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High Speed Travelator 333

Anonymous Award writes "Remember those old Isaac Asimov tales of cities of the future, where everybody walked along on moving sidewalks, sometimes clear across a country? Today's airport travelators have always been disappointingly pale imitations of these, but now in Paris we may be seeing the true birth of this wonderfully dangerous mode of mass transportation. Its already as fast as a bus, but when they can crank them up to motorway speeds... well, lets just say this may have a better chance of having cities designed around it than certain other recent innovations."
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High Speed Travelator

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  • The Roads Must Roll (Score:5, Informative)

    by Titusdot Groan ( 468949 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:11AM (#6366589) Journal
    See also The Roads Must Roll []; Robert Heinlein's book based upon moving roads and what happens when the guys who maintain them go on strike ...
  • Re:You know... (Score:5, Informative)

    by archeopterix ( 594938 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:14AM (#6366608) Journal
    When it gets up to a certain speed, the wind resistance against your body will be greater than the friction of the belt against your feet, and you will cease to move forward...
    Now this should look funny. But if you enclose the belt in a tube, with air moving with the speed of the belt (either artificially propelled or just "pulled" by the belt), the wind resistance becomes less of a problem.
  • Read The Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by EnglishTim ( 9662 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:14AM (#6366610)
    This one goes about three to four times as fast as a normal one does. It has acceleration and decelleration zones at the beginning and end, as it would be far too fast to get on otherwise.
  • by James Durie ( 1426 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:19AM (#6366638) Homepage
    I went Paris for the weekend in March and we went through Montparnasse one day and went on this travelator.

    They have guys watching to stop certain people getting on, I have heard they have had to pay out for injuries to some people.

    First it accelerates you to 9kph then it is exactly like a normal travelator only much faster.

    I loved it.

    The only problems are the acceleration and deceleration phases. It's very bumpy. You have to hold on to the rail. If they can fix those aspects these things will start appearing in airports everywhere.

  • by supersam ( 466783 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:30AM (#6366691) Homepage
    This is a neat thing. I guess they're using it or have at least tried it out at a few other places around the world.

    I had read in a newspaper report some months back that authorities in Mumbai, India were planning to install this kind of 'travelator' to link two of the most important railway stations in Mumbai, Churchgate and CST. But I don't remember seeing any action on it since then.

    Btw, I would like to advise the travelator operators in Paris to hand out barf bags to people travelling on these contraptions. *heh*
  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig DOT hogger AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:33AM (#6366702) Journal
    It's not really a big innovations. The French did it 103 years ago, during the 1900 exhibiton. A rolling sidewalk [] was running along the exhibition and was whisking visitors at about 8 km/h. It was composed of two side-by-side rolling sidewalks [] one going at half the speed as the other.

    If you ask me, this was a much better design than the neck-breaking jallopy installed in Montparnasse Station...

    They also experimented some 30 years ago with one that was shaped like an integral sign; instead of a rubber plate, there were solid plates which slide sideways at the end, effectively yielding a slower speed but without the jarring hells-on-wheels acceleration.

  • I tried it (Score:4, Informative)

    by ( 40893 ) <> on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:33AM (#6366705) Homepage

    I live in Paris and tried it a while ago. It works like a charm. The acceleration and deceleration are surprisingly smooth provided you keep your feets on the ground. Then it is exactly like a normal conveyor mat. I like it and I see no drawbacks.

  • Re:Transition (Score:4, Informative)

    by tfischer ( 64688 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:34AM (#6366708) Homepage
    >>It seems to me the best solution to this is to have "lanes" in the walkway.

    In fact, this is exactly what they have in Paris. The high-speed travelator was put in between two other standard moving walkways. One of the standard walkways goes in the opposite direction, and the other lets you move along at 3km/h. So pedestrians do have a choice between the 9km/h lane, the 3km/h lane, or the "old fashioned" 0km/h walkway.

    The only thing I don't like about the highspeed walkway is the fact that it is only running during the workday, Mon-Fri. There were enough people who were falling on it that they had to employ people to stand at both ends of the thing to make sure that users don't hurt themselves...

  • Re:Transition (Score:2, Informative)

    by putaro ( 235078 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:40AM (#6366728) Journal
    Not quite. The idea would be to have the lanes running at different speed alongside each other (without handrails in between and no gaps) and be able to SWITCH lanes to speed up. This was the system that Heinlein laid out in The Roads Must Roll. The system for accelerating used looks like a clever solution, though. I'm not sure how practical it would be to switch lanes in reality.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2003 @09:56AM (#6366803)
    Yep. And I live in Paris. In the last 6 months or so, I went to Montparnasse station about 10 time, and have _never_ seen the High Speed Travelator working (always closed because they were 'fixing' it).

    There have been a lot of stories in the newspaper about it. Basically, it doesn't work. A waste of money, specially considering the lack of escalators in most of Paris metro stations...
  • by 2TecTom ( 311314 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @10:03AM (#6366829) Homepage Journal, 1299,DRMN_15_2087992,00.html

    As usual, some people just can't seem to get along. ;~)

    Personally, I think more could be done with this concept. If the center, fastest "strip" was a sit down type one, wouldn't this really be nothing more than a permanently available, perpetual people bus. Think about it, moving McDonalds, talk about fast food!

    As well, these conveyers could easily be constructed as subways. I can also see these being used at large exhibitions, galleries, parks and muesums.

    Other conveyers of note:

    Zizco, world's longest single flight horizontal curve conveyor
    (15.6 km) isco. htm

    Los Pelambres, world's largest downhill conveyor system
    (3 conveyors, 12.7 km, 1296 m drop, 8700 tph) lospel ambres.htm
  • You can walk but... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2003 @10:14AM (#6366917)
    .. not during acceleration and deceleration zones !

