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Our SR design is similar in many ways to some PRT proposals such as Skytran where the vehicles are suspended below an elevated guideway. However,SR minimizes costs and supports much higher loading/unloading capacities than any of the PRT proposals we have seen. We provide here a brief summary of the key characteristics of SR with links to the sections below that specify the details related to those properties. In what follows we indicate many parameter values for various aspects of SR. These values come from our initial analysis, and design, however the values in any deployment may differ somewhat if further analysis indicates the change could provide some performance or cost benefits.

Vehicles

The SR vehicles are basically moving containers with a hold of 0.65m wide by 1.2m high by 4m long. The vehicles weigh ˜75kg, and can carry loads of up to 225kg. All these dimensions have been chosen to satisfy the primary application of moving people (usually 1 or 2 at a time), and optimizing the cost and performance characteristics possible for vehicles purpose built for that application. The vehicle hold will support three types of modules:

The electric power for the SR vehicle motors is drawn from the track, so they do not need any batteries on board to store their propulsion energy. The energy consumption of the SR vehicles at 180kph will be <4kwh/100km, which assuming electric power at $0.06/kwh (today's reference electricity generation cost) would equate to an energy cost of $0.24/100km. Note that a personal vehicle today getting 10l/100km (or 23.5mpg) uses ˜100kwh/100km while averaging just 30kph in city driving. Even most of today's electric cars use more than 30kwh/100km while achieving the same speeds as non-electric vehicles.

SR vehicle loading and unloading occurs by having a bottom portion of the vehicle descend to ground level to pick up/drop off the people/cargo. The design allows the average time to load (or unload), any of the modules described above, to be ˜45 seconds. This allows SR to have loading and and unloading occur anywhere along a guideway that is outside of the "express lanes" and in a location that allows the SR vehicles to descend to ground level. As we have designed our guideways to be very low cost this allows loading/unloading points to be very frequent, and at low cost, as we discuss below.

The SR vehicles consist of 3 main components: a composite (fibreglass) capsule; a bogie that provides the interface between the vehicle and track including wheel assemblies similar to in-line roller blades and the motors along with the energy transfer mechanism; the system for raising and lowering the bottom part of the capsule for loading and unloading.

Our estimates put the total cost for SR vehicles, in production volumes, at <US$2000 per vehicle. We have also calculated that at most only 0.05 SR vehicles per capita would be needed to support current peak traffic needs. As a reference, OECD countries have 0.5-0.8 vehicles per capita. The capital cost per capita for vehicles would then be ˜$100 for vehicles that should last 20+ years. The amortized capital, plus maintenance costs, should then be under $15 per person per year.

In addition to the primary SR vehicles that are suspended from the guideway, there would be small electric ground vehicles capable of pulling the cargo containers to/from the guideway. These would not needed to have a capability of traveling at 10kph (˜3m/s) as we shall see that these should not have to travel more than about 200m, and even a minute to transport cargo such distances should be adequate. These should be far fewer than the guideway vehicles and also cost less than half as much.

Guideways

In the following we describe six main characteristics of the SR guideway system:

Structure and structural elements

SR guideways have many design similarities to cable-stay bridges. In today's cable-stay bridges the towers and cables support heavy roads with heavy vehicles riding on top of those roads. In contrast, in SR the towers and cables support very lightweight multi-lane modules where each lane uses engineered wood beams to support a track built with a lightweight composite (e.g. fibreglass). Lightweight vehicles are suspended from this track. The top of the guideways is 7.5m above the ground with the bottom of moving vehicles being ˜5m above ground. This avoids interaction with all surface traffic such as cars, trucks (where legal height limits in North America are below 4.3m and all personal vehicles are generally <2m), cyclists and pedestrians. The towers are installed less than a meter off the existing road surface while some of the tracks may extend over the road. An exception to this is for guideways along expressways. In those cases the towers run along the median.

Three elements of our guideways are common with a cable-stay bridges: the towers, the cables and the "deck".

The side level view of this structure is illustrated in the following figure:

We have the following additional elements with respect to cable-stay bridges that are used in our SR guideways:

The following drawing illustrates a top level view of a stretch of 4 lane guideway between 2 towers, that corresponds to the side view above. Here we are showing neither the covers nor the cables. However, as in the side view the drawing is to scale.

There are a few things to note from this drawing:

We leave the details of the modules, cables, towers, covers and all other aspects for the detailed specification on another page. Our goal here is to provide the reader enough of a description for them to be convinced that SR could be built as described, and that it would provide the performance and costs we specify here.

