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Trackless Trams - Innovative solutions for sustainable cities.

  • 26-11-2018 11:54am
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 1,865 ✭✭✭ wassie


    In all the discussions around infrastructure planning and transport, especially in the Dublin region, I have yet to see any public policy considerations or discussions taking place as to what real innovations other countries are doing and how it could work here.

    One such example is one that several Australian cities are seriously looking into - a recent development in China called Autonomous Rail Rapid Transport (ART) or "Trackless Trams".

    According to the developer, the test system in China has a build cost of around 20% of a traditional tram system. Then there are the maintenance benefits, combined with clean electrical powered transport.

    From Wikipedia:

    "The product has been described as a crossover between a train, a bus and a tram. Its external appearance, composed of individual, fixed sections joined together by articulated gangways, resembles a rubber-tyred tram, although it has the flexibility to move around like a normal articulated bus.

    ...Having no permanent track enables flexible operations according to traffic conditions, e.g. by suggesting detours in the case of road traffic accidents or ongoing construction work. The vehicle based system interacts with an intelligent signal communication feature enabling priority pass at traffic lights. The rail-less system provides low construction and maintenance cost, because there are no railway tracks to maintain.

    Using quick charge batteries reduces the need for overhead cables en route between the stations and produces no exhaust gases within urban areas. Since the ART is a guided bus system, ruts and depressions will be worn into the road by the accurate alignment of the large number of wheels, which are controlled by the multi-axle steering system. The suitability of the system for winter climate has been considered but not yet been proven on ice and snow."


    Most sustainability experts around the world agree the rail and trams are the most efficient and environmentally friendly method to transport large amounts of people within a city. This technology may offer the best of both world in terms of high passenger volumes combined with low capital costs, maintenance costs and environmental impact for a growing European city such as Dublin. Proving in winter conditions will no doubt be critical to the success of the technology, but parts of China have winters far more severe than ours, so I believe no doubt this will be overcome.

    There are countless videos on Youtube, however the one below is very comprehensive and recent (at the time of posting).




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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,997 ✭✭✭✭ Varik


    Seems like a great idea for smaller cities and even some large towns.

    Routes could be changed as needed for event ,festivals, or matches. If the project proved to be a failure in whatever location at worst the trams could be moved to another area and if they had a dedicated lane reused for buses or opened to traffic.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 17,132 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Sam Russell


    Sounds ideal for Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Galway. 25 km from a 10 min charge sounds ideal. It is described as autonomous, but it has a driver.

    Its low capital cost would be very much a selling point, and the fact that it would allow easy rerouting is another selling point.

    Sounds ideal for Irish cities, with routes less than 25 km being well within normal bus routes.


  • Registered Users Posts: 436 ✭✭ incentsitive


    These things already exist, they are called buses.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 17,132 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Sam Russell


    These things already exist, they are called buses.

    Buses are not autonomous, and are not electric (at least in Ireland). They are also not segregated.

    10 min charge for 25 km is a game changer.


  • Registered Users Posts: 436 ✭✭ incentsitive


    Buses are not autonomous, and are not electric (at least in Ireland). They are also not segregated.

    10 min charge for 25 km is a game changer.

    Good luck running them around Dublin's windy, narrow streets! There is also a lad driving one of them (admittedly, I didn't watch all 20 minutes)

    Don't get me wrong - I love the idea, but I don't think it is practical.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 15,704 ✭✭✭✭ RayCun


    Buses are not autonomous, and are not electric (at least in Ireland). They are also not segregated.

    Buy electric buses and put them in segregated lanes.
    This 'autonomous' solution isn't -
    The ART is equipped with various sensors to assist the driver


  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 25,520 Mod ✭✭✭✭ looksee


    Over 60 years ago in a north of england small town we regularly travelled on the trackless - I was much older before I realise what the name actually represented. They were tram/buses that were operated by an overhead wire system. There were also buses so I have no idea why the tracklesses were there, but it was a normal part of getting around. As others have said, electrically/battery operated buses are really not that much of an amazing innovation, though they would probably be more environmentally desirable than diesel.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,194 ✭✭✭ cgcsb


    Ok buy a load of 'autonomous' BRT vehicles from China and we're stall back to square 1, roadspace.
    The type of vehicle is much of a muchness if we're not willing to allocate roadspace to sustainable modes.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,995 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    I don't see any advantage this has over a decent spec BRT.

