The research project aims at investigating issues related to non-conventional (or advanced) Public Transport (PT) systems. The kinds of transport systems covered by the theoretical and applicative experimentation of this research refer to systems characterised by: automatic level of technology, not heavy infrastructure, modularity installation with element length of no more than 5-6 kilometers, transport capacities in the range of 1000-4000 passengers per hour.
Subjects potentially interested in installing non-conventional transport systems are committed to carefully evaluate the effects of those kinds of systems through proper 'Feasibility Studies' which constitute the necessary condition for accessing financial support and require authorisations by planning authorities. Potentially interested subjects can be mainly identified in: University Campus, Hospital and Health districts, congress centers, commercial centres, directional districts, tourist locations and other organisations and districts characterised by the spatial distribution of coordinated different activities. Even if in recent years several technological solutions have been proposed for non-conventional transport systems and are now available for practical use, tools and methodologies for the assessment and evaluation of those kind of installations seems to be not consolidated enough.
- a systematic classification, from the point of view of functions and performances, rather than of the technological solution, of the available systems is not yet available;
- indications on the fields and contexts of application of these systems have not been outlined;
- some particular aspects related to the simulation of non-conventional systems have not yet been adequately investigated by the Transport Systems Theory.
The research has been co-funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Scientific Research and has been carried out by four Italian universities, namely the 'Tor Vergata' University of Rome (coordinator), the 'Mediterranea' University of Reggio Calabria, the University of the Calabria, the University of 'Roma Tre'.
The research project intends to take a practical and scientific step basically into two directions:
- on the one hand, it aims at identifying the 'typical' contexts of application of the advanced Public Transportation systems and at classifying from a functional point of view and from the point of view of their performances in relation to such contexts;
- on the other hand, the research aims at investigating and at improving the methodological and scientific tools that are needed to realise 'Feasibility Studies' related to non-conventional advanced public transport systems (in fact, even if technological aspects of non-conventional transport systems have been widely investigated and several technological solutions are now available for practical uses, the development of simulation tools for evaluation of the particular effects of non-conventional transport systems is still an open issue of research).
The main steps followed to pursue the project objectives are:
- literature review of non-conventional transport systems;
- analysis of application potential to non-conventional systems of tools used for the design, simulation and analysis of transportation systems;
- experimental feasibility studies for implementation of non-conventional systems.
The research has produced a book (AA. VV. 2004 'Sistemi di trasporto non convenzionali: campi applicativi e analisi di fattibilità (Non-conventional transport systems: application fields and feasibility analyses)'. Laruffa Ed., Reggio Calabria, Italy) which reviews and reports on the existing experimentations and applications of non-conventional advanced public transport system all over the world and classifies them according not only to the technology-related issues but also to the contexts in which they can be realised according to the current legislation, to the transport and other economic desired impacts and to the financial viability.
Moreover, the possibility of utilising the existing methodological and scientific tools for the design, the simulation and the analysis of transport system also for non-conventional advanced public transport system has been investigated. Methodological and scientific issues covered within have covered among others:
- the methods and the tools for the representation/simulation of non-conventional transport systems and for the evaluation of their internal performances (supply models);
- the effects of the introduction of non-conventional transport systems on users behaviour with respect to mode choice and to tour frequency (in particular, the focus is on the effects on users' travel choices of those characteristics which are typically related to non-conventional transport systems, such as regularity, information to users, technological innovations, etc.);
- the models for the estimation of the number of users on the elements of the transit system (assignment models) and for the dimensional design;
- the models for the assessment and for the evaluation of the effects of non-conventional transport system, in particular, on the environment, on users' safety and on consumption.
To this aim four specific 'Experimental Feasibility Studies' for implementation of non-conventional PT systems have been carried out in four test-sites, identified with the University Campuses of the research units involved in the project. These studies have shown:
- the need of new tools (e.g. 3-Dimensional ones) for the representation of the advanced PT systems in order to analyse the physical and visual impacts on the environment and on the users' perception;
- the need of carrying out combined RP-SP (revealed preference - stated
Recommendations for further actions mainly concern the legislation and financial aspects related to the actual implementation of advanced PT systems in urban areas.
From the analysis carried out, it has emerged that many of the advanced systems developed and actually operating (mainly in leisure parks, or on other private grounds) do not comply with the current legislation regulating safety in public transport.
Moreover, from the experimental studies it has emerged that the financial viability of such innovative systems cannot be easily achieved without a substantial public co-funding into the investment cost. In fact, although the operative costs are less than those related to the traditional PT systems (e.g. bus) due to automated guide and the absence of drivers, the investment cost offered by the market for the innovative technologies are still very high due to absence of scale economies. This implies that the financial net present cost of traditional PT system is higher than the cost of such advanced PT systems only for ranges of service frequencies very high (i.e. greater than 20 vehicles/hour).