Guideway intersection

Whenever SR guideways cross, traffic travels along three levels of movement, somewhat like expressway interchanges. This avoids the need for any of the vehicles to stop. The guideway lanes for the through traffic along one route are at a height of 14m above the ground. The guideway lanes for the through traffic along the other route are at a height of 11m above the ground. Vehicles on those top two levels run at the normal cruising speeds for the lanes. There is then a guideway mechanism similar to today's traffic roundabouts where the tops of the roundabout guideway tracks are at the usual 8m above the ground. The speeds on the roundabouts would be limited to 36 (or 54) kph (10 or 15m/s).

The drawing above illustrates one such intersection of 2 4 lane SR guideways. Recall that each guideway runs along one side of their corresponding roads so the joining of the two guideways occurs on one corner of the intersection. The red lanes are those that are at 14m above the ground at the point where the guideways cross. The green lanes are those running at 11m above the ground. The beams used for these sections must be curved, and so will be built using glulam beams, that can be built with such curves. The tower here deals with much larger loads and so will be both stronger and nearer the adjacent towers, with stronger cabling.

The blue lines correspond to the roundabout and the entry and exit ramps. Note that the roundabout on the inside corner extends a significant distance from the corner. That area can not have any structures above 4.5m, so if such exist today, as is likely, they would have to be removed. However, it is fairly easy for either of the routes to switch sides before entering the intersection if one corner is more useable as the other. The ramps leading into (out of) the roundabout join the regular lanes once they are at their normal level, and join the high speed (outermost) lane. But the speed in the roundabout can be at most 15m/s to make the angular acceleration acceptable. These ramps are then long enough to accelerate/decelerate to/from the high speeds.

In a related topic there is the question of what happens when an SR guideway crosses, or would abut opun, some other obstructing feature (such as a rail line or a river) that is not a part of the guideway network. The answer is just that the SR towers can be made tall enough to be above the obstruction (or any traffic on the feature such as trains or boats). The towers will be a little more expensive than normal, but this would be offset to an even larger degree in the increase in flexibility in crossing such obstructions. For example, a bridge over a river today is expensive, and also due to other considerations fairly rare. These can be much more frequent, which can significantly reduce the length of some trips.

SR control system including lane switching

The control for switching would be done as a cooperative function between elements in the vehicles, the towers and the switches. The implementation, of the communication and controls required, would be done in a manner that reduces the potential for hacking to as close to zero as possible (and we believe that zero is a reasonable target since programmability of the mechanisms should not be needed). There are three types of events that each have their own control mechanism:

The primary other aspect that limits active failures of any element of SR is that all active vehicle and guideway components are continuously monitored by sensors that detect, and communicate, whenever any component performance parameters has fallen below some thresholds (say 90% of peak for initial notifications). The SR maintenance staff would respond and ensure that vehicles, or guideway elements, were repaired or replaced before the potential for an operational failure would occur.

In switching from a lower speed to a higher speed lane, acceleration is needed, and power above that needed for cruising is required. SR provides much of that power, and a propulsion mechanism to accelerate the vehicles in the guideway, rather than requiring more power, for acceleration, in the vehicles. The acceleration occurs before the switch, in the acceleration lane, and after the merge. The acceleration energy is partially recaptured during deceleration, again via guideway mechanisms, rather than within vehicles.

Note that today's personal vehicles typically require only ˜10kw of power for cruising at speeds up to ˜120kph, and yet most have engines capable of at least 50kw, with some even above 250kw. 120kph is generally the top legal speed most of these vehicles are used at. The extra power is needed for acceleration, and for the rare instances where cruising significantly faster than 120kph occurs.

Network topology

As noted earlier the SR guideways, in developed areas, run almost entirely along existing road RoWs. These fall into 5 categories with various characteristics:

The ramps are indicated in blue. Switches to/from the high speed lane to the ramps are the same as to/from the medium speed lane. These occur at least 50m to the right/left of the local lane to allow sufficient space to decelerate/accelerate. The example shows an instance when the road that the guideway follows is on the same side as the arterial guideway. The same mechanism applies to local roads on the other side of the arterial, however these would be joining the express lanes moving to the left as opposed to the left to right movement these local roads join. The result we shall see is that the traffic on local routes always travels in a clockwise direction.

