Tag Archives: Innovative Transportation Systems

Solutions to India’s transportation problems (2014)

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My original blog article in 2011 about Solutions to India’s transportation problems was a huge success. We got thousands of readers and it was fun to write as well. So, I am writing a different version of the same article in 2014 with some new and exciting ideas to help India win the battle of congestion.

My original article had practical ideas like removing the seats from buses so that more people could squeeze in them and have vinal compartments in the buses so that each person would have a private standing area! I hope that idea gets a standing ovation! I wrote about having moving walkways in long indoor corridors like they do at many international airports which would be a fast way to get around downtown areas. Mini-buses were on the list as they could arrive more frequently at designated stops. Luxury buses were my attempted to get the upper class out of their cars and into a more space-efficient mode of transportation that would reduce traffic. My final zany idea was a snake train and you really must read about that.


Here are some more innovative ideas to save India. We’ll start with the more obvious approaches.

A new bus system

Indoor raised platforms at bus stops.
It is a pain in the neck to jump in a bus that wants to start moving before you are in it. Going up those stairs with other human bodies blocking you. The system is designed to make you hate it. But, this is India, at lease these days. I’m looking for a kinder, friendlier India (sorry to sound like George Bush.) What if bus stops were enclosed by glass and were raised up a few feet? That way it would be clearly designated WHICH bus you were waiting for (which is always ambiguous in India,) and you would be able to get in the bus as easily as you would get in a subway train with no stairs. This would be great for children, the elderly, and those who like to take the chaos out of life.

Double decker buses
Since road space is so limited in urban parts of India, double decker buses would save a lot of space on the road. Imagine having elevated docks so that you could exit from the top floor? Additionally, if buses were longer, they would function a bit like a surface train, and on busy streets you could keep those buses coming — one after the next. If you allocated some of the seats (or a closed off section of the bus) to have luxury larger seats, you could command a nice price from upper class customers as well which would help fund the entire system.

Transfer stations for buses
It is a pain in India getting off the bus onto a smelly road with trash everywhere and having to walk anywhere, especially if it means crossing a road which is a complete nightmare and a risk of life and limb. What if you could get off a bus, climb up some clean stairs, and then come down into another glass enclosed waiting area for the bus that you were going to transfer to. India’s population density causes problems, but it could be used as an asset, since it makes it possible to have efficient transportation systems involving trains and buses (which don’t work as well in most parts of America due to the sparse population.)

Standing only buses
Buses in India are notoriously packed full. Having seats bolted in prevents you from squeezing more sardines (human sardines) into the vehicle. Removing seats on some buses will allow more people into the bus. Having vinal separators would allow for individualized standing locations which would make the entire trip a whole lot more comfortable for you (and harder for the pick-pockets.)

Segway & Bike highways
This has always been my dream, but not enough urban planners think outside of the box, or the rick in the case of India. The reason why traffic is such an issue is that cars, rick-shaws, and buses are so large and clunky. If you have a safe way to ride a Segway or bicycle, traffic would flow so much more easily. A Segway is a small device that you stand on. It has two wheels on one axle and balances itself. It is sort of magical, but it’s real. Segways are popular in the United States for giving walking tours of cities since you can have a lot of people follow each other around in congested areas without any danger.

But, imagine an indoor enclosed highway for Segway traffic and bicycles. It could be elevated, so it could pass over roads. Since the highway wouldn’t carry a single heavy vehicle, the weight load on the infrastructure would be light which would mean that it would be a lot less expensive to build than a regular overpass — perhaps only 10% of the cost. There could be refreshment shops, news stands, bicycle repair shops, and internet cafes along the highway for the convenience of the people using it.

Since it is expensive to own a Segway, it might make more sense to have Segways be shared. If you enter the Segway highway, you could see a long line of Segways waiting to be used. You would just jump on one, and take it to the station where you want to get off, and then someone else could use that very same Segway. Theft would not be possible, because the Segways would not be able to exit the indoor passage without setting off an alarm.

The indoor nature of this highway would be convenient if it was hot, or raining. It could be temperature controlled as well if the budget permits. Additionally, it would be a safe way to get around at night!

