As distances within a space habitat will be rather small, only a couple of kilometers in most designs , bicycles will be an excellent mode of transportation for space settlers. Promoting cycling will also have environmental and public health benefits. Continue reading Public bicycle system
Earlier we discussed the use of personal rapid transportation or PRT in space settlements, and O’Neill cylinders in particular. In a previous post we proposed that the public transport system of a O’Neill cylinder would consist of:
1. A maglev metro along the heart line of the valleys, serving as the backbone of the transportation system;
2. A PRT network serving as a secondary network, aimed at short distance transport.
A question one could reasonable ask is whether having both systems is actually necessary? One could argue that an extensive PRT system would make the maglev metro obsolete.
In a smaller space habitat such as Stanford torus or Bernal sphere, having these two system would indeed be superfluous. The the distances within the settlement are too short. However, in greater settlements, such as O’Neill cylinders, there will be a differentiation between short and long distance travel. The longer the length of an O’Neill cylinder, the greater the justification for a dual transport system.
PRT systems are usually designed to travel at speed 40 to 50 km/h, while maglev trains in vacuum could easily reach 8,000 km/h.
It might take several decades to complete an extensive PRT network (a maglev metro needs to build during the construction of the space habitat). Hence we need to consider an alternative transport system.
Again we suggest to use the maglev metro as the backbone of the public transport system. Additionally there will be a bicycle sharing system, which would allow people to travel to and from the maglev station.
In a bicycle sharing system people can use publicly owned bicycles against a low or even zero price. One takes a bike from station A and go to station B and leaves the bike there.
There are many methods to prevent people from stealing these public bikes. The system as we propose, is the following. First public bikes will be of an unusual model, to make a clear distinction between privately owned bikes and public bikes. Further bikes will be locked at their station and only be taken after paying a refundable deposit, for which people need to buy a special coin. The coin is returned once the user brings the bike to a public bike station.
The requirement to buy a special coin, rather than to use normal coins, will allow the operator to charge a higher price for the use of public bikes. This would create a greater deterrence for potential thieves as well providing some revenue to fund the program.
A bicycle sharing system could be extended to include tandems and freight bikes as well. The bikes could also be provided with an electric support motor.
We have discussed some ideas on public transportation in space habitats in an earlier post. In this post we will argue in defense of introducing free public transportation in Mordan.
Public transportation is in many developed countries already heavily subsidized, in some cases to such extent that travellers pay no more than 20% of the costs of public transportation. So we might wonder why bothering with charging fares at all? If you believe that people should pay for their own transportation, than you should oppose any subsidies on public transportation. But if you believe that some public subsidies on public transportation are fine, you should explain why we should not subsidize it for 100%.
We believe that freedom of movement is a fundamental right. But freedom of movement is also of great social and economic importance. People have to be able to travel from their homes to their jobs, students to their schools, consumers to the shops and so on. A good and accessible public transportation system will increase economic activity and hence wealth.
Since anyone, workers, employees, businesses, and consumers will gain from public transportation, we believe it will be fair if the government would use public funds to provide free public transportation. In principle the funds needed to finance such free public transportation will be supplied by the revenues generated by the lease of land by the government.
As you might know we are in favour of personal rapid transit, however not all PRT systems are the same, though most are powered by electricity. But not the Shweeb, which is instead powered by muscle-power. As shown on this YouTube video, Shweeb consists of a monorail track on which aerodynamic capsules are moving. Like bicycles these capsules are propelled by peddling.
According the inventor of Shweeb, the capsules can go as fast as 80 km/h, but you don’t need to be an athlete to do so. And since the system is entirely run on human muscle power, it’s also an environment-friendly mode of mass transit. Sounds great.
Well, not completely. Though you don’t have to be an athlete, a lot of people can’t use this system because they are paralysed or have other medical conditions which prevents them from using this system. Secondly, the system doesn’t allow passengers to take much luggage with them. So doing your weekly groceries with Shweeb, forget it. Thirdly, the capsules are only for one persons, which is problematic for those who want travel in groups.
This is not to say that Shweeb is a bad idea, on the contrary we like it very much. Only if you are to decide on investing a huge sum of money on a public transport system, you need to consider all advantages as well all disadvantages of the systems under consideration. And as far as we can see, Shweeb seems to be just another idea which sounds nice, but would never be used at large scales.
In a previous post I discussed the spatial planning of the interior of O’Neill Cylinders. In a note I promised to make another post about (public) transportation inside O’Neill cylinders. For the sake of the argument, I will assume here that the chosen spatial planning is either the Broadacre city, Garden city or Colombia design. Further I want to recall that a O’Neill cylinders has a length of approximately 35 kilometers and a diameter of 6 kilometers (specific dimension may vary among different sources, however the difference is usually only a few kilometers).
A key feature of the design of the O’Neill cylinder is the alternating arrangement of “valleys” (stripes of land) and windows, three of each. It follows from the given dimension that each valley is approximately 3 kilometers wide and 35 kilometers long. Gerard O’Neill himself proposed that there would be parallel to the valley’s heartline a subterranean maglev line. This would function like most subway systems on Earth and would enable (long distance) rapid transit in an O’Neill cylinder. However this system, would not quite suitable for short distance travel, therefore a second transportation system is required.
While the maglev subway will serve as the core of the framework of intra-habitat transportation, there will be finer second network. What requirements do we look for? Ideally we would like an on-demand service, great amount of privacy and the ability to choose our destination. However do not like to waste a lot of time for searching for parking lots. Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is a proposed idea which would combine the best of private and public transportation.
In order to show what a PRT system might look like, I have selected two YouTube videos about personal rapid transit systems. The first YouTube video (of 8.45 minutes) is about the personal rapid systems as designed by Swedish company Vectus.
This second YouTube video (5.55 min) is a promotional video of Vectus, in which they explain how their product will work.
Yes, I do realise that Vectus is a commercial company which seeks to sell its concepts. Nevertheless, I think that this “sales man videos” give a clear picture how PRT systems would operate in practice.
The prospects of personal rapid transit systems are bright. They will enable to establish the first car-free society in history without sacrificing the individual freedom of movement.