The city center is the (historic) heart of a city, usually containing the main public institutions and often typified by a concentration of commercial and retail buildings. The city center is typically the liveliest part of the city, combining working, living and entertainment; and attracting large transportation flows. These transportation flows and the systems accommodating them, shaped today’s cities.
Radial transport corridors, for multiple modes of (public) transportation, connect city centers and their suburbs. The typically (very) heavy systems have proven to be highly effective for the largest cities in the world. All other cities are looking for alternative (lighter) transit systems to operate in their corridors. Light rail is a well known alternative, but still requires a relatively heavy infrastructure; hence it is being overtaken by new, electronically guided concepts with a simple (more affordable) infrastructure and a much improved flexibility.
Despite the innovations in corridor transportation systems, linking the facilities within the city center by means of these systems is undesirable – both from the perspective of the system (slower operational speed, longer travel times, lower capacity) and the environment (air, noise and visual pollution). An interconnection between locations in a city center (and the station(s) of the corridor transit system), providing door-to-door transit, is required as people will otherwise resort to using their car; thus creating the congestion as cities currently face.
These interconnections in the cities are currently typically provided by means of buses. New, innovative transit systems providing a higher service level could improve these interconnections, making public transportation a more attractive alternative for car-users. To what degree congestion will be reduced depends on the percentage of commuters from suburbs, other cities and rural areas that can be persuaded to switch to public transportation (assuming people both living and working in the city center do not use cars to commute). Making the switch will likely also depend on the (strength of the) other links in their transportation chain.
Carfree, or car-accessibility reduced, city centers are a trend – especially in Europe. With parking facilities at the edges of the city centers, the center is accessible by slow traffic (bikes and pedestrians) and public transit. Carfree cities aim to reclaim the streets for human activities. Environmentally friendly, innovative means of transit fit perfectly with this vision (visit www.carfree.com for more information).
Personal Rapid Transit has always been envisioned for city centers; the liveliest part of the city, combining working, living and entertainment and attracting large transportation flows. Through a network of guide ways PRT allows for individual, direct origin to destination transit.
PRT systems can feature a high station density and (loop) network typology, creating the possibility to accommodate door-to-door travel. Stations can be integrated into buildings (or alternatively near the main entrance), ensuring short walking distances. This in combination with the direct connections ensures the trip time (waiting + travel time) is minimized.
The spatial restrictions of cities will (almost always) require the PRT system to be constructed at an elevated level. Because of this PRT will likely not be acceptable in historic areas and could also face objections of visual intrusion (in residential areas); even despite the small foot print required. Additional measures to ensure (social) safety, such as CCTV monitoring, are required for urban applications.
Personal Rapid Transit resembles the personal car, operating as an automated taxi. It could very well be the solution to ensure the accessibility of city centers as it does not have to deal with its’ negative effects (congestion, parking, pollution, etc.).
Typically city centers feature good public transit connectivity and poor car accessibility; at least from the perspective of the suburbs. The radial transit corridors are mainly focused on a single, central hub, where flows are gathered, rebundled and dispactched again – leaving several or numerous other locations unlinked by the transit network.
The GRT system can serve as a feeder system, linking places of interest, work or shopping to the existing public transit network. By improving the last link the ParkShuttle can improve the chain as a whole, making public transit more attractive to use. Additionaly the system could be used to connect to nearby parking, promoting multiple usage of the facility and reducing the total land mass required for parking in the city center.
Sufficient space should be available to install the system within the restrictions of the build-up area. Preferably the system would be constructed at grade, avoiding the need for an expensive (heavy) infrastructure on an elevated level. Space might become available at grade as other modes of transit are restricted from gaining access to the city centers; carfree, or car-accessibility reduced, city centers are a trend. The accessibility of the city can be ensured by a GRT feeder system to public transit nodes and parking facilities located at the edges of the center.
To allow for implementation at grade, 2getthere is actively developing advanced obstacle detection systems to accommodate mixing automated vehicles on dedicated bus lanes or with slow traffic (bikes and pedestrians).