Last Night at Smart Cities
Last night, at the We Work White House, the Smart Cities Group https://www.facebook.com/smartcitiesgroup/?fref=nf
coalition presented information on how we can make our cities “Smarter”. I was a presenter so expect bias here – but the event went GREAT. Please visit the web and see all the great things Smart Cities is up to. Here are my remarks and the takeaway info I provided to the audience! Smart Cities Presentation
The Invention of the Internal Combustion Engine Changed Everything.
So will its removal…
Welcome, My name is Karl Spain and I’d like to thank Bill and everybody at the Smart Cities Group for having me here today, and of course Stephanie for all her hard work making tonight happen.
The Gramercy project, and all master planned projects, represent more than a business opportunity to our world, they represent a way for humans to live healthier, more productive, happier lives.
Our environment, and THE Environment, both critically matter.
As the inventor of Freedomwalk, I tried to keep this concept front and center in my thinking at all times.
But, I will admit, FW is also about looking backward at what does not work, what we are doing wrong in our dense city centers, AND how much collateral damage these old systems do — and finally, how modern technology can change that.
To illustrate I want to read a short tidbit just published in a Manhattan news source.
Brandon Gollotti is done with living off the L train.
He’s tired of the overcrowding and he doesn’t trust the state will have effective contingency plans in place for the 15-month L train shutdown between Brooklyn and Manhattan beginning in 2019.
So, he and his girlfriend are moving this month from their building on the Williamsburg waterfront to a building in Downtown Brooklyn.
“Generally, we had to wait for five or six trains to pass before we could get on an L train. It was a total nightmare,” said Gollotti, a 29-year-old commercial real estate broker who works in Manhattan. “With the closure, things are going to get worse.”
Access to transit has always been one of the biggest considerations when it comes to real estate decisions according to Leonard Steinberg, president of brokerage firm Compass, who said the problems with the overall aging infrastructure of the subway and rail system have reinforced the popularity of neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, which are walk-able and bike-friendly.
I used this press example to begin todays presentation because it’s so fresh — but I could have chosen any ONE of hundreds of examples – and the underlying message is always the same – existing transportation systems for dense city centers are overcrowded, expensive to use, slow, and most importantly – literally cost a fortune – build, repair, change, and/or upgrade.
Worse yet, costs per rider/per trip, when over subscribed – actually climb in all these legacy systems — because they are not scalable.
FW was designed to be massively scalable because it is carriage free, which also eliminates pollution, rolling resistance, wind resistance, and is largely terrorist proof.
This new and unique idea builds on ideas as old as cities themselves.
Throughout human history, as Caesar Augustus proved by cementing his hold over the ancient world by building cities all over his kingdom — any people essentially — given the productivity tool kit most cities offer, don’t just prosper, they prosper famously compared to their non-city dweller competitors.
Cities create productivity levels humans cannot achieve any other way and those high productivity levels are the source of all human wealth HOWEVER, this path upward has not been a steady climb in recent decades — The Internet and computer connectivity in general, coupled with the widespread use of the automobile challenged that concept in the U.S. (and around the world) for the last 40 years – as suburban sprawl became both a huge development wave – and a threat to our vital cities — siphoning off tax dollars, intellectual talent, and even many corporate headquarters.
Existing cities were then left with high crime rates, declining economic conditions, and worst of all, transportation infrastructure that is too expensive to maintain or even RUN, cannot exist without subsidies, does not move enough people, is slow when it does move – and pollutes at such a rate — cities are literally becoming unlivable where the densities are highest. In some developing countries like China, this has reached crisis stage.
Freedomwalk SOLVES EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE PROBLEMS.
How can it do that?
First, we eliminate the carriage all together. No more 2 ton machines being pushed up a hill to get a 1 lb loaf of bread at the 7-11, no more wheels at all, no more sticky rubber tires, no more internal combustion engines – with FW we eliminate the carriage, or chassis, or body of the device all together.
Freedomwalk commuters will traverse a city like Manhattan or Gramercy, on foot, traveling on an innovative, high tech, low cost, pollution free, modern solution that gets them to their destination faster than a car, without the car.
