Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Super-charabanc Peoplemover

Greetings from the Australian National University where Dr Antonia Terzi is speaking on the engineering of the Superbus. This is a prototype high speed people mover. It looks like a stretched super-car, to carry 23 passengers. This is not a practical transport system, but an interesting marketing exercise. Dr Terzi detailed the engineering of a vehicle which could travel at high speed, but also through city streets. However, the aerodynamics would be irrelevant in reality, as a bus (or as this would be more accurately called a "Charabanc"), would not operate at high speed for a significant amount of time.

Artist''s impression of Brisbane Metro Vehicle.
From Brisbane City Council
There have been similar examples of making public transport look attractive to the public. An example are the vehicles for the Brisbane Metro. The articulated buses for this service are being fitted with streamlined noses, and wheel covers, to make them look like light rail. The streamlining and wheel covers have no practical function: they are purely decorative, but are very important to making the service acceptable to the public.

Bishop Austrans Pod
An example of good engineering with poor marketing input was the Bishop Austrans rapid transit system. Australian company Bishop Austrans rapid transit system. This used people-mover sized vehicle pods,  on a light track. Bishop engaged CSIRO to model how many pods would be needed for a given number of customers. Bishop's pods are very similar to the superbus, both being based on automotive technology adapted to on demand public transport. However, Bishop's pods were very unexciting, looking like something from an old science fiction movie, whereas the superbus looks like something from a new movie.

Dressing up a public service in an unnecessary streamlined shell may seem a waste of engineering talent. However, engineering is of no value if the public doesn't want the products produced. One way I suggest this can be does is by providing entrepreneurial training.

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