1. What is ULRF&T?
ULRF&T stands for Ultralight Rail Freight and Transit. ULRF&T is an on-demand and point-to-point autonomous rail system. It distributes vehicle load over the length of the guideway by the use of many nimble, lighter weight rail vehicles that can accommodate 6-30 passengers or up to 3 Tons of freight.
The lighter weight vehicles and the guideways that support them allow for reduced capital, operating and maintenance costs while providing an enhanced level of service, compared with conventional rail systems. Stations are located off-line and can be incorporated into buildings to provide point-to-point travel without the need for intermediate stops, providing a higher average speed and reducing travel time. Users request vehicles in stations or through a mobile application.
Automation allows real-time collation of user requests in order to schedule vehicles on-demand. The system has been tested at speeds up to 60 mph, and will ultimately reach 150 mph. Corridors can be networked together, allowing any vehicle in the system to travel from any station directly to any other station within a network that can be easily expanded to meet the community’s demands and needs. The result provides an environmentally and financially sustainable transportation system.
2. What Does The Track Look Like to A Person Walking By, And For A Person Using The System?
The outer dimension (dripline to dripline) of a double track system is 20 ft. This 20-foot guideway can be placed along and/or within existing public-rights-of-way, at-grade, in a trench or tunnel, and/or on an elevated viaduct. When elevated, the guideway is either precast concrete girders or steel trusses sitting on 2.5 – 3 foot diameter columns with 40’-70’ foot spacing.
Columns can be placed in the median and/or shoulders of roadways, and can be integrated into buildings, and parking lots. The guideway is much lighter and slimmer in size than conventional highway structures and has a smaller footprint when compared to a conventional light rail track structure. This minimizes visual impact. For a person walking by, the guideway may look like a bicycle or pedestrian overcrossing. For a passenger in one of the ULRF&T vehicles, it would look similar to a small bus.
3. How Will Stations/Access Points Integrate with the Surrounding Urban Fabric on the Roadways?
One of the benefits of off-line stations is that they allow the main guideway to stay along the median or in the shoulders of roadways, while the stations are constructed off to the side. The station can be a stand-alone structure or integrated into any existing or new buildings, parking facilities, transit stops, transit centers, and developments. Station locations and configuration can be customized to the needs of stakeholders such as cities and property owners. This is made possible because ULRF&T vehicles can negotiate tight curves and handle 10% grades.
4. How will ULRF&T be integrated with existing transit systems?
Since ULRF&T scheduling is flexible, vehicle scheduling can be coordinated with existing transit systems. It will operate on-demand during most periods. In times of very light usage, a single vehicle or small number of vehicles can operate on a fixed frequency to pick up the very small numbers of off-peak passengers. Both modes are selectable and programmable. Fare collection can be integrated through existing transit smart/pre-paid cards.
5. How will the proposed system connect with airport facilities?
The guideway within the Airport area may be constructed above ground and/or underground along roadways and/or within parking facilities. The alignment will be designed to be consistent with the Airport Layout, FAA Advisory Circulars, and configurations of the terminals, parking and Rental Car Centers. Airports can be connected to downtowns and local regional networks.
6. Is it level boarding?
Yes, level boarding is provided to better serve bicyclists, passengers with wheeled baggage, strollers and physically challenged passengers.
7. How will the system be designed to be compatible with “Complete streets” if the system is aerial?
The guideway structure will run along the median area of the roadway. The support columns are generally between 2.5 – 3-foot in diameter and can be accommodated within the roadway median. This allows the Complete Street, including bicycle lanes, bus lanes, smaller roadways and bulbouts to be implemented on surface streets.
8. If the main guideway is aerial or underground, how do passengers get to grade level?
The vehicles can be easily integrated into the second or other story of a building. This would utilize the elevators, escalators and stairs in the buildings. Vehicles can also come down to ground level where desired and topologically feasible. Tests have proven that ULRF&T vehicles can climb a 10% grade, so ramps up and down are relatively short. If ULRF&T vehicles are integrated with a tunnel system, periodic exits and stations can be at the top of ramps that come up from the underground lines. This may be less expensive than building off-line stations below ground.
9. What do vehicles look like for a person walking by, and for a person using the system?
For pedestrians, they will see an ultramodern 32-38’ foot long vehicle with colors and graphics depending on the locale. For a person using the system, they will enter the vehicles through doors on the sides, find seats and sit. Seats will be located along the interior walls of vehicles. There are message boards in the interior that show destinations and schedules. Seats are comfortable, attractive, and durable.
10. How many passengers and how much baggage can fit in a vehicle?
Because there are many vehicles, they can be like aircraft with First-class, Business class, and Coach seats. Maximum seating is 30 passengers per vehicle. First and Business class vehicles are available for a higher price. Baggage will fit in overhead racks similar to high-speed trains. Some seats can be converted to storage areas for bicycles and luggage.
11. How do passengers board and alight from the vehicles?
Multiple doors on each side automatically open upon stopping. Passengers alight from the cars quickly because there are fewer passengers/door. Vehicles can unload in 10 seconds or less.
12. What is the top speed, and how quickly is it achieved?
Maximum speed for ULRF&T will be 150 mph on long straight runs. However, top speeds can be limited to highway speed limits. Maximum adhesion limited acceleration is .15g, reaching 60 mph in approximately 20 seconds.
13. Are vehicles autonomously operated?
Yes, vehicles are automated, radio-controlled, and driverless.
14. What do vehicles do when they are not operating?
When not in use vehicles are stored in stations and/or at maintenance facilities.
