UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
Department of Civil Engineering
Transportation, Surveying, & Construction Engineering
November 15, 1996
Roedovre Centrum 155
I am writing in response to your request for my evaluation of the RUF urban transportation concept. I have been following your development work with keen interest for more than two years now and, during this time have participated in a lively Internet- based discussion of it's many components and attributes. I am quite impressed with the work you have done, your ability and willingness to answer any and all questions raised about it and your dedication to finding ways to bring it to the marketplace. It is, in my mind, the only concept that I have seen anywhere in the world that I believe has much of a chance of helping our cities survive the massive congestion and air pollution that they are now experiencing. Our current problems are very likely to get worse as the sale of conventional autos around the world proceeds at a rapid pace. For some reason which I do not understand, the proponents of improved auto technology refuse to acknowledge the fatal flaw in their thinking -the growing shortage of roadway space and the fact that roadway building programs on a scale that is consistent with the growth in auto sales is very unlikely to occur in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world.
The RUF concept represents a sane and intelligent approach to the problems caused by too many motor vehicles that are now severely degrading large metropolitan areas everywhere in the world. It fits the mobility needs of the residents of dispersed, low density U.S. cities particularly well. The vast majority of the trips made by these residents are short and can be accomplished with a RUF vehicle operating on conventional roadways. The fact that longer trips, which often account for the largest share of vehicle miles of travel, can be made on the RUF-rail component, in an energy-efficient yet high capacity manner, is a vital attribute that puts the RUF concept far ahead of the many
other solutions being offered. But, perhaps the most important characteristic of the RUF concept is the possibility that it could be introduced incrementally over time which would allow an gradual phase-out of a major portion of the huge fleet of conventional autos. A new concept that does not allow for incremental deployment stands little chance of taking market share away from conventional autos, especially in low density American cities.
RUF possesses many other attributes which I regard as essential to an advanced urban transportation system. It can handle vehicles of different sizes, some carrying goods and others groups of people. It allows private money to be used to help implement the system as people will purchase their own RUF vehicles or rent them from a private firm. It also allows the continuation of the role of the public in supporting and providing transportation services to those unable to own or operate personal vehicles, an important social objective in all countries. I do not think that the vehicle design and automation problems posed by the RUF concept are beyond today's technology. Solving them will require substantial efforts but the payoffs would be extremely high.
I have just witnessed an election campaign that placed a 10-year, $3.9 billion rail/bus transit plan before the voters of the Puget Sound Region in Washington state. The plan was approved by the voters who probably voted for it because they believed that it would produce some relief from the stress, congestion delay and poor air quality they now experience on a daily basis. However, an analysis of the plan shows that, if implemented as proposed, is not likely to reduce congestion enough to notice - even 10 years from now. It will do even less for air quality and stress reduction. In short, we have not solved more than 1% of our urban transportation problem despite allocating very substantial resources toward dealing with it. And, it will be some time before the public is willing to have its taxes raised again for more transportation improvements. In my opinion, a RUF system could easily provide a much more cost-effective solution for an area like ours - one that is necessary for our very survival as a highly mobile and productive urban society. I strongly support efforts to obtain the funds necessary to develop and test it so that it can be made operational and available for use in the U.S. and around the world in the not too distant future.
Professor Emeritus, Civil Engineering and Urban Design and Planning