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This proposal was forked from The Roller-coaster ("Rampways") : The Perfect Transportation System in the contest Transportation 2016


Roller-coasters (Rampways): The optimal transport system. Roll down-no motors; roll up-no brakes & energy captured. The Hyperloop is toast!



The monorail roller-coaster ("rampway") is the perfect transportation system because:

  • Theoretically ZERO energy is required to move (Newton's 1st Law of Motion.)  Once in motion, an object moves forever (except for outside forces eg. friction.) 
  • Friction can be almost eliminated with the roller bearing (coef =. 0018).
  • Energy must be added to move an object (e=½mv²)  to start it, but the energy must be removed to stop it. 
  • Brakes waste the energy by converting it to heat. Regenerative braking can capture ~70% of the energy.
  • Rolling up an incline captures almost 100% of the energy - almost no energy is wasted as heat, light, or noise. 
  • Since gravity is the impelling force, carriages need no motors nor is wheel-track adhesion a consideration. Trains can arrive every minute if desired.


Carriages roll down ramps (causeways or rampways) from elevated stations and roll up at the next elevated station. Rolling down they convert potential gravitational energy into kinetic energy of motion; rolling up, they convert kinetic energy of motion into potential gravitational energy.

An angle of .103 degrees is required overcome a coefficient of rolling friction of .0018.  ([1] in references).

An angle of ~ .1 degree means a vertical drop of ~ 2 millimeters for every horizontal meter to be traveled. [2]  To travel 100 kilometers will require a drop of ~ 200 meters to overcome friction.

For local intra-city trams, with local stop-to-stop distances on of the order of 400 meters, ( stop heights of 16 ft (4.9 meters) will accelerate trams to a velocity of 20 mph (33 kph). For express stops, heights of 64 feet (19.5 meters) will result in a 40 mph (64 kph) velocity.

Carriages will never roll up as high as they started; some energy (solar) will have to be provided to drag the carriages up to the next station.

Rampways will be made of immense amounts of carbon sequestering materials. 

What actions do you propose?

What actions do you propose?

I propose that we replace all means of transportation with roller-coasters.

Suppose that the roller bearing had been perfected before the steam engine. How would our world today be different? Time is not commutative. In baseball, a single followed by a homerun is not the same as homerun followed by a single



If the Romans had perfected the roller bearing our world would be very different and very much better. Roller-coasters would be the universal means of transportation

Here are two photos of Roman aquaducts, constructed about 2000 years ago.

A.  Theoretically Zero energy is required to move (absent friction). This is Newton's 1st Law of Motion.  

B.   Friction can (almost) be eliminated with roller bearings (coef. of friction=.Roller bearings are good enough (although Halbech array permanent magnets with Inductracks are a possibilty).

C. Energy must be added to an object to get it to move (E=½mv²). Potential E of gravity → kinetic E of motion. 

D. Energy must be removed from the object (usually wasted by brakes as heat) to stop it.  If this energy is captured and reused it's "regenerative braking." 

E.  The most efficient means of capturing kinetic energy of motion is to roll uphill.  Kinetic E of motion  → potential E of gravity.

Braking  is almost 100% efficient. Almost no energy is lost as heat, light, noise, etc. Compare gravity as an energy storage method vs any other on cycle life (infinite times ) and self discharge rate (never discharges). 


I propose that, on land, elevated stations be connected by rampways made from carbon sequestering materials.  These rampways can be considered as causeways. The  rampways constitute a circuit, with stations dispersed along this circuit. The scale can vary from the very small to the very large. 

The system can range from being a "people mover"  between terminals at an airport to an intra-city tram with stops at every street intersection to an inter-city line with stations at major cities to a transoceanic roller-coaster using giant floating spar buoys. 

At the smallest scale it can be a table top HO scale model or an O scale museum exhibit. 

The profile of a rampway would be "U" shaped,relatively steep near the ends for acceleration and deceleration, with a shallow decline in the center to maintain velocity against inevitable friction losses. 

Stations must be at equal attitudes. Most will be elevated, but in hilly regions some may be at ground level, or even subterranean. This plan is best implemented in relatively flat areas.

