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Underground Transport

Transport large amounts of goods underground
(+7, -7)
  [vote for,

It would technically be feasible to build an underground transport system for goods. This network could run from large cities, and transport all types of goods. Not only could all long range mail, and packages be transported, but also food, goods, and commercial needs. This would drastically cut down on transport time, hopefully cost in the long run, and also traffic, as there would be less long range trucks transporting goods. Utilizing electricity as the transport energy, this would also cut down on pollution from trucks and planes. Tube shaped containers can be packed with the goods, and even have refridgerated containers for perishables. Heck, if they can build a 1200 or so mile pipeline to transport oil, then a similar sized pipeline to transport goods isn't too hard to imagine.
ZebProctor, Dec 24 2004

Pneumatic Tube Systems http://www.dself.ds...eumess/pneumess.htm
This could be done with pneumatic tube technology - itself a slightly halfbaked idea. [hippo, Dec 24 2004]

Chicago Freight Tunnels http://users.amerit...tunnel/tunnel1.html
operated 1906 to 1959 [Laughs Last, Dec 25 2004]

Pneumatic Cargo Transport http://www.google.c...nsport+&btnG=Search
several intersting proposals linked to in PDF [Laughs Last, Dec 25 2004]

Brachistochrone problem http://mathworld.wo...ochroneProblem.html
one variation of the isoperimetric problem, or, how to define an efficient curve. [reensure, Dec 26 2004]

The coming economic collapse of 2006 http://www.michaelm...6_tablecontents.htm
some words to think about in the next year [mensmaximus, Dec 26 2004]

The Internet of Physical Things proposal http://www.popsci.c...hrough-series-tubes
[theircompetitor, Dec 04 2010]

High-volume_20secur..._20sewage_20network [hippo, Nov 08 2017]

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       A bi-level above ground maglev is much better as it will pay for itself quicker, uses leading edge technology and politically they are already in the works. Your tube idea would work better above ground,as a secondary transport sytem could ride on top. That's how they support motion picture cameras chasing horses running through the countryside at full gallop. I guess you wouldn't need Teamsters.
mensmaximus, Dec 24 2004

       Not exactly a new idea.   

       An underground network for goods only makes economic sense in densely built urban areas where it is easy to tunnel or where tunnels have already been built for passenger traffic.   

       Outside big cities, what aspect of the existing rail network is not met by your criteria?
DrCurry, Dec 24 2004

       Well, couple doubters, but to answer your questions...   

       "Outside big cities, what aspect of the existing rail network is not met by your criteria?"   

       Well rail networks are slow, must make many stops, are a hazard to certain aspects of life (getting hit by train, stopping traffic for train crossings, etc), and it's not the trains fault, 100 years ago it was the perfect transportation method, there was no traffic problems, no pollution problems, no large amounts of goods that need transporting to many different locations. Now with an underground, or semi underground (underground in urban locations, above in rural), everything in out of the way, traffic is free to flow, and with the canisters, you can have canisters being switched by computers and flowing to many different locations, unlike a train that has to go to one place, drop off, pick up, go to the next, drop off, pick up, etc. The canisters contain only materials bound for that certain metropolitain area....   

       And finally, I think some people think this idea is for local transportation, this is the exact opposite, this is more for metro region to metro region. For example, everything in New York bound for Boston gets put in a canister, then whisked away to Boston at a much higher speed than a train or truck could carry (I'm guessing that not carrying passengers, and not being above ground could really help this go fast, maybe 200-300 mph) then in a matter of hour or hours, it's in Boston, and on a local delivery service to homes, or on a truck or train to a nerby rural area.   

       The goal here is to have an almost instantaneous transportation method, instead of dropping a package off at a post office, then waiting 3-4 days for it to be delivered, it's delivered in a matter of hours anywhere in the country. It's really not that hard, every hour or so, a shipment is compiled in a canister for another area, and placed into a mechanism that waits for an available spot in the tube, then when that time comes it whisks it away, and in minutes/hours it at the location ready for delivery.   

