Long Distance Mass Transportation
Every country should install a network of long-distance, high-speed (preferably electrically powered) mass transportation trains which connect virtually every major population center. These systems should be designed to have both the smallest aesthetic footprint possible and the smallest physical and environmental footprint on the land (by using an elevated, column-supported monorail design, for example), especially in environmentally significant areas. Even through desert areas, elevating these monorail trains would benefit the environment by not creating a physical barrier to the migration of biological organisms. Additional benefits would include a reduced chance of vandalism on the elevated tracks and a reduced chance of interruption and damage by natural environmental processes (floods, wind blown debris, earthquakes, etc.) Furthermore, the visual benefits experienced by travelers on an elevated track would include an ability to see farther than if they were at ground level, allowing both a greater enjoyment and awareness of the surrounding environment. High speed travel on elevated tracks would potentially cause less discomfort to passengers than high speed ground level transport because nearby scenery would appear to pass by slower relative to ground level transportation systems operating at the same speeds due to motion parallax.
Urban/Suburban Mass Transportation
A similar system should also be built to meet the transportation needs within cities and other urban and suburban population centers. Stops could be made by these trains as often as about every kilometer or so. By using columns to support these monorails, very minimal amounts of land would be required for a complete system allowing implementation even in high density areas. Even the space required by embarking/disembarking stations could be constructed on the rooftops of current industrial, commercial, and even residential buildings. Even in densely packed areas that are filled with high rise structures, train stations could be built right inside these existing structures, taking up a portion of one of the floors. These elevated trains could enter and exit such structures at the second or third floor levels without requiring very extensive structural reconfigurations.
Additional transportation systems, perhaps consisting of buses or vans with routes that service only the neighborhood around that particular station, could then be designed to complement the monorail systems in order to create a comprehensive, door-to-door mass transportation system.
Smaller Capacity, More Individualized, Mass Transportation Vehicles
In order to create a mass transportation system with a far higher level of comfort and appeal, it is imperative that people be able to travel from their place of origin to their destination without any transfers to any other vehicles, without being bothered by any other passengers, with a high level of privacy, without having to worry about missing their disembarking point, and not being required to walk any long distance to or from any point along such a system.
Modifications of the above proposals for a basic monorail mass transportation system would enable the creation of this more personalized form of transport. Using the same monorail infrastructure, but just extending it to create a much finer network down to the residential scale (where each residence would be serviced by such a system), and utilizing passive monorail switching methods that enable vehicles to switch from one rail to another at much higher speeds, would allow the creation of a comprehensive mass transportation system able to suit the needs of the vast majority of the population. The remaining population would still be able to use conventional road vehicles, since roads would, and should, continue to be maintained for a variety of valid reasons.
To ensure the highest capacity usages possible as well as the highest levels of safety possible, each vehicle using this monorail infrastructure, both the larger mass transit and the smaller more individualized vehicles, need to have their speeds and routes determined by an automated network of computers that allow communication among all nearby vehicles (to schedule mergers onto the same track, for example) and to determine routing information to avoid congested lines or trouble spots. If the technology is not reliable enough, it may be beneficial to have a manual override for one or more characteristics of operation.
Passive Monorail Switching
Passive monorail switching technology is essential to prevent grid-lock associated with the relatively slow conventional rail switching methods used today as well as the relatively slow speeds at which vehicles can pass through such switches due to their relatively high angles of departure from the main track. In addition, the maintenance requirements and significant breakdown and failure risks associated with active monorail switching systems are eliminated through the use of passive systems. A passive monorail switching system involve a conventional I-beam (on which the vehicle travels) gradually becoming flared from the bottom as it approaches a switch. This flaring continues until the sides of the I-beam are level with the top of the I-beam. Such I-beam flaring may proceed along a 50-200 foot segment of track, depending on the speed at which vehicles are planned to travel. Thus, the stabilizing wheels which normally ride along the sides of the I-beam would have pivoted and would now be riding along the top of the I-beam and out towards the sides of the vehicle providing the needed stability.
For the vehicle to switch to a different track, a guide pin attached to an arm directly connected to the forward wheel assembly of the vehicle would be inserted into a deep groove or channel which will veer off onto the desired track, automatically guiding the front steering wheels onto the new track. If the vehicle desires to continue on the same track, then the guide pin would be inserted into a different channel (or perhaps a deeper portion of the same channel) ensuring guidance along the same track until the switching point had passed and the flattened (flared) I-beam returns to its normal I-beam shape. Theoretically, there would be no upper limit to the speed at which vehicles could travel through switches designed in this way.
I-beam technology would not be appropriate for residential scale service because such service needs to be at ground level to facilitate easy embarking and disembarking. But at ground level, it is not practical to design a monorail system that is easy for pedestrians to cross at all points and that does not involve much maintenance. Thus, this proposal to use monorail vehicles with the ability to transform, to a degree, to travel along flat paths would allow the much more versatile use of such vehicles in a residential environment (and a host of other environments) with much lower costs than would otherwise be the case. For example, since residential uses would be at far lower speeds and at ground level, it is not as important to provide a method of support and stability that relies on a mechanical fix against forces coming from all six directions. In addition, the stabilizing wheels that would normally be riding along the sides of the I-beam, would now be rotated to a flat position and spread out along the extreme sides of the vehicle providing as much support as conventional road vehicles are provided.
Monorail Vehicles Could Also Be Conventional Road Vehicles
In fact, such vehicles would be able to be used as conventional vehicles. While riding on the main I-beam monorail infrastructure, such vehicle could be powered by electricity obtained from the electrified I-beam itself. While traveling along the flat surface streets, batteries may provide enough energy to power the vehicles to their destination. The guide pins that would safely guide the monorail vehicles through the switches could be retracted to allow travel on surface streets just like conventional vehicles. Occupants may become drivers who may then drive these vehicles, as they would conventional ones. They could drive them into their own garages if they have bought such vehicles for their own private use. Or they could drive them to a local public monorail vehicle parking lot and walk the rest of the way home. No special infrastructures would be required by these vehicles after they leave the main monorail system and travel along flat roads.
However, public vehicles should not be limited to only licensed driver. Mature school children should also be allowed to use such vehicles, though perhaps operations should be limited to on-rail usage only so that safety could be ensured.