Tainan is undergoing rapid development with increasing population thanks to the thriving semiconductor and ICT industry. The escalated demands of daily transportation have caused more congested road traffic during peak hours in the downtown. Existing public transportation, including bus and regional railway, can no longer suffice to quickly move people around the city.
The Tainan City Government therefore engaged WSP to develop the master plan for the first advanced rapid transit (ART) line in the East District, now named as Blue Line (1st Phase).
Future Ready ART system
ART is a medium capacity transit system for urban passenger transport using leading edge technology and allows for higher passenger capacity at a lower cost of implementation, compared to traditional light-rail systems with tracks.
The multi-carriages are equipped with sensors that provide guidance on ‘virtual tracks’, enabling it to automatically navigate its own route. The world’s first trackless ART system was run in central China’s Hunan Province as a trial operation back in 2017. With the development of emerging communication and control technology, more and more ART are put into operation worldwide.
Establishing selection framework
Based on thorough research on the relevant technologies, WSP have set six major criteria for our search of the most suitable system:
- Environmental friendliness
- Technical innovation
- Technology localisation
We focused on the connected autonomous vehicles-based (CAV-based) ART and the upgraded and matured guided rapid transit (GRT) system, such as light rail and monorail that are currently widely used in Taiwan and across Asia. The team weights different criteria by considering the experience from the similar systems in different Taiwan cities with the unique Tainan cityscape of old neighbourhood integrating with modern skyscrapers.
Some common requirements, such as operation control centre (OCC), timetable dispatching, dedicated or mixed right-of-way (RoW) and various mode of operations, including normal, degraded and emergency conditions are considered as fundamental during the system selection process.
Envisioning the best-fit system
We proposed the CAV-based ART system to be a better option for Tainan city due to its variety of service modes, such as dynamic arrangement of number of AV carriages deployed according to the real time numbers of passenger arriving in stations during peak and off-peak hours. Current GRT cannot provide different service modes safely and quickly as they are bounded by tracks.
Other advantages include high energy efficiency, less construction time and cost, the ability to adapt with mixed road traffic, better potential of technology localisation and less CO2 emissions during the construction and operation phases, as compared to GRT which usually involves larger structures and more supporting equipment.