    This isn't really autonomous, it has a driver, it is just driver assistance.

    As for segregation, you can do that with BRT too, plenty of examples of fully segregated BRT's around the world. You just have to be willing to give up the road space to it. Something we struggle with in Dublin with the narrow streets.

    A full charge only gives you 40km! That is very poor, we are starting to see EV buses that can operate all day on one charge, that is what is needed for EV buses to take off.

    This just seems like a BRT fancied up a bit to try and sell it.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 17,132 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Sam Russell


    looksee wrote: »
    Over 60 years ago in a north of england small town we regularly travelled on the trackless - I was much older before I realise what the name actually represented. They were tram/buses that were operated by an overhead wire system. There were also buses so I have no idea why the tracklesses were there, but it was a normal part of getting around. As others have said, electrically/battery operated buses are really not that much of an amazing innovation, though they would probably be more environmentally desirable than diesel.

    They are more commonly called trolley buses. They are still in use in Geneva and probably other places. They accelerate very quickly and would knock the unwary off their feet.

    They are effectively 'rubber wheeled trams'. The London trolley buses were double deckers and were phased out in the 1960s I believe.

    The electric vehicles cited by the OP are battery powered.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 8,194 ✭✭✭ cgcsb


    I'd say stick with hybrid double deckers for now and allocate sufficient road space to ensure reliable journeys and bring in automated camera enforcement. Let other cities invest in Chinese experiments then we can switch if it's shown to be a success


  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 25,520 Mod ✭✭✭✭ looksee


    They are more commonly called trolley buses. They are still in use in Geneva and probably other places. They accelerate very quickly and would knock the unwary off their feet.

    They are effectively 'rubber wheeled trams'. The London trolley buses were double deckers and were phased out in the 1960s I believe.

    The electric vehicles cited by the OP are battery powered.

    They may well have been trolly buses but they were known as tracklesses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxjwhexlb24 to everyone. :D


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,841 Squatter


    looksee wrote: »
    Over 60 years ago in a north of england small town we regularly travelled on the trackless - I was much older before I realise what the name actually represented. They were tram/buses that were operated by an overhead wire system. There were also buses so I have no idea why the tracklesses were there, but it was a normal part of getting around. As others have said, electrically/battery operated buses are really not that much of an amazing innovation, though they would probably be more environmentally desirable than diesel.

    They had them in Belfast too - they were called trolleybuses. [Edit - as Sam wrote above]


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,865 ✭✭✭ wassie


    The responses below are extracted from an article by leading Australian sustainability expert Prof. Peter Newman found here.
    bk wrote: »
    As for segregation, you can do that with BRT too, plenty of examples of fully segregated BRT's around the world. You just have to be willing to give up the road space to it. Something we struggle with in Dublin with the narrow streets.
    Thats what was said when the Luas was first proposed - "just use Bus Corridors". Yet now we have a functional east-west & north-south service that users now could never imagine going back. Just takes a bit of imagination and ingenuity.

    Its important to remember that light rail is a connecting service. It joins up corridors or links heavy rail stations to surrounding areas and sometimes completes shorter corridors that lack rail lines. Buses were filling these functions in most cities but failing on two fronts:
    • buses were not competing with cars so cities were filling with traffic
    • buses did not enable denser development to be viable so cities are sprawling rather than redeveloping.
    These things already exist, they are called buses.
    As a transport mode it has the speed (70kph), capacity (300 persons) and smooth ride quality of light rail, excellent disability access, train-like bogies with double axles and special hydraulics and tyres. In three years of trials no impact on road surfaces has been found.

    Did I mention that it can carry 300 people - sorry, I meant the standard ART system is three carriages that can carry 300 people, but it can take five carriages and 500 people if needed.

    But sure, you can call it an bus if you like. :rolleyes:
    RayCun wrote: »
    This 'autonomous' solution isn't -
    The autonomous features mean it is programmed, optically guided with GPS and LIDAR technologies, into moving very precisely with millimetre accuracy along an invisible track.

