The Trackless Tram: Is it the Transit and City Shaping Catalyst we have been waiting for?
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© 2019 The Authors. Published in Journal of Transportation Technologies.
Recent innovations in transport technology are now providing mobility that is cheaper, autonomous, electric, and with improved ride quality. While much of the world’s attention has been on how this can be applied to cars, there have been rapid adoption of these and other technologies in High Speed Rail and Metro Rail systems that run between and across cities. This paper shows how such innovations have now been applied to create the next generation of urban transit system called a Trackless Tram. Trackless Trams are effectively the same as traditional light rail except they run on rubber tyres avoiding disruption from construction for Light Rail, but they retain the electric propulsion (with batteries) and have high ride quality due to rail-type bogies, stabilization technologies and precision tracking from the autonomous optical guidance systems—with infrastructure costs reduced to as low as one tenth of a Light Rail system. As with Light Rail, a Trackless Tram System provides a rapid transit option that can harness the fixed route assurance necessary to unlock new land value appreciation that can be leveraged to contribute to construction and running costs whilst creating urban regeneration. The paper considers the niche for Trackless Trams in cities along with its potential for city shaping through the creation of urban re-development along corridors. The paper suggests that the adoption of Trackless Tram Systems is likely to grow rapidly as a genuine alternative to car and bus systems, supplementing and extending the niche occupied by Light Rail Transit (LRT). This appears to be feasible in any medium-sized or larger city, especially in emerging and developing economies, and case studies are outlined for Perth and Thimpu to illustrate its potential.
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