Moving to mainstream

Posted: 16 March 2005 | Jonathan Esslinger, P.E., F.ASCE, Director, Transportation and Development Institute, American Society of Civil Engineers | No comments yet

Pedestrian districts free of dangerous street traffic and environmental threats. Special taxi, parcel delivery and car-sharing services. Comfortable high density living. Given that mass transit only satisfies 2% of urban travel in the U.S., such visions are difficult.

Pedestrian districts free of dangerous street traffic and environmental threats. Special taxi, parcel delivery and car-sharing services. Comfortable high density living. Given that mass transit only satisfies 2% of urban travel in the U.S., such visions are difficult.

Those who venture abroad know that advanced transit systems play a much larger role in Europe and Asia. Driverless metros in Paris, Singapore and Copenhagen have proven very successful, and more are underway in Italy and Switzerland. In London, the emerging Docklands high-rise district was designed to intertwine with the flexibility of its high-performance ‘light railway.’ Cable-drawn shuttles offer effective services in France, Portugal and Italy.

Collectively, these systems are known as Automated People Movers (APMs) – fully automated, or driverless, systems designed to streamline public transport. In the U.S., they are common at large airports and now help define airfront districts, such as JFK Corporate Square near Jamaica Station in Queens, N.Y. – an eight-minute APM ride from JFK International Airport. And, though American transit operators have been slow to accept other realisations of the technology, there is a growing interest.

The 10th International Automated People Movers Conference – May 1-4, 2005, Orlando, Florida – recognises the increased popularity of this transportation method its movement into the mainstream of transportation planning and also promotes the evolution of APMs as a major part of any transportation network. Participants will explore the impact of APM and its growing popularity in the world of mass transit.

APM05 will feature a pre-conference workshop, Introduction to APMs; four days of technical sessions, tours and exhibits; a post-conference seminar, Incubating APM Projects and a closing luncheon that will include a panel discussion with Dr. Pierre Laconte (president, Foundation for the Urban Environment), Tom Lewis, FAIA (vice president, Walt Disney World Co.) and Peter J. Muller (leader, Airports Team, Olsson Associates). The 2003 Automated People Movers Conference, held in Singapore, attracted more than 300 attendees devoted to promoting and expanding the use of automated transportation systems. APM05 expects to draw on that success to expand the knowledge base of the profession and to make the installation of APM systems a viable option for transportation planners and engineers in their alternative system analysis.

Today, more than 100 APMs exist around the world. Increasing interest in these automated passenger systems has affected transportation issues from airport planning to urban development and community planning. APM05 focuses on the increased interest of the private and public domains.

Presented by the Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the 2005 conference will also focus on the appeal of automated transportation and will educate participants about new innovations in the field. This year’s concept ‘Moving to Mainstream’ introduces APM as a solution to everyday people-moving issues and is a unique blend of studies of the past, present and future of the APM industry. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore more than 80 papers and presentations by industry authorities.

Technical sessions and presentations

The conference will feature several sessions on airport-related topics – introducing new industry trends and ideas – and will focus on the movement of APM into the mainstream of airport transportation solutions. Participants will examine studies on the design, construction and implementation of APM at airports around the world. Six conference sessions devoted to APM projects, solutions, planning and implementation at airports will be available, including a presentation on the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, case studies on the Dublin International Airport and evaluations of people movers at such airports as Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood.

Sessions in the Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) category will cover new directions in APM systems, automated controls and PRT. Among the topics being presented will be a three-dimensional elevator system, maglev, automated transit systems, vehicle control systems, a critical review of the PRT literature, comparisons between PRT and APM systems, and the design, operation and benefits of SkyWeb Express.

Planning and operations sessions will include workshops on urban transit planning, ridership, O&M and APM replacement and refurbishment. Participants will learn about Copenhagen’s driverless METRO; hear a report on the first nine months of AirTrain JFK’s operation; and explore past, present and future lessons learned about downtown Detroit’s people mover system.

Urban area APM systems to be presented include Italy’s first driverless automatic metro, VAL of Turin; and Indianapolis’ award-winning People Mover. Presenters will also discuss issues surrounding several urban monorail systems.

Additional activities

The pre-conference workshop, ’Introduction to Automated People Movers,’ will feature prestigious and pioneering guest instructors who will provide participants with a base level of knowledge of APM systems including the history of these systems, terminology, planning and engineering considerations in evaluating APM systems and procurement and costs. Workshop instructors include: William J. Sproule, Ph.D., P.E., professor, Michigan Tech University and former chair, ASCE APM Committee; and William H. Leder, P.E., adjunct professor, Michigan Tech University and former principle, Lea + Elliot, Inc.

In an event unique to this conference, APM05 attendees will also serve as judges, determining which five authors presented papers of great technical distinction, professional merit and with outstanding presentation quality. The award winners will be recognised for their contribution to the conference during the closing luncheon on May 4.

Lawrence J. Fabian, director, Trans.21, will lead a post-conference seminar, ‘Incubating APM Projects – How to Help Planners Benefit from APMs,’ which will explore the current status and trends of the planning contexts from which APM projects originate. Despite prevalent congestion, lack of mobility and environmental concerns, the APM market is still quite limited, even after three decades of development. This seminar will address the work of project planners and the administrative and political realities that they face.

The 2005 conference will also feature two plenary sessions. On Monday, May 2, attendees will have the opportunity to hear an overview of the state of the industry as it is moves into the mainstream of transportation solutions. A key member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has been invited to speak with attendees about his perspective of the APM industry. The second plenary session, on May 3, will be a roundtable discussion where key APM industry suppliers will share thoughts on how their products are contributing to the movement of APM systems into the transportation solution mainstream.

The conference is not just a time to gain professional and technical knowledge; it is also a time to network with other industry professionals. As such, the conference will open with an icebreaker reception, allowing attendees to interact with one another and explore the Exhibit Hall.

Why Orlando?

Orlando is one of the most advanced areas for APM development. There are four APMs operating within Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World is home to the longest-operating monorail in North America. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to participate in technical tours of both these facilities and take a behind-the-scenes look at how the vehicles operate and how the systems work. The tours will include a private viewing of equipment rooms, maintenance facilities, controls and vehicle subsystems.

In addition to the tours of the operating APM systems in the Orlando area, conference participants will have the opportunity to tour the International Drive area, where this busy corridor’s need for transportation improvements is well known. Hear from the project team working to identify the potential solutions to the problem, including an APM system. They will be able to see the recommended alignment for the transit system and visit some of the locations for stops along the route.

For more information, or to register for the 10th International Conference on Automated People Movers conference, visit

Jonathan C. Esslinger

Jonathan C. Esslinger, P.E., F.ASCE is Director of the Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI) and is responsible for all programs, products and services for the Institute. He serves as the Secretary of the Institute’s Board of Governors, is currently a member of T&DI’s Airport Planning and Operations Committee and has served as secretary of the predecessor Airport Operations and Capacity Committee. Mr. Esslinger has practiced civil and transportation engineering for more than 26 years.

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