    The driver is more for safety. If an accident happens in the right of way of the tram, a “driver” can override the steering and go around. It can also be driven to a normal bus depot for overnight storage and deep battery recharge.
    bk wrote: »
    I don't see any advantage this has over a decent spec BRT.
    file-20180924-88806-u7yo20.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,995 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    wassie wrote: »
    Thats what was said when the Luas was first proposed - "just use Bus Corridors". Yet now we have a functional east-west & north-south service that users now could never imagine going back. Just takes a bit of imagination and ingenuity.

    Don't connect me with nonsense like that, that isn't what I was suggesting.

    Segregation is enforced by physically keeping cars out of a route. BRT can be badly spec'd in this regard or well spec'd. There are absolutely BRT routes around the world where the BRT's are completely segregated from the cars:

    Screen-Shot-2015-06-15-at-3.21.35-PM.png

    BRT.jpg

    Note in the above pictures how the BRT lanes are physically separated from the road and cars can't access the BRT lane. That is what I meant by a high spec BRT.

    As for your trackless trams, there really isn't anything special about them. They are just a BRT. They would require the same roadspace and forced segregation as the above pictured BRT. If you didn't have that separation, then cars could wonder into your "trackless tram" route no different then a bad spec'd BRT.

    The issue with Dublin is the lack of necessary dedicated space for this sort of segregation on our narrow streets. If you are going to give this sort of dedicated street space, then I'm of the opinion you'd be better off dedicating it to Luas


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,320 ✭✭✭✭ lawred2


    Good luck running them around Dublin's windy, narrow streets! There is also a lad driving one of them (admittedly, I didn't watch all 20 minutes)

    Don't get me wrong - I love the idea, but I don't think it is practical.

    Who on earth would design a system to wind around the inner city?

    Most of Dublin's primary routes are long and straight.

    People have legs for navigating the city center. Getting people into the city center to use their feet is what's important.


  • Registered Users Posts: 436 ✭✭ incentsitive


    lawred2 wrote: »
    Good luck running them around Dublin's windy, narrow streets! There is also a lad driving one of them (admittedly, I didn't watch all 20 minutes)

    Don't get me wrong - I love the idea, but I don't think it is practical.

    Who on earth would design a system to wind around the inner city?

    Most of Dublin's primary routes are long and straight.

    People have legs for navigating the city center. Getting people into the city center to use their feet is what's important.

    There was uproar recently when there was talk that someone might have to walk from Westmoreland Street or somewhere to Stephens Green due to College Green proposals. I wouldn't kid yourself that every bus passenger is able bodied!


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,661 ✭✭✭ Markcheese


    The Luas is already there great, the dart is there great, there's a series need for metro..
    And still there's a need for a lot more reliable public transport.. Call it quality Brts/ trolley buses/trackless trams it doesn't really matter it does the same job, and needs largely the same things
    . . a suitable dedicated road space (possibly with guides in narrow lanes)
    . . Proper platforms and ticketing (same as Luas)
    . . . enforcement ón routes and stops, (similar to Luas)
    ...... And decent acceleration for frequent stop starting...
    The big advantage over the Luas would be the ability to go around some obstacles, and easier to share some junctions /pinch points on the route with traffic,
    . ... Running cost and maintenance would probably be higher than Luas, but capital cost could be lower...
    It'd probably be possible to open a route in stages..

    Slava ukraini 🇺🇦



  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,995 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    Markcheese wrote: »
    The big advantage over the Luas would be the ability to go around some obstacles, and easier to share some junctions /pinch points on the route with traffic,

    I agree with most of what you say, but this is one bit I disagree with.

    I use to think the same, but I've now come to the realisation that flexibility in such systems, in particular in Irelands political environment is a major disadvantage.

    A BRT/Trackless Tram like the above are simply to easy for Irish people to ignore and for politicians to bend to local campaigning and suddenly you have the BRT/Trackless Tram route full of buses, taxis, cyclists, cars or the route redirected away from particular street onto less ideal routes.

    It is too easy for them to be interfered with.

    By comparison, IMO the beauty of Luas is that it is a big ass train on tracks, that simply can't be ignored or pushed out of the way or redirected once built. It has a real permanency and ends up having a big effect around it. You see regeneration of shops and buildings on and near the streets it runs and people opting to buy homes along it's line.

