Efficiency Improvement of Automated Transit Systems Compared to Conventional Train Operation

Automated transit systems, especially fully automated metro lines, have been in operation for more than 30 years. Most of these automated systems have revealed a great success story in terms of ridership, safety, and reliability, but also in terms of operating costs. The efficiency of such automated transit systems is significantly higher than for conventional rail systems, which is the primary reason for this operational and monetary success. However, this higher efficiency depends very much on the way the operation of the system is organized. A flexible and demand-driven train headway, such as for the VAL in Lille, France or the Skytrain in Vancouver, Canada, provides a very frequent train service attracting a high ridership on one end and requires less operational expenses (effort) to provide the train service on the other end. A very meaningful benchmark indicator of this efficiency has been found with the overall ‘traffic efficiency’ which is defined as the ratio of the total passenger kilometers travelled per year and the produced seat kilometers per year. Empiric studies show this efficiency to be less than 20% for conventional (driver-operated) urban rail systems and approximately 35% for automated transit systems. Hence, automated train operations in combination with flexible and demand-driven train service can double the total efficiency of the rail system. Complementary to such empiric observations, an analytic model has been developed to explain the efficiency increase in a very straight-forward way. The proposed ‘traffic efficiency’ indicator can be used to benchmark different systems or even different lines of an operator the reveal areas of improvement within a network. Very quick and straight-forward calculations are possible to estimate the expected efficiency increase when converting conventional operation into fully-automatic operation. Quick feasibility checks can indicate whether such an automatic and demand-driven operation is beneficial at all. The paper shall present the fundamental differences in terms of efficiency found between conventional and automated rail systems, explain the proposed efficiency indicator including the mathematical background. Practical implications are discussed for making decisions whether to migrate to automatic operation and what conditions are most favorable.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: pp 197-205
  • Monograph Title: Automated People Movers and Automated Transit Systems 2016: Innovation in a Rapidly Urbanizing World

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01596903
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 9780784479797
  • Files: TRIS, ASCE
  • Created Date: Apr 11 2016 3:01PM