Honey, I’m taking the coaster to work!

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With over 50 years of development and literally tens of thousands of testers, roller coaster rail system technology has more than proven itself as a transportation technology. However, it has never been transitioned into use by a commercial or public sector transportation system. My proposal then is to adapt this green technology into a viable transportation system capable of successfully challenging our existing short and long haul passenger rail systems.


The engineering science necessary to design new and more thrilling roller coasters for amusement park operators is being constantly being refined and improved. As this knowledge continues to evolve, so does the wealth of well-engineered, tested, and capable equipment. Passenger rail systems will benefit immensely from this relentless technological march.


With healthy catalog of predefined track units, manufacturers will benefit from a fixed cost structure for each new unit of track and a predictable of fabrication process. As with automobiles, passenger cars can be designed and manufactured to provide passengers the creature comforts they have come to expect from their transportation providers. Integrating a fabric of smart sensors into both the track elements, and the passenger cars, will provide the control system developers with a wealth of information, from the position and speed of the train, to the final destination of the passengers.


Given the broad appeal and the familiar nature of roller coaster functionality by the general public, the mechanics of the underlying system are almost self-evident. Highlighting the use of gravity as an integral part of the propulsion system, the ability to recapture energy through the use of regenerative braking, and the nearly invisible footprint of the system on the land will make this system design an attractive Green alternative to traditional transportation systems. Through the addition of in-cabin entertainment and communications systems, passengers can be offered a high-end experience in comparison to traditional air and rail travel. Using carefully designed track ways, many of which will probably be elevated, the rail system can be knit into the landscape making its appearance less offensive than many other transportation technologies. As a zero-emission system, ecosystems will not be adversely affected as it passes through delicate areas. Additionally, roller coaster passenger rail systems can share existing rights-of-way with traditional transportation systems.


With its ability to share existing transportation rights-of-way, very little investment would be necessary to create new systems. As an energy efficiency mode of transportation, removing the dependence on costly fuel sources, roller coaster rail systems would save operators millions in operating expenses. With reduced stress on the track and car elements, maintenance would be significantly below that required by their amusement park cousins. With a trained operator and maintenance workforce already in existence, there would be no need for costly training when establishing new rail systems. And with an already existing body of laws, rules, regulations, and regulators, governments at the local, state, and federal level can be assured safe operation of the system.


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  • Name:
    Steven Lathrop
  • Type of entry:
  • Profession:
    Software Engineer
  • Number of times previously entering contest:
  • Steven's favorite design and analysis tools:
    Aonix ObjectAda(ETS), AdaCore GPS, Microsoft Visual Basic, Autodesk AutoCad, ORCAD
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  • Steven's hobbies and activities:
    Woodworking using a CNC Wood Router
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  • Steven is inspired by:
    Elegant design; those designs that just sing. No one needs to explain it, it just makes sense the first time everyone sees it.
    I love those challenges that push the envelope just a bit further than any sane person should.
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