The main exception to the guideways along RoWs model is in high instantaneous demand areas, such as event locations like stadiums, concert halls and even churches. In such locations the emphasis is on providing a high loading/unloading capacity with access to the broader network that allows these vehicles to be rapidly dispersed. This is achieved easily with a dense network of local type guideways. These would allow almost 5 loading areas for every 50x10m area (or 100 per hectare). Typically for such events people come in groups so on average more than 1.5 people would be in each vehicle. In that case 5 hectares would be able to load 15,000 people in 15 minutes.

The following drawing illustrates a fictional 1km2 square block bounded by SR arterial roads.

The connections to the arterial routes (in red) are from the side traveling in the direction indicated by the arrows on the red lines. There are three categories of local routes that are illustrated in this drawing:

Any direction on the arterial routes can be adjusted at the nearest roundabout after getting onto the one determined by the direction of the local lane. This can add double the length between where that local route joins the arterial and the next roundabout. For example, for the local route labeled 1, if the destination should be headed downward along route 2, 1.5km would be added to the distance traveled. However, that is the worst case. Exploiting that allows one to minimize the distance traveled in the wrong direction before being able to adjust it at the roundabout.

In this example 3.6km of local routes, along with the loading areas on the arterial routes, ensure that almost all locations in the neighborhood are within 125m of a loading area, and a majority are within 75m. There are a corresponding 2km of arterial routes serving this neighborhood (4km total, but each serves 2 neighborhoods). In the real world examples we have tried a range of 1.25-2 local to 1 arterial is typical. This will be significant in the performance and cost analysis sections that follow.

The trip to/from the SR network could be made by walking ; a folding bike possibly with electric power, that could be carried in the SR vehicle; or a recumbent tricycle (possibly tandem and/or electric powered) that could also be carried in the SR vehicle. The time to cover the distance from any location to/from a loading point will then be less than 3 minutes.

Beechwood local routes Here is an image of a 4 neighborhood area near our old home in Waterloo ON. CA. The length of the surrounding arterial routes is 9.7km, and it surrounds an area of 5.1km2. In addition to the perimeter arterials there are 5.5km of arterials separating the 4 neighborhoods. There are 15.4km of local routes, some of which are along walking paths, or even across empty fields, rather than street RoWs. This is due to the large number of such paths in this suburban area. There are location in this area that are more than 175m from a loading point, however this selection of routes has a ratio of local to arterial of only 1.5 and as a result a lower cost for the guideways for this area. There are opportunities to change this trade-off, although that is determined by the topology of the existing road network in the area.

SR per lane throughput capacity

The peak capacity of a lane (in vehicles per hour) along a route can be calculated as the length of the vehicle plus the separation to the front of the following vehicle (known as the headway) divided by the speed. The cruising headway, on the 40m/s lanes, is 20m. So added to the 5m length of the SR vehicles it would take 0.625 seconds from one vehicle passing a point to the following vehicle reaching that point. That implies each such lane will have a capacity of ˜5700 SR vehicles per hour.

As a reference, studies of today's streets indicate a capacity in the range of 1800-2400 vehicles per hour. These vehicles may carry more people than the limit of 2 for our SR vehicles, but the US FHWA indicates that the average occupancy of cars is 1.7 and 1.0 for trucks. Thus, the difference in regards to average number of passengers per vehicle, from today to SR, should not be that large.

There is some potential in certain situations to have the capacity along one lane to be increased significantly by decreasing the headway to create virtual trains. This should only occur in rural areas, or potentially for routes along expressways in urban areas. It would may stronger towers and cables than designed for the standard case (although it may just decrease the substantial over-design margin we have used), but this added cost may be acceptable in the applicable areas. The requirement would be that in a sequence of N consecutive vehicles all will be travelling at least M km before any of them would be exiting the guideway. For example, between cities it may not be unusual for 5 consecutive vehicles to all be staying on the guideway for at least 100km. The virtual trains both increase the capacity, and would reduce the energy costs due to the vehicles drafting in a manner cyclists are familiar with.

The capacity advantage is most relevant during rush hours. Here 2 SR lanes would have the capacity of more than 5 of today's lanes. This is even more significant in that a typical urban topology would generally have 1 such guideway every km or so, while a rural topology near large cities should have one such at a 5-10km spacing. In the area in and around large cities these characteristics of high capacity per guideway, and dense guideways, should eliminate any rush hour congestion.

