A new vision in urban commuting

A better way

to get from here to there

(faster and cheaper, reliably and safely)

Analysis         Why is CityTram the right way to go ?    


There are lots of alternative commuting solutions.  Why is CityTram the right way to go ?   

We did not set out to design a new transit technology.  We set out with a goal – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The most basic of research quickly identified US transportation as the area ripest for improvement with the most reachable impact given our skills.  Being somewhat realistic (that is on the cynical side) a guiding principle is that in order to be effective, our objective (greenhouse gas emission reduction) must be a consequence of or side effect of a real improvement in transportation as seen by the market. We must get what we want by giving the market what it wants (not by legislating it). 

Deciding how best to improve transportation was just the outcome of a logical analysis process.  It lead to the conclusion that a revolution rather than evolution was required, and it defined the requirements for a new technology.  CityTram was an investigation into whether those requirements could be met.  They can !

Any reasonable analysis must start with an honest and as quantitative as possible look at the current market.  From this you can create a “decision model” for the market, and refine it.  Your decision model is right when it explains the available evidence (behavior of current market).  This model then lets you run experiments for future success of various alternatives.

The documents here reconstruct the reasoning process:


  • The Car is King!  Look around and it should be obvious that in America (and increasingly in the emerging world) the car is the preferred choice for personal transportation.  But if you need the data to prove it (and quantify it) the US Department of Transportation can provide that data. <DOT Commuting by Automobile in the US 2013>  <US Census commute time report>.
  • The Trouble with Cars!  The car is king!  But why?  A close look at our car based transportation system concludes that it has many troubles.  Trouble is opportunity.  Quantifying those troubles is the only way improvement and advantage can be measured.  <The Trouble with Cars>
  • Avoiding Gridlock!   Understanding the problem is understanding the opportunity.  <Texas A&M mobility scorecard for 2015>  <Avoiding Gridlock>  <Not Straight>
  • Self-driving Cars Are Not the Answer.   The auto industry is on a course to provide mass market self-driving cars.  Governments are being supportive.   But will self-driving cars make the commuter’s life better (deliver real value), or only improve the profits of the suppliers in the system?   <Self-driving in Circles>


  • Decision Model.   A fairly simple decision model seems to explain the available data on the behavior of consumers in the American commuter market.  <Fastest Affordable, Reliable and Safe>
  • A Call for Public Personal Transit.  As long as Americans are asked to choose between public mass transit and private personal transit, mass transit will lose.  In order to be successful, public systems must become personal.   <Public Personal Transit


  • Taxi Based Public Transit.  Mass transit has serious speed problems, therefore serious value proposition problems.  Could taxis be a better answer ?  <A Look at Taxis video pdf> <Taxi vs Bus>.         


  • Chevy Volts for Klunkers.  The path of least resistance to our green house gas reduction goal is a radical increase in our fleet average fuel economy.  What can the “cars for klunkers” part of the stimulus package tell us about the feasibility of this approach ?  <Volts for Klunkers>   


  • Survey Says.  If the decision model is correct, then the speed of a taxi should make it the most popular of the currently avaible solutions, except for the cost.  A market survey tested that hypothesis.  The results are summarized here:  <survey_results>.  The survey itself is here.
  • A Call to Revolution.  In this case evolution will be too slow, and can be easily hijacked and redirected.  A revolution is needed.    <grade option doc>
  • CityTram Requirements    :



  1. ATN PAT System :   CityTram shall be an Automated Transit Network System implementing a Personal Automated Taxi service.  This provides for time efficient, energy efficient, and cost efficient personal transit over a wide area with some reasonable density.  Thus it is the solution best positioned to compete effectively against the use of cars.
  2. Safety:   CityTram must be far safer than automotive transit.  Accident rates should be reduced 5 fold or more.  Serious injury and fatality rates should be reduced 10 fold or more.  Security problem rates – robbery and assault – should be lower than half the rate of car-jacking.
  3. Reliability :   Commute times between 2 points should have little variation.  95% of the trips between 2 points should require no more than 10% of the minimum transit time between those points.   
  4. Commute Times :  In order to have appeal to a significant portion of the market, commute times must be competitive with use of a personal automobile (within 10%).  This must be measured for the whole commute – first step to last step.   Best case automotive scenarios are suburban, with minimum congestion and close available parking.  In these scenarios the average commute speed is between 32 and 33 mph.  A target commute speed of 30 mph should achieve the goal.
  5. Rider Cost :   The best proven way in America to have a commercial success is cost reduction -  deliver the same value at a lower cost.  Many automotive costs are fixed sunk costs – vehicle purchase, insurance, etc – and will still be incurred by the CityTram rider during his experimentation period.  In order to motivate a “conversion” CityTram should show some cost benefit during that experimentation.  Rider cost at 15% reduction below automotive operating costs should be achieved.  This will likely require some subsidization by the transit organization.  Minimizing this subsidization is critical to success.    A target rider cost of $0.30 per mile would require a 1/3 subsidy by the transit organization in order to provide the rider a 20% reduction in car operating costs (as an incentive for experimentation).  Yet the un-subsidized costs represent a 50% reduction or more in transit costs to that rider (to motivate his “conversion”).
  6. Capital Costs :   Bid cost to deploy a CityTram network must be comparable on a per mile basis to that of road construction.  A target of $1.5M per mile should meet that test.
  7. Operating and Maintenance Costs :  Long term sustainability depends upon un-subsidized operation. This rider costs must be sufficient to operate and maintain the system.  This sets a target at $0.30 per rider per mile.
  8. Passenger Groups :   CityTram should transport small groups travelling together by choice.  Individuals will comprise most groups, but in order to service a sufficiently large portion of the transit demand larger groups must also be accommodated.  Specifically adult couples, single adults with several children, and adult couples with up to 2 small children must be supported.  Safe transport for up to 2 infants is required.  Support for some adult groups of 3 is desirable.   
  9. Cargo:  CityTram riders must be capable of bringing light cargo such as brief cases, personal luggage, groceries, etc.   Riders with bicycles must be supported, although some compromise in the group size is permissible when bicycles are accommodated.       
  10. Flexibility :   It should be possible for riders to change their specified destination during a trip.
  11. Fuel Efficiency  :  The primary motivation for the creation of CityTram is green house gas emission reduction.  A 7x improvement in fuel efficiency (at a minimum) is desired.  The system should operate routinely in excess of 110 mpg (equivalent).