

The incremental improvements made by present-day efforts will not provide enough carbon dioxide reductions recommended by top scientific advice.

A new mode of transportation - called Extreme Light Rail (ELR) or simply "feather rail" - is presented here with the intent to integrate the best advantages, help the environment, alleviate congestion, and diversify peoples' choices.

Feather Rail is a steel monorail system capable of handling individual or mass transit units. The key features of the system include ultra-light vehicles and light infrastructure. The idea for vehicles is inspired by the merits of bicycling, while the track-based infrastructure is inspired by that of railroads. However, neither aspect is identical to its parent; rail cycling already exists in many parts of the world.

This technology is deployable to developing countries, as well as developed countries. The level of technological sophistication is robust: the essentials are a steel rail and concrete, which is available to most developing countries, whereas more advanced lines would feature rail mergers, sensors, traffic control lights, and computer-managed traffic flow.

 

Overview: Extreme Light Rail

 

The advantage of a low rolling resistance is well-known in railroading and can achieve efficiencies which - still to this day - come close to that of magnetically levitated trains, with a cost many times lower.

However, the namesake suggests the vehicles are much lighter than a train. And they are; you can pick up the vehicles off the track and store them off the rail to prevent clutter.

The weight of steam engines from 100 years ago was on the order of 10^5 kg, and today we use cars, which is down to the order of 10^3 kg. One more improvement is necessary, and will inevitably happen: the transition to vehicles on the order of 10^1 kg. Decreases in vehicular weight beyond this point will scale down in proportion to the human mass of 10^1 kg - in other words, becoming practically negligible.

The most technologically promising proposals all serve to illustrate that practical vehicular weights of the future must be on this order of human weight. The last weight transition in transportation is beginning to unfold.

Apart from those PRT proposals, however, is a more simple approach. A steel rail in the shape of an I-beam serves as a monorail over which a vehicle is supported. This vastly simplifies the approach to construction. Sometimes, over crowded extant urban environments, a viaduct is constructed. However, over a rural or relatively undeveloped area, simple at-grade ("on the ground") rails are built.

Steel and concrete are all that are required to build this rail. The civil infrastructure is loaded essentially little more than pedestrian traffic, due to the light weights of the rail, vehicles, and people combined - combined to the order of 10^2 kg. For reference, the linear weight density of a railroad rail is about 120 lbs / yd; ELR rails shall not exceed 30 lbs / yd.

The reduced carbon intensity of making something out of steel and concrete results in a reduced time to pay back the environmental externality and costs.

Using different methods, it is possible to safely position supine aerodynamic vehicles on top of a single steel rail with stability. The most straightforward method is to use a cantilevered wheel over the flange of the I-beam. The cantilevered wheel is coned, like a traditional train wheel, but on a much smaller scale. The self-centering capability of this coned wheel can be readily engineered.

The rail network allows one vehicle to choose and merge between different lanes, with the aid of sensors and computerized dynamic traffic monitoring. Basically, like a freeway, you need a certain amount of space next to you that is empty for some length behind you to merge. Once that happens the vehicle sends a "merge request" to a stationary wayside sensor which verifies that the space you glanced over at is indeed empty. The computer then bends the track sideways in an elastic fashion to coincide with the next gap. The next track is also bent into that lane's shoulder space so as not to avoid any interference with the lane next to it (two lanes over).

This hints that the rail cross section has moderate torsional stiffness, low lateral bending stiffness, and very high vertical bending stiffness. There are design exceptions for highly advanced (3-D merging) systems, where you can literally merge up, down, and diagonally with this ultra-light feather rail system.

This work was motivated primarily by the rail cycling activity, as well as the book Bicycling Science by David Gordon Wilson. He foresaw the advent of true monorail systems for bicycles, and it is a call to action for what must be done today.

Bicycles, as well as the new transportation proposals are all on the order of 10^3 mpg equivalent, in terms of energy intensity. This system boasts the same, possibly pushing the envelope to 10^4 mpg.

All vehicles will either be electric-powered (mainly) or human-powered. For human-powered vehicles, the rate of power of walking supports a speed of 30 mph. The supine position can be guaranteed to be comfortable through judicious seat design, as long as one feels like they are in a recliner or a bed.

The concept is open to input or modification.
 

Background

 

The recent environmental movement of the last decade has prompted a critical examination of the transportation sector's status quo. With few exceptions, the automobile remains as the most popular choice for transportation in most of the developed world. However, the environmental consequences from the inefficiency of automobile transportation are dire. Most prominently, the effects of anthropogenic global warming are proceeding at a rate exceeding scientific projections of the last few years: climate scientists recommend that humanity's peak carbon output should be reached well before 2020 [1]. In high density urban traffic, there are serious health consequences from chemical exhaust [2]. The expansion of the automobile markets in rapidly developing countries such as China also poses a challenge.

While the goal of a peak carbon output before 2020 may or may not be satisfied, the ethical path of action is to consider the technologies which make the broadest impact on a fundamental level. There are two main families of strategies addressing the environmental problems facing passenger transportation today.

The first family is the development of completely new mass transportation infrastructure. It is currently the most effective ingredient for solving the needs of personal and work-related travel. Diverse modes such as buses, heavy rail, bicycle rights-of-way, bus rapid transit, and light rail are included in this criterion. While these are promising in terms of their investment efficacy with respect to societal benefit, people do not adopt these alternate modes for a variety of reasons. Also, while bicycling is by far the most cost-effective and energetically efficient way to travel, most people are hesitant because of its perceived slow speed, possible dangers due to heavier vehicles, and physical exhaustion (i.e., from hill climbing).

The second family is to upgrade, modify, or accommodate the wasteful modes which exist ubiquitously today. This is done from both technological and urban planning aspects, and includes the use of transport pricing, fuel-efficient design, and alternative fuels. In addition, there are awareness campaigns to promote trip planning, carpooling, car-sharing, vanpooling, and eco-driving.

The first family represents an important aspect of solving environmental and traffic problems, but is not without flaws. Mainline trains, such as those of Amtrak in the United States, are designed to be relatively heavy for the sake of crash-worthiness regulations with the freight trains it shares track with on over 80% of the mainlines. In addition, what may be some of the most promising modes, such as high-speed rail, might not necessarily be the most economical from a consumer standpoint. On the other hand, if any alternatives were to become affordable, people would use them more often to the detriment of carbon footprints; this has been studied outside the United States [6]. Even though Europe is widely perceived as having better sustainable transportation development, more than four-fifths of passenger trips utilize a car [8].

