Mark Bahner | Indy Week

Mark Bahner 
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Re: “Environmentalists Aren’t Happy About the NCDOT’s Plan to Finish the I-540 Beltway

"Computer-driven vehicles? Really? We've been saying that for the last 30 years."

?! The hardware for a fully autonomous vehicle would have cost more than $1 billion 30 years ago. (That's right, $1 billion, with a "b.") In fact, the latest NVIDIA hardware is capable of 320 trillion calculations per second, which is more powerful than all the supercomputers on earth combined, 30 years ago:…

"How does the advent of autonomous vehicles alleviate traffic density?"

Autonomous vehicles operating as transportation-as-a-service alleviate traffic density by allowing "flash" carpooling and van-pooling. Almost no one will own vehicles. Suppose you presently drive from the Cloverdale neighborhood in Garner to work in RTP. You might drive west on E. Tryon Rd., head north on Hammond, get on I-40, and go to RTP, then on whatever roads in RTP you take to get to your specific employer.

With autonomous vehicles providing transportation-as-a-service, you'll say your origination point and destination into your smart phone, and be given various options: 1) Travel all the way alone, which will be very expensive, or 2) Take a single-seat, single-occupancy vehicle from your home in Cloverdale to I-4. Then you'll get in a "flash" carpool or vanpool in which 4 or 5 people arrive at the same time at a "stop and ride" lot (as opposed to a "park and ride" lot) . At the stop-and-ride lot, you and the other 3 or 4 people who arrive at the same time would get in a minivan or large car to take you to RTP. Then you might switch to a different "flash" vanpool to take you and several co-workers to your place of work. Or you might get into a single-seat, single-occupant vehicle to get you to work from the I-40 exit at RTP.

In the first case, the total travel time might be 30 minutes for a distance of about 23 miles, and the total cost might be $15. In the second case, the total travel time might be 35 minutes, and the total cost $6. So if you didn't mind a 5-minute longer ride, you would be saving $9.

Traffic density would be alleviated because a large percentage of people would choose to ride on I-40 in multiple-occupant vehicles, because it would be much cheaper, and the time of travel for each person would not be significantly longer than if each person took a single-occupant vehicle the entire way.

"As far as DOLR instead of 540, the two are not mutually exclusive."

No, I was saying both I-540 and Durham-Orange Light Rail are dumb and short-sighted projects. I was saying it's to do any large-capital-cost project that does not take into account the coming transportation revolution. Within 20 years, the vast majority of travel will be in autonomous vehicles operating in transportation-as-a-service mode.

The Triangle area has a lot of smart people. It's amazing to me that we seriously contemplate such dumb and short-sighted projects.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mark Bahner on 02/13/2018 at 9:25 PM

Re: “Environmentalists Aren’t Happy About the NCDOT’s Plan to Finish the I-540 Beltway

It's a very bad time to do any transportation project that is capital-intensive and long-term. The reason is that computer-driven vehicles will be common within less than a decade, and with computer-driven vehicles will come transportation-as -a-service. Both of these developments will significantly boost the ability of existing roads to handle the movement of people, particularly during peak times.

Don't build I-540. Don't build Durham-Orange Light Rail. Instead, think ahead about how to maximize the benefits of autonomous vehicles providing transportation-as-a-service. For example, rather than just a few "park-and-ride" lots along I-40 and I-440, perhaps there should be much smaller "stop and ride" lots (maybe 10-15 car spaces) at almost every exit along I-40 and I-440, to allow people to transfer from small single-occupancy vehicles to autonomous minivans or small buses (of perhaps 10 occupants), for travel along I-40 and I-440.

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mark Bahner on 02/04/2018 at 1:55 PM

Re: “What Will Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Mean for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Project?

"Its gives me the creeps to have to rely on Trump to finally get rid of light rail."


Hopefully, we can start talking about buses for the period of less than a decade before fully autonomous vehicles become common.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mark Bahner on 01/30/2018 at 12:59 AM

Re: “The Durham-Orange Light Rail Now Costs More Than $3 Billion, and Durham Will Have to Pay More of It

"Connected fleets will ultimately get to the holy grail of public transportation affordable point to point connections."

Yes, autonomous fleets of small buses are infinitely more flexible than light rail. A small bus can go on any road, anywhere, at any time. Light rail can never "jump the tracks" to deliver service anywhere in a county as necessary.

And the number of passenger-miles delivered per tax dollar spent isn't even close. A small autonomous bus will deliver far more passenger-miles per tax dollar spent than light rail, because if the bus is operating with few passengers, the routes and timing of the bus can be changed to make sure the bus is more fully loaded. (And there will be zero tax dollars spent on the autonomous bus if it is owned by a private entity as part of an autonomous fleet.)

1 like, 4 dislikes
Posted by Mark Bahner on 05/03/2017 at 12:12 PM

Re: “The Durham-Orange Light Rail Now Costs More Than $3 Billion, and Durham Will Have to Pay More of It

"gmbmnc, I assume that you are one of the few that can afford a self driving car for oh... I don't know 75k-250k."

Self-driving cars will be available in less than 5 years for under $30k. But almost no one will own a car in the future. It will be far less expensive and far more practical to order transportation as a service, like an airplane ticket or a taxi.

"I will ride the LTR daily to work."

You won't because it won't be built. (Thank goodness. It would be a waste of $3+ billion.) If it was built, it would be silly to spend money on such slow transportation, rather than order door-to-door computer-driven transport that's much faster.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Mark Bahner on 05/01/2017 at 12:36 PM

Re: “Durham-Orange County Light Rail Heads to the Federal Government

" is it an ill conceived plan?"

It's ill conceived because it totally neglects the transportation revolution that's coming in the next 20 years. Rail service is not expected to be operational until 2029. By 2029, fully autonomous (computer-driven) buses will be available for essentially the same cost as a human-driven bus. Today, a 15-seat cutaway bus can be purchased for under $150,000. Let's say they double in price by 2029. That would mean a 15-seat cutaway bus would be available for $300,000.

The cost of this project is $3.3 billion. That means more than 10,000 fully autonomous cutaway buses could be purchased for the same price as this single light rail project. Which would transport more people, 10,000 fully autonomous buses that can go on any road anywhere, and stop anywhere, or a single light rail line with a fixed route and fixed stops?

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mark Bahner on 05/01/2017 at 12:27 PM

Re: “The Durham-Orange Light Rail Now Costs More Than $3 Billion, and Durham Will Have to Pay More of It

"Even at 3.3 Billiion it's still worth it. The USA desperately needs to transition to public transportation."

A new cutaway bus cost $67,000 on average in 2007. In 2017, the number is probably closer to $100,000. (See FTA's report, "An Evaluation of the Market for
Small-to-Medium-Sized Cutaway Buses.")

Therefore, for $100 million, Durham could buy *1000* cutaway buses. Why is it worthwhile to spend more than $1 billion on light rail and commuter rail if $100 million could buy 1000 buses? Especially if those buses could be fully autonomous (computer-driven) in 10-20 years?

Doesn't it make more sense to spend $100 million for 1000 fully autonomous cutaway buses than to spend more than $1 billion (more than 10 times as much) for a light rail line that is much more limited in capability?

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Mark Bahner on 04/26/2017 at 5:33 PM

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