How will they get there? On a new type of moving sidewalk that will have: multiple lanes, is covered from rain, snow, and has sidewalls, so the air can be conditioned. The fastest lanes of this walk will travel up to 30 mph and do not stop for cross traffic.
That is correct, because FW is built at the 30 foot level, above the streetscape, this solution even addresses the HOLY GRAIL of traffic and transportation-engineering problems – cross street-traffic wait times.
Imagine a city where every light was green, all the stop signs were gone — all the time — and you the commuter, NEVER had to stop until YOU decided to get off the walk because you were near your destination.
Remarkably, Freedomwalk does all of this with a technology that has existed for decades, and has been used reliably for as long.
Freedomwalk is not a typical one-lane moving sidewalk that must be entered from one end and then exited from the other, with a bouncy set of walking pads borrowed from an escalator in between.
You get on, and off, a Freedomwalk lane from the curbside of the stationary sidewalk. Once you step on the first slow moving lane, you are on a giant, precision machine, spanning the width of a traditional roadway with 10 (or more) seamless walking lanes traveling in one direction. Each of these lanes travel side by side down a maglev rail bed hidden beneath the walk surface.
A rain and snow canopy also covers the entire walk — 20 to 30 feet over the heads of the walkers — with enclosing sidewalls where building walls don’t provide sides. There is an 8-foot high center divider, with a safety rail running along it at the speed of the fastest lane. On the other side is the other 10 lanes running in the opposite direction. Air is blown out of special ducts, which also line the divider on both sides, in the direction of the walk movement, lowering wind resistance for walkers in the fastest lanes.
The lanes themselves start out very slowly, just a 2.5 mph per lane increase for the first 3 or 4 lanes, but these entrance slow lanes, designed to accommodate even handicapped and elderly commuters — are connected to lanes with slightly faster (3.5 mph) speeds through the middle of the walk – that themselves transition to the fast lanes, the fastest of which can be going 33 mph.
Of course, since our walkers have gotten to these faster lanes gradually, (they never experience any change greater than 3.5 mph per lane, a speed they can EASILY match with their own walking speed), our Freedomwalk commuters never experience vertigo or dizziness. FW is really an exercise in relativity theory.
Imagine being able to walk — or have the sidewalk carry you if you are disabled — over 13 miles from one end of Manhattan, to the other, in less than 25 minutes — a trip that currently takes between 70 minutes and an hour and a half regardless of whether you travel by car, bus, or subway.
Since travelers in a Freedomwalk city will be able to walk even a large city in a short time, without a vehicle, millions of people will be able to give up using subways, buses, cars, taxis, and even school busses, as they travel around on a FW that not only promotes human health (walking), it will promote city health.
The FW concept is driven by the existing design of modern cities, which emphasize steel, glass and concrete construction, and currently produce high efficiency buildings (in the vertical plane) offset or encumbered by very low horizontal efficiency.
When these tall buildings connect to the ground, where the roads and bridges also physically exist and the subway tunnels emerge, this efficiency number just goes down as the costs for fixing this horizontal layer continue to sky-rocket because of the complexity of changing anything in such an already heavily developed environment.
Currently, any repairs, cause transportation chaos — as well as exploding costs because there is no way to improve these resources without simultaneously taking some of this precious horizontal layer out of service.
Freedomwalk is designed to alleviate these problems because it’s built ABOVE this existing horizontal street layer, in the air rights most cities already own over their thoroughfares.
The maglev rail system, already used successfully as a train system in Spain, France, and Japan, eliminates rolling resistance and wind resistance, the biggest factors driving cars, trains, subways and busses down to a fleet average of only 24 mpg, a level we have been stuck at essentially since the internal combustion engine was invented.
FW travelers will be able move 2,400 miles on the equivalent of one gallon of fuel as opposed to that 24 mile number the old way — and since maglev systems are completely electrical – they do not add to pollution levels with exhaust fumes.
Long covered walkways enable us to blow out conditioned air on the backs of the walkers in the fast lanes, lowering their relative wind resistance. Commerce and transportation will literally never stop in FW corridors.
In northern latitude cities, FW will add entire days, and even weeks – for additional work, commerce, school and play — by allowing inner city travel all year round as opposed to seasonal productivity surges when weather permits and people can finally move around.