The second family likewise is handicapped in certain ways; see Ref. [3]. First, improvements made to car efficiency and alternative fuels still externalize harmful activity, producing a net adverse environmental impact. The examples that come to mind are farmland displacement for ethanol production and nickel mining for hybrid car batteries. Second, improvements made to roads, such as congestion pricing and toll lanes, are questionable in terms of public acceptability and income fairness [4]. Third, more roads are created as the total traffic volume increases, which is undesirable in terms of space, pollution, and reliability. Fourth, for deeply-rooted cultural reasons, the populace is resistant to behavior modification; for instance, carpooling is practiced by a minority of commuters (viz., about 10 percent over two decades [5]). Fifth, culture aside, psychological factors tend to preserve the total amount of fuel consumed [6]. People will drive farther when their vehicles save more gas, and airplane manufacturers will sell more fuel-efficient airplanes to fly longer distances.

In the foreseeable future, the environmentally unsustainable transportation status quo, most notably involving single-passenger automobiles, may not wane if these fundamental problems are to persist indefinitely. The most critical of all are the problems with society and how people behave, which technological developments, by their very definition, do little to address [6, 7].

 

Requirements for a Technological Solution

 

From the above discussion, we see that technological solutions often do not address peoples' behavior, and if they do, the environmental goal is often shortchanged. Nevertheless, there are ways to bridge the gap with society and reach a sustainable goal.

Most transportation is done within the city, and the bicycle can easily cover these commuting distances. If an extensive network of exclusive rights-of-way for bicycles were to be realized, and steep grades mitigated, there is potential for substantial switchover of people into adopting cycling. This is because both the safety and exhaustion problems (mentioned earlier) vanish. Recently, a proposal on a bicycle "freeway system" in Los Angeles, California has generated much attention, of mostly positive acclaim [9, 10]. Bicycles are extremely promising for sustainability because no matter how many or how often people use them, the effects on carbon dioxide emissions are negligible. The lingering disadvantage, however, is the speed problem.

The attraction to extremely fast modes, such as high-speed rail, also hints at what piques the public's interest. People are demanding: their mindset is focused on how much they can obtain something, and how fast they can get it. From the technological perspective, one can only capitulate at the sociological challenge and instead attempt to satisfy this end. High-speed rail is certainly capable of satisfying both carrying capacity and brief trip times to the extent of competing with airlines and roadways voer their advantaged length of roughly 500 miles or less. However, it is utterly expensive to construct. There is another disadvantage: people cannot decide when they want to begin their travel by the minute, and lack the steering option to head towards a specific destination of choice in a seamlessly connected, dense network-type infrastructure like roads or freeways. That is to say, once someone walks up to a high-speed rail station, they are restricted by the times at which trains can arrive and depart, and further by the spatial limitation of the linear infrastructure.

The requirements are now clear. A new system should satisfy the following:

1. It must allow for travel on demand, as soon as a person walks up to a station platform.
2. The infrastructure must have convenient and specific destinations, across a fairly dense network.
3. It should preserve personal mobility through individually-directed units, like the steering of a bicycle, motorcycle, or car.
4. It must be capable of handling high capacity mass transit units, where one unit holds ten or more people.
5. It should be able to handle higher speeds than conventional bicycling, in order to be competitive with road travel. This requirement is purposed low because it is intended on being superior to congested travel times for automobiles, which is not difficult.
6. The construction cost of the infrastructure should be low.
7. The cost of vehicles to the consumer should be low, in terms of purchase, operation, and maintenance.
8. There should be extremely high efficiency in the vehicles, for environmental reasons.
9. The infrastructure independent of unreliable car traffic, thereby being a separated right-of-way, and avoid steep grades.
10. The space taken up by the infrastructure must be competitive with roads and rail, in terms of traffic volume.

The primary goal in sustainability is to place requirement #8 as the most important goal. This emphasis is generally unprecedented, as the environment is usually seen as an accessory concern behind solving congestion per se and promoting economic growth. The world is different now, and placing the environment first is no longer a strange thing to do; scientific developments in the climate research community require one to morally consider the environment as the premier concern.

In order to present the case, we start first with a brief foray into history. Then, a description of the proposed extreme light rail infrastructure will appear. After that, a discussion of vehicle types follows, and finally, the advantages (as applicable in the list above) of this "feather rail" system will be discussed.

 

Preliminary History

 

The key to understanding "feather rail" is to combine the advantages of rail and bicycle technologies. Bicycles offer the highest efficiency of the currently extant modes. Its fuel efficiency, expressed in automotive terms, is usually between 800 to 2,000 miles per gallon (340 to 850 km/L; see Ref. [12]). Rail technology, with steel-wheel-on-steel-rail contact to minimize rolling resistance, offer the potential to further increase the efficiency and speed of a bicycle.

The idea of combining rail and bicycling is not new. Attempts to combine human-powered vehicles and railroads stretch back to the late 19th century, before the advent of cars. If one is familiar with the hobby of rail cycling, then perhaps it is not surprising to see that contemporary rail cycle designs are over 100 years old!

Rail cycles have the potential for attaining a very fast speed. However, the traditional rail cycling designs lack this capability, because they are essentially designed around an infrastructure meant to carry hundreds of tons of weight. In other words, they are not meant to be used with that particular design of rail, or even a dual-rail configuration. Scientifically, this would involve rigid-body oscillations (the Hunting oscillation) and friction losses.

Still, records have nonetheless been impressive even with rudimentary designs. Human-powered vehicles (HPVs) on rail have recorded speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), even with traditional dual-rail configurations [14]. Wilson notes that there is "little doubt" that "rail cycles should be the fastest HPVs." [14].

 

Feather Rail Concept: Infrastructure

 

The key component of the feather rail infrastructure is a monorail, in the form of a steel I-beam as the cross section for the rail. The rail is designed with the following requirements consistent with what is required for an extremely efficient system:

1. The combined loads are light, usually less than twice that of a human body’s weight, with the upper limit being 500 lbs per 10 feet.
2. The rail itself is much lighter than conventional rail (40 lbs/yd versus 120 lbs/yd).
3. It is anchored to the supporting structural surface on the bottom three surfaces of the flange, with surfaces adjacent to the central web kept free of obstructions.
4. It allows for substantial horizontal bending (about a vertical axis).
5. Twisting and vertical bending elastic deformations are minimized.
6. The overall geometry minimizes the functional surface area for the given cross-sectional area, leading to reduced corrosion and long lifespan.

The rail is connected to the ground using concrete, but can also be elevated in the form of viaducts. Like bridges, viaducts are designed according to local terrain. Civil structures supporting feather rail traffic will be similar in scope and form to pedestrian traffic requirements.

