Purpose

The primary motivation for making this proposal is to prevent the unnecessary death and injury inherent in the current transportation system from extending any further into the future than absolutely necessary.

The purpose of this document is to describe an economically and politically viable method of transitioning to a safer, faster, cheaper and more environmentally sound ground transportation system for passenger traffic.

Scope

The Traffic Panacea Proposal (TPP) targets the transition from the current passenger transportation system in the United States to the Next Generation Transportation System (NGTS).  As such, existing traffic that includes large trucks, tractor-trailers, buses, RVs, specialty vehicles and military use will not be addressed.  The latter category of vehicles will continue to be served by the legacy ground transportation system.

The scope of the document includes a program overview, high level requirements, cost/benefit analysis, program plans, and a preliminary budget.

Introduction

Over 7 million traffic accidents occur every year in this country, killing more than 35,000 people.  In total, 3.765 million people have died on the highways in this country alone.  To put that into perspective, that would be equivalent to destroying the 2nd largest city in the US and killing every citizen in it.  As if Los Angeles was nuked off the map.  That’s more than four times as many humans killed in all the wars in US history. 

Except these aren’t trained soldiers, men who deliberately put their lives at risk, who are trained to defend themselves, who go into a fight knowing the dangers; this is 3.7 million men, women and children, all private citizens, all innocent, all dead, since 1900.  This is a mother driving to the local store to get milk for her children; this is a newly married coupled killed in a head-on collision coming back from a romantic dinner; this is a bus-load of children dumped into a local river after the driver suffers a heart attack; this is two teenagers racing their cars and one of them losing control and crashing into a tree. 

In the entire world, it has been estimated that 1.2 million people were killed and 50 million more were injured in motor vehicle collisions in one year (2004).  The global economic cost of auto accidents has been estimated at over $500 billion per year.  These numbers are staggeringly large, beyond our ability to truly comprehend the magnitude of this ongoing disaster.  As of today, we can expect continued death and destruction on a similar (if not greater) scale in the coming decades.  Unless something changes.

Everyone assumes that the current transportation system is acceptable as it is; no one challenges the social, political, legal or economic basis for its genesis and ongoing evolution.  They take the deaths in stride, as just another part of nature. 

Yet there is nothing natural about highway tragedies.  There is nothing inevitable about what it costs to get from one place to another.  Alternatives exist.  What follows provides a high-level plan on how to:

  • eradicate most traffic fatalities and serious injury
  • eliminate all passenger vehicle-based carbon emissions
  • drastically reduce personal transportation costs
  • improve performance (shorten travel times) and improve reliability (less congestion, fewer delays)
  • maintain the comfort and convenience of private transportation


Executive Summary

This proposal charges the appropriate Federal Agency (assumed to be the Department of Transportation) with program managing and funding the transition to the Next Generation Transportation System (NGTS).

The NGTS Program includes four phases (0-3) lasting a total of 5-1/2 years (66 months).

At the conclusion of the NGTS Program, the full transition from the current transportation system to a fully deployed NGTS is expected to take ~25 years.

Staff requirements for the duration of the NGTS Program include four equivalent full time staff for Phases 0 and 1, and eight equivalent full time staff for phases 2 and 3.

Budget requirements for the entire program (including staff and contract awards) equals $488.8mil.

Note: All the projections, budgets and program details are subject to further research, analysis, revision, and/or extension.  If the proposal is accepted, Phase 0 will be dedicated to performing all necessary refinements or modifications based on improved data and professional expertise.  While further review of the proposal will likely result in significant changes, the fundamental soundness of the proposal is unlikely to be negatively affected. 

High Level Proposal

To summarize the precise nature of the proposal is difficult, because it’s more of an approach, a process, a program.  The exact result cannot be determined beforehand because the actual design, development and deployment of the NGTS will be created through the program. 

That being the case, it may prove more meaningful to describe the model, the requirements, and the detailed program.

Model

Without asserting any design requirements, it is assumed that there will be three major components of the NGTS:

  • New infrastructure that will provide the primary path for each segment.  This is expected to be an aerial design, extending some 50-100 feet or so off the ground (perhaps higher or lower, depending on the chosen design).  For the purposes of this proposal, we will designate this generic structure as ‘Nova Rails’. 


  • Second, an interface of some kind will be designed that will provide the link between private vehicles and Nova Rails, designated ‘slicks.’   The slicks may or may not be powered, and it’s conceivable that they won’t be required at all, depending on the final design.


  • Third, a newly designed electric vehicle that will be privately owned.  For the purposes of this proposal, this vehicle will be called a ‘rickshaw’.  Each rickshaw will be designed to interface with the slick for on/off-boarding Nova Rails.


In summary, think roller coaster.  Relatively narrow track (Nova Rails) with interfacing propulsion sled (slicks) that holds the rickshaw.   A tube system is also a possibility.

At the termination of the program (some five and a half years after commencement, based on the proposed timeline) several private operators for the NGTS will be certified to operate. 