ThyssenKrupp of Sweden has built a working model in Spain — of a maglev walkway that uses drop in bricks, like mine does, and while this machine leaves a lot to be desired as opposed to a Freedomwalk, the engineering has been proven.
I have included a link to their project on the Takeaway sheet I am providing at the end of the talk today, along with links to many other data sources supporting this presentation.
FW uses long (10 feet), stainless steel plated blocks to make up the walking surface. They will weigh less than a ton per block and therefore will not be much of a challenge for this robust industrial maglev train technology and can probably even use much of the same software, chip sets, computer servers and system componentry currently used by the maglev rail systems.
FW will also usher in a new era of growth, all along the new horizontal layer, which can be built at 20, 30 or even 40 feet.
Allowing people to live and travel in a city without a car at all, and with substantially lower transportation costs, will accomplish another important goal for these dense and in some cases blighted cities – it closes up the income inequality gap currently burdening the middle and lower economic classes.
They simply cannot afford to live, work, commute and/or recreate close to a major city because — all of these people spend a much higher percentage of their take home pay on transportation costs than do the rich.
Freedomwalk enables these classes of people to re-enter city life, not just as serfs to the transportation costs and increased taxes necessary to commute, but also as residents with money still in their pockets after getting around.
I only have ten minutes, so I’m going to pause here and ask for questions.
Welcome to our Freedomwalk presentation. As time constraints restrict what we can cover today, I’ve prepared a packet for further data gathering!
Transit Times for NYC — Transit modes combined
This first site you can visit is an interactive map of NYC with transit times (all combinations!) displayed from any starting point and a destination you select. Just point and click — you don’t need to enter an address or anything like that. You should visit this URL and play with this site; it’s fascinating and informative, but basically it makes one point painfully clear: transit times in the Big Apple are unacceptably long no matter what combination of transit alternatives you use. You can’t click through on this URL, but if you copy it and paste to the browser, you can get through.
The GM Debacle
This second article from years ago is the story of how GM bought up the mass transit assets of many major cities, transit systems that worked, and dismantled them, in the hope of selling more cars. This was a great tragedy and points out the importance of dense city center solutions that are not centered on private automobiles. This URL clicks through.
Tolls are Strangling Mobility
Traffic and Toll revenue for Maryland. This site lists and categorizes the toll data for Maryland by year – note how much the Express Lane category has surged (85% increase) recently, as people dig deeper and deeper into their pockets to travel roads which were once free to travel. This makes it harder and harder for the middle and lower income classes to keep working. Note how much, even in MD, the inner city bridges and tunnels collect of the total. This URL clicks through.
This next article by Columbia University in NYC is a fascinating look at how much energy mega-cities like NYC use and what they use that energy to do. The big takeaways are how much high-energy use drives up water use and how much more efficiently all this could be done if we had efficient mass transit systems — and most importantly, how this presentation’s main point – that these systems are not scalable – is a fact. As noted, the more riders get on, the more INEFFICIENT these systems become. One summary quote is below, if you want to skip the article, but if not, the URL clicks through.
“It is expected that 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Many environmentalists believe urban living has the potential to be inherently more sustainable, but the megacities report reveals that this is not necessarily so. When megacities become wealthy, they consume and waste more per capita. Megacities produce almost 12.6 percent of the world’s waste, though they comprise only 6.7 percent of the global population. The average New Yorker uses 24 times more energy than a typical Kolkata resident, and produces 15 times as much solid waste.”
This next URL is for the entire article I excerpted from DNAInfo in NYC — for today’s presentation.
Why Roads just won’t work going forward
This site is all about paving: how it’s done, what equipment they use, etc. I include it because it’s useful to look carefully at how we currently fight the problem of traffic. Most people are not aware WHY roads and other transportation projects cost so much, but one look at the process of grinding off, removing, and then repaving over a single lane of traditional roadway makes it clear that this technology solution is badly outdated.
Why Tunnels also won’t work
This next article is very telling. It literally calls Elon Musk’s plan for tunnels UNDER cities to move cars crazy. I agree of course and the author’s point is well made in this piece — for a variety of reasons, including practicality and cost. This is currently the only OTHER proposed solution to Freedomwalk.
