By Kate Engel
The Kirkland Symposium was held on Saturday, February 8, 2014 with good attendance. The agenda consisted of a brief Welcome and Introductions by Darcy Nothnagle, Public Affairs and Government Relations Managers, Western Region, Google (in whose building the meeting took place). She emphasized that Google promotes a ‘green’ environment and greatly supports the efforts that will be discussed in the Symposium since they will be directly affected by the decisions made in Kirkland.
This was followed by some brief comments on the theme of ‘Suburban Transit Innovations’:
Mayor Amy Walen, City of Kirkland
Mayor Amy Walen wants to find ways to make transit happen sooner and applauds the goals of the symposium! She set the theme ‘Why Not Us?’ and ‘Why Not Now?’ as the Cross Kirkland Corridor theme for innovation.
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, 1st Congressional District of Washington
Strongly agreeing with Mayor Walen, Suzan DelBene applauded the areas’ “incredible spirit of innovation” and creativity, as well as a community of risk-takers. She agrees that the vision for Kirkland is ‘futuristic’ and believes that Kirkland will build a world-class, public amenity.
Kurt Triplett, City Manager, City of Kirkland
Kurt, the Symposium’s organizer, also believes that the NW region is one of great innovations. He continued to tout the ‘Why Not Us’ theme of the symposium. He challenged attendees to ‘use our imaginations to move forward’, and reminded all why we are here. He asked: ‘How do we create brand new, clean, green, transportation technologies that fit into the suburbs, that don’t have emissions, that are quiet, and don’t need gas.” He showed existing Kirkland transportation modes, but highlighted the ‘gaps’ that need to be discussed today. Planning for today and future is an important component in meeting the demands in the timely matter.
The rest of the day was split into 4 panels with multiple speakers in each followed by a brief Q&A session. Here is a brief summary of those panels and speakers, in order of presentation:
Panel 1: The Corridor Connections to our Regional Transportation System facilitated by Mark Hallenbeck, Director, UW Washington State Transportation Center
Mark emphasized what a wonderful opportunity we have to build something great here! However, we must support our Public Servants in getting the public to, literally, ‘buy’ into whatever we come up with.
Judy Clibborn, Chair, House Transportation Committee, Washington State Legislature
Judy discussed the intricacies of government funding for transportation, and the battle for funds. She advised of the newest ‘Senate package’ coming out next week that will provide needed funding for the 520 Highway, no tolling on I90, and a number of major projects based on freight mobility. To get packages approved, there is a lot of compromise. They must concentrate on completing existing projects as well as maintaining existing roadways. They also compete with non-transit needs such as education (which is a mandatory expenditure). She continues to champion the way for funding transportation, but asks local governments to keep pushing to find creative ways to fund transit needs.
Lorena Eng, P.E. Regional Administrator, Northwest Region, Washington State Department of Transportation
Lorena Eng announced the new governor’s mission: ‘Be the best at providing a sustainable and integrated, multi-modal transportation system’. The value is to view innovation as ‘sustainability’ with goals for modal integration and smart technology. She featured current integrations of ‘smart technology’ in the area that support the commitment to an innovative future in line with the goals of this symposium.
She asked: How can we build on the technology that’s out there? And how can we link the new technology to existing transit: buses, rail, streetcar, ferries…. Input from this symposium will go into their ‘plan’!
Trinity Parker, Depart of Planning, Environment and Project Development, Sound Transit
Filling in for Ric Ilgenfritz, Trinity Parker explained the Sound Board has 18 people who meet, discuss, and determine needs for the area. They gather demographic data to determine needs – highlighting population employment areas and how to connect them. Plans are already in the mix to increase Light Rail by 2023 to 33 stations, 14 cities and over 280,000 riders/day – up from current 30,000. This Sound Board as the ability to fund future projects, and estimates that by the end of 2014, they could start the steps to get the ‘Cross Kirkland Corridor’ on the ballot for funding.
Harold Taniguchi, Director, Department of Transportation, King County
Harold’s concerns include all modes of transportation, from Ferries to Vanpools. Sales Tax is the predominate factor in the revenue structure and the recent economic downturn affected their spending, requiring them to ‘buckle’ down and make changes accordingly. King County already offers a huge variety of transit modes including: Vanpools, Vanshares, DART, Dial-a-ride, Water taxis, Rideshares, hybrid-electric buses, electric trolley/bus fleet, Metro-pool, and they are installing electric stations. They have re-assessed needs based on new ridership studies, but believe that with more service comes more riders, and they have come up with an elaborate, methodical method for determining service levels and demands which will help propel them into the future.