Certified NGTS operators will manage all operations, and determine rates, user interface, charging/billing, customer satisfaction, and capital spending.  They will operate like any private commercial entity.

Once these operators are certified, they will be encouraged, both by business opportunities and the support of the Federal Government, to expand their NGTS to other routes, other cities, and everywhere in between.

To avoid interoperability issues, the program is specifically designed to establish standards and protocols for all NGTS operators and rickshaw manufacturers.  Nova Rails for all operators will be interconnected and used seamlessly by travelers.

All Nova Rails will be network managed to optimize performance and ensure safety.  Rickshaws will be auto driven in all on/off-boarding to maximize efficiency.

By the end of the program, several manufacturers will be offering their own variant of rickshaws to the public.

While rickshaws will travel at high speed on Nova Rails, they will be limited on legacy roads.  Maximum speed will be limited to [20-35mph?].  Thus, they will be much simpler, cheaper, safer, and lighter than traditional automobiles.  Weight limits may prove critical for the viability of Nova Rails.

Once the program ends, remaining Nova Rail build outs will be funded privately, and deployed where it makes the most commercial sense.  The model in this proposal projects a twenty-five year timeframe to reach 99% of the private passenger market.

Post-program, the Federal Government’s ongoing role relative to the NGTS will be to manage right-of-ways, safety inspections, establishing tolls (see below) and conflict resolution.  They will also maintain the legacy highway system for heavy trucks, buses, RVs, specialty vehicles and military use.

NGTS operators and rickshaw manufacturers will be subject to Federal and local taxation like any other commercial entity.

State and local governments are expected to participate with certified NGTS operators whenever and wherever they choose.  Managing the use of right-of-ways will be primary.

Unlike the Federal and state governments, the NGTS operators will not be exempt from liability claims.  If their passengers are injured or killed, they can be held legally accountable if found negligible, and will obtain business insurance to cover such possibilities.

Once an NGTS operator is ready to open a particular segment, the Federal Government will apply tolls to the legacy route.  This is critical to make the NGTS operators competitive with a legacy system that has already been funded.  Applying the tolls will ensure the steady expansion of the NGTS, and provide the necessary revenue for the Federal Government to maintain the legacy transportation system.

Once the NGTS is established, we can expect continued improvement in cost, performance, travel benefits, and extended routes.  Planning, legislation, and new taxes will not be required to meet increasing demand.

From the beginning, we can expect rickshaws to be provided by third parties, allowing people to use Nova Rails without owning their own rickshaw.  Think of Uber without the driver.  With this in mind, NGTS doubles as a mass transit system as well as one for private rickshaw owners.

Rickshaws could be used to transport anything – people, mail, packages, light freight – without needing a licensed driver.  Children, intoxicated individuals, or the otherwise incapacitated, for instance.

Network systems would control access, destinations, and traffic.  Simply state destination, or type it in like any navigation system, approve the charges with payment, and passengers or freight would delivered in the shortest possible time.

Over time, fewer legacy passenger vehicles will be operational, as the NGTS becomes safer, cheaper, faster and more convenient than legacy travel.
 
NGTS Infrastructure Requirements:

  • interoperability with all certified NGTS operators.  It’s likely that only one form of propulsion and one form of track/tube will make interoperability possible.  To that end, during the appropriate phase of the program, operators and program staff will work together to decide on an optimal system.  The same process will be necessary for the rickshaw interface and operating system.
  • Nova Rails/slicks will be electric powered (or any environmentally sound power source). 
  • required standard cruising speeds of at least 100mph.  No maximum speed outside of technical constraints.
  • all NGTS operators will accommodate a standard rickshaw
  • all NGTS operators will minimize inertia-caused impact on rickshaw passengers, ensuring that the ride is as smooth as possible.  Banked corners for high-speed turns; tilting the slick when accelerating/decelerating, perhaps.  While passengers will be seated and strapped into place like in today’s automobiles, without mitigation at the speeds considered, major discomfort and potential injuries might result.
  • Optional: Nova Rails will provide umbilical to recharge rickshaw batteries while in route (at an appropriate monetary charge)
  • Optional/Likely: all Nova Rails will be primarily aerial, with the possible exception of on/off-boarding.  Subterranean options would be completely unrealistic, unless somebody invents an uber cheap way to dig tunnels across the continent.  Alternatively, a ground solution would compete with the legacy system for limited space, and face severe constraints in terms of speed and safety, constraints that won’t exist for an aerial solution.