    By the way once you are used to ir, you can even walk in those zones ;-)

  • Heinlein, not Azimov (Score:3, Informative)

    by jridley ( 9305 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @10:24AM (#6366981)
    R. A. Heinlein, _The Roads Must Roll_
    And it was a 5 MPH difference between lanes. Every lane has to have separate motors, etc, so you don't want too many of them. 5 MPH is a brisk walk so it's not hard to move from one to the next.
  • Re:Expressways (Score:3, Informative)

    by jridley ( 9305 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @10:27AM (#6366993)
    In **Heinlein**'s (not Asimov's) story, yes, they had seats, but heck, they also had DINERS on the long-haul tracks.

    Obviously, no hand rails, unless they can be attached to the track itself.
  • Re:You know... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2003 @10:52AM (#6367121)
    "Once the wind resistance equals the force from the belt against your feet, you will cease to accellerate, it's not like you're suddenly going to stop."

    This isn't a case of two opposing forces acting at the center of gravity of a rigid body. You've got the friction force of the belt acting tangentially at the very bottom, and the drag force acting in the opposite direction all over the body. What would actually happen when the drag force got too strong is that the high torque would cause some people on the belt to loose their balance and fall backwards. This would happen long before the static friction of the belt was overcome. But before this happened, there would be other problems, like getting bugs lodged in your eyeball. Plus, if you farted, like 50 people behind you would smell it before it cleared out.
  • Re:it's mechanical.. (Score:1, Informative)

    by billimad ( 629204 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @11:19AM (#6367267)
    material moves through the intestinal tract by peristalsis.

    #define - The wavelike muscular contractions of the alimentary canal or other tubular structures by which contents are forced onward toward the opening [].

    the cilia present a high surface area for maximum absorption.

  • Re:You know... (Score:2, Informative)

    by yummysoup ( 455975 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @11:22AM (#6367290)
    Yeah, terminal velocity's about 190km/h when you're on your belly (your body is in an arch with your belly forward and your arms and legs slightly back to maintain control, kind of like a badminton birdie).

    If you go head-down, you become more aerodynamic and fall at 290km/h.

    But with this device, because the force only acts on your hands and feet (which are on the conveyor and holding the handrails) rather than on your whole body (as does gravity in skydiving), I doubt you'll reach anywhere near those speeds.
  • by fruey ( 563914 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @11:46AM (#6367444) Homepage Journal

    I have also been on this travelator

    The accel/decel zones are like a number of ballbearings or something, which are rotating at gradually increasing speeds. This is why you need to keep both feet on the ground, because otherwise you could end up falling over.

    It's a configuration a bit like this:

    where the o's are cylinders and xs are gaps... they gradually accelerate you and then you sort of step onto the travelator moving at 9kph and the reverse happens at the other end. I can see why people fall over. There are notices and announcements everywhere "keep both feet on the floor" and "be careful" and "hold the rail, especially during accel/decel" but the researchers forget ...

    1. Announcements are so poorly used throughout public transport infrastructures that people don't listen to them,
    2. People think they are so clever that they need not heed the announcements, like they can defy acceleration forces and gravity
    3. Old people don't think the "if you are old or have a lot of luggage, please use the regular travelator" applies to them
    4. It's really for regulars, not for tourists, because tourists have loads of baggage and always block the travelator - already they don't read the "stand on the right" signs and stick themselves in the middle of the regular travelators
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @12:55PM (#6367866) Homepage
    There have been many attempts to solve the speed transition problem for moving sidewalks, going back to the Paris Exposition of 1900. The usual idea is to have a speed transition between two conveyor belts, and the usual problem is to avoid someone getting caught or tripped at the transition point.

    The Loderway Accelerating Walkway [], circa 1998, used multiple belts at different speeds. The transitions between belts involved a 5mm drop and small-diameter end rollers [], instead of a transition plate. That was probably the simplest solution to the problem. Two systems were installed in Australia, field tests were claimed to be successful, but the manufacturer no longer seems to be around.

    NKK [] (yes, the zipper company) and Mitsubishi have both built prototype "accelerating moving walkways", but neither system seems to have been installed more than once. NKK's system involves expansible plate-type steps that become longer in the high-speed section. The Mitsubishi [] system works by turning a corner, so that a series of short wide plates transform into a series of long narrow plates. Both of these systems avoid difficult transition points, but are complicated and expensive throughout the whole length of the system. The Loderway and Paris systems have transitions, which adds risk, but the long section is just a plain belt, so the cost of long systems is manageable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2003 @02:02PM (#6368250)
    Actually, this significantly predates Asimov and Heinlein in SciFi. It goes back to HG Wells, and When the Sleeper Wakes, which I highly recommend.

    He described not only airplanes, televisions and moving pedestrian roadways, but much of the modern way of life before it existed. wa kes/5/
  • Re:Transition (Score:3, Informative)

    by Syre ( 234917 ) on Friday July 04, 2003 @05:46PM (#6369271)
    Your "lanes" idea is a good one.

    Also an old one.

    This exact method of transportation is found in the Isaac Asimov novel "Caves of Steel", published in 1954.

    In that book (if memory serves me correctly), the fast lanes go at highway speed and have limited access on and off points.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday July 05, 2003 @02:38AM (#6371200) Homepage
    The telescopic-panel idea is reasonable, but mechanically complicated. They have to telescope slowly where they're supposed to, so there's a linkage underneath and a fair amount of mechanical complexity.

    The original moving walkway at the Paris Exposition around 1900 was really an endless train of flatcars with continouous platforms on top. Transitions between cars were handled by circular sections. There were were steps (with vertical overlaps) between the slow train and the ground, and between the fast train and the slow train. That system could turn corners, and did. Very neat, but getting on and off was a bit tricky.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson