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Containerized Passenger Service

It works for freight. Why not for people?
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Containerized shipping has been a very successful technique, as anyone who lives near a seaport probably knows. Containers of standard size are loaded onto ships (specifically designed as container carriers) and unloaded (by cranes specifically designed to move cargo containers). The same containers can travel by rail or semitrailer. Because they're of uniform size, they can be packed efficiently in cargo spaces or dockside warehouses, and even automatically stored/retrieved/handled.

Railways have been using the basic technique for a long time: individual cars of a train can be decoupled and reformed into new trains in a switch yard; a given carload of freight may be pulled by several different companies' locomotives, over different companies' tracks, on its way to its destination. Even before that, standardized barrel sizes simplified shipping, dock handling, and storage in the days of wooden ships. Modern intermodal container shipping, though, unifies all these forms of travel. The end user can put stuff into a container at point A and take it out at point B, ignoring the several different technologies and half-a-dozen shipping companies it might have taken to get there.

Why not apply this marvelous innovation to passenger travel? Ideas like whatsbruin's RuggedAir Outfitters suggest that travel is no longer a polite, convivial experience for the mannered rich. Travellers hate and fear their fellow travellers. Therefore, they will not mind --- in fact they will appreciate --- if their favorite airline converts to Containerized Passenger Service. The airline, of course, will do so because it's more efficient and profitable.

There will be a small number of standard passenger container sizes: the economy "tube hotel" size, just big enough to lie down in; the midsize business-traveler size, in which you can sit or recline and have just enough room for your laptop; and the large size, the size of a small room, for first-class travelers or small families. (The larger sizes will have to be multiples of the smallest size, to retain the advantage of standardized sizes.) Containers would have hookups for power, air/heating/cooling, possibly water and waste for the large ones, and of course a pneumatic tube system to deliver the inflight peanuts and booze.

When you go on a trip, you will schedule to have a container dropped off at your house the day before. Frequent travelers might own their own container. You load it with your luggage and amenities, and get in and seal the hatch at the appointed time. The travel company will send a flatbed truck around and load all of the containers onto the truck. From there they'll be hauled to the airport, where automatic machinery can sort the containers out according to which flight they should go on. (Airports could possibly be built farther from cities and served by dedicated passenger-container-rail lines. The traveller doesn't even need to know about these details.) You may change planes several times, but you don't have to worry about it: you stay happily ensconced in your container. Eventually you reach your destination. If visiting a friend or relative, your container is dropped off at their door by a truck similar to the one that picked you up. If you are going to a hotel, you will be brought to the hotel. Modern hotels will bring your container directly to your room via the cargo elevator, and your room will be designed to be an extension of the container.

This solves many travel problems. No worries about finding rides to or from the airport. No worry about carryon vs. checked baggage --- it's all in your container with you. No need to hurry to your connecting flight --- getting you there is the airline's problem, now. No annoying passengers --- your container is a sealed, insulated, armored bit of personal space.

Containers would have to have a small auxiliary supply of power, air, etc. to supply you while you are sitting on a loading dock or in a sorting center somewhere.
You'd need to have a call signal for unexpected emergencies, etc. Also, the smaller capsules (tube-hotel sized) would not have room for a bathroom, so you'd need to get out to do that. I envision that the containers would be stacked with the "hatch" ends facing a corridor, and each capsule would have a section of ladder on it so you could climb down to the walkway and find the bathroom. There would be an indicator letting you know when it was safe to unseal the hatch.
For larger groups, you could request the travel company to stack a group of capsules next to each other, on a space-available basis.

wiml, Sep 10 2001

Asylum seekers on the Norweigian container ship Tampa off the Australian coast. http://dailynews.ya...seekers_chr102.html
Not the exact picture I thought of after reading the title, but close enough. [mrkillboy, Sep 10 2001, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Container travel/living space http://www.escapear...ic_Housing2000.html
The author suggest you could ship your home anywhere, allowing you to travel the world and save money on housing. [mighty_cheese, Sep 10 2001, last modified Oct 17 2004]

pneumatic system http://zapatopi.net/pneumatic.html
http://zapatopi.net/pneumatic.html Look around the site... [pashute, Aug 27 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

El Perro: Wayaway: The Travelbox http://www.we-make-...archives/009255.php
[jutta, Jan 11 2007]


       Baked by illegal immigrants all around the world.
mrkillboy, Sep 10 2001

       The advantage of this system is that you could eject containers of people trying to hijack the plane ...
Aristotle, Sep 19 2001

       Wot, no windows?
You'll need plenty of integrated sick-bags to cope with the amount of travel sickness these things will invoke.
Lemon, Sep 19 2001

       I had a similar idea: strip the seats out and put in those tiny bunks sailors use in submarines. Everybody gets anesthetized and stacked like cordwood. At the other end they are revived. Much cheaper, fewer "flight attendants", no chance of hijacking.   

       Those with medical conditions precluding anesthesia would go on special flights. Or pay extra, I dunno.   

boris, Oct 07 2001

       Boris: See the "Sedated Travel" idea in Public: Air Travel Comfort.   

       While I believe that containerized passenger service can be comfortable --- petersealy and mrkillboy give examples of uncomfortable containerized passenger travel, but do not provide any reason to think that all C.P.T. would be uncomfortable --- the benefits of C.P.T. extend beyond air travel (in fact, much of the point is that it's multimodal), and so I elected not to put it in an air-travel-specific category.
wiml, Oct 08 2001

       I think it's actually a cool idea, but few people will go for it. When the containers are stacked on a ship, there's no room around them at all. What would one do if there was a fire, or a problem of some other sort? No way to escape for most of the passengers.
StarChaser, Oct 08 2001

       Baked (see link), but using regular shipping containers. It isn't airliner compatible at this stage, though.
mighty_cheese, Oct 09 2001

       Nice link, [mighty cheese]! That's the sort of thing I imagined the large/luxury passenger container to be like (perhaps not quite as large as a full size cargo container).   

       The website seems to indicate he hasn't actually done this, though, so it remains only half-Baked.   

       StarChaser: That's defintely a problem (I referred to it briefly at the end of my idea). I think they'd have to be stacked with a small amount of space between one row and the next (think bookshelves and aisles --- come to think of it, maybe they could be mounted on rails like high-density library shelving, to reduce the amount of space needed for corridors? You couldn't have a rapid mass evacuation then, but if you're on an airplane that's not really an option anyway.)   

       C.P.S. would take up more space than rows of thrombosis-causing airline seats (or stacked-up sedated passengers) but that's the price of progress, or something like that. Shipping costs seem to be dominated by weight rather than volume anyway, and while containerizing would also have a weight penalty I think it could be made relatively small --- make the containers out of UHMW plastics, etc. etc.
wiml, Oct 10 2001

       Wiml, remember that the doors on these things are fairly large, too. You'd have to have room to open them.   

       Shipping based on weight is for things that need no handling or special treatment. Humans loose in a box are going to get bashed around, as the container cranes move pretty quickly. They're going to need some sort of power for lights at least, air conditioning, water, sewage, etc. Container ships are not human-compatible...there're only facilities for the 10 or so people who run the ship, aside from that they're just enormous floating buckets.   

       You'd have to have a completely redesigned ship for these.   

       I do like the idea, it's just really not feasable, and thus perfectly half-baked.
StarChaser, Oct 11 2001

       wiml: If you follow enough links from that post, you'll end up at a mailing list hosted by topica.com where a number of people have indeed baked this idea, from single 20' freight containers to complex set-ups using 4 40' containers. These people are weird. The list focuses on clearing up logistics for the system, including the heating of water, electrical generation, and geting your container through customs. There are a huge number of drawings and photos available too.
mighty_cheese, Oct 18 2001

       I read some, not all, of your link, and it looked more like how to have your house shipped so it was there when you got there, rather than ship the container with you inside it.
StarChaser, Oct 20 2001

       A majority of them are intending to ship their containers without traveling inside them, yes. I think it's a legal issue preventing them from staying inside the containers during shipping.   

       Some of the weirdos have decided to buy a tractor-trailer in order to move their house around. Though admittedly they can't be inside the container and drive at the same time.
mighty_cheese, Oct 21 2001

       So it's not baked, as the original idea is 'travel inside'...Still cool, though. Put five or six of the big ones together and bury them...
StarChaser, Oct 21 2001

       Isn't this the well-known 3D worldwide packet-switched elevator system?   

       On the off-topic, in "How Buildings Learn", Stewart Brand shows how he built an office into a standard container, for economy reasons in his case.
blitzberg, Jan 09 2003

       actually its realistic. just use the railway passerger cars as containers.
FireElf, Jul 24 2006

       Meanwhile, your freight reclines in business class, sipping champagne and flirting with the cabin crew.
pertinax, Jan 12 2007

       Why not just fit a standard intermodal container with seats? It's perfectly possible to ship containerized cargo by air. A C-5 Galaxy, for instance, will hold 14 20' containers with room to spare.
Alx_xlA, Jun 29 2010


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