Boarding a train that never stops

Taiwanese inventor Peng Yu-Lun believes that trains are more energy inefficient than they have to be, hobbled ecologically by the totally unnecessary task of having to stop to pick up passengers. To counter the problem, he has invented a concept for a constantly moving train, or a "non-stop MRT system." Giddily, I imagined Japanese train pushers hurling people off of overpasses into huge nets, but his idea is even more ingenious: a top-mounted boarding shuttle that is scooped up when the train passes one station and automatically deposited when it reaches the next stop. It's a wonderful idea in concept — this sort of solution could potentially eliminate most train and subway delays — but what happens when some carousing subway roughs stand in the doorway of the passenger vehicle, preventing it from closing, while the rest of the shuttlecraft's passengers respond the only way they know how: with a co-ordinated attack of passive aggressive annoyance? And those shuttle crafts would have to be pretty big (and the trains even bigger) to accommodate Tokyo or New York City platform crowds. Inventor rolls out efficient non-stop train system [Taiwan Headlines via DVICE]
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15 Responses to Boarding a train that never stops

  1. Anonymous says:

    If the embarkation/disembarkation platforms were well above the track, you could mostly use gravitational potential energy to launch and stop the boarding shuttle. Just drop the outgoing shuttle down the ramp in front of the train so that it’s going almost as fast as the train, which will then catch up to it. The incoming shuttle detaches from the end of the train and comes up the ramp to a stop.
    For bonus points, ramps can be replaced with arms that grab the side of the shuttle and just swing it up off the tracks. I think the length of the arm comes out to G*v*v/2.

    Of course, if you made all your train stations high enough, you could start and stop whole trains efficiently. But you lose the speed advantage.

    Finally, for non-station boarding, I’ll suggest a platform attached to the side of the train than shoots from front to back, so it’s briefly stationary from the perspective of someone standing next to the tracks.

  2. Alpinwolf says:

    Asimov’s tale “Caves of Steel” featured the city-wide continuous moving sidewalk contraption. If I recall, each band had a speed differential slightly brisker than a walk (4 – 5 mph?), topping out at 65-ish, where you would find an endless train of enclosed cars. Wind was mentioned.

    There were also mentioned rare incidents of a “passenger” or whatever who tripped and tumbled, with moderate injuries, all the way back to one of the stationary platforms on the sides. One both boarded and disembarked from right to left, unless one was attempting to be evasive.

    I just spotted this tidbit mentioning a Scientific American concept for the same, only 118 years young:

    About the potential energy issue and high platforms, I’ve also always thought that freeways should all generally be sunken relative to their intersecting streets, or vicey-versey, for the same reasoning. Coming off a highway with a bursting-full delivery truck, and having to stop at the bottom of a downward off-ramp cam be a mite scary.

    Oh, and modern locomotove engines in the States (not counting urban public transit; that I dunno) are more or less hybrids already. They use diesel motors to generate eckeltricity, and drive the wheels with motor-generators. When “braking” the generated current is sadly dumped into ginormous resistors with huge HSF units, blowing out all the kinetic-turned-electrical energy off in heat. That’s what the big grates in the top are for.

    Personally, I think they need to strap in a bunch of gimballed-pair composite flywheels for energy storage to recover all that, perhaps in a re-purposed coal car?

  3. AlexG55 says:

    @Kaiza: That concept is already used for ski lifts. The chairs move slowly at the ends- and on some lifts at “stations” in the middle- for people to get on and off, and faster (so are further apart) in between.

  4. chicagojohn says:

    2 problems with this.

    1) what if I was on the fast train but wanted to get off at that station?

    2) the new passengers go from zero to xx mph instantly… I hope they are sitting down.

  5. byronba says:

    Chuck Steel @4 and Smurf @6

    I think your thinking of “The Roads Must Roll” by Heinlein.


  6. kaiza says:

    There’s a website that I can’t quite remember at the moment – basically people suggest ideas and concepts, which can then be discussed.

    Someone suggested a system similar to this, except that there is a constant flow of train carriages, or perhaps it was more similar to a travelator… People could get on because at stations the individual cars or sections of the travelator would contract, thus moving more slowly, allowing people to board.

    Now I just need to remember what the website is!

  7. johannes_georg says:

    The idea locks very nice but it solves only one problem.
    I know a idea that solves this and many other problems in the field of traffic engineering.
    Look at:

  8. gobo says:

  9. Itsumishi says:

    @Chicago John

    These are not problems.

    1) You work out what station you’re getting off at, then at the station beforehand change carriages. Much in the same way that on crowded trains you’ll need to get up and force your way to the door before arriving at the station to have any chance of getting off before the doors close again.

    2) No they don’t. They board the loading train which is stationary. It accelerates to 85mp/h and attaches itself to the main train.

    I think the system sounds quite viable although I think if you’re stations are too close together 85mp/h is still unrealistic as the boarding carriage still needs to reach this speed before attaching itself.
    Also instead of large trains I think you’d want lots more smaller trains to minimise the distance you have to travel along the actual train to get to the boarding/unloading car.

  10. Anonymous says:

    i think i saw something that does the same in a german engineering magazine bout 10+ years ago, which was called Rail-Volution iirc and worked by putting a small car onto the same track and speeding it up to the end of the train. passengers would exchange and the car would disconnect and slowdown to the next station. does not look as dangerous to me as that…

  11. Smurf says:

    Dunno about Asimov; I know the concept from Heinlein’s rolling cities. (In one short story, workers go on strike, stopping the fastest-moving belt, with predictable disastrous consequences since nobody thought to limit the speed difference in hardware.)

    More to the point, most of the energy from braking a trains can be recovered easily, simply by turning the motors into generators.

    For a concept like this to work, you’d need a whole new rail infrastructure in addition to present rail terminals. (Rail infrastructure in cities doesn’t allow high speed.)

    A bit of handwaving in the general direction of my calculator suggests that this will be WAY more expensive, in terms of both money and energy, than all of the power you’d be able to save with such a scheme in the next umpty-dumpty years.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Even more important than the energy savings would be the time savings of such a system. The Acela Express reaches its top speed of 150 mph only in two short stretches; the rest of the time, it’s either accelerating or decelerating into or out of stations. Thus, it averages just 66 MPH from Boston to NYC. Eliminating not only the station stops but the accel/decel zones would speed the trains considerably.

    Variable-speed moving belts are (or were?) running in the Paris Metro, called the Trottoir Roulant Rapide (Fast Moving Walkway). Three different belts got you through the Montparnasse transfer tunnel faster. Someone walking at a brisk pace could go 9 mph!

    Many electric rapid transit trains (like the NYC subway) already use regenerative braking; the electricity is fed back into the grid.

  13. rosyatrandom says:

    @ #4 – Chuck Steel

    I believe that’s from The City And The Stars

  14. Anonymous says:

    I also hope they are in enclosed space because once you get pase 15-20 MPH the wind gets rather annoying.

  15. Chuck Steel says:

    This made me think of the train systems in one of Asimov’s books. I can’t remember if it was in Prelude to Foundation or one of the Robot novels. In his system there are belts which move at various speeds. Those closest to the platform move very slowly, those in the middle move much faster. You progress from belt to belt to move faster and faster along the path. The longer your journey, the faster you’d want to go.

    You could possibly accomplish the same thing with trains and a clever way to move from one to another. Unfortunately, though, most folks would be too clumsy/stupid to figure it out and the threat of injury would never allow this to happen in the States.

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