ULTRA-LIGHT RAIL Freight and Transit (ULRF&T) What is it?
Studies have indicated that the high capital cost of train systems – passenger rail, commuter rail, light rail, and subways – (often up to $100-200M/mile) is largely caused by vehicle weight. Typical train car weights are from 20 tons/car to as high as 50 tons each and more. Some diesel locomotives may weigh as much as 200 tons.
Vehicle weights drive the weight and cost of the tracks and attendant infrastructure – bridges and beams. This track, or guideway as it is also called, comprises the majority of the capital cost of a train system. Based on a systems-engineering analysis conducted by the US Department of Energy, in order to achieve a significant drop in cost, vehicles need to weigh less than 5 tons each.
If smaller vehicles are used, the load can be distributed across the guideway, and the cost can go down drastically, 50-90% according to one study. However, if an engineer is needed on every vehicle, the operating costs rise. Modern automation technology used on each vehicle to avoid driving up costs.
This enables a system to be built using many smaller vehicles rather than a small number of very heavy trains. The resulting system has a much lower capital cost, and has much greater flexibility of use. For example, many vehicles can have many different destinations, allowing for flexible scheduling.
In order to avoid traffic congestion of many smaller vehicles stopped on the main line, vehicles switch off the main line into stations on sidings. All through-traffic bypasses the stations and goes on by. The same switching technology allows for interchanges, analogous to a freeway off ramp or interchange, a network infrastructure.
Automation technology controls the system on the track, in the stations, and system-wide, collating demand and scheduling vehicles in real time. Users can schedule online or in the station. Payment is cashless.
The ULRF&T system has the following advantages over conventional systems:
- Higher Average Speed – by bypassing all stations except the destination, computer simulations show an average speed around three times faster than conventional systems.
- On demand scheduling- Passenger demand can be collected in real time, similar to an elevator where a passenger can select their floor. Some have called this approach a “horizontal elevator”.
- Lower waiting times – Many vehicles can go to many destinations, so maximum waiting times can be set low. Studies have shown that point-to-point travel is the most efficient.
- More destinations – because there is no time penalty for more stations, since vehicles don’t stop at every station, more stations don’t lower the average speed. Thus, as many stations as are desired can be added to a line.
- Integratable into buildings – the light weight of the vehicle means stations can be located on the second floors of buildings.
- Easier to fit into landscape – the smaller vehicle also has a smaller turning radius, down to 70’. Thus, it is capable of tight turns. This means it more easily can fit into an urban or suburban landscape.
- Can be solar powered – Because of the lower power requirement of vehicles, photovoltaic panels can be mounted on the roof structure above the guideway. More electrical power can be generated than the system consumes. Surplus daytime power can be stored for night use or sold back into the grid, while operating on grid power at night.
- Lower cost – The overall effect is to reduce capital and operating costs. In addition to the cost savings in construction of the system, there are distinct power efficiencies experienced in operations, and some labor cost reduction, although because the ULRF&T system enables infill transit-oriented-development, overall employment will be increased due to the construction of buildings.
- Safer – vehicles are contained in the guideway structure by virtue of the sidewalls. There are no crossings and no conflicts with autos, trucks, or buses. There is no driver to take away control of the vehicle from.
- Freight advantages – a large portion of freight, bulk and packages as well as automobiles, can be put into modular containers on freight vehicles at around 3 tons/vehicle for transport to ports, airports, and logistics centers. The low cost and easier installation enable the construction of new freight lines to serve currently unserved areas. Other benefits include shipping with fewer partial loads, and shipping with lower wait times.
- Help for the transit-dependent – by being able to build more transit, more convenient for the user with more stations and at lower cost, the transit-dependent will have more options.
- Vehicles are autonomous steel-wheeled and electrically driven, with a steel frame. Multiple doors allow quick entry and exit. Vehicle capacity is 6-30 depending on seating configurations. The system has been tested at speeds up to 60 mph, and will ultimately reach 150 mph. Vehicle Gross weight is 10,000 pounds. Vehicle length is 38 feet.
- Guideways are steel or reinforced concrete depending on aesthetic concerns. Structures have been designed and computer simulated in worst case seismic conditions. Structures are designed to be manufactured off-site and assembled in situ.
- Several types of stations have been designed, depending on ridership originating in the station. Stations can be ground level or elevated, and inside existing structures or in stand-alone structures. Passengers can call vehicles from within the station, analogous to an elevator, or on a smartphone. Passengers can board vehicles leaving in either direction.
- Control systems control the vehicle travel, the station and vehicle operations when the vehicle is in the station, and overall vehicle scheduling according to real-time passenger demand. Diverse redundant safety systems maintain passenger safety at all times.
- Vehicles are at all times in communication with Central Control. Passengers can communicate with operators at any time. Individual vehicles can be directed to a designated station in the event of an emergency.
- Vehicle power is provided by a 3rd rail. The 3rd rail is fed by the grid or from a solar electric field mounted on the guideway. Power is controlled by a Power Management unit. The vehicle can regenerate through braking and has back up hydraulic brakes.
- A team of system operators controls the system from within the central station. Vehicles are thoroughly cleaned every night. During pandemics the vehicles are equipped with UV light for disinfection, and plexiglass for separated seating.
Safety & Security
- There are no drivers to threaten or kidnap. Vehicles are continuously monitored and can be directed by operators to a secure station to be met by security personnel or police. Passengers can communicate with operators at any time. Social distancing policies can be implemented to limit onboard passenger densities.
Local People Movers 0-40 mph
- Airports connecting to downtowns
- Sports Stadiums connecting to local/regional transit systems
- Universities where traffic congestion in local towns is caused by students and faculty
- Corporate campuses connecting to local/regional rail systems
Commuter Rail 0 – 80 mph
- Inexpensive and convenient lines where no existing rails can be used
- Extensions of heavy rail systems where high capacity is not needed and cost is an issue
- Easier to install in a built environment, in the median strip of a highway or on shoulders
Interregional Connectors 0-120+ mph
- Originally designed to go 150 mph maximum by the US Department of Energy.
Integrated Network of corridors
- By connecting different lines with interconnecting interchanges using CyberTran’s proprietary switching technology, a network of corridors can be created as an alternative to the current hub and spoke systems. This allows any vehicle to go to any station in the network directly, without stopping at intermediate stations, eliminating the need for transfer stations.
- It is possible for a vehicle to turn onto a siding and then travel into a building or building complex. The lightweight vehicle and guideway can be supported by the building structure so a station can be located in a building. This can support Transit-Oriented-Development projects. With proper design and sufficient planning, one can visualize a car-free network of TODs including housing, employment centers, medical centers, and more.
- Freight vehicles have been designed to carry packages, automobiles, commodities, and bulk. Moving freight using ULRF&T can eliminate the problems with the movement of large diesel trucks in automobile congested roads. Reducing noise and emissions are a benefit to the communities surrounding ports and other freight centers.
- Intermodal containers can be broken down and repackaged on smaller containers that will fit on aircraft, rail, trucks, and transported on ULRF&T vehicles.