Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Familiar Model

By Timothy Shotts

Speaking with Daryl Oster of ET3 about my thesis project – a station or hub for high speed tube transport – I realized that I may be approaching this on the wrong scale.  Not the wrong scale as in the capsule size, but the distribution of stations.  The Hyperloop plan is more like a high speed bus, transporting small groups of up to 28 occupants per capsule to more central stations, where the ET3 system is modeled more on the personal automobile with up to six occupants per capsule and multiple access portals.  For instance, a household may have three access portals.  I have reservations and concerns of the cost-benefit ratio of creating this infrastructure to solve the “last-mile” problem of transit.  When discussing the last mile of transit, Mr. Oster pointed out that 96% of the U.S. population lives within 20 miles of a Wal-Mart (Wal-Mart Nation.  Zook, Graham. 2006). Herein lies the interesting connection and an interesting option for the last mile of transit.  First, if we establish ET3 access portals at Wal-Marts, Wal-Mart would benefit by lower shipping costs, but could also be integrated with personal access portals which could offset shipping costs by collecting a fee for personal use.  A transit oriented village could be centered around big box stores, but small businesses could benefit even more so by being able to make smaller purchasers from distributors and also bring people into the store to use the access portal.  In this model, the access portal is really no different than the parking lot in front of stores – a small business receives packages from Fed-Ex and UPS often through the front door that is also shared with patrons.  Second, perhaps we don’t address the last mile but instead we use ET3 up to the last 20miles of transit needs.  Combining Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) or non-autonomous transit with ET3 would be able to reduce congestion in Los Angeles, reduce pollution, decrease the cost of shipping, and reduce the need to build wider and wider highways.

Here are some capsule and access portal renderings from ET3.

Matthew Zook and Mark Graham, "Wal-Mart Nation: Mapping the Reach of a Retail Colossus," in Wal-Mart World: The World’s Biggest Corporation in the Global Economy, ed. Stanley Brunn (London: Routledge, 2006), 20.    

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