The number of vehicles available in a given urban area would be determined by the peak demands. However, that is usually just 2 periods of at most 3 hours a day. In off peak times those vehicles can be used for automated cargo movements. This does require breaking loads down into elements whose size and weight can be handled in the SR vehicle holds, which are much smaller than today's delivery trucks. However, it should be possible for 95%+ of all cargo to be carried in the SR vehicles. Such deliveries should cost far less than today. No drivers are needed, and even though 1 of today's delivery trucks could carry 10+ times more (for trailer trucks much more) than the SR vehicles the cost to build and operate the SR vehicles should be much <10% of that of those trucks.

To fully exploit this capability the automated cargo modules should have a mechanism for door to door deliveries. Our intent would be to have a small number, in each "neighborhood", of small surface vehicles capable of pulling the cargo modules the 200m or less between the loading areas and any point in the neighborhood. These same vehicles could also be used for collecting items such as household waste. Both the deliveries and pickups should be able to be done 24 hours a day assuming intelligent modules that can communicate with the network, to identify where and when they should be picked up and dropped off.

SR loading and unloading capacity

A critical feature of any transportation system (or sub-system) is at what rate people (or cargo) can load (or unload from) the vehicles, as well as where those activities can occur. A relevant question is the rate at which such activities would occur in any given area, and where in the area they would occur. The SR system provides an ability to significantly exceed the needed rate, while also allowing the loads/unloads to occur within 200m (on average <75m) of the trip end points.

We refer to the SR topology example above of a 1km by 1km neighborhood. In this 1km2 area there are a potential of 720 loading locations in the local routes. As noted earlier we anticipate that it will take on average ˜45 seconds for loading/unloading to occur once the vehicle arrives at the loading position. With that there would be a potential for more than 50,000 loads or unloads per hour per km2. An additional 10,000-20,000 loads or unloads would be available from the loading areas along the surrounding arterial routes, although those are shared with the 4 adjacent neighborhoods.

These characteristics are close to those of personal vehicles while costing <10% as much. They are also much higher than urban transit bus systems, and more than competitive with off-grade transit systems such as subways and elevated trains.

To determine the demand required we note that the average urban area in North America has population densities of ˜1250 people per km2 and very few areas with densities higher than 3500. So there would be something near 50 loads or unloads available per person per hour for a neighborhood with a density of 1250 people per km2. The US DOT has conducted surveys that indicate that the average person today averages <4 trips a day. This indicates that some cost savings could be obtained by reducing the number of loading areas, while still supporting a far greater loading rate than needed. However, reducing the number of loading areas per local route from 5 to 2 (or 3) will slightly increase the average distance to travel to/from a loading location.

Guideway costs

We have done preliminary calculations on the costs (in US$) to build and deploy each km of the SR guideway, with numbers for 2,4 and 6 lane stretches as well as the loading loops. These are summarized in the following table:

Cost element Loading loops Arterial roads by lane count
Category Detail 2 4 6
Materials Towers $60,000 $60,000 $60,000 $60,000
Guideways $160,000 $130,000 $210,000 $300,000
Cables $6,000 $6,000 $6,000 $6,000
Labour $29,000 $29,000 $37,700 $46,400
Roundabouts $0 $20,000 $22,000 $24,200
Totals $255,000 $245,000 $335,700 $436,600

These costs are based on an extensive review of all the various component costs, although we expect them to be relatively close they could be lower as component prices change, either naturally or due to the high volumes an SR deployment would be purchasing. The costs also do not factor in the cost to remove vertical impediments (such as trees, street lights, power poles) which may be blocking the path. However, it should be noted that the SR towers and guideways could be used to replace the functionality provided by things like street lights and power poles.

The labour calculations were done based on the following model. The tower components and modules will be assembled in temporary "factories" placed close to the deployment site. That process shall be largely automated so our estimate is that 2 people could assemble the towers and modules required for a km of guideway in under a week. Our on-site deployment model indicates that a crew of 5 should be able to deploy 1km of modules, along with the towers and cabling in less 1 work week. 1 person would be required to transfer the towers and modules from the factories to the deployment sites at the rate needed to feed the deployment crews. Ahead of the actual deployment a 1 person team should be able to drill all the holes for the tower bases for the 20 towers in a km in <1 work week. We use a fully loaded cost (pay, benefits, …) for this labour at $100-120/hour, with a work week of 35 hours.

There is no breakout of the cost elements for the roundabouts, or the specific cost for drilling the holes for the tower bases. We use a WAG (wild ass guess) of $20,000 total for the roundabouts. Up to 150m of curved beams, using glulam beams, will be needed and these should cost 3-5 times the cost of the straight beam, or $4000-6000 total. We believe the standard team of 5 should be able to deploy a roundabout in under 20 hours at a cost of $12,000.

