Buses designed for continuous convoy operation significantly improve passenger capacity, convenience, and speed in comparison with conventional buses.
Existing buses require considerable passenger mobility and induce a variety of delays: getting to the bus stop, climbing up the entry (even with kneeling buses, this is a challenge for many people, and makes these buses inaccessible for people with mobility challenges), paying the fare, moving down the aisle, and squeezing past other passengers to finally get to a seat. Also buses use space inefficiently, with a driver, two or more entries, an aisle, space taken by the seats and access to the seats, wheel wells intruding, and engines, as shown below.
In buses designed for continuous convoy operation, the wasted space in existing designs is regained, increasing convenience, capacity, speed and economy, as shown below.
The inside of the convoy vehicle would look somewhat like a subway car, with seats along the sides, and ample room to move in the aisle. Articulated buses are an example of how the outside of these vehicles might look in a convoy. Together these vehicles can operate in Continuous Convoys & En Route Sequencing.
- Driver – convoy vehicles can be autonomous, eliminating the driver completely. Or the vehicle can be partially autonomous with a driver who may be somewhere in the convoy or driving remotely. Dedicated lanes and enclosed A-Ways simplify autonomous operation.
- Two or more entries – the entries are included in the connections at either end of the vehicle. They are wider than conventional entries speeding loading and unloading. They provide space for passengers while convoy vehicles are connected together. At stops wide ramps extend from the connectors to provide easy access for people and personal mobility vehicles. The floors of the buses are low, so the ramps can be short and still have a gentle slope.
- Paying a fare – passengers on continuous convoys will use smart devices to plan their entire trip, guide them through the trip, and arrange aids such as personal mobility vehicles. As part of trip planning, the personal device automatically pays for the entire trip, eliminating delays. This enables payment plans, for example, reduced fares for seniors and frequent user programs. Knowledge of passenger plans aids in scheduling convoys.
- Aisle – the aisle is expanded to fill almost the full width of the vehicle to allow better flow of people, as in subways today, increasing passenger capacity. This also provides more room for passengers to move for en route sequencing.
- Seats – seats are placed along the sides of the vehicle. The number of seats is reduced to make room for more passengers and streamline the flow of people for en route sequencing. Many passengers are in the convoy for only a short time, because travel is non-stop and can be faster due to greater efficiency, so most people will spend little time sitting. For people needing assistance, and for longer trips, personal mobility vehicles eliminate the need for seats.
- Access to the seats – in place of fixed space in front of seats, this area is reclaimed for passengers, both stationary and in motion, and provides flexibility for personal mobility vehicles
- Wheel wells intruding – because these are under seats, they don’t take up any passenger space
- Engines – electric motors are more compact than internal combustion engines, and can be located with the wheels, opening space for passengers. Fuel tanks are eliminated, freeing up space and eliminating dangerous liquids. Batteries form the base for the vehicle and improve stability due a low center of gravity. Eventually, the batteries will be replaced with direct electricity feed, saving space, weight, cost, and other resources.
- Emergency exits – these were not shown in the conventional bus, but they are indicated in the convoy vehicle to show how they provide superior emergency exit capabilities, while requiring minimal space.
Convoy vehicles may be smaller or larger than current buses for more flexibility in managing loads, and in getting through traffic. Or several convoy vehicles may stay coupled together for more capacity, and economy of drivers, human or autonomous.
An intriguing design decision is whether or not to include windows. Subways are an example where windows are useless except at stations. Many people spend their travel time talking or glued to a handheld device, newspaper, or book so they don’t notice the windows anyway. Imagine the interior walls covered with active displays. These offer flexibility to provide information, be sources of revenue, or even show what is outside the convoy to simulate windows or travel through interesting areas. Passengers might even select the content. The revenue could potentially cover the cost of operation, allowing reduced cost or even free transportation.
Existing laws and standards may pose obstacles, so the municipality will need to be open to innovation. Operation on campuses does not necessarily have the same requirements, so this may be the place such systems are first used.
These buses offer major advantages even in conventional operation.
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