Suburbs are peripheral populated areas with certain autonomy, typically with a lower residential density and located either inside a city’s outer rim or just outside its official limits. The development of suburbs is initiated by the worsening conditions (congestion and pollution) in city centers; ironically these conditions are partly caused by commute travel between suburbs and the city center. The inflation of city center real estate prices also contributed to the urban exodus and the commercialization of city centers.
Along with the population, some companies relocated their offices and other facilities in the outer areas of cities – thus increasing the density in older suburbs and the distance between new suburbs and the city, while reducing the importance of the city center (as main destination). The increased number of destinations and travel distances, in combination with the relatively low residential density, does not suit traditional public transportation systems (operating in transport corridors).
New (lighter, more affordable and flexible) transit systems are required for transportation between suburbs and between suburbs and the city center. In most cases these systems will provide a better connection for the main trajectory than the car (because of the congestion cars face), but typically people will resort to usage of their car because another link in the transportation chain is weak. In the case of suburbs this is often the first link as public transit stations are located at considerable (walking) distance. Feeder systems need to be implemented to improve this link and ensure public transportation is a serious alternative to the car.
Both the main transportation and the feeder system need to operate effectively even with the low or moderate transit volumes that can be expected in suburbs. Hence electronically guided Automated People Mover Systems – which do not require any heavy infrastructure and have lower operational costs – are a suitable option.
As an alternative strategy to suburbs, and the associated sprawl, urban planners resort to the deliberate design of ‘new towns’ (self-sustaining cities focused on a larger city nearby).
Personal Rapid Transit is most suited for high-density areas. As suburbs typically feature a low residential density and low transit demand it is a difficult fit with PRT. 2getthere’s Automated People Mover systems have the advantage that they only require a simple infrastructure, thus minimizing the capital and operational costs and ensuring a system is economically viable sooner.
The PRT system could be installed to function as a feeder system, connecting the neighborhood to an adjacent transportation node. However, for suburbs a Group Rapid Transit system is likely to achieve a better fit with the transport demand characteristics.
Suburbs face a low (public) transit demand, both as a result of the low residential density as well as the accesibility being geared towards the automobile. For public transit to be economically viable in a suburb, it would have to offer optimal service and minimal costs. An electronically guided APM system functioning as a feeder to public transit nodes achieves both objectives.
2getthere’s ParkShuttle GRT system can be operated according to different scenarios, optimizing service by operating on-demand or optimizing capacity by operating on-schedule. The scenarios can be activated automatically (depending on the time of day) and manually (by the operator). It is also possible to synchronize the operations with the arrival and/or departure times of other transit modes, thus optimizing the feeder function of the system.
Typically the ParkShuttle route will be constructed as a loop, ensuring only single lanes are required. The electronically guided system requires a simple infrastructure that can be easily integrated at grade – eliminating possible visual intrusion. The capital and operational costs of the system are thus minimized.
To optimize the service, and reduce walking distances, the system requires a high station density. In order to accommodate the high station density, the station costs are minimized; a rather simple, slightly elevated slab allows level entry to the vehicle. Additional services at the station, such as a shelter for bad weather conditions, can be installed when deemed necessary or desired.