The labour estimate does not account for the time required to prepare the deployment sites, involving activities such removing vertical impediments such as trees, or at least some of their branches. This may be a political issue in some neighborhoods, although the footprint of <3m (for the 2 lanes (which includes all local routes) and 5m for the 4 lane guideway from the drawing) should limit these objections. The cost for this should just be labour, and no more than 100 man hours (or $12,000) per km.

It may be decided in some deployments to collect some of the electricity along the guideway using wind and solar collectors. These would add to the costs noted, mostly in the tower cost for heavier towers and the vertical axis windmills the towers would now support, and for the thin film solar collectors that would replace the base type of guideway covers. However, those costs would offset some (potentially most) of the need for grid power. Without that deploying SR would involve switching some of the transportation energy demand in an area from gasoline and diesel fuel, to electricity that the grid sources may not be able to accommodate as quickly as an SR deployment could occur.

To get a feel for what these costs would mean for a particular deployment we can return to our discussion of the per capita (in urban areas) demand for SR guideway. In our initial example of a 1km by 1km neighborhood there are 4km of arterial guideway, but each is shared by 2 adjacent neighborhoods, so we can assign 2km of arterial guideway to this 1 km2 area. The arterial surrounding routes will be some combination of 2, 4 and 6 lanes. There were also 3.6km of local routes. This indicates the build cost for the SR guideways for this 1 km2 area at $1.4-1.8M. This would imply a per capita build cost in the range of $470-1800 for a population in the neighborhood of 1000-3000, with an average ($1.6M for 1250 people) of $1300.

But if one were to amortize that over 20 years the average would be ˜$100 per person per year. Additional costs would be accrued to support the inter-city elements, but those would be <10% of these totals. US and Canadian federal, provincial/state, and local governments have historically spent on average ˜10 times that amount annually on all transportation related activities.

SR Deployment Plan

Our plan for deploying SR is that it occur in 3 phases across some region which would typically be one or more (cooperating) political (e.g. state or province) entities. We specify these phases here while using the province of Ontario south of Parry Sound, with one line extending into the center of the city of Montreal, as our example region. The total population in this region is ˜16 million. While we use Ontario as our example, all financial numbers are presented in US$, as those are what we have used for all cost calculations above. We do quote some existing spending in the area whose sources use Can$, but we have done the conversion based on the exchange rate as of March 2019. The phases would be:

  1. Building the network of SR guideways joining together all the cities and larger towns in the region. The timeframe for this phase should be 1 year.
  2. Extending the guideway network to include all urban arterials and locals, as well as all rural highways not deployed in phase 1. The timeframe for this phase should be 1 year.
  3. The third phase will involve the expanded acceptance and use of SR with lots of potential consequences on transportation use patterns and associated infrastructure. This should take many years before all of the impacts percolate through the society.

We expect the construction of the SR guideways, and vehicles, to be performed by local entities (businesses or government) within every region, with the financing provided by the various levels of government (i.e. federal, state/province, and local). We will put all the IP, related to the design of the SR vehicles and guideways, into the public domain. Any region could modify it in any way they wished, as long as the interface specifications were maintained across all regions.

We will have a business teaming with capital equipment suppliers to provide specialized equipment needed to optimally build the SR (and eventually) MR guideways elements and their vehicles. We will also provide tools for planning the deployments in every location. For example, the main speed limitation in MR guideways will be in curves and vertical changes due to hills or valleys. We will provide analysis tools to identify where such issues would occur, and options for addressing them.

Phase 1 (year 1): Intercity SR for a region

The first phase of deploying SR will involve building the primary portion of the SR intercity network within a region. We call the result of this phase SR.1. This will connect all cities and large towns in the region with most people in those being within 5km of some point at which they can get on or off an SR vehicle. While this will primarily be non-local routes, some small number of short local routes will connect to those to provide additional load/unload points. We expect that travel to, or from, the guideway will be done by walking, bikes, uber/taxi, being dropped off/picked up by family or friends or mass transit. No parking will be explicitly associated with the guideway.

To illustrate phase 1 we describe a potential network for southern Ontario (south of Parry Sound) with single lines extending into Montreal, Detroit and Buffalo. Those extensions should eventually be connected to SR networks built in each associated region. Approximately 15.7M people live in the 14 largest associated metropolitan areas, with another 1M+ in the smaller cities and towns.

