25 July, 2008


Photos of the Shweeb System test track, Imagine Berkman, Baptist, Hyatt, Landing, Cummer, Atena, Prudential, MOSH, Maritime Museum, Shipyards, Strand, Peninsular, Ruths Chris, Brewing Company, Marina, Friendship Fountain... IMAGINE - JACKSONVILLE - IMAGINE!

July 23, 2008 The Shweeb is a monorail for human-powered vehicles. It consists of two 200 metre long overhead rail circuits that vary in height between two and four meters above the ground. Under the tracks hang high performance pedal powered vehicles. Between one and five vehicles can be loaded onto each track enabling teams to race each other or race against the clock. Conceived in Tokyo by designer Geoffrey Barnett, the adventure park ride he built in New Zealand is partially a proof-of-concept for an ingenious, high efficiency, no emission urban transport system.

The Shweeb Race thru Space adventure park ride is part of the Agroventures all weather adventure centre within the grounds of the world famous Agrodome near Rotorua in New Zealand. Given the levels of adrenalin involved in that lot, the human-powered Shweeb surprisingly holds its own. As the bikes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle run on low-resistance tracks and the pods are far more aerodynamically efficient than a bicycle, with less frontal area (the rider is recumbent), most riders can see speeds of 45 kmh and on a longer circuit with a much longer straight, much higher speeds can be expected. Whatsmore, in corners, the pods swing out as much as 60 degrees on tight turns, but unlike a bike or motorcycle, there is no danger of losing traction and crashing. Those who have tried it report exceptional fun.

Recently, fully-faired recumbent bicycles have attained speeds of over 90kph (56mph) on pavement . However, recumbent bicycles are unstable, highly-susceptible to side-winds topple and their low profile makes them a dangerous prposition to use in traffic due to their low visibility.

Barnett has spent six years developing how to efficiently transfer pedal power to drive wheels enclosed within a monorail track while allowing the vehicle to swing freely underneath. The hard wheels on the steel rail mean that there is very little rolling resistance.

Barnett describes his high efficiency, no emission urban transport system thus: “Here’s How It Works . You get up in the morning; descend to the second level of your apartment building where there’s a Shweeb port and empty Shweebs waiting for you. You cruise over the top of the traffic jams. You don’t pay parking. You’ve produced no pollution. You arrive at work fit, healthy and ready to go.

“You don’t own the Shweeb. You use it like a shopping cart. Empty vehicles are restocked to wherever they are needed.

“Shock absorbers between the vehicles ensure that vehicle come together smoothly. When a fit rider comes up behind a slower rider, the impact is cushioned and they act as a single unit. The rider at the rear is sitting in the slipstream of the leading rider and is able to put all their power into pushing the lead vehicle. Two Shweebs acting together will always travel faster than either rider separately. Even if the lead rider were to stop pedalling, the energy required to maintain a vehicle’s momentum on a flat track is minimal.

“Stations are off line. Anyone wanted to get off just merges off the main rail and the platoon continues at top speed.

“The urban Shweebrail network is inexpensive, has a tiny footprint, and each Shweebway requires only a square metre of airspace…It’s safe, silent and sustainable.”

JTA? Want to blow away the competition? Want to be the envy of every system in the nation? Want green? Want attraction? Want community relations? Lets Move!


Light Rail Trumps Bus Rapid Transit
Thursday, July 24, 2008;

The June 29 Commuter page [Metro section] featured a status report on Maryland's Purple Line transit project, in which I listed some of the arguments for and against the system, which could be light rail or bus rapid transit.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Your report on the Purple Line was very disappointing. Almost everything you said was true, but what you left out was all important for public understanding.

One erroneous statement is that bus rapid transit is just like light rail but on rubber tires. Light rail runs on domestic, low-cost electricity. Bus rapid transit runs on high-cost foreign oil. That is bad and costly.

Buses last only 12 years, while light rail cars last 40 years. In ice and snow, light rail has guidance and braking. Buses do not, unless the roadway is cleared and salted, polluting streams.
On open right-of-way, light rail absorbs water, but busways need extensive water runoff provisions to prevent damage. Light rail cars are larger than buses for comfort, efficiency and safety.

Bus size is limited by highway laws and clearances. The light rail ride is smoother and faster. Rails have no potholes, and electricity provides more power for acceleration.

If we want clean air, less foreign oil, lower long-term costs and more transit use, we must think about those differences.

Critics who say the Purple Line will not relieve congestion are wrong. It's true that one rail transit line will not solve the metro area's traffic problems overall, but it sure will help the local area.

Consider: Estimates suggest the line will have 3,000 riders per peak hour one-way at key points, such as 16th Street and Piney Branch Road. It would take four traffic lanes on streets with traffic signals to move 3,000 people per hour in vehicles with 1.15 people each. Four more lanes of capacity each way will help traffic greatly.