The monorails are generally built to be level, in order to improve efficiency and avoid strenuous climbs. Whenever an elevation change is required, the system abruptly changes to a grade of about 5 to 10 percent in punctuated, short segments. Before each grade, vehicles will speed up to counter the grade.

Feather rail stations will feature a number of shoulder lanes. These shoulder lanes serve both embarking and disembarking travelers. What will be known in subsequent discussion is that feather rail vehicles will be light enough to pick up by hand: once at the end of a shoulder lane, people stop and lift their vehicles off the track, and store them in adjacent lockers. The density of lockers is estimated to be 4 times greater than a car parking lot per unit area. If using an intermodal vehicle, such as a retrofitted bicycle, people can simply adjust the bicycle fittings and/or fairings, then simply continue riding them on the road. Vehicle descriptions are discussed subsequently.

A single rail similar in cross-section to an I-beam is used for the infrastructure:


Figure 1 - A custom cross-section of the monorail rail (scale 2:3).
 

There are periodic traffic lights which display four colors: red, yellow, green, and blue. They are the same as a regular traffic light, but “blue” means to speed up. A blue light can also tell a person to speed up, for example, prior to a short elevation grade.

It is anticipated that feather rail vehicles, including EVs and HPVs, travel along the tracks at speeds of about 30-40 miles per hour. The spacing and speeds of the vehicles will be determined from wayside sensors positioned at regular intervals along each track. The sensors will optimize the traffic and speed. The sensing and traffic light system is open to computer development. A fully developed computer traffic-control system can micromanage each vehicle to such a degree that congestion is largely avoided. Computer traffic control makes feather rail a micromanaged, “smart” transportation system.

An entire feather rail corridor has the capacity for many monorail tracks (or lanes) in parallel fashion. In fact, about 2 parallel tracks fit abreast in the same width occupied by one car lane on a normal road. Each lane's right-of-way is about 48 inches wide, including the cushion space between lanes (you will see why this is necessary on Fig. 2). The space occupied by a two-lane road would therefore hold 4 lanes of monorail traffic. Not all lanes have to be used; some can be emergency shoulders in case of a single-point failure somewhere in a lane. This allows for redundancy and robustness of the traffic flow to incidences occuring only in a single lane.

Each lane handles a different speed, controlled by the sensors and computers. Facing the direction of travel, the lanes farther left will handle greater speeds.

Whenever there is a junction in the route, given multiple tracks of monorail are positioned side-by-side, merging from one track to the other should be possible by some mechanism. Thus, vehicles positioned along the tracks have the capability to pass a slower vehicle in front of them by requesting to merge into faster lanes on the left, using an electronic wayside signal. Merging also allows for people to choose a certain path direction wherever there is a junction in the path. A merge is not always guaranteed, because this depends on the occupancy of the adjacent lanes. The “smart” system will prevent any merges onto an occupied lane. However, a merge is guaranteed whenever there is a path junction. Whereas a freeway must utilize only the far right lanes in a junction, each feather rail lane has the ability to split. Of course, these junctions would require larger shoulder spaces and, as a result, the entire route becomes dilated.


Figure 2 - A schematic of lane merging (all lanes are regular lanes).

A point of merge schematic is illustrated in Figure 2. This easily can be extended to apply for more crowded situations, but Figure 2 is simplified to feature one vehicle. First, the vehicle requests to merge by some form of a signal, perhaps in the form of a high-speed mechanical switch or electromagnetic solenoid. Note, that the vehicle first must request to merge by sending the signal in the first place; obviously lane merging is an option on the highway, so this system is no different in that respect. Once a signal requesting to merge trips sensor A in Figure 2, the rails bend in such a configuration such that rails realign themselves given that C detects nothing and D has cleared. The rail sensed by C and D leads to nowhere. The entire rail configuration is restored in about a second after the merging vehicle clears sensor D; this way, vehicles just behind sensor C will not be required to slow down.

The rail specification was ASTM A36 steel, whose elastic strength is 250 Megapascals (Mpa). One can only wonder if the track, once bent in the configuration shown in Figure 5, can withstand those bending stresses.

Figure 3 represents a portion of the track where the custom rail described previously is engaged by a mechanism (not shown) which bends them elastically until they coincide with the rail break of the adjacent lane. Stresses developed by the rail are generally acceptable for this task. The exact merging mechanisms are open for design. Of course, the break of the adjacent rail lane is handled in its own fashion, but does not disturb the next lane. The stresses also show that the fatigue infinite lifetime is satisfied under this mode of bending, if one takes the fatigue strength as 200 MPa.


Figure 3 - Picture of a bent rail when merging with another lane, with representative stresses. The dashed cyan line represents rail axis before deformation.

One of the key features of "smart" sensing involves speed management. Recall that blue lights signal for someone to speed up. If the vehicle does not speed up on a blue light, they will be bumped over to slower lanes in order to improve traffic flow.

The whole system of computerized traffic management will ensure the smooth and rapid flow of rail vehicles through the tracks.

A calculation of capacity is possible using the following assumptions:
1. A one-way feather rail corridor, with four lanes.
2. Computer-managed spacing of 300 feet between vehicles.
3. An average of one person per vehicle.
4. An average speed of 30 mph.

Then,

30 miles per hour = 44 feet per second;
300 feet / 44 feet / second = 6.81 sec between vehicles passing;
4 people / 6.81 seconds = 25,400 people per 24 hours

This is comparable to major arterial roadways or freeways, which achieve somewhere on the order of 10^5 vehicles per diem. The calculation is only a rough estimate to give feel for the potential volume of traffic. In terms of persons per hour per direction (pphpd), one can arrive at a similar estimate of somewhere around 1,000 to 2,000 pphpd per lane.

The above calculation is conservative for the following reasons:

1. The spacing is generous given the short braking distances that can be achieved, and fast merging mechanisms that can be developed. Computers can adjust these inputs and allow less distance between vehicles. Merges can be performed in only a few seconds with the appropriate design.
2. The average occupancy will be closer to 2 than 1, due to "buses" and "trains" that can exist on this infrastructure.
3. A typical automobile freeway has 3-8 lanes per direction, which is equivalent to 6-16 feather rail lanes. Here we only considered a 4-lane feather rail line, equivalent to a two-lane street road.

In addition, the light weight and the non-suspended nature of the infrastructure can allow for an additional possibility: feather rail tracks can be built on top of one another. This entails the greater possibility of minimizing single-point failure redundancies by allowing not only to merge sideways (as seen in Figure 2), but also upwards and diagonally (not shown). In those cases, a special I-beam with low in-plane web shear would be used to perform upwards and diagonal merging.