We have produced a potential set of routes to cover this region. The routes are illustrated in the following map. There is a heavy concentration of routes in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), as more than 50% of the population is in that area. The red coloured routes are all along existing expressways, and will also have MR guideways when that is deployed.

There are a total of ˜5000 km of SR guideways indicated for this initial phase. We estimate there would also be ˜150km of 4 lane guideways, stretching a few hundred meters each along the main arterials that today have urban expressway exits onto these expressways. Our calculations, based on the cost model above, are that the total cost would be <$1.25B to deploy this entire network. Also, it could easily be built within a year by a workforce of <1500 people (which is ˜0.015% of the regions labour pool).

We have used the data for the Go Transit system (which is a commuter train/bus system serving the GTA and surrounding areas), along with estimates for other intercity traffic based on road capacities and estimated use, to indicate that ˜200,000 SR vehicles, costing ˜$400M, would be needed to service the demand currently filled by Go and all driving during rush hours. Note that there are no significant inter-city rush hour commitments elsewhere in the region. As noted, in off-peak hours many of those vehicles could be used for shipping cargo, in appropriately sized containers.

The total guideway and vehicle costs would be <$1.7B which works out to a per capita cost of ˜$100. Note that this is a one time build cost. If we finance this over 20 years at 5% interest the annual cost per person would be <$15. Annual maintenance costs should be no more than the amortized build costs, with very little maintenance of either guideway or vehicles for the first 10 years.

Operation costs are primarily the electrical energy to power the vehicles. At 180kph (the standard inter-city cruising speed) our calculations indicate that the SR vehicles will require <4kwh/100km. If this were entirely supplied by grid power costing $0.06/kwh that would be a cost of <$0.25/100km. One issue with this plan could be that we would be replacing gasoline and diesel fuel powered vehicles with a demand for more electricity which the grid may not be equipped to supply. However:

We leave a comparison of the costs, with today's system, to then end of our phase 2 discussion. That is due to the fact that data specific to the competitive elements of today's networks is more available when the comparison is broader than just the intercity aspects. However, we note that the conclusion there is of a more than 10 to 1 reduction in spending for an SR system, that also has much better performance, than the corresponding systems today.

Recall that all SR.1 trips can depart at any time 24x7 and the trip, other than the short parts at the beginning and end, will occur at 180kph, with the potential to have breaks virtually anywhere along the way for long. As we noted earlier this would mean that Toronto to Ottawa (Montreal) trips would take 2:15 hours (3 hours), with departures any time of day and these would either be free, or have a small nominal charge. The alternatives today for the Montreal trip are to drive (5:40), fly (1:10 + time to/from the airport) or take a train (5:00), all with costs significantly more that $100 (personal vehicle trips are estimated to cost >$0.40/km factoring in depreciation, insurance, fuel, maintenance, …).

However, the primary benefit we see from SR.1 will be that most people who do longer distance commutes by car or commuter trains/buses will be able to replace those with the free SR.1 trip, and be able to start either part of the trip at any time of day, as opposed to being restricted to bus or train schedules, or being subject to rush hour driving congestion. While a personal vehicle has more flexibility in the start and end locations than SR.1, SR.1 provides much more flexibility than commuter trains/buses. Also, as we shall see SR.2 comes close to completely closing the flexible location gap relative to personal vehicles. Finally, the pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions, associated with the current vehicles would be greatly reduced, or even eliminated.

Phase 2 (year 2): SR fill in - SR.2

The second phase of deploying SR would take another year after SR.1 is in place. This would fill in some of the SR rural routes, but primarily expand the urban SR network to the topology described earlier. These urban arterial roads, with roughly a 1km spacing, and the complementary network of local routes, ensure that 90%+ of the locations in a city/town would be within 200m of a loading point on the network, and with 50%+ within 100m. As with SR.1 the deployment of SR.2 could be done in 1 year, although the workforce required will be 10x larger, but still <0.07% of the labour pool. That also assume planning and site development (i.e. pruning trees appropriately) is done during phase 1.

We illustrate the SR.2 deploy using an example of the city of Kitchener-Waterloo which is the the fifth largest city in Ontario with a 2017 population of almost 350,000 in an area of 200km2, for an average density of 1740 people/km2. We have produced a potential set of routes to cover the city. The arterial routes are illustrated in the following map as the local routes would make the image to dense.

