Management & Operations

Houston eyes advanced transit technologies

Posted on January 1, 2005

To plan for the expansion of its transit system in the Houston area, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) commissioned a panel of technical advisors to help evaluate a number of advanced transportation technologies and whether they could be integrated into the agency’s existing system. The following are recommendations suggested by the panel:

  • Selecting a corridor to connect with the existing light rail system and performing a feasibility assessment on the automated peoplemover, mini metro (a system of short trains operating on close headways), monorail, urban maglev and light rail transit.
  • Application of high-speed rail (commuter rail) in a suburban to urban corridor.
  • Demonstration program for a smaller scale circulator system such as an automated peoplemover or personal rapid transit (an automated transit system of a fleet of small individual pod vehicles that run on overhead guideways. Passengers are transported directly to their destinations.).
  • Application of bus rapid transit (BRT) in a high-density, suburb-to-suburb connector. The 11-member panel evaluated transportation technologies from the conceptual stage to the fully operational stage. The applications must meet the different transportation modes employed by METRO. These modes are urban distribution, suburban to urban, circulators, suburban to suburban, inter-regional and comprehensive transportation network. The 12 technologies evaluated included aerobus (a system of electric-powered, self-propelled vehicles that operate on suspended highways), automated peoplemover, BRT, high-speed rail, high-speed maglev, mezzanine transit (an elevated light rail system using independent vehicles and standard-gauge train tracks), mini metro system, monorail, personal rapid transit, tubular rail (a system that uses a cantilever beam that shifts the cylindrical railcar from beam to post as it moves) and urban maglev. The technologies were assessed in areas such as stage of technology development, applicability and type of transit service, implications of infrastructure needs on land use, aesthetics and public acceptance and long-term availability and cost of infrastructure replacement and maintenance, among others. A final report of the panel proceedings was scheduled to be released in January.
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