Moving people around Hobart - PRT
Hobart is a radial city. From the GPO, there are five basic arteries of traffic flow:
- North - via the Brooker Hwy or Main Rd
- East - via the Tasman Bridge
- West - to South Hobart, or via Molle St to West Hobart
- South - via Sandy Bay Rd, to Sandy Bay and Taroona
- South (further) - via the Southern Outlet to Kingston, Channel and Huon
These arteries carry nearly all Hobart's traffic; no other options for cars are planned or available.
As the city has grown, these arteries have become more clogged. During peak hour, all are subject to unacceptable delays.
The options that are put forward as solutions are usually 20th Century (sometimes 19th C) solutions.
Trains, trams and bicycles are the most often proposed solutions. All have been tried before, and all have been abandoned in favour of the personal flexibility of the motor car. Will they work now?
Trains are enjoying a resurgence in many places.
Commuters park all day at rail stations, and commute to the city and home. They do not stop off at the gym, club, or even at the supermarket because those amenities are not near their rail station. They might do those things when they return to their car at their destination station. But not if they walk to the station.
Trams (light rail) are also becoming more popular, worldwide
. Well, more popular than walking or paying exorbitant parking costs for cars. So, people accept the crowded trams as the best available option – of a bad bunch! They would prefer the privacy and convenience of their own car, but only the rich can afford that. We take what we are offered.
All proposals for light rail seek heavy public subsidy.
If they are to be taken seriously as the solution to moving people, then they must pay their own way. Anything else is unsustainable.
Bicycles are 'flavour of the month'.
Bike lanes are added to our roads, including the already blocked arteries, reducing the amount of road-space for cars. Conflict is inevitable.
Will more bike lanes make Hobart's traffic move faster, and more coherently? It might, if enough people move to this mode of travel. But how many will do so? From early indications of use of the bike lanes in Argyle and Campbell Sts, it is hard to be very optimistic. Few riders are seen there, while the cars bank up because of the reduction in road space. People prefer their cars. Yet, many people (including me) support the bike lanes. Just don't expect me to use them. Hobart's population is ageing. It is stretching things a long way to think that greying Hobartians are going to start pedalling to the city. It will not happen. Good luck to the young, fit riders who do take advantage of the bike lanes, but the evidence so far is that bicycles will have little impact on traffic congestion.
So, is there an option not yet being considered? As it happens, there is!
In transport circles, it is called Personal Rapid Transit. It is 21st Century technology, and it is waiting right now to be rolled out. It overcomes all of the objections people have to existing public transport systems.
Lets look at some of them:
What is Personal Rapid Transit?
It is a system of small driverless vehicles that criss-crosses a city on a computerised grid, so that users can enjoy a door-to-door ride in complete privacy.
It is ready to go when you are, any time, day or night. A PRT vehicle is always waiting for you at the nearest station. Its as convenient as a car.
Once you get in, you go straight to your destination, without delay. Your PRT vehicle bypasses all the stations along the way.
It is as fast as a car.
It’s automatic–you can enjoy the ride. Leave behind the stress of rush-hour traffic. Take in the view as you glide above the traffic. Read the paper, chat on your mobile phone, listen to your iPod. Ready to go when you are, any time, day or night. A car is always waiting for you at the nearest station. No more 'missed the bus'.
Timetable-free and family-friendly.
No more missed busses. PRT can get the kids to school, to extracurricular activities, and back home again. It allows people the security and flexibility that they desire, but thought was available only with a car.
Mobility for senior citizens & the disabled.
Not so good with night driving? Use a wheelchair? Limited vision? No problem. PRT works for everyone.
No parking hassles.
Never pay another parking ticket or hunt for a spot. Forget about expensive parking fees, scrounging for fistfuls of coins to buy a few precious minutes on the meter and the panicked dash back to feed the meter again. When you exit a PRT vehicle, you can just forget about it. Another vehicle will be waiting when you’re ready to go somewhere else.
PRT can get the kids to school, to extracurricular activities, and back home again.
Real mobility for senior citizens & the disabled. Not so good with night driving? Use a wheelchair? Limited vision?
No problem. PRT works for everyone.
Public transport is just too slow, complicated and inconvenient. Personal Rapid Transport makes public transit work for everyone. It is the 21st Century solution to today's traffic problems.
There are significant costs involved with introducing any public transport system, including a PRT. The costs would not be more than the costs of road-building, trains or light-rail systems, but the money will have to come from somewhere. The good news is that there is a natural source of funding, just waiting to be tapped. Large-scale infrastructure projects can be made self-funding!
For my approach to financing a Personal Rapid Transit system, see my policy on Paying for Public Transport here.