 
NGTS Operator Selection Criteria:

  • safety
  • cost
  • network control system
  • effectiveness of rickshaw/slick interface
  • performance (maximum cruising speeds, efficient on/off-boarding, minimal delays)
  • billing/charging systems
  • power source, the cleaner the better


Rickshaw requirements:

  • electric powered (unless a cleaner, more effective power source can be developed)
  • top ground speed [20-35mph?]  While limiting the speed of the rickshaws may delay full adoption, doing so supports a major goal of the program – safety.  It also allows for the production of far lighter vehicles, increasing the viability of Nova Rails.
  • specific size range (length, width, height, weight, wind resistance).  These standard dimensions will be critical to support Nova Rails, particularly the weight and wind drag coefficients
  • seat 1-5 adults, with some cargo capacity (medium size trunk, for instance)
  • standard connection system to slicks
  • designed to operate at maximum sustained speeds of [300mph?] while riding Nova Rails
  • designed to sustain bird strikes at [size of bird] [rate of speed]
  • while off Nova Rails, designed to be driven short (or long) distance automatically.  Controlled by NGTS operator when on/off-boarding
  • possible consideration: given the projected speeds of the rickshaw while riding Nova Rails, perhaps some form of lift would enhance performance.  The rickshaw can be shaped like a wing, providing some lift, with possible additions of ‘air effects’ (as opposed to auto racing’s ‘ground effects’).  The lifting would tend to lighten the load on Nova Rails, and perhaps improve operating efficiencies

 
Rickshaw Selection Criteria:

  • meeting all NGTS standards and protocols
  • safety
  • performance (on and off Nova Rails)
  • cost
  • weight
  • network capabilities


Benefits/Impact

There are many projected benefits with the Next Generation Transportation System.  In addition to providing stress-free, rapid, convenient and cost-effective travel, the major benefits that can be reasonably calculated are detailed below.  The specific topics include:

  • Basis for Projections
  • Prospects for The Future
  • Infrastructure
  • Traffic Fatalities
  • Traffic Injuries
  • The Economic Cost of Death, Injury and Destruction
  • The Annual Cost to Own and Operate a Private Vehicle
  • Carbon Emissions
  • Innovation/Performance

 
Basis for Projections

For the following projections, we use the historical example of cell phones.  This serves as a reasonable example due to the similarity between cell phones and the NGTS.  They both share the following characteristics:

  • new technology in an old industry
  • new protocols and standards to be developed
  • benefit from less government regulation/ownership (Divestiture 1984, Telecom Act 1996)
  • establishment and expansion of new infrastructure (cell towers, fiber, data networks)
  • new technology can utilize legacy systems until new infrastructure fully deployed


As can be seen in the chart below, it took twenty-five years for cell phones to be fully adopted.  After the first viable cell phone was offered to the public, it took about twelve years before the market started to take off.  During that time, networks were expanded, prices dropped, technology was improved, and performance enhanced.  Like any network, the larger the network the more valuable to the individual user, and the more attractive to the entire market.

In this model, the 50% benchmark wasn’t reached until year 18 or so.  At that point the acceptance rate was fairly steep, resulting in ~99% penetration after twenty-five years.

 
Prospects for The Future

There is no reason to believe that traffic fatalities will be reduced significantly below what we experience today.  The following excerpts highlight the current thinking about the future of transportation in America.  There are ideas, hopes and alarms – but no plan of action:

In thirty years, the transportation system in the United States will be a fossil – a relic of the 20th century that utterly fails Americans in 2045. That’s the dire scenario U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx predicted February 2 while in Mountain View, Calif., at the Google campus…. Foxx – along with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt – unveiled Beyond Traffic, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new framework for building an intelligent transportation network and avoiding the transit nightmare the agency envisions if the current system is not modernized.

“For too long, our national dialogue about transportation has been focused on recreating the past. Instead, we need to focus on the trends that are shaping our future,” said Secretary Foxx. “In Washington, in state capitals and in city halls, it is time to sound the alarm bell: the future is calling. Beyond Traffic gives us a view into 2045 and the basis to plan for it.

According to Beyond Traffic, leveraging technology and innovation in areas like autonomous cars, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, big data and data analysis will be essential for the nation’s transportation system as the U.S. population swells by 70 million more people over the next three decades…

“It is important to note that Beyond Traffic is not an action plan and is not intended to be,” Foxx wrote in the simultaneously-released, 316-page paper Beyond Traffic 2045 Trends and Choices. “It is a survey of where we are and where current trends may take us if left unaddressed. The federal government alone cannot achieve resolution of all of the issues and concerns the future will bring; much decision making belongs to other stakeholders, including state and local governments and the private sector…We hope it prompts a long-overdue national conversation.”


http://www.govtech.com/fs/beyond-traffic---planning-for-the-future-of-transportation.html

Based on this recent assessment by the Federal Government, the fundamental nature of the current transportation system is unlikely to change.  The NGTS can change that, and provide the viable future for the transportation system that currently does not exist.  Even if the NGTS removes only half the passenger traffic from the legacy transportation system, the benefits will remain considerable.
 
Aging Infrastructure

The nation is currently faced with the daunting task of maintaining the current transportation infrastructure and funding the necessary expansion to accommodate future demand.  The article below provides a good summary:

US Needs $926 Billion Infrastructure Investment
Jan 14, 2017

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced late last week that a new report on the state of America's transportation infrastructure, “2015 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges and Transit: Conditions and Performance,” confirms that more investment is needed not only to maintain the nation's highway and transit systems but to overcome a nearly trillion-dollar investment backlog.

