On October 16, 2015, groups in Dr. Tawfik’s Transportation Engineering laboratory were prompted to hypothesize what a company or developer might need to do during the planning process of implementing a Solar Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system in Fresno, California. The main question that the groups needed to ask themselves was, “What variables will you need to estimate the impact on a transportation system by the PRT project?”
Each of the groups had their own unique ways of interpreting this question. The group that I was a part of wanted to try and identify the variables necessary to evaluate the destination routes, economic evaluation, effects on transportation system, repercussions, and target year. We broke these categories up into two parts. We figured that to make any estimates, we would need to know what kind of data would be needed and a plan on how to collect that data.
The destination route data we would need was population density for various zones in the city, current and future land development, and current location of bus stations. We figured that we could collect said data using census records, speaking with city planners, surveying the population and research current popular bus stations. Group number 5 also had a great idea that pertains to routing decisions. They proposed contacting employers and asking them where their employees lived. This would help them plan for future commuting of employees.
Our group hypothesized that to estimate the economic evaluation we would need to estimate cost of construction per mile, profit, maintenance costs, and efficiency. We figured that a material analysis would be necessary to estimate cost per mile. We could use projected usage rates to estimate profit and to estimate maintenance and efficiency we would contact previous pilot programs and ask them about their current economic data. Group 2 stated that if public approval was not extremely high, we would need to have a long line of investors to fund the project initially.
To estimate the effects on the transportation system, we theorized that we would need quantify the number of people using public transportation currently, what other forms of transportation people are using, and number of people walking or biking for commuting purposes. To collect this information, we could utilize surveys, contact public offices, and again contact previous PRT programs. Group 3 proclaimed that the implementation of this PRT system would reduce traffic on roads therefore reducing maintenance necessary on the roads.
What could possibly be repercussions of this system though? My group argued that we would need to analyze other PRT systems in use so that the repercussions of the system would not be based on pure insight but have defined fact behind it. We thought that surveying the population of cities of whom have PRT systems and see what they thought about the pros and cons. Group 4 believed that there would be a decrease in emissions due to the lower amount of cars in use. This would be a positive repercussion however there would be negative as well. With this system being solar, there would have to be legislation implemented to ensure sunlight exposure to the power cells. This could have a negative repercussion on new infrastructure because there would be a limit to how tall a building could be.
My group believed that this project would be a “medium” time span project meaning that it would take 10 to 15 years from the first days of planning to the final days of construction.