The red lines correspond to routes that are part of SR.1, with the dark red being expressways, and the lighter red being major arterials. There are ˜255km of non-SR.1 arterials and 35km more or SR.1 routes. These arterials would be about half 2 lane and half 4 lane. According to the per km prices we have determined, these arterials would cost ˜$75M to deploy. The locals should cost <$115M for a total cost of ˜$$190M. The SR.1 routes here would have been $16.5M, but that was already counted in the SR.1 costs. Our calculations for the number of vehicles needed, in addition to those coming from the SR.1 deploy, would be ˜14,000 for Kitchener-Waterloo, costing an additional $28M. The total for vehicles and guideways should then be ˜$190-220M or $560-630 per person in the city. Amortized over 20 years at 5% this would be $45-50/person/year.

The rural SR.2 expansion should have almost every location in the region to be within 5km of an SR guideway. The per capita costs for the rural population should be much less than above, however those people will have to travel much further (i.e. up to 5km) to reach an SR loading area.

If we assume, as seems reasonable, that these costs would reflect the averages over all urban areas in the extend Ontario region, described in the SR.1 deploy discussion, the total cost to deploy SR.2 across the region would be under US$11B. As a reference the 2018 Ontario budget has a commitment to spend Can$79B over the next decade on transit, or ˜US$5.9B per year. The SR cost is one time, and provides both a more effective system, as well as one that also out-performs personal cars for almost all (except <4km) trips. The CUTA (Canadian Urban Transit Association) also has an interesting graphic about Ontario transit expenditures (through 2015) and ridership.

Things to note from this image are that the expenditures have been growing rapidly (a growth of 211% in 10 years) while ridership has grown at a rate (26% over 10 year or 2.3% per year) closer to the population growth rate (9.4% over 10 years). Also, the expenditures per trip (from all sources and including the capital expenditures) are ˜Can$9.56, of which only Can$2.36 (or ˜25%) are provided by passenger fares.

As a further reference these cities recently built a single LRT (light rail transit) line of 19km whose capital cost was $870M (or ˜4 times the cost the the entire SR network that extends throughout the city (with ˜700 km of guideway). This goes between the two large malls in the city, and passes through the downtowns of both Kitchener and Waterloo.

The end to end trip time for the KW LRT is projected at 42 minutes reflecting an average speed of 42km. By car the same trip would be 13.7km and take 15 minutes in uncongested conditions. Given that actual trip length the effective speed of the LRT for the full trip would be 20kph. The SR time for that trip would be <5 minutes, and SR has connections to within under 200m for every location in the city.

The SR trip can also be executed, with the same performance, 24x7 while the LRT and the entire transit bus network, are available <20 hours per day, with <10 hours at peak route frequencies (some route frequency decreases to 30-60 minutes after 7pm.

The SR network also ties all the locations in the city directly into the inter-city SR.1 network to allow trips to anywhere in the region (or further when adjacent regions also deploy SR), that is near an SR line, to occur at average speeds in excess of 160kph.

Finally, and in many ways as important as the cost and performance characteristics we have noted, is the intrinsic safety of SR both for people using it and third parties. Everyone is aware that there are a large number of deaths and injuries related to today's transportation system, although most are likely unaware of the extent of these. Globally there are 1.2M fatalities, 1.2M disabling injuries and almost 25M other injuries annually attributable to the transportation system. In the developed world the majority of these are to vehicle occupants, however in the developing world third parties such as pedestrians, cyclists or motor scooter riders account for roughly 70% of the total. The US FHWA breaks down the causes of these with over 80% being related to driver error (many by drunken or distracted (e.g. texting) drivers), and the rest due primarily to driving conditions or vehicle mechanical failure.

In contrast all SR vehicles operate (with the exception of loading and unloading) well above any form of ground traffic eliminating any potential for interactions with third parties. The vehicles are constrained to move only on the available tracks with the only potential for interaction with other vehicles occur when vehicles switch lanes or in the roundabouts. However the vehicle control is fully automated with multiple sensors and computer operating to ensure that these occur 100% safely. Finally the potential for mechanical failures is minimized as both the vehicles and guideways have multiple sensors that monitor all functional components and report any points at which the performance degrades in any way.

Phase 3 (year 3+): adaptation and exploitation

The first two SR deployment phases would result in all of the guideways and vehicles needed being in place. However, the full effect of SR will not be realized until the population starts to adapt and exploit the features of SR that are so different from today's transportation systems. We use a number of thought experiments to illustrate this potential.

