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Customer Focused Transit

There is a profit in saving people time and money.

Urban transit accounts for 13-15% of GDP or $1.5 trillion in the US.

Cost per passenger mile for cars is about 41 cents; cost for ultra- light Personal Transit is about 18 cents; a 57% savings. With 15% market adoption yearly saving will be $53 billion, which can be taken as profit or competitive advantage. Worldwide, with 45% adoption the yearly profit/advantage is $794 billion.

Commuter infrastructure has so much waste and pollution; significant profits can be wrought by preempting that waste. Free enterprise will create solutions, harvesting rewards by preventing waste.

Affordable commuter transit can be found in an open discussion of needs, what is currently valuable/limiting and who has to pay.

Background facts:

  • Personal mobility is essential to our economy.
  • The need for individual transit; there are 1.08 people per car in rush hour(s).
  • The average American worker loses a workweek per year to congestion.
  • Five billion gallons of gas are wasted yearly in congestion (ASCE).
  • Rush hour gets longer and slower every year.
  • Gas is at record highs
  • Goldman Sachs warned investors on April 30, 2005 that oil could soon be at $105 per barrel. The price was $48 a barrel. Aug 16 it was $67.
  • China used 40% of the world's cement and 27% of the world's steel last year. The average American uses 27 barrels of oil per year. The average Chinese uses one barrel per year. If they go to two barrels oil is unlikely to drop in price.

System Engineering: Decision Making in Systems Engineering and Management
by, Gregory S. Parnell, Ph.D., Editor
by, Patrick J. Driscoll, Ph.D., Editor
by, Dale L. Henderson, Ph.D., Design Editor

In fact, one of the most significant failings of the current U.S. transportation system is that the automobile was never thought of as being part of a system until recently. It was developed and introduced during a period that saw the automobile as a standalone technology largely replacing the horse and carriage. So long as it outperformed the previous equine technology, it was considered a success. This success is not nearly so apparent if the automobile is examined from a systems thinking perspective. In that guise, it has managed to fail miserably across a host of dimensions. Many of these can be observed in any major US city today: oversized cars and trucks negotiating tight roads and streets, bridges and tunnels incapable of handling daily traffic density, insufficient parking, poor air quality induced in areas where regional air circulation geography restricts free flow of wind, a distribution of the working population to suburban locations necessitating automobile transportation, and so on. Had the automobile been developed as a multilateral system interconnected with urban (and rural) transportation networks and environmental systems, U.S. cities would be in a much different situation than they find themselves in today.

What is important here is not that the automobile could have been developed differently, but that in choosing to design, develop and deploy the automobile as a stand alone technology, a host of complementary transportation solutions to replace the horse and buggy were not considered.

What can be done to something as vast as transportation? Repeat history. Automating networks always results in economic and living standard increases. To control diseases we automated water and sewer networks To power farms and businesses we automate electrical networks. To improve manufacturing we implemented "just-in-time" networks and automated statistical process controls. Fred Smith (FedEx) discarded all assumptions, designing for the need to affordably move a package anywhere in the country overnight. The result is the FedEx network and the letter pack.

Networks are non-linear, solving problems that seem impossible. There is enormous power in non-linear behaviors. We tap such power with the Internet. We can build a Physical-Internet.

Design for need, enhance desirable characteristics and eliminate undesirable ones. Apply Demming and "just-in-time" principles; abandon mass transit as we abandoned mass production. Focus on the quality and value of the product, the trip, how trips network the economy.

Based on riders per day the elevator is the most successful form of public transportation. Salient characteristics: affordable to everyone, "on-demand" when we want one and we abandon it when finished, consumes little waiting for the next need. The liability is they move vertically. The automobile is the most successful form of commuter transport in the US with characteristics of comfort, security and on-demand. There are six commuting liabilities:

  • Consume energy, create congestion moving a ton to move a person (a ton of parasitic mass, mass not passengers or cargo).
  • When at work we have to store this ton of parasitic mass.
  • For the first 16 and last 16 years of our lives we lose personal mobility with our capacity to drive.
  • Economic and educational opportunities are severely limited to those who cannot afford to own and operate a car.
  • Traffic wear and tear degrades a valuable resource.
  • Consume land, about 52% of urban real estate accommodate car.

Automating a commuter network must compete against the best characteristics of cars and elevators while preempting their limitations. Needed are secure, personal, lightweight cars, available to everyone, no driver errors, that can be abandon on reaching the destination and consuming very little land.

It is counter intuitive that smaller vehicles can move more people. But look at red blood cells servicing trillions of body cells. Wastes can be batched; necessities must stream in packages designed for need.

Consider ants. An ant can profitably survive on a crumb. A million ants can eat an elephant; a billion can eat it in an hour. It is counter intuitive that many small efforts can move more than batching large efforts.

Who pays for the system? Each commuting customer pays. Empowering choice forces system developers to add more value than the cost to compete, to profit.

There is a profit in saving people time and money.

Paper Comparing Mass Transit to Mass Production