Carriages accelerate as they roll from a station down a declined  rampway until, at some point, they reach the beginning of the inclined ramp leading up to the next station, which incline they then roll up. The exact points at which the rampway changes from steep to gentle decline to gentle incline to steep incline will be determined by design criteria.

  1. When train A approaches the incline up to the station, train  A connects to the chain which will drag it up to the station. At the same time it closes an electric circuit which energizes the motor that causes the chain to drag the carriage up the incline and into the station. Once in the station, at a set point the electric circuit is broken, and train A stops until another train arrives. 
  2. Doors never fail to open. The doors of the train move vertically and have pins at the top. There is a door-elevating railing along the track in the station, starting low, angling up to the horizontal, then angling down at the end of the station. As the carriage enters the station, the pins on the doors ride up along the door-elevating rail, lifting the carriage's doors, thus opening it for passengers to board and disembark. 
  3. When a second train, B, approaches the station, carriage A, which is still engaged with the same chain, is again moved by the chain (which restarted when the train B approached the station).  As carriage A moves along, the doors descend as the pins ride down the descending section of the door-elevating rails. When the carriage reaches the edge of the station it disengages from the chain and rolls down the decline. 


Every nth car carries freight. 

In cities, constantly circulating police cars and ambulances use dedicated rampways having hospitals and police stations as stops. (Firemen also circulate and disembark as needed at untended mini fire stations located at each corner.)

This entire system is automatic and untended.  No conductors, engineers, or other personnel are needed. 

The system runs at constant full capacity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year as each train follows its circuit.There are no switches.  Trains can run every minute if desired, since the carriages require only wheels (with very good bearings) and so are cheap and simple to build.  .

This is a "hop on, hop off" system. Show up, wait a minute or two, and board the next train, free of charge. 

This system provides unlimited mobility. This is a world without private cars and with free transportation.

This is not a system to provide thrills. The slopes can be gradual.  Maximum velocity depends only on drop, not slope. In order to double the velocity, one must quadruple the drop. velocity ∝ √ drop

This is not perpetual motion.  Trains rolling up to the next station will never rise as high as previous station. Energy lost through rolling and air friction must be replaced by dragging the carriages up the last bit to the next station,  presumably by a chain mechanism.

An angle of .103 degrees is required overcome a coefficient of rolling friction of .0018.  (calculation [1] in references)  

An angle of .1 degree means a vertical drop of 2 millimeters for every 1 horizontal meter to be traveled. To travel 100 kilometers without any intermediate stops will require a drop of 200 meters.  Note that the actual height of the stations will have to exceed the 200 meters  to accelerate the carriages, An initial drop of 480 meters (total  height of 680 meters) will accelerate  the carriage to 320 kph (200 mph). Building a 680 meter high station is not a very difficult task The Great Pyramid of Giza was 146.5 meters (481 ft) high, and was built 4500 years ago. Surely, today we can better that by a factor of less than five.

Once built, stations will serve forever to propel carriages that have been raised to the top. 

Allowance must be made for air resistance. Air resistance increases with the square of velocity but is unrelated to mass or density. A ten car train moving at 320 km/hr (200 mph) will have a drag of about 5800 kilograms of force [4]. Since the cars are unpowered, there is no air resistance from overhead pantographs. Streamlining can be optimized.

A tungsten (density 19.25 gr/cc) ballast at the bottom of a car, say, 10 meters x .3 meters x .05 meters  (15,000,000 cc) would add more than 280,000 kilograms to the car's weight. Ten cars would weigh an additional 2,800,000 kilograms. The additional thrust at .1 degree slope would be Sin(.1) x 2,800,000 kilograms  = 48,000 kilograms, about 10 times the drag, although rolling resistance would also increase.

I propose that the necessary energy be provided by solar power. The tracks must have canopies covering them to shield them from rain, snow,  hail and debris. These canopies will have solar panels on top.  The energy provided by the panels will directly power the system during the day while charging batteries that will power the system at night.  Because of the extremely high efficiency of the system, the amount of energy necessary will not be great. Much of the energy of the moving trains will be captured when they roll up to the stations. 