More on why Tunnels just won’t work
I don’t want to beat a dead horse (plus I like Musk), but here is another must-read article on those tunnels, but it goes further than just calling them a bad idea. This article stresses the danger of embracing ideas like this – which draw attention and money away from more practical ideas (like Freedomwalk) that are scalable, affordable, and don’t require years of tunneling.
Proof of Concept from ThyssenKrupp
Although the sidewalk mentioned here in this article does not work the way Freedomwalk is designed to, it does prove the concept, namely that maglev will work at this scale and that people can maintain their balance on sidewalks traveling at higher speeds. Note how ThyssenKrupp tries to overcome the speed change problem by making the walk itself change speeds. This is a bad idea, works against how humans keep their balance, and is problematic because it forces a very complicated engineering solution. Freedomwalk does not change the speed of the block once the walker steps on and does not force the walker to either “hop” off at a point that will trip the person if he or she doesn’t execute, or “hop” on at the beginning.
Freedomwalk’s side entry design allows the commuters to set the walking speed to the lane desired and than walk over to their left — onto a block they are synchronized with. This is how humans operate every day and is comfortable for them to do, with little or no practice. Freedomwalk also does not change size beneath their feet. It is notable that this article is in The International Railway Journal — it is advanced train technology at the core of this invention.
Freedomwalk Lane Chart
The following chart is a more detailed look at how lane speeds and configuration models could handle many different priorities on the same system. The first column, Relative lane speed, represents the RELATIVE difference in speed per lane, as a walker would progress out onto the walk.
Note how slow the lane speeds are on the entrance side of the walk. They are purposely set far below a normal person’s walking speed, allowing entrants to MATCH their walking speed (walking on the stationary sidewalk next to the Freedomwalk) to the first lane’s speed before stepping on. Note this is done to the walker’s left, not DIRECTLY ahead! This is a critical difference in how Freedomwalk works, compared to a regular moving sidewalk, which essentially forces the walker to leap onto the walk and then leap off again where the treads end.
The second column is net MPH to the ground, or total travel speed. This number may seem slow, but remember, Freedom-walkers don’t stop for cross traffic, meaning a net speed of just 13 mph in Lane 5, on such a walk would be the equivalent in TIME required — for normal carriage-based travel trip time — of driving 60 mph on a roadway or transit system – but with stops for cross traffic or traffic congestion.
The lane number column is next, followed by a column showing the net speed traveled if the Freedomwalk commuter continued walking forward while on the walk at an average speed of 3.5 mph. As you can see, this makes the top speed of a commuter who walks out into the fastest lanes and keeps walking, at over 35 mph!
The next column is lane layout, showing lanes 3 and 7 as Lanes designated for people who want to do the opposite: get out on the walk and then stand as they travel forward. These lanes have an SSSSSSS symbol in them on the chart below.
The elderly, and people with disabilities, will be able to use Freedomwalk easily in this configuration, adding to their mobility, not detracting from it.
Each “Block” in the FW, will have a special surface etched into the top to provide traction for shoes, and special laser cut holes, small enough for liquids to pass through but solid enough even for stiletto heels.
Beneath this special surface, will be a cavity, designed to catch any spilled liquids. The Blocks will be turned around at the end of the walk, emptied of anything in the catch basin and cleaned, a process that will take them through a specially designed cleaning system.
Each block will be “smart” talking to the central controller’s about speed, condition of the equipment, etc. Each block will have an undercarriage with a set of steel wheels – a supplemental support and rolling system — designed to keep the block moving if power, the maglev mechanics, and/or computers fail. Although the walk would come to a slow halt in this mode, eventually, this emergency system will be there to gradually slow down and stop the moving segments with people still on them, at a rate of decline that doesn’t represent an injury threat to the people on the walk at the time of failure.
The cross streets bisecting the walkway, underneath the walkway, will be covered in special bomb suppressive plating, like that used by bomb disposal units and airport screeners, preventing car bombs and even truck bombs from being able to explode the walkway from beneath, although I would restrict truck traffic in these lanes, to approved trucks, with special permits tied to a pre-vetting process.
Even if a successful terrorist attack using guns or knives occurred on the walkway, every month, the lives saved by eliminating automobile trip deaths and injuries from the normal operation of the FW — would offset this total many times over.