 

Feather Rail Concept: Vehicles

 

All vehicles for use on the feather rail infrastructure are open for development. However, the following will provide some insight and examples of how vehicles might appear on the monorail. Before large scale development of feather rail vehicles is to occur, the details of the infrastructure must be well-settled and standardized. There are some rules that vehicles must satisfy in order to use the feather rail system:

1. Combustion engines are prohibited. This includes both internal and external combustion engines. Otherwise, the environmental purpose is defeated, the reliability of the system is compromised [11], and people's health may be jeopardized.
2. They must be contained within the lane width, or about one-half standard gauge (4' 8.5") left or right.
3. They must be capable of at least 20 mph for one hour in clear traffic.
4. The combined weight of an occupied vehicle cannot exceed 500 lbs per 10 feet.
5. They must install a wayside sensor communication device in a standardized location in order to merge and junction (refer to Fig. 2).

Because the majority of people are unwilling to use HPVs for commuting purposes, it is predicted that the majority of vehicles using the feather rail system will be plug-in electric vehicles (EVs). They are expected to weigh less than 60 pounds, including the batteries. Thus, they are light enough to be lifted manually. It is the lightness of the vehicles which gives the system its name. The typical cost of a new vehicle will be $500 - $3,000. They will travel at speeds of about 40 miles per hour, but speed limits can be waived in clear traffic.

In the sections to follow, specific design paradigms of vehicle to be used on a monorail are described; we refer to these designs as the three-wheeled vehicle (TWV) and the retrofitted bicycle (RFB). They can be used to build either electric or human-powered vehicles. The length of all vehicles is about 6-10 feet, to accommodate for aerodynamic streamlining.

Vehicles can be either privately owned or publicly owned. When the system is first built, most of the vehicles will be publicly owned, and can be ridden for free. The intent in doing this is to help catalyze the popularity of the system. This strategy is similar to public bicycle systems adopted in some European and Chinese cities.

The goal in vehicular design on the FR monorails mainly involves efficiency. In this respect, one should compare and calculate the efficiency of a bicycle to set a benchmark for design. From the principal author's experiences, the efficiency of a bicyclist can be estimated from the total caloric intake before and during a long-duration ride. A realistic example from his past experience on a century ride (century = riding >100 mi in a day) is shown below.

117 miles divided by
3,500 Calories divided by
4,184 Joules per Calorie multiplied by
130,000,000 Joules per gallon of gas equals
1,039 miles per gallon equivalent

This is the equivalent "fuel economy" of a bicycle; the result is more or less consistent with the numbers given by Wilson. In both cases, the sum of mechanical work and waste heat, regardless of percentage, represents the energy consumed.


Figure 4 - The power required for human-powered vehicles. ([13]; reproduced with permission.)

Walking can occur over a range of power, depending on how strenuous it is. Wilson cites a figure of 70 Watts, a likely value. Wolfson and Pasachoff imply about 100 Watts [14]. If a trip is anticipated to take 2 hours, we will take 100 Watts to be the power of walking.

At first glance, road bicycles can sustain about 6 m/s, or about 13 mph using 100 Watts of walking power. From personal experience the speed result is fortuitously a slight underestimate. Thus 100 Watts represents a conservative figure.

We can see that the feather rail HPVs will represent or exceed the “ultimate HPV” line. Following the same 100-Watt ordinate, we can see that the “ultimate HPV” already develops about 13 m/s, or about 28 mph.

Assuming that Wilson defines “ultimate HPV” to be a road-based design, feather rail design vehicles may likely exceed 30 mph. Thus, an HPV cyclist will be able to attain average speeds of about 30 miles per hour continuously, using only the amount of power it takes to walk.

It is hoped that human-powered vehicles gain significant acceptance among the populace with feather rail. Human-powered vehicles are expected to weigh less than 60 pounds and cost somewhat less than electric vehicles (EVs). However, again, EVs are predicted to constitute the majority of feather rail vehicle types.

Using a cantilevered wheel arrangement, it is possible to stabilize a feather rail vehicle on a single rail using only three wheels, giving rise to the three-wheeled vehicle (TWV). Figure 5 shows this cantilevering concept below, by analogy of a truss.



Figure 5 - Statics of the TWV.

Figures 6 through 9 show aesthetic renderings of the wheels, frame, and aerdynamic fairing on a skeletal TWV; that is, no seats, wheel axles, drives, batteries (if EV), pedals (if HPV), bearings, or other parts are included. Neverthess, safety mechanisms are portrayed in the renderings. The central theme of these illustrations is to build upon the idea outlined in Fig. 5.


Figure 6 - The TWV showing full length.


Figure 7 - The TWV from the front, showing the flange wheel and safety hooks.


Figure 8 - The TWV from the front, showing the front load-bearing wheel.


Figure 9 - The TWV zoomed in from around the rear.
 

Because design is an open-ended problem, an infinite variety of vehicles may exist on feather rail monorails. A retrofitted bicycle (RFB), provided with a fairing, can use the slower monorail traffic lanes. A variety of removable attachments can be used to provide balancing, whilst the total weight can still be light enough to lift by hand.


Figure 10 - An RFB on feather rail, showing only an attachment to the rail.

Some attachments besides that required to mechanically stabilize the wheels to the rail are required. A front fairing as well as a wayside signal device will be required as an attachment to maintain the speed and communication compatibilities, respectively. The cost of all bicycle attachments should total below $500. Because it is a bimodal vehicle, a bicycle is not limited to being stored on the station platform locker. Cheap and simple attachments to the ordinary bicycle may catalyze the adoption of feather rail.

Not all vehicles are necessarily designed for single occupancy, as the above two paradigms suggest. There can be two-seater or four-seater vehicle designs. Or, one can build small "buses" for a mass-transit option. A typical "bus" seating 20 people could easily weigh less than 150 pounds when empty! If that is not enough, one can design "trains" by stringing together "buses" as coach cars. The design caveat with this is that the sensors will need to be able to detect the length of the "train," but provided that cheap methods exist for load detection (e.g., strain gauge-based sensing), this shouldn't be a problem to include large trains on the right hand-side, slower lanes.

It is again emphasized that there is no limit to what types of vehicles may exist, with the exception that it follows the basic infrastructure and vehicle requirements.

 

Summary of Advantages

 

We will now refer back to the list described under the section titled "Requirements for a Technological Solution" above, point by point, and exceed this list with numbers 11-13.

1. The system allows for travel on demand, because a person can simply walk up to the nearest station platform, get his/her vehicle out of the locker (or adjust attachments if a bimodal vehicle), put it on the shoulder track, and go.

2. Provided that there is adequate funding, the system will have many convenient, nearby stations within walking distance.