Examples (approximate, in Imperial and metric units, of velocity per initial height):   

 H       V                          H         V

  16 ft    20 mph             44 m  105 k/h

  64       40                     175      211 

 144      60                     400      320

1300   200                   1470      600

3600   300                   2000      700

Imagine.   One can achieve a velocity of 300 mph just by rolling down a ramp 3600 feet high, or a velocity of 700 kph by rolling down a ramp 2 kilometers high. 

I propose using blocks of biochar concrete with minimal structural complexity (think Lego blocks) and impervious to high speed winds.  Baked biochar has the compression strength to reach these heights. [3]

Active plans are in progress for a building more than 1 mile high in Tokyo,

A drop of 6000 meters (high, but not impossibly so) would result in a velocity of the speed of sound, 1236 kph). 


The rampway system would be carbon negative

I propose that these rampways be built of carbon sequestering materials such as bricks of baked clay (using concentrated solar energy) incorporating biochar,  

Biochar can support ramps greater than 2 kilometers or 1.2 miles in height [3].

Various plants can be used to produce the biochar. Duckweed, for example, can double in volume every 24 to 48 hours. Within a year, duckweed can multiply (theoretically) to a volume much greater than earth. Other fast growing plant possibilities are bamboo, hybrid poplar, eastern cottonwood,  acacia, or kudzu.

The very large scale production of vegetation to be used in the development of a rampway transportation system would be a major carbon sequestration asset. It would cleanse the atmosphere of CO2.

The sale of carbon sequestration credits could pay for the system. 

Consider the positive feedback loop: To go faster, go higher; to go higher, sequester more carbon. Sequester more carbon and earn more carbon credits. This is a win, win, win situation. 

Rampways can also span oceans.  I  propose  that rampways span oceans using floating tubular spar buoys at least one mile high. These buoys will be connected by tracks suspended between the buoys supported from a maximum height of at least one mile drooping to a minimum height of, say, 500 feet (in order to clear the ocean surface with sufficient height to avoid waves and salt laden spray). 

Rising and falling water levels inside the hollow tubular buoys caused by ocean heaves would propel air through a turbine at the top.  The energy produced by the turbine would drive the mechanisms to raise cars up to the top of the buoys.

"The oscillating water column (OWC) equipped with an air turbine is possibly the most reliable type of wave energy converter."




What the Romans accomplished 2000 years ago, can we not do today?

This system is not perfect - no system is. A long distance high speed ~ 200 mph inter-city system will require construction of a network of vast towers.

However, there is no system of mass transportation that is more efficient. Yes, energy will be lost from air resistance and rolling friction, but every system wastes energy; this one wastes the least. 

Moreover, consider the many advantages:

  • There is no system of mass transportation with fewer modes of failure than the rampway. 
  • There is no system of mass transportation simpler to build than the rampway. A 300+ mph system could be built today with off the shelf components [4 p.15]
  • There is no system of mass transportation requiring fewer employees than the rampway
  • Assuming that the rampways are of simple masonry construction, i.e. a solid brick (no arches), there is no system of mass transportation less vulnerable to terrorist attacks than the rampway. 
  • Assuming that the rampways are built of carbon sequestering materials such as bricks of baked clay with biochar, chopped straw, chopped bamboo, etc), there is no system of mass transportation which will sequester more carbon.

Who will take these actions?

Intra-city systems will be built by local municipal authorities.

Inter-city systems will be built by whoever is responsible for current roads.  In the US this would be the Federal government.

Trans-oceanic systems will make current ocean shipping obsolete. Therefore, as a survival strategy, I envision consortia of shipping companies joining to build the systems. Those firms not members will disappear .


Where will these actions be taken?

Everywhere on earth that people travel using vehicles.

Wherever there is a road today, there will be a rampway in the future - stainless steel or titanium monorails on masonry beds of carbon sequestering bricks, creating a network that spans the globe.

There will be at least a local stop within a very short distance (perhaps 30 meters or 100 feet) to every place on earth where today there is a parking space for an automobile.

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

When this plan is fully implemented, i.e. when all transportation is by rampways ie all public roads are replaced with rampways, carbon emissions from transportation will be reduced to zero.

Such energy as is needed to replace losses from friction will be gathered from solar on land and waves on oceans. 

There are 6.4E9 meters of public roads in the US.

Assume a width of 30 meters for a rampway. 

Assume an *average* height of 50 meters for a rampway.