Panel 2: Introduction to Advanced Transportation Technology, facilitated by Dr. Stanley E Young, President, Advanced Transit Association, University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology
Dr Young gave a general overview of PRT:
-Typically small vehicles (- 4 passengers)
-Direct origin to destination
-3 Second headway
He also defined ATN as a more inclusive term for automated transit.
So, what about automated vehicles? And how will that affect our transit concepts? Although not a big discussion here today, but certainly something to consider. He also offered up some ideas for ATN as an activity center circulator and major transit feeder, or as a Transit Interconnect as being discussed as options in the D.C. area.
Peter Muller, President, PRT Consulting
There are currently 3 systems in use today, with data and statistics to validate concerns. Each system operates a bit differently:
- Masdar City, Abu Dhabi (4 passengers)
- London, Heathrow Airport, U.K. (4 PAX + luggage)
- Suncheon, Korea (6 PAX seated, 6 standing)
Mr. Muller also explained the statistical comparisons between these
systems. He showed results from numerous studies in the US and abroad that indicate the high level of service of ATN will dramatically increase overall transit mode share.
David Gow, Editor, PRT NewsCenter
Addressing GRT (Group Rapid Transit), David explained that GRT lies somewhere between PRT and mass transit (e.g. Bus/Streetcar/LRT/Metro/Intercity). He gave us a ‘history’ of GRT, starting in the 1960s when the Urban Mass Transit Admin was formed and tasked with ‘PRT Implementation’. The resulting “STARR Car” was promoted and demoed in Morgantown, WV (due to political connections of the US Rep there). There were trials and tribulations (including locking Julie Nixon in the car during the highly publicized introduction), but eventually Morgantown became one of the first successes of PRT/GRT, linking campus for the UWV. It is still in existence today!
Panel 3: Opportunity for Emerging Technology on the Cross Kirkland Corridor, facilitated by Steve Marshall, Executive Director, Center for Advanced Transportation and Energy solutions
With the focus on emerging technologies, Steve emphasized the need to provide accident-free, congestion-free, lower-cost, green transportation in the future. We are looking at huge changes in transit that the CKC can help bring in from the future! He challenged the panel to discuss 3 Qs:
What other cities are using this ‘futuristic’ transit?
Do any systems meet the CKC requirements?
What the opportunities for expansion?
Jo Klinski, Chief Operating Officer, LEVX
As a local NW company, LEVX has long integrated smart technology into their company focus. They focused on replacing weight-bearing wheels with magnetic levitation. She explained what their technology could look like in CKC.
- The system would operate above ground with minimal structural needs, adding to safety, land usage efficiencies, and possible additional bonuses (restrooms for pedestrian/cycle paths).
- Bi-directional guideways, with options for a variety of vehicle sizes; from 6 PAX to 80 PAX – operating on the same track, thus filling needs for high-demand times vs low-demand.
- Options for freight vehicles on the same track.
- Ability to extend into Redmond and additional communities beyond.
- Low energy usage, as well as being non-electric (stills runs even if the local power goes out)
Estimated data provided that shows a Renton to Woodville/Redmond line, end to end, would be FASTER than driving HWY 405 the same distance!
Robert Baertsch, EVP Software Engineering, SkyTran
The BIG Question? How do you fund these systems? Robert challenged that cost is directly connected to the weight, and SkyTran provides an excellent alternative to higher-cost, heavier systems. The SkyTran vehicles holds only 2 passengers, keeping weight, hence, costs, down.
The fundamental differences with SkyTran from other PRTs is SPEED! SkyTran provides a 2 speed guideway that allows for an inner-city speed of 40mph and a ‘suburban’ speed of 100mph. Like RevX, it operates on a magnetic elevation system or magnetic ‘wings’. Their aluminum rails are simple to manufacture, also at a lower cost. The guideways are narrower (4 feet wide) and boasts the option to be ‘hanging’ or ‘top riding’ . Using solar power is also an easy add-on with the less-intrusive, minimal infrastructure needed to support SkyTran. He emphasized that SkyTran is FAST, SAFE, GREEN, and ENERGY efficient.
Neil Sinclair, Chairman, CyberTran International Inc.