“We have an infrastructure system that is fundamental to the nation’s economic health, and it needs greater attention and resources,” said Secretary Foxx. “Improving our nation’s roads, bridges, and transit helps create jobs, connects communities and ensures that our nation is equipped for the future.”

Secretary Foxx added that the Congressionally mandated report confirms the projections outlined in “Beyond Traffic,” a U.S. Department of Transportation study issued in early 2015 that examined the challenges facing America's transportation infrastructure over the next 30 years, such as a rapidly growing population and increasing freight traffic.

The new report – commonly known as the “Conditions and Performance” report – identifies an $836 billion backlog of unmet capital investment needs for highways and bridges, or about 3.4% more than the estimate made in the previous report.

Addressing the growing backlog—while still meeting other needs as they arise over the next two decades – will require $142.5 billion in combined transportation spending from state, federal and local governments. In 2012, the most recent year in which the report’s data were available, federal, state and local governments combined spent $105.2 billion on this infrastructure – 35.5% less than what is needed to improve highways and bridges.

“The case for more investment in our nation’s transportation system is clear,” said Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “A strong transportation system will make businesses more productive and freight shippers safer and more efficient while improving America’s quality of life.”

“This report shows the impact of the lack of investment in infrastructure,” said Acting Federal Transit Administrator Carolyn Flowers. “The results of that neglect can be seen throughout our country as both reliability and safety suffer. We must increase investment in public transportation nationwide, because we must take immediate action to bring our transit infrastructure into a state of good repair and provide the world-class service that Americans deserve.”


http://www.industryweek.com/leadership/us-needs-926-billion-infrastructure-investment

Deploying the NGTS would make further major investments in the legacy transportation system unnecessary.  As passenger traffic is removed from the legacy system, less demand is experienced on the legacy network, alleviating much of the crisis.  In addition, as new tolls are applied with the emerging NGTS, funding for maintaining the legacy system will become increasingly routine.

Specific and near-term investments in the legacy transportation system will remain necessary, but will become increasingly less urgent as NGTS expands.  Within the timeframe of this proposal (~30 years) the legacy transportation system should become economically and politically stable.

Traffic Fatalities

As already stated, many people have lost their lives on America’s highways, and many more will continue to do so.  The history of such loss is reflected in the chart to the right:

As can be seen from the chart above, since the mid-sixties we have seen a downward trend in total annual traffic fatalities from over 50,000 per year to somewhere in the mid-thirties.  This doesn’t take into account the growth of traffic during this time period, masking even greater improvement on a per-traveled-mile basis.  With continued emphasis discouraging intoxicated drivers, the advent of autonomous cars, and other innovations, it’s likely that this downward trend will continue.

Even so, as can be seen from the sections above, there is no plan to fundamentally alter the nature of the current transportation system, meaning that we can expect tens of thousands of fatalities annually on American highways for the foreseeable future.

The deployment of NGTS would change that.  Based on our projection model, future traffic fatalities may look something like what is depicted in the graph below, falling from over 35,000 fatalities a year to less than 5000:


This model assumes that:

  • the current level of traffic fatalities roughly matches the starting year of the NGTS
  • the growth of passenger traffic on the NGTS will match the cell phone model for deployment
  • 99% of passenger traffic is removed from the legacy highways by year 25
  • NGTS fatalities are negligible
  • 10.84% of the current traffic remains on the legacy highways, resulting in the same proportion of fatalities experienced today (the percentage based on the study below):


Based on this projection, almost 300,000 lives will be saved by the NGTS during the first twenty-five years of its deployment, and countless more beyond.


Traffic Injuries

As for serious injuries, we can see from the chart below that the numbers range between two and three million per year (chart to the right):

Based on the same assumptions given above for traffic fatalities, the following reduction in serious traffic injuries is reflected in the chart to the right:


Thus, deploying the NGTS will reduce serious traffic injuries from well over two million a year to less than 300,000.

Cumulatively, we can project the elimination of over 18 million serious injuries during the 25 year deployment of the NGTS, and countless more beyond (chart to the right):

The Economic Cost of Death, Injury and Destruction

While it is difficult to put a price on the human pain and suffering caused by the current transportation system, the economic cost, including emergency services, medical treatment, and property destruction, can be approximated by the total revenue of the auto insurance industry.  As we can see below, the annual revenue of the auto insurance industry ranges well above $200 billion a year (chart to the right).

Using the same assumption set for fatalities and serious injury, we can project the dollar value of a safer, less destructive transportation system by charting the annual decline of auto insurance revenue.  This would be based on the far lower risk of injury, death and property damage while driving/riding in rickshaws.