What if you could save all of the money you spend on owning a personal vehicle, including capital cost, financing interest, insurance, gas, maintenance, parking and even items like having a garage in your home to store the car? The US DOT has data that the average American across all income levels at least up to $70,000/year has ˜17% spent on transportation. With 0.8 personal vehicles per person, in the US, a significant fraction of that is related to personal vehicle ownership. The performance characteristics of SR are more than competitive with personal vehicles. They are also available 24x7, the trip times for all but the shortest trips is actually much lower than with personal vehicles, and no one needs to drive so all people in the vehicle can do things like reading, communicating with others via text, voice and/or video, or ....

As more people make such decisions some entire neighborhoods may decide that they should not allow any of today's vehicles in their neighborhood. All the streets could be replaced with smaller walking/cycling paths, possibly covered in areas that experience snow. All garages could be repurposed for other applications. Two additional applications would need to be supported for such neighborhoods: moving cargo loads that do not fit in SR vehicles to/from the surrounding arterial roads; emergency (medical or fire) response. The former can be done by our standard SR ground vehicles, although they would now be travelling further pulling heavier loads so their motor power may be increased. We have developed a system that can be used for emergency response without today's ambulances or fire trucks that actually provides shorter response times (the critical emergency parameter) than those vehicles support today.

The neighborhood use restriction would not eliminate the potential for private vehicle ownership, just restrict their use to areas outside the neighborhood. Vehicle parking areas could be built anywhere adjacent to the neighborhood boundary arterial roads.

As fewer of today's vehicles are used many other impacts, like the following, may occur:

The ability to travel further, in less time, and at no cost could lead to a greater concentration of some categories of service outlets. For example, restaurants may be more inclined to combine into a single building representing something like a glorified food court. Kitchens able to cook all types of food, in all variations, could exploit common services such as wait staff, bus boys, sitting areas, .... People from 8km in any direction could reach such a building in 5 minutes, and each person in such a group could order whatever they wanted without being restricted to the category of meal others in the group preferred to have at that time.

Such mechanisms would perform better (as indicated by the example) while being far more efficient in many areas, including land use, than today's corresponding systems (for the example many small restaurant buildings that are often mostly empty). The characteristics of those systems are largely determined by the poor performance (e.g. 30kph average speeds) and high usage costs of today's transportation system.

Undeveloped areas

In all of the above we have been considering only deployments in developed areas. However, SR provides an even greater advantage in creating an efficient and effective transportation system in undeveloped areas. There is no need to build expensive surface roads requiring clearing land and a hard top surface capable of supporting today's heavy vehicles. All that is needed is an ability to place a tower every 50m and run the guideways in between, possibly requiring pruning trees, or simply going around forests.

This is similar in many ways to what has happened with our communication infrastructure. This is also relevant in that the communication system is also essentially a transportation system, the difference being what is transported is information rather than the physical objects (people and goods) of our transportation system.

The developed world spent significant resources, in the period before about 1980, building extensive networks of copper wires, and complex switching stations, with people only able to use the medium for poor quality voice calls in homes, offices, phone booths, .... Today even in the developing world many people have access to smartphones, and networks that allow them to not just do local voice calls, but communicate by text, voice, and even video conference with anyone anywhere on the planet who also has access to such facilities. The developing world has completely bypassed the need for the former expensive and poorly performing communication infrastructure the developed world passed through. We believe the same stage of today's type vehicles and road infrastructure can and should be avoided by the developing world.

The communication system evolution was based on three new approaches to fundamental communication characteristics, just as SR is based on two fundamental new approaches to physical object movement.

Until the late 1970s our communication system was based mostly on wired, circuit switched transmissions of analog signals (radio and TV systems were wireless, but they were analog and broadcasts simply avoiding a switching requirement with an inflexible 1 to many network topology). In the late 1970s the system started to change to digital information that could be packet switched. These provide the underlying characteristics that make all internet capabilities possible. In the last 2 decades to wireless communication, with rapidly growing transmission rates to individual wirelessly connected client devices that can be anywhere. For example, 5G cell networks should reach 1 billion bit per second speeds.

SR is also built on three fundamental changes: the use of smaller and much lighter vehicles to allow vehicles to travel on low cost elevated guideways that can use 3 dimensions to eliminate the need to stop at any intersection; an ability to cheaply provide large number of areas where vehicles can be loaded/unloaded; the guideways can have a physical ground footprint of less than 10m2 for every km of guideway. The loading capability and low cost are fundamental differences with respect to both today's mass transit and all proposed PRT systems we have seen. Personal vehicles have even more loading capability than SR, but at significant cost and intrinsic performance limitations related to the on-grade operation and 2D intersections. These are analogous to the limitations inherent in circuit switched information communication networks.