Makes sense to me. Like Tennyson, a transportation consultant and former deputy secretary of transportation for Pennsylvania, I hope the Maryland Transit Administration will favor light rail over bus when it issues its findings later this year.

It's difficult to see the decision going any other way. Supporters in and out of Maryland government have been touting the latest ridership figures, which suggest the line would record 68,000 daily trips between Bethesda and New Carrollton. That's for a high-end investment in light rail estimated by planners at up to $1.75 billion for the 16-mile route.

Why No Cross-Town Buses?
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Why isn't there bus service directly from Maryland to Virginia?

I live in Gaithersburg and work in Tysons Corner, so my public transportation options involve a trip through the District.

Am I the only one of the thousands of people who cross the American Legion Bridge each day who would rather take a bus?

Jon Freilich

This is an excellent idea. When he was Montgomery County executive, Douglas M. Duncan felt the same way. Trouble was, not enough commuters did. The SmartMover took commuters from points along the Interstate 270 corridor to Tysons, via the American Legion Bridge. But it failed for lack of ridership, given the high operating costs.

There were plenty of reasons for the failure. Buses got stuck in traffic, schedules became unreliable and once riders got off at the bus station in Tysons, it was difficult to walk to work across those wide, heavily traveled boulevards.

This noble experiment is not an idea that Maryland and Virginia can afford to dismiss. Not today, with construction of new lanes underway on the western side of the Beltway, with the Metrorail project at Tysons and with the planned rebuilding of Tysons itself.

Taking drivers off the road by giving them a new bus option will look smarter and smarter.

HOV - Bus Rapid Transit Highway Enforcement
Over the past two months, enforcement of the rules for High Occupancy Vehicle lanes has been one of the top five topics in the mailbag. There's a lot of anger out there.

I travel the Interstate 66 HOV lanes and notice that although police cars monitor many of the entrances and exits between the Capital Beltway and the District, HOV violators who travel to and from outside the Beltway have relative impunity.

Occasionally, I'll see someone stopped. While that driver is being ticketed, several others go by.
Why is there no way of reporting violators? I know that many people don't understand hybrid rules and that some cars have toddlers tucked where you can't see them. But I think a compilation of reported violators could be used to supply an aggravating factor if they are ever ticketed.

Also, there are predictable times when I-66 comes to a virtual crawl: accident, snow or, most predictably, sunshine (at very specific locations). State police could sit at those spots and stop violators much like shooting fish in a barrel.

Although I very much support enforcement -- especially those conducted on the HOV ramps, where it's safest -- police and commuters understand that enforcement itself creates congestion.
If I want the mailbag to bulge with irate letters, I should urge police to set up an HOV enforcement zone near an accident scene during a snowstorm.

Maura McMahon


Photo: Tram in Milan, Italy, next stop... "Sweet Home Alabama..."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Transit authority soliciting streetcar proposals

Birmingham Business Journal

by Jimmy DeButts StaffBlogger Comments:

Who would have thunk it Jacksonville?They ran over us with their football team back in the World Football LeagueDays, then threw themselves onto the alter to snatch the Jaguars from us beforeJacksonville, was announced. Suddenly out of the Mass Transit Shadows of the bigCities, Birmingham, Alabama, comes rolling out with "our" streetcar idea.

Jacksonville? Oh we'd like to do rail... someday. If we don'tmove soon, I suspect their numbers will change in such a positive way that theyjust might get the football team too. Birmingham, the mountain metropolis,good luck - perhaps you can show us the way?

The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority is seeking proposals for the design and construction of its planned $33 million streetcar system.Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford has promoted a 2.5 mile streetcar line that will run through downtown. The proposed route would begin at the intermodal facility on Morris Avenue and wind through the city, passing cultural hotspots, such as the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.The city has indicated the streetcar line will begin construction in early November.

Plans also call for a trip to Milan, Italy, in September to purchase the vintage-looking streetcars that will be run by electricity.Interested parties must attend a May 19 pre-proposal conference to qualify as bidders. Proposals will be accepted by the transit authority until June 30.


The arguments rage to this date, "Should have never been built," "waste of taxpayer money," "Doesn't go anywhere," "Nobody rides it..." etc. Bottom line is we have it, and it is finally showing signs of life. Simple extensions to the Stadium, San Marco, and the area of Blue Cross in North Riverside would turn this little train around. Addition of Park and Ride garages and multimodal transit terminals at the end points would bring on the crowds. The video must have been shot on a Sunday Morning, as downtown is certainly as packed with life as any other major City on weekdays. Jacksonville is a city of Bikes, joggers, walkers, buses and cars, one almost wonders how the photographer managed to find this quiet moment.

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