This analysis doesn’t project actual revenue decline for the insurance industry (although that probably takes place).  The purpose of this projection is to reflect the dollar cost of the death and destruction resulting from traffic accidents.  As such, we can see the national economic cost of death, injury and destruction of the current transportation system plummet from well over $200 billion a year to ~$23 billion.  This represents over $1.4 trillion saved during the 25 year deployment, and of course many more $billions beyond.

This also tells us that the pay back period for the NGTS Program (total cost of $488.8mil) just in terms of the economic cost in human life will be reached in less than one full year of deployment (314 lives saved, 23,140 injuries avoided, equaling $3.31bil in economic cost).

The Annual Cost to Own and Operate a Private Vehicle

Based on one study, the annual costs for owning and operating a vehicle, including fuel, maintenance, and depreciation, equals $8,439.

Rickshaws will be lighter, simpler, and cheaper to purchase and cheaper to operate and insure.  It’s impossible to provide a reasonable projection on what the differences in cost might be.  It’s possible that the initial cost of traveling with a rickshaw will not be dramatically cheaper, due to the initial small-scale deployment (lack of scale) and the initial charges to ride Nova Rails. 

Even so, we can assert with confidence that the cost per traveled mile between a rickshaw and a legacy vehicle will dramatically decline over time.  Once full production of rickshaws takes place, and enough volume is reached on Nova Rails, the cost of owning and operating a basic rickshaw will be a fraction of what we pay today, allowing the most economically challenged citizens a cheap, safe and convenient way to get from one place to another.

Environmental Impact

Personally owned automobiles contribute significantly to global warming, according to many sources.  Two examples below:

Passenger vehicles are a major pollution contributor, producing significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other pollution. In 2013, transportation contributed more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air.

 https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/vehicles-air-pollution-and-human-health

Our personal vehicles are a major cause of global warming. Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas. About five pounds comes from the extraction, production, and delivery of the fuel, while the great bulk of heat-trapping emissions—more than 19 pounds per gallon—comes right out of a car’s tailpipe.

 https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/car-emissions-and-global-warming#.XAmcuDt6pHg

The environmental impact of transportation is a complicated issue, and it would be unreasonable to simply assume that deploying the NGTS would significantly reduce harmful emissions.  While replacing internal combustion passenger vehicles with electric driven ones will contribute positively to one side of the equation, we don’t know how Nova Rails will be powered.   If at one extreme all the NGTS operators use coal-fired power plants as their energy source, any gains made by electric rickshaws might be countered with the additional impact from burning coal. 

The equation also depends on rickshaw manufacturing, and how this compares with current automobile manufacturing, in terms of environmental impact.  We can assume that the impact should be less, but without knowing how and where the plants will operate, we can’t be sure.

While it can’t be asserted ahead of time, we have made environmental impact a key criteria for selecting both NGTS operators and rickshaw manufacturers, so we can assume some control over the outcome.  In any case, a set of solutions will be selected that minimize negative environmental impacts from the NGTS, presumably much lower than the environmental impact from our current transportation industry.

Lack of Innovation/System Performance

Little has changed or improved in ground transportation in decades.  The roads are not much safer, faster or cheaper to use, the three criteria a private operator might consider.  In fact, between 1974 and 1987, the national speed limit was reduced to 55mph, a major step back in terms of effective transportation. 

System performance – in terms of how long it takes to get from one place to another – has stagnated, or in many metro areas, grown worse due to increasing congestion.

As for the lack of innovation, consider the history of the common traffic light.  Invented in 1912, the automatic traffic light was first installed in 1923, and hasn’t changed much since.  Many traffic lights now have sensors, and in some stretches the lights are coordinated with fixed algorithms, but those improvements are relatively minor. 

The next significant advance was the modern freeway.  It came into existence with the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.  This innovation allowed much faster and more efficient transportation between cities, and generally within – until in recent decades when the growth in traffic greatly exceeded the infrastructure.  Commutes in many major cities have grown increasingly problematic, and traffic accidents can stall commutes for hours at a time.

Unlike many other industries, innovation simply hasn’t taken place in the national highway system, and there is little reason to expect that to change anytime soon.

One of the principle benefits of the NGTS program is that upon its completion the industry will be posed to strive for continuous improvements in terms of quality, cost, technology, customer satisfaction, capital investment, safety (due to liability), quality, performance (speed, lack of delays), effectiveness (on/off-boarding), network options (payment, navigation), route expansion, and elements of transportation we have never before considered. 

The explosion of new capability will be comparable to when telecommunication was unleashed first in 1984 with the divestiture of AT&T, and in 1996 with the Telecom Act, the one that removed the last barriers to competition in the industry.  The entire internet, one built on data networks that hardly existed in previous decades, changed the country and the culture permanently. 

The Federal Government sponsored NGTS could be equivalent to the proto-internet: ARPANET, originally funded by the Department of Defense, was the basis for our modern internet.  TCP/IP was used for the first time in that data network, and proved to be the key to a versatile network that could ultimately be used to communicate anything.  A properly program managed NGTS could have a comparable impact on transportation. 