A group of engineers were tasked to define the needs and abilities for the best solution to high-cost, efficient transit, and they came up with utilizing old and new technology. They combined the traditional ‘steel wheel on steel rail’ system used today with the smart technology of the future to suggest an ‘ultra-light rail system’. This would be a combination local, commuter, and high-speed system that can travel FAST (150mph), with an optimum capacity of 6-30 passengers, and could run on electric or solar energy. Stations might also include TOD. The last slide depicts a modern vision for the CKC.
Steven Dale, Founding Principal, Creative Urban Projects
Cable-propelled transit has been around for years…and it just gets better! This is a PROVEN system that boasts of lower costs, faster implementation, and a bit of ‘flare’. Images of falling off ski-lifts as a child meld with the newer, bigger, cable-car systems in use today: Medellin, Columbia (now in its’ 3rd phase addition), Sentosa, Singapore (one station built into an existing high-rise), Roosevelt Island, NY (recently renovated). Cable transit is one of the fastest growing technologies in the world today, with Latin America as its ‘epicenter’. It is, again, a PROVEN system with lower implementation costs, less invasive, and with a bit of ‘tourism’ added in, possibly profitable.
Panel 4: Case Studies: Implementation of Advanced Transit Systems, facilitated by Jon Pascal, Principal, Transpo Group; Chair, Kirkland Planning Commission
Jon Pascal challenged:
How do we get beyond the academic side? What does it take to implement an advanced transit system? What are the things that regional and local areas need to think about? And how do we operate it over time?
Ron Swenson, Co-Founder, International Institute of Sustainable Transportation
It takes a lot of different players to come up with the best solutions, and incorporating Universities into the mix (as they have done in Europe and Mexico) is an excellent option. Ron’s group issued a challenge to universities to come up with ideas, and the results were amazing. Industrial Design students, Urban Planning students, and even MBA students offered input. Some of the results of their efforts showed:
- Solar power should be used (yes, even in Seattle)
- Speed, end to end, should be better than driving.
- There should be a ‘direct’ connect (bypass any ‘center point’)
- Vehicles should be suspended for narrower, less invasive design
Ron stressed that we all need to raise the bar to succeed!
Laura Stuchinsky, Sustainability Officer, City of San Jose Transportation Department (virtual)
Tasked with Project Management of a feasibility study to connect the SJC airport with existing transit, Laura determined that the original idea of APM connecting underground was too expensive, but a form of PRT was more flexible and less costly.
- Better quality of service (could actually provide additional stops/advantages for passengers)
- Capital Costs were lower
- O & M costs were similar to bus shuttles
- Exceeded proven capabilities
- Costs and Risks high until 1) Refine/Confirm capabilities and business cases and 2) US regulation requirements are established
Conclusion: The City of San Jose turned down the options as there are too many ‘unknowns’; however, the City of San Jose does see ATN/PRT as a viable options for future projects, and they have actually identified several locations for future discussion.
Fred Payne, County Councilmember, Greenville, South Carolina
Self-professed academic, non-bureaucratic civil servant, Fred Payne, discussed how they used Steven Covey’s 7 ‘habits’ to come up with a plan for implementing PRT. Using the end goal of GreenvilleVillages Development helped them plan their implementation for a multi-modal transit system utilizing 3.4 miles of railroad track they purchased. This systematic process, along with a lot of research will propel Greenville, SC into the future!
Moti Pinhassi, Urban and Regional Planner, City Center Renewal Division, Netanya Municipality, Israel (virtual)
As a University student, Moti was challenged by a Professor to ‘show the future’ in the year 2050. He came up with a design of a downtown street that held no cars, just a park with an elevated, ATN system.
When he looked online, he found it already existed, and that shaped his future endeavors. He now works in Netanya, Israel and is working on a solution for transit within this town ‘divided’. Like Kirkland, a major highway separates the 2 sides of the town – old town and new. The old town suffers from congestion and a lack of parking, which prohibits growth and deters prospective visitors. Moti believes that PRT is a viable solution to their space and structural challenges, and will promote PRT as their best option.
Peter Muller, President, PRT Consulting
Once again, Peter Muller joined in to show case studies of actual comparisons of PRT to other modes of transit. He provided statistics on PRT vs Circular Bus, BRT (Greenville), LRT (Denver), Rail (Chicago), and Ft Carson (Colorado).
Each instance showed positive impact when choosing PRT – both in the efficiency and cost factors for implementation.
This concluded the panel discussions, and what ensued were open, facilitated discussions. To view in its entirety, View Here…