Bullet Trains for the wealthy
When you think of India, you probably think of poverty, and people who are just skin and bones begging for food by the side of the road. India also has millions of very wealthy people, and those people need transportation. There are many wealthy types in Mumbai who simply need to save time getting around which is why they take the train. But, what if there were a better solution? Imagine a spotlessly clean bullet train system for the wealthy in big metros of India. It would cost a mint, but you would get great meals and refreshments at the stations, have a very fast ride wherever you are going and enjoy the company of other opulent folks at the meticulously maintained stations that all have ample paid parking! What a concept. Typically in India, if there is a rail station there is no parking, and if there is parking, there is no station, and if there are both, then something else is wrong. But, what if you could have it all, and with a clean and comfortable fast ride? I think the rich would pay for that. Bullet trains could be mag-lev trains for short urban commutes as well as from city to city. The security for getting on planes is a real hassle — taking a fast train from Delhi to Mumbai would be a lot nicer if you ask me!

Longer trains (perhaps double deckers)
India’s local rail system (they say rail, not train by the way) is overburdened in many areas. People have to squeeze in and it just isn’t funny. The only way to fix this problem is to either have more trains, longer trains, or double decker trains. Unfortunately, platforms at existing stations are not long enough to allow for longer trains. Should they all be rebuilt? The answer is unclear. But, India needs to adapt to its huge and ever-growing population and adapt its existing train infrastructure.

Tolls for cars to use the main roads.
Although I believe that having separate roads for buses is a sensible idea to help allow those buses to move freely, that is not always easy or possible. It would make sense in areas where buses and cars share the road to have fees for using the road. After all, if you drive on the road, you are taking up space that someone else could be using. There could be yearly fees for being able to use congested roads during certain hours of the day, or daily fees to use those roads. Singapore has yearly fees, and the result is that the locals complain, but there is never congestion in the entire island! Maybe India needs to think more like Singaporeans and permanently solve its transportation problem! If there were fees for using the roads, more people would use buses, and those buses would be able to move quickly since there would be a lot less traffic. I would honestly say, that for Indian urban roads to function well, there needs to be an 80% reduction in the quantity of cars on the road. Reducing the number of cars by half would still be a nightmare.

A web of indoor golf cart routes
This idea is similar to the Segway or Bicycle highway idea and would also function in indoor highways. If you visit many airports, the staff drive around in golf carts. But, what if larger electronic indoor vehicles could be built that would accommodate about eight people that you could just jump on and jump off of. The seats might even be on the outside of the vehicle, so you don’t actually get in. How these vehicles are shaped is a secondary issue, but imagine this reality! There could be stations throughout the line of these indoor highways. Or there could be a web of interconnecting highways. At each station, there could be eight possible directions that you could go, and eight carts waiting for you. Each cart would wait until it was completely filled, or until a certain amount of minutes had passed. This would be a very clean, fast, and convenient way to get around a city. Why can’t someone in Dubai put this idea to use — it is a really cool idea!

If you liked this article you might enjoy reading about my SNAKE TRAIN idea too.

The snake train revisited: a solution to India’s transport nightmare

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The snake train idea revisited
I had an idea called the snake train idea which I wrote about in another blog entry. It would be a really wide and long train on which you could do activities like web browsing, reading, shopping, drinking coffee, and more. Multi-tasking is the concept behind this snake train, and its interior would be very roomy and comfortable. The snake train would be over a mile long and would never stop. You just jump on and jump off wherever you need to get on or off. The problem is that you would have to dig up the entire metro to build a train like this. But, India is a unique country that is growing much faster than the rest of the world. Their existing metros are suffocating in overpopulation. India could decide to build some new metros with innovative transportation systems. Planned cities! It is much easier to build on virgin territory than to tear up existing structures while disabling local traffic patterns.

A planned city with a unique train system
There are various ways to build innovative transportation systems in a city. The most important thing to remember is that you need to leave a lot of space for innovation. If you plan a city, have arteries that are far wider than you need. That way you can experiment, and adjust to fluctuating populations. You can also tear up an older idea and build a new idea more easily since you have space. Most urban planners do not think that far ahead, but thinking ahead can save you billions!