3. The effective “steering” of vehicles is provided by the merge and junction system. People are guaranteed the path of their choice, as merges can be built into every lane at a junction with a slight grade. There are multiple merges within an isolated path, so that people are always given chances to merge to a different lane of a
different speed for their convenience. A developed “smart” system of sensors and computers will ensure that the traffic follows a “checkerboard” configuration to facilitate the ease of merging.

4. Following the vehicle requirements enumerated in the section titled "Feather Rail Concept: Vehicles," there are otherwise no limits on how vehicles are designed, what they are used for, or how many people they can hold in total.

5. The vehicles are designed so that the HPVs and electric vehicles both travel on average at 40 mph. People who use HPVs in a leisurely manner travel about 30 mph. Retrofitted bicycles will average between 20-30 mph. The traffic capacity is similar to a freeway, and as a result the system will be competitive with car travel even if its average speed is slightly slower. Stations are located conveniently, often within walking distance. Because there is little potential for sudden changes in volume due to capricious behavior (as often encountered on the road), congestion likelihood is reduced. Computer “smart” management further reduces congestion likelihood.

6. The infrastructure will be cheap, because the light weights mean that the cost to build the infrastructure will be only a little more than that required to build an elevated sidewalk, due to the savings in construction material. The rail will be cheap because it is a simple cross section with at least 3 times less weight - and cost - than a railroad rail. The American S3X7.5 shape is over 5 times lighter than a railroad rail.

7. A new feather rail vehicle costs about as much as the cheapest used car. Retrofitted bicycles are yet cheaper still. The cost of operation is low, because money is saved (no gasoline), and electricity (for EVs) is comparatively cheap. Individuals who do not own a private vehicle can continuously use the public set
for free. Cash-strapped people can retrofit their own bicycle. No feather rail traffic corridors shall adopt tolls. Both HPVs and electric FR vehicles shall count fewer moving parts than an automobile, significantly reducing maintenance costs and increasing reliability of the traffic system.

8. The efficiency of the vehicles will be through the roof. Since the efficiency of bicycling at 13 mph is about 10^3 mpg equivalent, the projected efficiency of a feather rail HPV will be about 2,500 mpg or greater. Electric vehicles may achieve similar efficiencies, albeit partially petroleum-derived. Given that petroleum-derived electricity may still achieve higher thermal efficiencies than the human body, some EVs may achieve close to 10,000 mpg.

9. The separated rights-of-way ensure the safety of vehicles, and prevent relatively heavy cars and trucks from colliding with feather rail vehicles. The safety is enhanced by the fact that braking distances on feather rail will be similar to a bicycle. One might imagine in some designs brake pads squeezing against the rail itself as the braking surface. The computer system will further ensure there is adequate spacing between vehicles to provide adequate reaction and braking distance.

10. A saturated feather rail system will take a competitive amount of traffic flow, compared to freeways and railways [refer to the section "Feather Rail Concept: Infrastructure"].

11. Theft is generally deterred by securing vehicles in lockers. Safeguarding against theft is possible in a variety of other ways, such as station personnel.

12. The noise level will be relatively low, because vehicles are extremely light and wheels are solid steel. This can reduce political controversies from building feather rail infrastructure.

13. Since the infrastructure is light and uses less material to construct, the payback time for carbon dioxide emissions involved in construction (e.g., machinery, cement production), will be quickly offset by the vehicle efficiencies described in #8. Similarly, the externalities of EV production - such as mining – will
be counterbalanced by low resource consumption per capita.

 

Practical Proposal

 

The most sensible way to promote and demonstrate feather rail is to build a single, prototype track. The prototype will not need signals or traffic lights installed yet. Rather it will be a one-lane, straight track built from a S3X7.5 standard I-beam shape, to mimic some of the properties of the ideal cross section. An aerodynamic vehicle will be designed, and the world HPV speed record should be easily matched or broken using this track.

 

Conclusion

 

The specter of global warming and the challenges that it brings to this generation are daunting. Transportation accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While gradual, incremental changes in existing technologies demonstrate the general desire and commitment for change, it is not nearly enough to effect the needed reductions in transportation carbon output, less the nationwide total! Using a fundamentally sustainable system like feather rail is a more effective solution.

People are still looking for new ways to travel, and they are desperate! The author is confident that people will pick up the imperative and regain the adventurous spirit to try something outside of the box, and this is the perfect example of such an undertaking.

 

References

 

1. The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science. I. Allison, N.L. Bindoff, R.A. Bindschadler, P.M. Cox, N. de Noblet, M.H. England, J.E. Francis, N. Gruber, A.M. Haywood, D.J. Karoly, G.
Kaser, C. Le Quere, T.M. Lenton, M.E. Mann, B.I. McNeil, A.J. Pitman, S. Rahmstorf, E. Rignot, H.J. Schellnhuber, S.H. Schneider, S.C. Sherwood, R.C.J. Somerville, K. Steffen, E.J. Steig, M. Visbeck, A.J. Weaver. The
University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC), Sydney, Australia, 60 pp.

2. Whitelegg, John. Transport in the European Union: Time to Decide. In: Making Urban Transport Sustainable (N. Low and B. Gleeson, eds). Palgrave Macmillan (2003), pp. 120 - 127.

3. Tengström, E. Transport Sustainability in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. In: ibid, pp. 140 -148.

4. Steg, L. and Schuitema, G. Behavioural Reponses to Transport Pricing: A Theoretical Analysis. In: Threats from Car Traffic to the Quality of Urban Life (T. Garling and L. Steg, eds). Elsevier, Ltd. (2007), pp. 360 - 361.

5. Table 1-41: Principal Means of Transportation to Work. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Research and Innovative Technology Administration (2011). Retrieved January 21, 2012 from http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_41.html

6. Whitelegg, John. Transport in the European Union: Time to Decide. In: [2], pp. 118 - 120.

7. ibid, p. 129.

8. Vilhelmson, Bertil. The Use of the Car- Mobility Dependencies of Urban Everyday Life. In: [4], p. 146.

9. Barboza, Tony. LA Activists Float Idea of Freeway System for Bikes. Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2010 from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/02/la-activists-float-idea-of-freeway-system-for-bikes.html

10. Barboza, Tony. Readers Respond Heavily to LA Cycling Advocates' Proposal. Los Angeles Times (February 9, 2010). Retrieved May 17, 2010 from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/comments_blog/2010/02/readers-respond-heavily-to-la-cycling-advocatesproposed-plan.html (note: link is dead)

11. Nonelectronic Parts Reliability Data. Reliability Information Analysis Center (RIAC), Utica, NY (2011). See specifically the entries "Engine (Summary)" on p. 2-324 in contrast with "Motor (Summary)" on p. 2-565.

12. Wilson, David Cordon. Bicycling Science (3rd ed). MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2004), p. 166.