    I don't think a BRT/Trackless tram has anywhere near the same effect, because it is too easy for it to be gone tomorrow.

    Luas getting blocked is an argument for even higher segregation of Luas from traffic (more priority at junctions, rd light cameras, bollards separating Luas track from Road, removal of junctions with Metro, etc.), not for creating a more "flexible" tram that is forced onto different routes and even worse traffic.

    The point is, where we have space for proper segregation, then we should be building Luas. It is a very proven technology, works well here and we have lots of experience with it.

    What we don't need is even poorer solutions, with less segregation. We already know that it doesn't work.

    I mean the main complaint people have about Luas is that in the core city center, we should have built both the Red and Green lines as undergrounds. So with even more priority and segregation (and cost), not a cheaper, poorer solution.

    I don't think cost is a major issue for building new Luas lines. The issue is that we are running out of places with enough road space to put segregated lines. Maybe Lucan and a few extensions, but that is about it.

    I think the way ahead for us in Dublin is pretty clear:
    - Build Metrolink, DU and future fully segregated Metros
    - Extend and expand the Luas where there is road space to do so.
    - Make the most out of the rest of the bus network. BusConnects, dedicated bus lanes, off bus ticketing, multi door operations, zero driver ticketing, all that good stuff.

    The above trackless tram system has no place in Dublin. It might do in Cork, Galway, etc. but even there I think full segregation is more important then what vehicle is used. Also the battery tech in it seems poor, too little range and too long a charge. That would need to improve substantially if it is to work IMO.

    It is certainly an interesting technology and I hope it continues to develop. But I'd want to see it actually rolled out in a number of Chinese cities and maybe even a few European ones and actually used for a few years, before risking an unproven system like this.


  • Registered Users Posts: 436 ✭✭ incentsitive


    The problem in Ireland is we are completely unwilling to share the road or compromise with anybody. No sooner is BusConnects even mentioned than every TD in the country is getting a call from Mary Murphy that her bus into town is going to involve a change. TD then gets on The Last Word, Ivan Yates, etc and is whinging and moaning about it. (And if its not that its NIMBYISM regarding losing gardens, apartment blocks being built, etc).
    No sooner would a bus lane be built than cyclists or taxi drivers will be along sitting outside the Dail, blocking the road, etc complaining about their lot.
    The reality is, like it or lump it, there are parts of Dublin where everything can't be accommodated. A bus lane is often more important than a car lane. A cycle lane is more important than a bus lane in parts, but sometimes either isn't feasible.
    But in Ireland we can't seem to grasp the "share the road" concept at all. We just pandie to the group who shouts the loudest.
    Until we all agree to share the road, and stop being so selfish, getting anything done will always take an eternity. If a bus route needs to change to improve the service, or a cycle lane needs to be re-routed, or cars banned from certain areas, get over it.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 881 ✭✭✭ Bray Head


    I rode on the Transmilenio in Bogota, Colombia, a while ago.

    It is basically a tram on rubber wheels. The part I rode on had grade-separated junctions, and the stops were 1km or so apart. Passengers had to use overpasses or overbridges, a bit like heavy rail, and couldn't cross the 'tracks' on foot.

    Speeds seemed to get up to 70kmh or so and the ride was pretty uncomfortable at top speed. Frequency seemed to be every 5 mins or so.

    It seemed easy to build as they have extremely wide boulevards around the city. Apparently it was much cheaper to build than digging tunnels. They don't have much experience of rail in general in Latin America so getting the engineering experience could have been a problem.



    It really wouldn't work in Dublin except maybe on the N11 or N4 but couldn't come near the CC.


  • Registered Users Posts: 344 ✭✭ EnzoScifo


    bk wrote: »
    I agree with most of what you say, but this is one bit I disagree with.

    I use to think the same, but I've now come to the realisation that flexibility in such systems, in particular in Irelands political environment is a major disadvantage.

    A BRT/Trackless Tram like the above are simply to easy for Irish people to ignore and for politicians to bend to local campaigning and suddenly you have the BRT/Trackless Tram route full of buses, taxis, cyclists, cars or the route redirected away from particular street onto less ideal routes.