It’s impossible to predict (and unnecessary to do so) what the future might bring in personal transportation.  Aside from the direct impact on future lives saved and serious injury avoided, the prospect for continued innovation and improvement is the most valuable aspect of this proposal.

Costs/Risks

The projected cost of the NGTS Program to taxpayers is $488.8mil.

In addition to the direct costs, there are several risks and potential impediments to deploying the NGTS.  First and foremost, it’s possible that the technology that is necessary to make the NGTS viable doesn’t exist, and cannot be made to become so within the targeted timeframe.  Secondly, it’s possible that potential NGTS operators do not perceive a commercial advantage to owning and operating a component of the NGTS, and collectively choose to ignore the opportunity.  These are the two principle direct risks to implementing this proposal.

Less direct are the political risks to the viability of this proposal.  For instance, the Federal Department of Transportation is tasked, in this proposal, for program managing the implementation of the NGTS.  What if concern gets raised about the future of that institution, and the livelihood of those employed by that government agency?  Will the reduction in future legacy expansion and lower traffic volumes reduce the role of the bureau?  And if so, will that fact compromise the proposal?

There will be discernable industry impacts as well.  Auto insurance has already been mentioned, an industry certain to see revenues decline.  Legacy auto manufacturers may resist, if they feel they will miss out on the new rickshaw market.  Gasoline retailers and refiners may be negatively impacted over time, perhaps raising political obstacles. 

Another class of political resistance may manifest from those who object to the new structures necessary for Nova Rails.  They may be considered ugly industrial marks on the landscape, possibly blocking views or obscuring the skyscape.  In some places they disguise cell towers to look like palm trees.  That sort of objection.

Deploying NGTS will reduce the impact on healthcare and emergency services.  Given the aging population and the concern with providing healthcare to all citizens, this partial relief of the healthcare industry will probably we welcomed by most people, even those in the industry directly impacted.

The NGTS Program

The purpose of the NGTS Program is to manage the development, deployment and testing of the NGTS.

The NGTS Program consists of four phases and is scheduled to last 5 ½ years.  Within the program, there are three scheduled go/no-go decision points.

At the bottom of the page is a high-level chart of the entire program.  What follows will be a lower level breakdown of each phase and sub-phase.

 
Phase 0 – Three Months

Phase 0 begins with the decision to begin the NGTS Program.  The first major step in the program will be to assign the NGTS Program Director, the only full time staff for the first two phases. 

The next step will be to establish the NGTS Program Team.  The purpose of this team will be to manage the NGTS Program from beginning to end.  The program team will be led by the NGTS Program Director.

To staff the program team, the Director will draw upon resources from the sponsoring organization (assumed to be the Federal Department of Transportation).  Team membership will be determined during the establishment process of the team.  It is expected that team members will be full-time employees of the sponsoring organization that devote a percentage of their time on team activities.  The team will consist of perhaps seven to nine members in total, their collective commitment equivalent to approximately three fulltime staff.

Team members may have skills and experience in project management, traffic studies, current DOT projections, financial analysis, industry expertise, and the creation of RFPs (Request for Proposal) – or the department equivalent.

While the team will remain active during the entire program, team members may come and go, depending on the specific needs in any particular phase.  Even so, it is expected that at least three or four team members will be active throughout the entire program, serving as the core team members and providing the necessary continuity for success.

The major task of Phase 0 will be to revise/complete/validate the feasibility of the NGTS Program.  That means reassessing this entire proposal, revisit all the cost/benefits listed, using the department’s resources.  All of the projections in this proposal need to incorporate the DOT’s growth projections, and the expected impact on highway traffic, and how that is expected to impact fatalities, injuries, costs, environmental impact, performance (congestion, travel times), and other relevant variables. 

Output of sub-Phase 0: The completed cost/benefit analysis will be the principle output of Phase 0, and used to support a decision to proceed, or not.  It will also be used to establish benchmarks and a baseline to measure progress, should the program proceed.  Once the program is completed, it will be possible to measure how effective the program has been in meeting the projections that justified the effort.

Go/No-Go Phase 1.  It’s possible that a detailed feasibility plan fails to prove out the program, necessitating a ‘no-go’ decision.  This will result in total program cost of $220,000.  Viable feasibility leads to a ‘go’ decision, moving the program into Phase 1. 

Phase 1 – Nine Months

sub-Phase 1.1 – three months:  The principle task of this sub-phase will be to develop the NGTS Operator RFPs that will be sent out to the industry.  The RFP will contain all of the requirements for a potential operator, including projected performance, cost, design, power source, organizational capability, and any other variables that the Program Team develops.

The team will research the industry to determine who will be included in distribution.  A political question that will be raised will be whether foreign operators will be invited to participate (particularly Germany and Japan). 

The RFPs will contain a complete description of the program, and what the opportunity entails.  Within this context, respondents will be asked to provide their view of how the NGTS will evolve if they are selected, and what they project in terms of growth, revenue and profitability.