13. [12], pp. 408-411.

14. Wolfson, R., and Pasachoff, J. M. Physics for Scientists and Engineers (3rd ed). Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachesetts (1999), pp. 177, 180.

Summary

In recent decades, computer technology and other engineering fields, such as nanotechnology, have made great leaps and strides: the so-called "exponential law" or "power law" best describe their explosive growth in performance.

These advances, sadly, have missed green transportation, which has had one of the most resurgent periods of interest, but little major impact. Given the climate threats faced by mankind, and given that a third of carbon emissions derive from the transportation sector, it is imperative that an entirely new green industry should develop.

The birth of this industry is a new mode of transportation. It is most likely to be developed in the developing world first (countries which can produce steel and have basic manufacturing abilities) and "trickle up" to the developed world via configurational tailoring.

Following weight trends of the past, we can see the following patterns:

1800s: Locomotives: 10^5 lbs weight
1900s: Cars: 10^3 lbs weight
2000s: ???: Probably 10^1 lbs weight

One can closely parallel this with efficiency of the past:

1800s: Locomotives: 10^1 mpge
1900s: Cars: 10^1 - 10^2 mpge
2000s: Electric Cars: 10^2 - 10^3 mpge
2000s: ???: 10^3 - 10^4 mpge

Extreme light rail (ELR) attempts to bring the "power law" back to transportation, where it matters the most to society.

Electric cars are notable for being efficient, but they still take up the same amount of space as a normal car. In highly populated areas of the developing world, the presence of cars (of whichever kind) will inevitably lead to congestion and lost productivity.

Even if the congestion problem were to be solved with inexpensive, self-driving, electric cars, there are developing cities and metropolitan areas which cannot support sufficient space for cars for even a fraction of the populace.

Furthermore, some individuals would insist on maintaining their freedom to drive; only a small amount of human error is necessary in "laminar" traffic flow to "seed" or "nucleate" a traffic jam.


Category of the action

Reducing emissions from transportation


What actions do you propose?

The action is to develop and build an infrastructure with one steel I-beam per vehicular lane, and vehicles which can run on these steel I-beams. Descriptions of the infrastructure and vehicles, respectively, follow below.

Part 1: Infrastructure

A single rail similar in cross-section to an I-beam is used for the infrastructure:


Figure 1 - A custom cross-section of the monorail rail (scale 2:3).
 

There are periodic traffic lights which display four colors: red, yellow, green, and blue. They are the same as a regular traffic light, but “blue” means to speed up. A blue light can also tell a person to speed up, for example, prior to a short elevation grade.

Each lane handles a different speed, controlled by the sensors and computers. Facing the direction of travel, the lanes farther left will handle greater speeds.

Whenever there is a junction in the route, given multiple tracks of monorail are positioned side-by-side, merging from one track to the other should be possible by some mechanism. Thus, vehicles positioned along the tracks have the capability to pass a slower vehicle in front of them by requesting to merge into faster lanes on the left, using an electronic wayside signal. Merging also allows for people to choose a certain path direction wherever there is a junction in the path. A merge is not always guaranteed, because this depends on the occupancy of the adjacent lanes. The “smart” system will prevent any merges onto an occupied lane. However, a merge is guaranteed whenever there is a path junction. Whereas a freeway must utilize only the far right lanes in a junction, each rail lane (track) has the ability to split. Of course, these junctions would require larger shoulder spaces and, as a result, the entire route becomes dilated.


Figure 2A - A schematic of lane merging (all lanes are regular lanes).

A point of merge schematic is illustrated in Figure 2A. This easily can be extended to apply for more crowded situations, but Figure 2A is simplified to feature one vehicle. First, the vehicle requests to merge by some form of a signal, perhaps in the form of a high-speed mechanical switch or electromagnetic solenoid. Note, that the vehicle first must request to merge by sending the signal in the first place; obviously lane merging is an option on the highway, so this system is no different in that respect. Once a signal requesting to merge trips sensor A in Figure 2A, the rails bend in such a configuration such that rails realign themselves given that C detects nothing and D has cleared. The rail sensed by C and D leads to nowhere. The entire rail configuration is restored in about a second after the merging vehicle clears sensor D; this way, vehicles just behind sensor C will not be required to slow down.


Figure 2B - Diagram of lane merging from the perspective of commuters.

In addition, Figure 2B suggests the light weight and the non-suspended nature of the infrastructure can allow for an additional possibility: tracks can be built on top of one another. This entails the greater possibility of minimizing single-point failure redundancies by allowing not only to merge sideways, but also upwards and diagonally. In those cases, a special I-beam with low in-plane web shear would be used to perform upwards and diagonal merging. Anisotropic mechanics of composite materials is fairly well-understood and can design for such deflections, without shear-center warping effects.

Figure 3 represents a portion of the track where the custom rail described previously is engaged by a mechanism (not shown) which bends them elastically until they coincide with the rail break of the adjacent lane. Stresses developed by the rail are generally acceptable for this task. 


Figure 3 - Picture of a bent rail when merging with another lane, with representative stresses. The dashed cyan line represents rail axis before deformation.

One of the key features of "smart" sensing involves speed management. Recall that blue lights signal for someone to speed up. If the vehicle does not speed up on a blue light, they will be bumped over to slower lanes in order to improve traffic flow.

The whole system of computerized traffic management will ensure the smooth and rapid flow of rail vehicles through the tracks.

A calculation of capacity is possible using the following assumptions:
1. A one-way rail corridor, with four lanes.
2. Computer-managed spacing of 300 feet between vehicles.
3. An average of one person per vehicle.
4. An average speed of 30 mph.

Then,

30 miles per hour = 44 feet per second;
300 feet / 44 feet / second = 6.81 sec between vehicles passing;
4 people / 6.81 seconds = 25,400 people per 24 hours

This is comparable to major arterial roadways or freeways, which achieve somewhere on the order of 10^5 vehicles per diem. The calculation is only a rough estimate to give feel for the potential volume of traffic. In terms of persons per hour per direction (pphpd), one can arrive at a similar estimate of somewhere around 1,000 to 2,000 pphpd per lane.

The above calculation is conservative for the following reasons:

1. The spacing is generous given the short braking distances that can be achieved, and fast merging mechanisms that can be developed. Computers can adjust these inputs and allow less distance between vehicles. Merges can be performed in only a few seconds with the appropriate design.
2. The average occupancy will be closer to 2 than 1, due to "buses" and "trains" that can exist on this infrastructure.
3. A typical automobile freeway has 3-8 lanes per direction, which is equivalent to 6-16 monorail lanes. Here we only considered a 4-lane monorail line, equivalent to a two-lane street road.

