Friday, July 18, 2014

SHINING LIGHT ON ADVANCED TRANSIT

New York thinks it’s the Queen of Sophistication. Washington exerts a Kingly role as holder of the Big Hammer. But is it not Silicon Valley that is leading the charge into the future? With Google and its rivals and friends -- HP, eBay, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Cisco, etc. transforming just about every aspect of human life, many conclude that the Bay Area is creating the 21st Century. Only a -- God forbid! -- much dreaded earthquake can derail  SV’s technology-based surge.

San Jose City Hall looks to the future.
San Jose claims to be the Heart of Silicon Valley, with a neat, clean and efficient downtown and major airport nearby. Snuggled next to the CBD is the generous campus of San Jose State University. Oh, by the way, the locals, reflecting their deep Spanish heritage, insist that it’s San José, if you please.  Others wonder what might please the original peoples.

Most but not all SJSU’s students are from the hills and plains of the southern end of the San Francisco Bay. About twenty proto-engineers are designing their vision of PRT. They label it ATN -- Automated Transit Networks -- ever since Laura Stuchinsky, the City’s Director of Sustainability, coined the phrase when Arup and Aerospace Corporation were examining the feasibility of PRT to link the airport to regional transit a few years ago.

Guideways as Solar Collection Infrastructure

The SJSU workshop takes place under the auspices of the Department of Mechanical and Electronics Engineering. From the start, emphasis was given to designing into the large (and largely linear) areas of urban real estate that ATN guideways and stations require, an array of solar panels to cleanly and efficiently power the vehicles.  This gives a significant advantage to designs with suspended vehicle. The tops of guideways are freed up to collect juice from the sun!

Mid-July many of these students, Professor Burford Furman and advisor Ron Swenson showed off their evolving ATN concepts. They hauled up a scaled test track and vehicle and station mock-ups to the
SJSU student work shines (and collects),
Moscone Convention Center in downtown San Francisco. Over several days the 2014 Intersolar show drew about 30,000 professionals and enthusiasts.  That included twenty-three high school students taking summer courses at SJSU and eight chaperones. Many ideas, thoughts and business cards were exchanged.

ATRA Support

The Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) recently donated $3000 to the SJSU Solar Superway project to help pay for materials not supplied by the University.   $1000 of that came from the Minnesota-based Citizens for PRT. ATRA recently established an Academic Council with memberships from Princeton, Southern Illinois University, University of Maryland, and SJSU’s Mineta Transportation Institute.  To learn more about this, contact smcdonald@siu.edu.
The future of Silicon Valley mobility.

This does not mean that ATRA has taken a position that suspended vehicle designs of PRT are preferable. ATRA’s mission since 1976 has been to promote a wide variety of advanced forms of transit. For decades Silicon Valley members have promoted PRT thinking. Given the level of interest in ATN thinking at Intersolar, It seems like those long, patient years are paying off. 

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