       SOOOO, the people that are rating this negatively, can you give me some reasons, besides cost?
ZebProctor, Dec 25 2004

       Yes, it still sounds that the cannisters are being unloaded by forklift/hand for repacking into other cannisters. This is a weak link. Nobody wants that job anymore. You have to know that big 'conglomerates' are stock-piling things like Japanese tires in huge warehouses in NA for one or two years as speculation/investment that has everything to do with blocking the flow of goods. They hire minimum wage earners in lousy working conditions to re-pack tires in cannisters that were packed in minutes by robots in Japan. People will fight your system because they are profiteers not distributors. Either we will all be cloned in the future and all our goods will be packed together at one central distribution point or micro-manufacturing will take over, where every community will have its micro-factory for this and that. Your idea has no tourist attraction aspect to it vs. a maglev train thrill ride. Sorry for my characteristic tone, thanks for putting the energy out here.
mensmaximus, Dec 25 2004

       Why not have a robotic forklift that unloads the goods from train/plane/truck and takes it to a waiting empty canister.... considering the canisters should be large enough to accomodate the height/width of a pallet, that would not be too hard to accomplish. Then the nose of the canister closes and an airbag system stabilizes the goods, and off the canister goes.
ZebProctor, Dec 25 2004

       America is broke. They don't have a nickel for even a washer to make thing go smoother. But then again you better try and get this built before the huge crash of 2006.
mensmaximus, Dec 25 2004

       The huge crash of 2006? Something you know that I should be aware of? :-)
ZebProctor, Dec 25 2004

       Not everyone is acutely aware of this, but the underground as well as above ground is fairly crowded in the large metropolitan areas. There is fibre-optic, telephone, gas, water, sewer and many others as well. That said, I like the concept of freight tubes between metros. Provided of course that the system could be designed to operate with minimal maintenance. The major problem with rail transport is that it is too slow and there is too much maintenance to be done.   

       In one sense, it is another competition for air freight, which is already expensive and way over used. Package transport is a growing industry, and given fair economic winds, the industry is likely to continue to grow in the future.   

       By example, suppose UPS decided to acquire rights-of-way for a tube between Chicago and Memphis for starters. The two major hubs would then effectively be as one to the corporation giving them better pricing leverage as well as an increased level of service. This would in turn lead to investments in newer freight tube systems between other major hubs, further strengthening the carrier's position in their highly competitive industry.   

       In such a transport system, pneumatics would obviously be the source of energy to move product, but it would also be the mechanism to lift and carry the tons of heavy cargo. The capsules, if designed for minimum maintenance, would not use rail as support for their loads. They would be designed so that the pressure gets under the capsule and lifts it as a hovercraft to propel it along the tube.   

       As long as the corporation could reduce expenses by more than the cost to amortize the capital expenditure of such a project while at the same time increasing their competitive advantage, it is feasable.
Bull Winkus, Dec 26 2004

       From an energy perspective, this system probably could not support more than or less than a specific size container. The more weight, the more energy required and considering that most us cities are at different elevations, that can add up to a lot of force required to move a significant amout of pallets full of most objects. Air tubes work at the bank, because money weighs very little, and there is very little friction being that it travels vertically. This system could not likely handle enough canisters to compare with the us postal service and the private package services, nor would it be economical to allow use for low priority everyday use.
leemur, Dec 26 2004

       I'm no expert on the energy it takes to move certain wieghts up certain grades, but after riding on the metro in Washington DC, I am certain that it is an accomplishable feat. Although pneumatic is a nice idea, in the end it will have to be electric, as it is the most easly transported energy, which is essential to make sure that it is available at all points through the network.
ZebProctor, Dec 26 2004

