City transport for people
The problem of urban transportation has become very important. A large number of new transport systems is known to have been proposed in the past decade or so. But before describing the new systems and their applications it is necessary to look back briefly to see how cities got their present layout, and what are the factors that have caused the present problems of city transport.
The first factor is the growth of population. The cities developed as a rule because of the need for people to gather for mutual protection, for commerce and for education. In England since 1801 the rural population remained almost constant, while the urban population has grown by more than twenty times. The population growth of the last two decades has greatly enlarged the movement of passengers in big cities.
The second factor is the changing distribution of population within cities. There has been a steady drift of population from the high density centre to the lower density suburbs. The increase and improvements of transport are believed to be the main reasons for this drift.
One should remember that walking was the major transport mode both in and out of cities until the end of the eighteenth century. The cost of a horse in terms of a labourer`s wages was about three times that of a mass produced motor car today (the fare for a coach from Paddington to the City of a London was about two shillings or 1% of a labourer`s annual income).
This lack of cheap transported to the development of very high density building within the city centre. The situation was changed by the introduction of horse buses and urban railways in the middle of the nineteenth century, followed by horse trams and electric trams towards the end of that century. These allowed acy o grow beyond the radius set by a walking distance.
The introduction of the motor car and motor bus in the 1920s allowed the residential areas along the railways lines to broaden and the increase of car ownership since about 1950 has led to both residential and industrial development in open areas around cities. This growth leads to longer journeys to work, school, or shopping, and more travel per day, even without population growth.
The third factor is the growth of private cars. To own a car has become not only pleasant, but in many cases simply necessary. However, car ownership leads to road congestion. The congestion is partly the result of the peaks in demand for travel to and from work and school, and at present it is usual for 25% of the whole day`s travel to occur in a two hour period.
Of course, transport is only a service industry, and must be coordinated with developments in communications and with planning. The first thing to do is to develop transport systems which are cheaper to install, cheaper to operate and aesthetically more acceptable than some of the existing ones.
The examples of such are the use of buses in a demand-activated mode (dial-a-bus), made possible by better communication computers and organization. The use of electronics for the presentation of information to car drivers and the automatic control of cars on motorways, and the design of improved vehicles, such as monorail or automatically controlled trams.
Any automatic vehicle that operates at much above walking speed will need a reserved track, and to avoid creating a barrier to the movements of pedestrians and vehicles this must be above or below ground. In each case the vehicle systems are known to be under development in a number of countries.
The vehicles would be propelled by electric motors to reduce pollution and noise, and would be supported by rubber tyres, air cushion or magnets.
At present much thought is given to the development of minitrams for application as distribution systems in central city areas, for links between car parks and high activity areas, and for circulation systems at airports.
Apart from these systems other new forms of urban transport may involve low speed moving pavements, never-stop railways and buses on specially constructed reserved tracks. These do not involve significant quantities of new technology.
Moving pavements are already in use at some airports, transit stations and shopping centres. Their disadvantage is that human limitations at getting on and off restrict their speed to 2,5-3,5 kph, as compared to a normal walking speed of 5 kph.
Improved transport will not solve, of course, all the problems facing cities today. But it will no doubt lead to changes, which will make city life more pleasant.