    It is too easy for them to be interfered with.
    Calls have been made for bus lanes to be opened up to all traffic on Saturdays to encourage more people into Belfast's beleaguered city centre in the run up to Christmas.

    Councillors and traders have called for the rules to be relaxed over the next six weeks, which are crucial for retail, so that consumers can drive to the shops without worrying about hefty fines or troublesome traffic jams.

    Belfast - recently named the UK's worst congested city - has recently experienced worsening snarl-ups across the road network, with many disgruntled motorists blaming bus lanes for exacerbating the problem.

    And now, following the Primark fire, which has devastated footfall and consumer spend over the last two months, there have been calls to ditch the Saturday bus lanes and open up the city to commerce this Christmas.

    Bus lanes on the Belfast Rapid Transit route in the city centre, which facilitates the city's brand new purple Gliders, operate from 7am until 7pm from Monday to Saturday.

    Retail NI boss Glyn Roberts said it would be a great imitative to allow all vehicles to use bus lanes on Saturdays and he stressed the importance of keeping bus lane timings in check.

    case in point :rolleyes:


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,320 ✭✭✭✭ lawred2


    EnzoScifo wrote: »
    Retail NI boss Glyn Roberts said it would be a great initative to allow all vehicles to use bus lanes on Saturdays and he stressed the importance of keeping bus lane timings in check.

    maybe his definition of initiative is different to mine but what he's describing is regressive


  • Registered Users Posts: 436 ✭✭ incentsitive


    bk wrote: »
    Segregation is enforced by physically keeping cars out of a route. BRT can be badly spec'd in this regard or well spec'd. There are absolutely BRT routes around the world where the BRT's are completely segregated from the cars:

    Great in principle and grand during rush hour, but what about taxis who are also allowed to use the bus lane? And what about the bulk of the day when the bus lane is open? And based on that picture you'd need to build a bridge to every stop to get pedestrians out to it.
    Also I've no idea how you are going to get that system to work in the city centre say.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,608 ✭✭✭ gctest50


    Monorail, be completly independent of traffic underneath it





  • Registered Users Posts: 23,320 ✭✭✭✭ lawred2


    certainly put Ogdenville, Brockway and North Haverbrook on the map


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,590 ✭✭✭ El Tarangu


    Great in principle and grand during rush hour, but what about taxis who are also allowed to use the bus lane?


    Banning taxis from selected bus lanes (or all bus lanes) would be the solution that leaps out to me in this instance.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 17,132 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Sam Russell


    EnzoScifo wrote: »

    Reading the article - if the point of opening the bus lanes is because of reduced traffic on Saturdays, then reduced traffic would be a contra-indication since there is less congestion and so less to be gained. Also, bus frequency is the same on Saturday as Mon-Fri. So, NO, the bus lanes continues Mon-Sat.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,661 ✭✭✭ Markcheese


    Great in principle and grand during rush hour, but what about taxis who are also allowed to use the bus lane? And what about the bulk of the day when the bus lane is open? And based on that picture you'd need to build a bridge to every stop to get pedestrians out to it.
    Also I've no idea how you are going to get that system to work in the city centre say.

    Usually for Brt, the only vehicles allowed on the lane at All are dedicated Brt buses and emergency vehicles... Some systems have concrete kerbs the width of the bus.. With guides or rollers on the bus, helps stop cars wandering into the lane..

    Slava ukraini 🇺🇦



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  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,995 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    Great in principle and grand during rush hour, but what about taxis who are also allowed to use the bus lane? And what about the bulk of the day when the bus lane is open? And based on that picture you'd need to build a bridge to every stop to get pedestrians out to it.
    Also I've no idea how you are going to get that system to work in the city centre say.

    That is why I mentioned high spec'd BRT versus low spec'd BRT.

    A High spec'd BRT would include complete bans on all other vehicles from the BRT lanes. No cars, taxis, bikes, possibly even other buses (coaches, etc.). Just the BRT vehicles and the lane physically separated from other traffic with concrete dividers, etc.

    Basically like a train route, but just without the actual tracks.

    I'd agree that their isn't much space in our cities for this sort of high spec solution and where there is, I fell we are better off going with Luas to avoid nonsense like what is mentioned above in Belfast.


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