A retail center is a collection of multiple stores, interconnected by walkways to allow visitors to easily transverse between the stores. Well known (modern) retail center examples are shopping malls, outlets and furniture- and automobile boulevards. Shopping streets and arcades are retail centers in a more historic setting: stores along a narrow (pedestrian-only) street, often between closely spaced buildings.
Both types of retail centers are focused on car-accessibility, but as a benefit of their locations in city centers, shopping streets and arcades usually have better public transit connections. The modern retail centers were developed rapidly when the automobile was introduced and consumers desired one location for all their shopping activities. As a result (modern) retail centers are typically equipped with huge parking facilities and located near major highways or interstates.
As the size of retail centers and the number of visitors is increasing, their (external and internal) accessibility is deteriorating. External accessibility is one of the main factors determining the attractiveness of a specific retail center. As public transit demand is very moderate (a result of location, transit times and the car-oriented mindset of visitors) parking facilities grow linearly with the size of the retail center. Walking distances from the parking and in the mall (the internal accessibility) become prohibitive and alternatives are required.
The transit alternatives can be feeder systems from parking to the retail centers, or internal transportation systems, connecting the different sections of the retail center. New ‘mega mall’ developments, such as DestiNY USA and Burj Dubai, combine retail, entertainment, recreation and lodging thus introducing the absolute necessity for an on-site integrated internal transportation network!
However, even (in comparison) small and moderate sized retail centers can require feeder systems to improve their accessibility by connecting their retail center to remote parking or nearby public transportation nodes. In the Dutch research program ‘People Movers on the Road’ a connection between a remote parking facility, the train station and the shopping district in the city center of Almere is studied (as an example case for similar cities in the Netherlands and Europe).
Automated People Movers are an interesting option for these projects – especially the electronically guided systems as they can be more easily integrated in the (existing) spatial planning and do not cope with unsightly guiding kerbs or rails.
New retail center developments, such as ‘mega malls’ (combining retail, entertainment, recreation and lodging) are often located outside the city perimeter. As they require visitors to move around freely, individually and quickly, a Personal Rapid Transit system appears to be a good solution to interconnect the different activities and venues.
The network capabilities of PRT systems serve to connect the different venues directly – ensuring short trip times (waiting + travel time). All passengers can travel individually or with their own group, selecting the destination from the interior touch screen. The system accommodates a high station density, even further improving accessibility.
The Personal Rapid Transit system has a small foot print and can be integrated into buildings – the stations, but also the track. When the PRT system is created in an indoor environment, an electric drive ensures there is not exhaust. A hybrid drive is also available, but is more suited for outdoor environments. Note: a hybrid system will feature no exhaust at stations as it will operate on the battery at that time.
The small foot print of the track and the stations allows for the PRT system to be integrated in the spatial planning of the site (either at-grade or elevated). Stations can be created in front of the main entrance or (even better) be integrated into the buildings.
Retail centers in general and ‘megamalls’ (combining retail, entertainment, recreation and lodging) in particular, feature massive parking facilities to accommodate the huge passenger flows. Still, at times, they seem to run out of spaces. During peak hours most spaces are occupied and vehicles continously roam the lot to find an open space, preferably close to the facilities to ensure short walking distances. The ParkShuttle GRT system can be implemented to connect more remotely located spaces or additional parking facilities to the retail center entrances.
A ParkShuttle loop on the parking lot, comparable to the Schiphol application and the experiences there, will make remote spaces more attractive to use – thus reducing the number of vehicles roaming the lot. The loops should be relatively short to ensure minimum travelling times. The vehicles will stop at all stations where a transport request has been generated or that has been indicated as a destination.
Alternatively, or rather additionaly, the ParkShuttle can also connect to nearby parking lots of other facilities. Typically peak times of retail centers will not coincide with peak demand at e.g. business- or industrial parks. Multiple usage of parking ensures less land is required, optimizing space and (land-)value. An efficient link, such as the ParkShuttle can provide, is required to effectively facilitate multiple usage.
In the Dutch research program ‘People Movers on the Road’ a connection between a remote parking facility, the train station and the shopping district in the city center of Almere is studied (as an example case for similar cities in the Netherlands and Europe). The remote parking lot will be used for people travelling to the retail center, but also for people travelling to work or the various entertainment facilities. The multiple purpose usage of the facility will ensure it is used throughout the day and week.