Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big Ideas in Minicars

Long one today, but the boys and girls down in the Research Bureau are pretty excited about a document they've got their hands on recently: A Minicar Transportation System in an Urban Low Income Group. It's a 1972 report by the Minicar Project Transportation Planning Group of the Transportation Studies Center, Center for Urban Research and Experiment, University of Pennsylvania.

The group's goal was to create a transportation alternative for people in Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods, those least served by public transportation. It would address the high unemployment rates in these neighborhoods by making transportation to the Central Business District (CBD), where the jobs were, more feasible. According to the report, travel from the neighborhoods studied to the CBD, on average, took twice as long as a comparable trip by auto would, and often involved "extensive walking."

The system it describes was visionary: "a fleet of [gasoline-electric hybrid] minicars, centrally controlled by a business management, that can be picked up by qualified drivers from a number of terminals, driven to a desired destination or another terminal and be paid [for] according to the length of time of the trip and/or the time spent. "The whole system would depend on personal coded Minicards that could be used to calculate usage and start the cars. Citibike, Zipcars, and the Prius all rolled into one!

Here's a sample trip from a low income area (LIA) terminal: to the CBD:
-->Exit from LIA Terminal: 10¢
-->Entry CBD Terminal: 15¢
-->2 miles at 5¢ per mile: 10¢
-->16 minutes at 1/2¢ per minute: 8¢
Total cost of the One-Way Trip: 43¢

Even with these figures, the system was designed to be fiscally self-sustaining. (When did "¢" symbol disappear from keyboards?)

But what about the minicars themselves? Have look:

Here are the specs from the report:
Size: At nine fee long, half the length of a full-size car (in 1972, that is). Yet at six feet wide, it can comfortably accommodate three adults abreast (Read: No back seat!).
Style: For a functional car, it offers exceptional comfort and appearance. It has attractive styling, excellent enamel and trim, tailored doors, automatic transmission, and combined heating and air-conditioning controls. (No mention of radio or 8-track tapedeck.)
Performance: At city speeds--up to 30 m.p.h.--the Minicar offers exceptionally good acceleration. At higher speeds, the rate of acceleration decreases significantly. At all speeds, breaking and agility are superior to the average American car.
Pollution: Low exhaust emissions in normal operation and none whatsoever of distances up to 11 miles are made possible by its hybrid gasoline-electric motor.

As far as the RB can determine, no prototype was ever developed. Pity.

(This post dedicated to my nephew, Thomas, fan of minicars and the Cardvark, aka, the Cardvaark.)

1 comment:

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