       I agree that engineers, in developing a propritary package transport system, would probably look at electric transport first, but that doesn't discount the feasability of pneumatic. There is one problem with pneumatic that has yet to be addressed in these discussions, though. How many capsules could occupy the length of tube going in the same direction at the same time? Or another way, can a directional pressure wave in a tube be sustained between multiple transport capsules?
Bull Winkus, Dec 27 2004

       I think pnuematic is pretty much out, there would be many, many capsules travelling the tube at any given time, much like cars in a tunnel, some would exit as the tube passes under their destination, some would stay.
ZebProctor, Dec 31 2004

       "at a much higher speed than a train or truck could carry" Why does it need to be fast? It just needs to be predictable. If it is a TCP/IP kind of infrastructure with RFID-tagged canisters you can predict accurately when the cargo arrives. In my country, the Netherlands, I can see it work as an infrastructure between cities and towns parallel to the railroad system. Since there are no significant differences in altitude (the entire country is flat) it should technically not be too difficult.   

       The design of the canister should be according to an international standard. The entire canister should also travel 'the last mile'. Retailers receive canisters with goods instead of palets. Once emptied they are stackable, like coffee cups, so the retailer can pile them up. This would not take up too much (expensive) storage space. Not disposable, but with a deposit on each.
rrr, Mar 13 2007

       I'm thinking of Tenacious D's "City Hall"   

       Second Decree: No more care exhaust, no more pollution...From now on we will travel in TUBES! Get the scientists working on the tube technology immediately...
topherator, Mar 14 2007

       So what happened in "the great crash of 2006"??   

       Did I miss it?
Custardguts, Mar 15 2007

       Hey, you want to put us truck drivers out of a job?   

       Anyway, a far better system would be to build huge cannons and a series of trampolines and nets - a computer could calculate distance, trajectory, wind conditions and not forgetting the coriollis effect of the Earth's rotation, to fire packages straight into your front yard.   

       btw - I'm guessing that big crash of 2006 was 1 year late.
mecotterill, May 11 2008

       Tunneling is a rather expensive undertaking, and requires a long time to do. As longer and longer distances are considered, this becomes increasingly less cost-effective. In urban areas, the ability to tunnel beneath hundreds of intersections and crosswalks provides an obvious benefit to safety and efficiency.   

       Trans-metropolitan transport, by it's very nature goes through far less densely used areas. Paying thousands of dollars to tunnel beneath a mile of cornfield in the off chance that a cow might get run over makes little sense. The argument for intersections also tends to be lacking, as in sparsely populated areas, such as that between metropolitan areas, it should be just as efficient to build the transport network onto an overpass if stopping for traffic is undesirable.   

       This cuts a lot of credence away from your idea, unless you assume to be saving time by digging straight tunnels, and thereby avoiding slow-downs that could be caused by local terrain and the curvature of the earth.   

       I'm also a little confused that you consider this more efficient than air transport, which can serve a similar purpose, but can go faster due to less friction.
ye_river_xiv, May 12 2008

       I'm not sure about the cost vs. benefit here. Are existing subways in NY ever used for transporting goods?
sninctown, May 12 2008

       One of my "future cities": all personal motor-vehicles are parked on the periphery in huge lots; typical street has an underground access tunnel through which all utilities run as well as a sidewalk, a very light rail system for personal and goods transport (and recycling and garbage disposal), and entrances to buildings; aboveground is limited to personal-powered transport (and those little shopping mall buggies for disabled, and horses).   

       Running x-country underground seems wasteful, though.
FlyingToaster, May 12 2008

       The concept of underground transport seems unnecessary, since every place already has plenty of underground.
bungston, May 12 2008

       Yeah, I always wondered why can’t you just use toilets and sewers for delivering letters and parcels around the country. A little drone swims and climbs to the right toilet adresss and pops out the recipient’s toilet. ( like Santa does when you don’t have a chimney) They might have to make them toilets much bigger for bigger parcels though.. then robbers will start climbing up, damn.
DDRopDeadly, Nov 08 2017

       [ddropdeadly] - see link
hippo, Nov 08 2017


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