As a 1st order approximation, this gives a volume of 9.65E12 cubic meters to be filled with sequestered carbon. 

Assuming a density of 1 kilogram/cubic meter for biochar cement, and a 50% ratio of biochar to sand and clay, we get . 5 * 9.65E12 kilograms = 4.8E12 kilograms of sequestered carbon.

There are 7.87E14 kilograms of carbon in the atmosphere.


What are other key benefits?

No autos = no auto deaths.

Universal free travel (no more than 100 feet to a station)  = much greater mobility

Extremely feasible.  To get from point A to point B build a ramp from A to B and roll down the ramp. 

I repeat:

  • The rampway is the most efficient means of mass transportation. 
  • The rampway has fewer modes of failure than any other means of mass transportation. 
  • The rampway is the simplest means of mass transportation. "Wheel slip" and "adhesion limits" [4] do not apply.
  • The rampway requires fewer employees than any other means of mass transportation.
  • The rampway is less vulnerable to terrorist attacks than any other means of mass transportation. 
  • Assuming that the rampways are built of carbon sequestering materials such as bricks of baked clay with biochar the rampway will sequester more carbon than any other system of mass transportation.
  • The rampway is the safest system. There are no switches or grade crossings. 

What are the proposal’s costs?

If we simply convert from paving with asphalt to sequestration of carbon using biochar construction, and since:

"The nation has around 4,000 asphalt plants, at least one in every congressional district. Each year, these plants produce 500 million to 550 million tons of asphalt pavement material worth in excess of $30 billion," then we would be spending $30 billion per year.

This does not take into account acquiring rights of way.

This gives us an idea of the current spending on road infrastructure. 

However, this does not take into account the potential income from carbon credits.  

As the Earth warms and the approaching hazards to civilization becomes apparent, the ensuing desire to sequester carbon will make  sequestration schemes  profitable. I believe that the rampway will become a profit center rather than a cost center.  

Even more important, political and other objections will vanish as the catastrophic consequences of global warming occur with increasing frequency.  What today might seem politically infeasible will tomorrow become politically compelling.

We must avoid temporocentrism

Time line

Immediately (weeks or months)

Build scale models for elementary, middle, high schools and science museums.

Continue research into methods of incorporating carbon as a construction material to sequester carbon. 

Begin designing prefab roller-coaster "people mover" systems such as can be installed eg in airports between terminals and long term parking lots.

Carnivals, which pop up over weekends, frequently contain small prefab roller-coasters.  These are designed for thrills, but they demonstrate how prefab "people movers" can be deployed quickly for travel over short distances.

Very Short Term 1-5 years. Install prefab rampway people movers to replace shuttle buses in airports, etc. demonstrating the basic principles of a working system. These will not be carbon sequestering, rather they will be made of structural steel, aluminum, or titanium. 

Short Term 5-15 years. Begin growth of vegetation for carbon sequestration: build vast lakes for duckweed; plant square miles of bamboo and other fast growing trees. Begin intra-city rampways on streets, boulevards and avenues in cities.   Begin inter-city rampways  along sea level coasts and in the Plains states. 

Medium Term 15-50 years. Complete transcontinental rampways.

A New York to Los Angeles route following present bike routes has intervening peaks of almost 8000 ft requiring 8000 ft high stations (at the sea level ends). Intermediate stations will have the terrain elevation upon which to build. The advantage are massive carbon sequestration and velocities, at the low points, in excess of 430 mph. Alternatively, excavate gorges to level the route and reduce the necessary height of stations. (below, elevation of flattest current NY-LA bike route).



Long Term 50-100 years.  Construct transoceanic roller-coasters using floating spar buoys. Construct speed of sound rampway systems.

Related proposals

This is a continuation of my 2016 proposal:


In the present proposal I am omit much of the technical support and enlarge on other points.


  • "The average gradient usually lay between 0.15% and 0.3%, with the aqueducts of the capital averaging closer to the steeper descent. The smallest declination has been found in the Nimes aqueduct, in the underground stretch just downstream of thc Pont du Gard bridge, where the channel drops on the average only 7 mm. every 100 m."
  • Guide to the Aqueducts of Ancient Rome Peter J. Aicher Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Jan 1, 1995 - Architecture - 183 pages