Output of sub-Phase 1.1:  The principle output of this sub-phase will be the distribution of the RFPs, with a due date of three months to formally respond.  This timeframe may be shortened or increased, depending on industry standards for this sort of RFP.

sub-Phase 1.2 – three months (or the duration of the response time for the Infrastructure RFPs):  While waiting for the industry responses, the Program Team will develop the Rickshaw RFP.  This will include all of the rickshaw requirements, and a detailed description of the NGTS Program. 

The Rickshaw RFP will be different, in that there will be no limit to those who decide to participate.  Unlike the Infrastructure RFP, there will be no Government funding available for rickshaws.  Those who choose to respond, and who meet all the safety, performance and design standards will be invited to participate in the testing phase of the program.  Rickshaws that successfully test in the final phase of the program will be certified, and their manufacturers provided the opportunity to sell their rickshaws to the public.

The Program Team will research the industry to determine where to send the Rickshaw RFP.  Again, international distribution will be a question, with likely targets including Korea, China, Japan and Germany.  Given that rickshaws will be simpler, lighter, and cheaper to manufacture, there may be entirely new industrial segments to consider outside of legacy auto manufacturers.

Output of sub-Phase 1.2:  The principle output of this sub-Phase will be to distribute Rickshaw RFPs to all target manufacturers.  There is no time limit on this RFP.  Those who submit proposals will be evaluated as they arrive.  Once a manufacturer is approved, they can prepare a prototype to be ready for testing during sub-Phase 2.1.

sub-Phase 1.3 – three months:  The principle task of this sub-Phase will be to review and evaluate all Infrastructure RFP responses.  Doing so will provide the first real indication of how viable NGTS is.  How many companies respond?  What kind of solutions do they propose?  Do they anticipate a genuine commercial opportunity?  The evaluation of industry responses will lead directly to the next major decision.

Go/No-Go Phase 2.  It’s possible that nobody submits viable/credible proposals for Nova Rails, resulting in a ‘no-go’ decision.   At this point, the total cost of the program equals $880,000.  On the other hand, the receipt of several viable/credible submissions would result in a ‘go’ decision, and the awarding of contracts to the semi-finalists to proceed to Phase 2.

The Program anticipates the selection of eight semi-finalists based on their superior proposals.  This number may change, based on Program Team decisions, and the nature of the responses.  In any case, the intention is to award something like $10mil each to develop a working prototype, resulting in a total outlay of $80mil.  Contract amounts are subject to revision, based on Program Team decisions and industry financial requirements.

Output of sub-Phase 1.3:  The principle output of this sub-Phase is the selection of infrastructure semi-finalists, and awarding them contracts to develop working prototypes.

Phase 2 – Twenty-Four Months

sub-Phase 2.1 – twelve months:  During this time, the NGTS semi-finalists will be developing working prototypes. 

Towards the end of this sub-Phase, the Program Team will add four fulltime staff to work directly with all semi-finalists and rickshaw manufacturers on any issues related to standards, design, or performance characteristics.  Depending on the nature of the various designs, this will be the first phase where interconnectivity and compatibility issues will be discussed, along with establishing the groundwork for future standards.

Output of sub-Phase 2.1:  The principle output of this sub-Phase will be working prototypes from all semi-finalists, along with working rickshaw prototypes.

sub-Phase 2.2 – six months:  The principle activity of this sub-Phase will be the evaluation of all working prototypes.  Testing will take place, and criteria weighed between one potential operator and another.

Any rickshaws that are ready to be evaluated will be certified for final phase testing, if they meet all standards and requirements.

Output of sub-Phase 2.2:  The principle output of this sub-Phase will be the selection of NGTS finalists, four in total (although this number may change depending on Program Team decisions and evaluation results.) 

sub-Phase 2.3 – six months:  After the finalists are chosen, and before further contracts are awarded, all interoperability issues need to be resolved, including the compatibility of Nova Rails between operators, all slick-to-rickshaw interfaces, and networking (billing, navigation, traffic control, etc.).

It’s possible, and perhaps the RFP is written this way, that one design of Nova Rails proves superior to all others, and that designer wins a significant portion of the contract moving forward.  In this case, those operators selected to move forward with a preliminary build may be using someone else’s design.  It is even possible that the designer of the chosen Nova Rails doesn’t win the contract for the build, based on other criteria (the strength of the organization, say).

The Program Team will work closely with the chosen finalists to resolve all interoperability issues, and to develop specific solutions to all major functioning aspects of the NGTS prior to awarding the final contracts. 

Go/No-Go Phase 3: It’s possible that none of the working prototypes promises to scale to commercial dimensions.  This would result in a ‘no-go’ decision, with total program cost at $84.4mil.  If a reasonable number of viable working prototypes are produced, a ‘go’ decision would be made, and contracts would be awarded to the finalists to proceed to Phase 3.