Putting the snake train above or below ground?
I wrote a separate article about the snake train, but there are more ways to explore the idea. A wide and long train like the snake train would need to be either below ground so that traffic could pass above it, on ground with bridges for the cars and trucks to pass over it, or on an elevated rail. Such a heavy train would make it expensive to build an elevated rail for. But, we can consider all of the possibilities. For a train to be comfortable to eat, sleep, browse the web, and drink coffee, it would have to be very level, and not too fast.

Boarding considerations for the snake train…

Boarding the train by jumping on
The point of the snake train is that you can jump on or off anywhere. But, to jump on, the train would have to move relatively slowly. A train moving 5 KM/hour would be easy for a young person to jump on and off of. People in Mumbai jump off trains going much faster than that without too many serious injuries. But, to get where you are going, the train would either have to go faster than that and then slow down from time to time for loading and unloading passengers (remember that the snake doesn’t stop).

Boarding the train with a circular device
Or, you could create a huge circular device that is 400 feet wide that the snake would hug around. You could enter the circle from the center, where it would be moving inches per minute and then move outwards in the circle to board the train. Innovative, but very bizarre. That way the train could move around 15 KM/hour without having boarding issues.

Boarding shuttles
Another way to facilitate boarding which is much more interesting is like how people join spacecraft in orbit. You would have a shuttle bring passengers from stations and while in motion, the shuttle would attach to the long snake train. There are various ways to attach that make sense. You could attach from behind and become yet another car in the huge snake train. You could attach to the front of the snake as well. Since the snake is so long, you might have to wait for a very long time to get to the end of it. A more fun idea is to attach to the side of the train to dedicated boarding portal cars. Passengers in the shuttle could be in a sort of container with chairs. The container could be slowly shifted from the shuttle to the train on rollers. Then the shuttle could disconnect and reconnected to another portal for departing passengers and roll on their pre-filled container filled with human traffic.

The predetermined system
A very interesting way to handle snake train traffic is for each car of the train to detach and go to a particular stop. Imagine that you are going to Gandhi-Nagar in the new city of Thirdrabad in Karnataka (sorry, A.P. already used Secundrabad). Let’s say the snake train is weaving through the city and when it gets near Gandhi-Nagar, the first car detaches and exits from the main rail to stop at its destination. At the next destination JP-Nagar, the next car would detach from the train and go where it was going to go. Meanwhile, another car waiting in JP-Nagar would be waiting to attach to the back of the snake train with fresh human cargo. Interesting system! If you are having coffee on a particular car, you might have to walk through car after car after car to get to the one that detaches to go to your station. Lots of walking, but an interesting system.

The stopping system.
Snake trains aren’t supposed to stop, but they could slow down to a near stop. The problem is that the train is so long, that if it stopped, your part of the train could be a mile from the actual escalator to a ground level exit where you actually want to get off. One solution is similar to the predetermined system. You would see a map of the train, and where each car would be at the various stops along the way. The idea is to keep the train going and not stop much or for long. You could walk through the train for up to a mile to be in exactly the right spot for when it stops. Imagine that you wanted to stop at the mall in the Jangli-Maharaj section of town. Each car would have a map of were they would be at the various stops. You would keep walking through the cars until you got to one that stopped near the mall. Imagine how many calories you could burn just getting around.

Advantages of the snake train
India is so populated, that in places like Mumbai, trains come every several minutes. The trains are overly packed. The only solution to this suffocating problem is to have longer trains, double decker trains, or to build more train lines. It is cheaper to have longer trains, except then you would need longer stations as well. Mumbai didn’t think about that long ago when they build their stations. They didn’t anticipate having 25 million humans crammed into overcrowded slums and apartment buildings. If India plans a new planned city like my fictional Thirdrabad, they should plan for overcrowding and have some good solutions for it. Overcrowding might not happen if good planning happens on a national level, but it is good to prepare for it just in case! If Thirdrabad gets too crowded, my recommendation is to start drilling to build Fourthdrabad. Just a thought! India has plenty of available land in the countryside. Instead of cramming people in coastal cities with no available land, using interior land resources makes sense.

Roomy and smooth
Another advantage of the snake train is that regular trains are crowded and jerky. The snake would have endless interior room. Buses are jerky too with rude drivers. The snake would be smooth and comfortable. The idea behind the snake train is that it would be so wonderful that you would take it even when you didn’t need to go anywhere! Food for thought!

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