 

Part II: Vehicles

All vehicles for use on the ELR infrastructure are open for development. However, the following will provide some insight and examples of how vehicles might appear on the monorail. Before large scale development of ELR vehicles is to occur, the details of the infrastructure must be well-settled and standardized. There are some rules that vehicles must satisfy in order to use the ELR system:

1. Combustion engines are prohibited. This includes both internal and external combustion engines. Otherwise, the environmental purpose is defeated, the reliability of the system is compromised [11], and people's health may be jeopardized.
2. They must be contained within the lane width, or about one-half standard gauge (4' 8.5") left or right.
3. They must be capable of at least 20 mph for one hour in clear traffic.
4. The combined weight of an occupied vehicle cannot exceed 500 lbs per 10 feet.
5. They must install a wayside sensor communication device in a standardized location in order to merge and junction (refer to Fig. 2).

In the sections to follow, specific design paradigms of vehicle to be used on a monorail are described; we refer to these designs as the three-wheeled vehicle (TWV) and the retrofitted bicycle (RFB). They can be used to build either electric or human-powered vehicles. The length of all vehicles is about 6-10 feet, to accommodate for aerodynamic streamlining.

Vehicles can be either privately owned or publicly owned. When the system is first built, most of the vehicles will be publicly owned, and can be ridden for free. The intent in doing this is to help catalyze the popularity of the system. This strategy is similar to public bicycle systems adopted in some cities.

This is the equivalent "fuel economy" of a bicycle; the result is more or less consistent with the numbers given by David Gordon Wilson, who suggested the potential monorail bicycle-weight streamlined vehicles in his book (Ref. [10]), and by whom this idea (ELR) can be loosely considered a brainchild. In both cases, the sum of mechanical work and waste heat, regardless of percentage, represents the energy consumed.


Figure 4 - The power required for human-powered vehicles. ([13]; reproduced with permission.)

Walking can occur over a range of power, depending on how strenuous it is. Wilson cites a figure of 70 Watts, a likely value. Wolfson and Pasachoff imply about 100 Watts [14]. If a trip is anticipated to take 2 hours, we will take 100 Watts to be the power of walking.

At first glance, road bicycles can sustain about 6 m/s, or about 13 mph using 100 Watts of walking power. From personal experience the speed result is fortuitously a slight underestimate. Thus 100 Watts represents a conservative figure.

We can see that the ELR HPVs will represent or exceed the “ultimate HPV” line. Following the same 100-Watt ordinate, we can see that the “ultimate HPV” already develops about 13 m/s, or about 28 mph.

Assuming that Wilson defines “ultimate HPV” to be a road-based design, ELR design vehicles may likely exceed 30 mph. Thus, an HPV cyclist will be able to attain average speeds of about 30 miles per hour continuously, using only the amount of power it takes to walk.

It is hoped that human-powered vehicles gain significant acceptance among the populace with ELR. Human-powered vehicles are expected to weigh less than 60 pounds and cost somewhat less than electric vehicles (EVs). However, again, EVs are predicted to constitute the majority of ELR vehicle types.

Using a cantilevered wheel arrangement, it is possible to stabilize an ELR vehicle on a single rail using only three wheels, giving rise to the three-wheeled vehicle (TWV). Figure 5 shows this cantilevering concept below, by analogy of a truss.



Figure 5 - Statics of the TWV.

Figures 6 through 9 show aesthetic renderings of the wheels, frame, and aerdynamic fairing on a skeletal TWV; that is, no seats, wheel axles, drives, batteries (if EV), pedals (if HPV), bearings, or other parts are included. Neverthess, safety mechanisms are portrayed in the renderings. The central theme of these illustrations is to build upon the idea outlined in Fig. 5.


Figure 6 - The TWV showing full length.


Figure 7 - The TWV from the front, showing the flange wheel and safety hooks.

Because design is an open-ended problem, an infinite variety of vehicles may exist on ELR monorails. A retrofitted bicycle (RFB), provided with a fairing, can use the slower monorail traffic lanes. A variety of removable attachments can be used to provide balancing, whilst the total weight can still be light enough to lift by hand.

Some attachments besides that required to mechanically stabilize the wheels to the rail are required. A front fairing as well as a wayside signal device will be required as an attachment to maintain the speed and communication compatibilities, respectively. The cost of all bicycle attachments should total below $500. Because it is a bimodal vehicle, a bicycle is not limited to being stored on the station platform locker. Cheap and simple attachments to the ordinary bicycle may catalyze the adoption of other ELR vehicles as well.

Not all vehicles are necessarily designed for single occupancy, as the above two paradigms suggest. There can be two-seater or four-seater vehicle designs. Or, one can build small "buses" for a mass-transit option. A typical "bus" seating 20 people could easily weigh less than 150 pounds when empty! If that is not enough, one can design "trains" by stringing together "buses" as coach cars. The design caveat with this is that the sensors will need to be able to detect the length of the "train," but provided that cheap methods exist for load detection (e.g., strain gauge-based sensing), this shouldn't be a problem to include large trains on the right hand-side, slower lanes.

It is again emphasized that there is no limit to what types of vehicles may exist, with the exception that it follows the basic infrastructure and vehicle requirements.


Who will take these actions?


Where will these actions be taken?

Developing countries which are rapidly expanding at the expense of the climate issue are the main focus of targeting. In particular, China and India are hotspots for implementation of ELR because their emissions pathway is unsustainable in the transport sector. For example, in China, the rate of motorization is outpacing urbanization and space demands by double-digit percentage differences. 

Land scarcity - even in very dense urban environments - fits well with the description of the system, as it is able to handle a high lateral density of independent lanes of traffic.

Developing countries have the greatest potential to avoid the mistakes of building massive arterial roadways which have, for nearly every country that has built them, guaranteed congestion misery. Their infrastructure is not yet fully developed, and if one chooses to build the correct options from the start, then the effects are comparable to the preventing a disease instead of curing it.

It is entirely possible that developed countries, such as the United States, can build an ELR system. Generally, political will remains limited. A few cities, however, do offer chances for development. For example, the city of Portland, Oregon has invested in an entire city's bicycle infrastructure in lieu of one mile of freeway, suggesting the political will to try things differently from a modal perspective does indeed exist within certain areas of the United States.

 


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

In mathematical approximation, the efficiency of each new ELR vehicle adopted represents a higher-order figure which drops out - procedurally identical to elimination of a car. Thus, if 1 in 3 people try something new and stay with it, then

(1/3) x 100% = 33% emissions reduction over the long term.

If gas prices are an additional stimulus, we assume a figure of about 1 out of 2 people. This figures as

(1/2) x 100% = 50% emissions reduction over the long term.