The Program anticipates the selection of four finalists based on their superior prototypes.  This number may change, based on Program Team decisions, and the nature of the prototypes.  In any case, the intention is to award something like $100mil each to develop a functioning NGTS segment, resulting in an additional outlay of $400mil.  Contract amounts are subject to revision, based on Program Team decisions and industry financial requirements.

Output of sub-Phase 2.3:  The output of this sub-Phase will be the resolution of all interoperability issues, the final selection of every particular solution (network, Nova Rails, slicks, rickshaws), the structuring of the final contracts (amounts, scope, requirements, etc.), and the awarding of the contracts to the finalists.

Phase 3 – Thirty Months

sub-Phase 3.1 – twenty-four months:  All four NGTS operators would begin construction at the Alpha site. 

The Alpha site should be within the commuting network of a major metropolitan area.  A major interchange of two interstate freeways in Southern California would be ideal, for the following reasons:

  • enough traffic to commercially support the initial deployment of NGTS, should the trials prove successful
  • proof-of-concept for all major metropolitan areas
  • would encounter the most difficulty in an already congested system, particularly during construction (it would be easy to build a new system in a Nevada desert, proving nothing)
  • year around construction climate
  • Southern California likely to be where the NGTS is most needed, and will be quickly adopted, should the trials prove successful
  • all four NGTS operators would build on one of the four legs, meeting at the interchange
  • building outside an actual downtown area will provide enough difficulty without making the initial builds totally problematic


One possible Alpha site would be where I8 and I15 meet in Mission Valley, San Diego (see map to the right):

In this example, each operator would build a segment as long as commercially viable in order to fully test the system: I15 north; I15 south; I8 east; I8 west, each operator meeting the others at the interchange between I8 and I15.

During this sub-Phase, the Program Team, and in particular the four full-time staff would work with each operator to oversee development and construction.  Any issues that couldn’t be resolved on-site would be brought back to the Program Team for resolution, or escalation. 

Output of sub-Phase 3.1:  The principle out put of this sub-Phase would be an operational Alpha site for all NGTS operators, along with fully operational rickshaws.

sub-Phase 3.2 – six months:  Once the Alpha site is fully operational, trials would begin, and the testing of every aspect of the NGTS: safety, performance (speed, on/off-boarding), effectiveness, slick-rickshaw interface, traffic control, billing/navigation, passenger comfort, and convenience.  Initial testing might be done with empty rickshaws, with later tests done with passengers. 

All aspects of interoperability between NGTS operators would be tested, and all issues resolved. 

Output of sub-Phase 3.2:  Outputs from this final phase would include:

  • All rickshaw manufacturers that meet design criteria and performance standards would be certified for commercial deployment.


  • Final industry standards and protocols for the NGTS and rickshaws would be established and published.


  • All NGTS operators that meet operational standards would be certified for commercial deployment and expansion.


With these final steps, the NGTS Program would come to a close, and the team disbanded.  Further regulation, oversight, right-of-way management, taxation, and problem resolution would be handed off to the appropriate authority.

Budget

As in all projections in this document, the proposed budget is simply a starting point, and likely to change once further planning and analysis are completed.


Staff budget assumptions

  • loaded labor rate/year:  $200,000
  • office rate per staff/year:  $8,000
  • travel per staff/year:  $12,000


Conclusion

Accepting the Traffic Panacea Proposal, and staffing/funding the NGTS Program, would transform passenger transportation into a safer, faster, cheaper, convenient, and innovative transportation system without sacrificing the privacy and freedom of owning ones own vehicle. 

To summarize, key elements of the proposal include:

  • a program sponsored and managed by the Federal Government, most likely the Department of Transportation
  • projected full transition in ~30 years (NGTS Program 5 ½ years, full deployment in ~25 years)
  • a passenger transportation system that drastically reduces traffic fatalities and serious injury
  • a passenger transportation system that greatly lowers the cost to individual consumers, and to the economy as a whole
  • a program that manifests multiple private operators, resulting in future innovation and improvement in cost, quality, performance (faster, more efficient travel), routes offered, and aspects of personal transportation we haven’t yet imagined
  • adopts an aerial solution utilizing government right-of-ways
  • with each new NGTS segment deployed, tolls will be applied to comparable legacy highways
  • the cleanest energy will be utilized by all NGTS operators and rickshaw manufacturers, promising lower emissions and an improved environment
  • seamless charging/billing/navigation will be deployed


The transition to the NGTS, one that fundamentally changes the nature of passenger transportation, can only take place at the behest of the Federal Government.  No other possibility exists.  Without such a transition, the carnage on the highways will continue for the foreseeable future, the ground transportation system will remain in stasis (lacking innovation), and governments (Federal, State, local) will struggle to finance the upgrades and expansion necessary to meet future demand. 

 Please take the Traffic Panacea Proposal seriously.  Tens of millions of future lives depend on it. 












 

 

The Traffic Panacea Proposal

Anthony Wheeler

Anthony Wheeler

Humble Executive.  Literary Artist.  Altruistic Libertarian.