Where’s the gadgetbahn? - 6
Leroy W. Demery, Jr.
Introduction
As asserted previously, I am a skeptic when it comes to the concept of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). I believe that, if there is a country where (PRT) "should" work and "should" already have been built, it's Japan. Furthermore, I have seen specific locations that, from the perspective of empirical observation of the built environment, appear "tailor-made" for PRT.
PRT cannot plausibly be "sold" as a "bundle" of concepts (technology, service and market), not subject to "disaggregation." Characteristics of service, market and technology must be considered separately. I assert that it is, therefore, perfectly reasonable to ask, with reference to these specific locations (or others elsewhere), "Where's the PRT?" The dialogue on this particular topic might prove very interesting.
(I have also stated previously that neither I nor my associate, Michael D. Setty, coined the word gadgetbahn. I shall consider myself free to use "that word" with impunity, with reference to PRT or other public transport technology or service, prospective or not, for as long as my name or that of Michael Setty is associated with its coining.)
This post includes a brief side trip from Japan to China, where many cities appear to provide an urban environment where PRT "should" work and "should" already have been built. A single example - which I acknowledge is the most extreme - should suffice.
Shenzhen: Where's the PRT? - 6.1
The growth of Shenzhen city, China, from 1980 to today is unprecedented.
Shenzhen was founded in 1979, when Bao'an County was renamed Shenzhen City and designated as a Special Economic Zone. At this time, the total population was stated as 300,000, scattered across the landscape in small villages. The largest, described as a "small fishing village," was located just across the border from Lo Wu (Luohu), Hong Kong. The population was stated as 25,000.
At 2009, the urban population was stated at 4 million, and the total population within the municipal boundary was stated at 8.9 million. These figures do not include persons without residency permits. The actual number of residents has been estimated at 14 million.
At the risk of overdramatizing: nothing else like this has taken place in all of human history.
Consider the following views from the Lok Ma Chau lookout, Hong Kong:
Ha Wa Tsuen village, Fuk Tin (Futian), and a telephoto view of Fuk Tin (Futian). These were taken on July 16, 1980 - little more than 30 years ago.
Now consider a current view from Lok Ma Chau, by "Johnson," taken on February 7, 2007, and the current aerial image of the Futian District, Shenzhen ("Google Maps;" scale is 33.5 mm = 1 km, about 1:30,000). The overlook remains, and is about 0.5 km north of the letter "A." (Also of interest: photo of Shenzhen skyline, by "shexbeer.")
Shenzhen also has its own metro (subway) system (UrbanRail.Net map of Shenzhen metro system). The first line was opened in 2004.
Another "then" and "now" contrast: Laojie ("Old Street") in 1980, and Laojie (Dongmen) in 2006, by "‡ M ‡." The metro system has a nearby station named Laojie. This area is part of the Luohu District, Shenzhen ("Google Maps;" scale is 26.5 mm = 0.2 km, about 1:7,500).
"Google Maps" aerial images of Shenzhen and other mainland Chinese cities do not align with street maps. The trace of the Shenzhen metro visible on aerial images (click "Satellite") is displaced significantly from the "street map" location.
("Google Street View" images are not available for mainland Chinese cities, but surface-level photographs of specific locations are.)
It takes a bit of effort to view the remarkable high-density development throughout the city. One way to do this is with two side-by-side windows, one set for street maps, one set for aerial images. The potential for shuttle transit services between metro stations and clusters of high-density development, located away from stations, is obvious.
Where, then, are the PRT systems?