The initial externalities are more difficult, but if we can assume the environmental degradation and CO2 emissions to be proportional to vehicular weight (in production), then, in on simplified terms we arrive at between 33% to 50% reduction.

A CO2 reduction is not expected for building the infrastructure, because although the lane density is higher, the necessary equipment to manufacture concrete and steel remain essentially the same. Fortunately, this is an initial one-time drawback for each right-of-way.


What are other key benefits?

The reason why this is the most effective way moving forward can be roughly compared to a technological analogy. Take the case of lighting: one could spend an eternity doing research for years on how to stabilize high-temperature ceramic carbide for an incandescent fixture. However, entire (modal) leaps were made: fluorescent lighting, and eventually now LED lighting. Adjustments made to roads and highways are analogous to improvements made to the lighting world of incandescence, including the advent of electric cars, without ever making the leap to the current world of solid-state semiconductor lighting.

Complete modal changes bring the most significant results, and these are not within an order of magnitude. They are rapidly adopted once demonstrated to be successful and frugal on a day-to-day basis.

Modal changes within the road continue to be elusive, because one almost always needs to minimize weight. When that happens there are safety concerns.


What are the proposal’s costs?

The proposal cost is interpreted to be the cost per mile of a single ELR right-of-way, consisting of one or more lanes of monorail track.

 

Material:

Rail:
$2.80 / kg (raw cost) * 14 kg / m (section property) * 1,610 m / mi * 2 (prototyping factor) * 1.2 (alloy uncertainty factor)
= $150,000 / lane-mile

Note: The prototyping factor follows a quasi-parabolic approximation to the negative exponential decay curve of cost versus time, where the cost at t = 0 is three times higher than the cost at t, with the result of 1.67 rounded up to 2.

Foundation:
0.06 (cost ratio factor) * 100 (weight ratio factor) * $150,000 / mi * 1.5 (rebar/prestress factor)
= $1,350,000 / lane-mi

Signals, Merging, Stations:
$1,500,000 * 0.5 (cost rate factor)
= $750,000 / lane-mi

 

Vehicles:

Maximum prototype vehicles built (several to a dozen) shall not exceed a total budget of $100,000.

Note: Uncertainty in vehicle cost, as well as drastic (10, 100-fold) reductions in cost exclude vehicle cost from per-lane-mile basis.

 

Labor:

Engineering (non-recurring):
Approx. 5 * $2,250,000
= $11,250,000

Note: Engineering work is non-recurring and is excluded from the per-lane-mile cost, especially when dividing by the few miles in a prototype right-of-way can be misleading.

Construction (recurring): 
Approx. 
= $11,250,000 / lane-mi

 

Total:

The total cost for a prototype track, per lane-mile, is the sum of
 (Material) + (Construction Labor)
= $2,250,000 + $11,250,000
= $13,500,000 / lane-mi

It is estimated that a retooled and mass-produced system will cost:
{ (Material Cost) + (Construction Labor) } * (Natural Decay Factor)
{$2,250,000 + $11,250,000} * 0.63
= $8,500,000 / lane-mi

The advantages become more pronounced as one builds multiple lanes. For 8 lanes, and for fully retooled material cost (taking away the prototyping factor) we have: 
$1,130,000 * 8 + ($11,250,000 * 0.63)
= $20,290,000 / mi

The greater the number of lanes, the greater the advantage in cost savings.


Time line

Phase 1: Basic Research and Prototyping
(5 years)

Carry out research and development in academia or industry which receives funding for this proposal.

Formulate a prototype ELR infrastructure and build it.

Design a prototype ELR vehicle and build it.

Resolve technical details with vehicular dynamics, computer smart control, merging, and other detailed engineering design challenges.

Phase 2: Community Scale Pilot
(5-10 years):

Propose and execute a pilot project at a municipal-scale level (Portland, Oregon).

Evaluate the social interactivity of the populace with this pilot system and evaluate future expansion.

Phase 3: Larger Scale Implementation
(10-20 years)

Execute the project in multiple places, with developing countries having priority over all else (e.g., China and India).


Related proposals

The following website:

http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/

lists over 100 novel ideas, each representing a new mode of transportation. Extreme light rail, also named "Feather Rail" (albeit a more particular definition) is one of them. 

Due to unforseen/unanticipated difficulties which may arise, extreme light rail technologies cannot claim to be the 'silver bullets' to climate problems faced by humanity.

What is discouraging, however, is the fact that government and industry through media releases, funding allocations, and public discussions do push the notion that electric cars and alternative fuels are somehow the only solutions, even though their cumulative impact is within one order of magnitude. Refer to the light bulb analogy given above. One can not trap technologies within one world, because the 'power law' will never come to transportation this way.


References

 

References

1. Whitelegg, John. Transport in the European Union: Time to Decide. In: Making Urban Transport Sustainable (N. Low and B. Gleeson, eds). Palgrave Macmillan (2003), pp. 120 - 127.

2. Tengström, E. Transport Sustainability in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. In: ibid, pp. 140 -148.

3. Steg, L. and Schuitema, G. Behavioural Reponses to Transport Pricing: A Theoretical Analysis. In: Threats from Car Traffic to the Quality of Urban Life (T. Garling and L. Steg, eds). Elsevier, Ltd. (2007), pp. 360 - 361.

4. Table 1-41: Principal Means of Transportation to Work. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Research and Innovative Technology Administration (2011). Retrieved January 21, 2012 from http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_41.html

5. Whitelegg, John. Transport in the European Union: Time to Decide. In: [2], pp. 118 - 120.

6. Vilhelmson, Bertil. The Use of the Car- Mobility Dependencies of Urban Everyday Life. In: [4], p. 146.

7. Barboza, Tony. LA Activists Float Idea of Freeway System for Bikes. Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2010 from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/02/la-activists-float-idea-of-freeway-system-for-bikes.html

8. Barboza, Tony. Readers Respond Heavily to LA Cycling Advocates' Proposal. Los Angeles Times (February 9, 2010). Retrieved May 17, 2010 from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/comments_blog/2010/02/readers-respond-heavily-to-la-cycling-advocatesproposed-plan.html (note: link is dead)

9. Nonelectronic Parts Reliability Data. Reliability Information Analysis Center (RIAC), Utica, NY (2011). See specifically the entries "Engine (Summary)" on p. 2-324 in contrast with "Motor (Summary)" on p. 2-565.

10. Wilson, David Gordon. Bicycling Science (3rd ed). MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2004), p. 166.

11. Wolfson, R., and Pasachoff, J. M. Physics for Scientists and Engineers (3rd ed). Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachesetts (1999), pp. 177, 180.