15. How are the vehicles powered?
Vehicles are powered by a 3rd rail, which is fed by the local power grid and solar panels mounted above the guideway. The solar power can generate a surplus of electric power. This provides zero-carbon-footprint transportation.
16. Do the vehicles require a maintenance facility?
A maintenance facility is provided as another off-line station. A single acre will provide enough room for vehicles to exit the main line and enter service bays as well as providing parking for maintenance employees. This maintenance facility also houses the control center where automation and power are monitored and controlled by skilled operators.
17. Do the vehicles need to move or be moved in order to be redistributed to meet demand on a regular basis?
During the initial operation in fare service, a process of learning passenger demand patterns enables the system to anticipate demand. Vehicles are moved as necessary to accommodate real-time demand.
18. Can the vehicle travel outside the grade-separated guideway?
No, the vehicles must travel within the guideway that can be grade-separated or at-grade to provide point-to-point[ccs2] service utilizing city streets such as shoulders and medians.
19. What is the recommended frequency of the service?
Frequencies are demand and velocity-dependent. This is possible because the vehicles are scheduled based on real-time demand. Under heavy pulse loads vehicles can slow down to increase line capacity. When loads are light, vehicles can operate at higher speeds and greater headways. While 10 second headways are possible at 60 mph, allowing six vehicles per minute, greater frequencies at lower speeds are possible.
20. What is the potential passenger carrying capacity?
Capacity is driven by seating configurations and control systems and are, as above, velocity and demand-dependent. The maximum capacity is at approximately 25 mph. Assuming 8 second headways at 25 mph and 30 passengers/vehicle, the maximum capacity would be approximately 12,000 Passengers/hr./direction (pphpd). As a practical matter, some inefficiencies may be taken into account and we would not want to claim more than 9,000 pphpd at this time. However, with the recently developed control system achievements of autonomous automobiles, it is possible to get headways down to 3 seconds or less, achieving line capacities of 30,000 pphpd or more.[ccs3]
21. What is the dwell time of a vehicle at a station?
Vehicles can enter and exit a station after unloading and loading passengers and freight in less than a minute. Multiple vehicles can load and unload at the same time in a single station.
22. Can the service be ticketless? If so, how will fares be collected?
While we expect some passengers to need to buy tickets, ticketless travel will be the primary mode. This will be accomplished through any existing smart/pre-paid transit card or smart phone requests for rides. The riders will be charged for the ride through a smart phone application. In addition, credit cards now come standard with a TAP function. Credit cards can be tapped to identify the passenger coming into the system at the station and to pay for the ride.
23. What is the current development status of ULRF&T?
To date, CTI has built 3 test tracks as briefly described below –
- The first test track tested a full-scale ULRF&T vehicle up to 60 mph, establishing the ability of the vehicle to “hunt” on rails and to roll smoothly and with stability through curves.
- The second test track and second-generation full-scale vehicle showed the operation of a new kind of switch specifically designed for the ULRF&T vehicle and track. In addition, a 10% grade section was added to this test track. Tests proved that the ULRF&T vehicle can climb a 10% grade in wet and dry conditions. Finally, this test track was used to test different propulsion system configurations.
- A third test track was developed to test control system hardware and software. It showed the capability of ¼ scale vehicles to pull off and on at stations, and for other vehicles to bypass those stations.
In addition to the test tracks, software simulation programs have been run to show the following –
- The operation of a ten-mile line with six stations. It showed that the average speed of the vehicles operating in point-to-point mode with a 60-mph maximum speed was 52 mph.
- Computer simulation of a system at the Oakland Airport serving the airport terminals from parking and rental car stations.
- Computer simulation of proposed track structures in a 7.2 earthquake on worst case San Francisco Bay Area soils.
- All tests and simulations were successful.
Patent developments include eight patents, one of which is the ULRF&T system itself. The other patents involve control system methods for braking, safety, and vehicle headways.
24. Could the system function in either an aerial or underground configuration? Could it transition between aerial and underground? What are the maximum allowable grades for the system to ascent/descend?
Yes, the system can function and transition between aerial and underground configurations. The maximum allowable grade is 10%.
25. Could the system be extended in the future?
Yes. ULRF&T is highly extendable as a network. Small turning radius and off-line stations allow extendibility using the same switching technology. High speed capability allows the application of ULRF&T technology to the creation of interregional networks. Vehicles that can travel at low, medium, and high speeds, with the capability to travel anywhere in the network directly, allow the creation of an integrated infrastructure that can be extended anywhere in the United States, and other countries of course.
26. Could stations be added to the system in the future?
27. What are the maintenance requirements for the guideway, vehicles, stations, etc.?
ULRF&T currently uses contactless communication and brushless traction motors. Both these subsystems are low maintenance. The third rail will have standard maintenance. Stations can be in buildings where elevators and escalators already exist. Vehicles can also descend and climb at a 10% grade to and from ground level stations, eliminating the need for elevators and escalators as maintenance items. Beyond that, typical building maintenance and vehicle maintenance operations are required such as cleaning and repair, and the monitoring of operations in a control room is required.
28. What is the cost per mile to deliver the fixed infrastructure needed to operate the system, not including stations and land acquisition costs?
Capital costs of system minus stations and land – $20,000,000
-35,000,000 /mile, depending on local conditions and system length.
29. What is the incremental cost of a station and/or access point?
Cost of stations – $2,000,000 for a typical station.
30. What is the cost of the vehicle fleet needed to begin operation?
Vehicles – Cost – $300,000 each.