I live in silicon valley, and I am forever going to San Fran or San Jose on the caltrain. The caltrain is clean, but its too damn slow.

Then I thought about why its slow. It makes too many stops. Every stop it needs to slow down, stop, people board, it speeds up again. The overhead involved in the stops take up all the time, not the actual travelling.

We all want more stops, so statistically the caltrain is closer to our front door, but its the stops that are slowing the caltrain down, the express trains get me to San Fran 2X quicker, but they serve maybe 1/5 the stops, so they are not a solution either.

So this post (which is just for the record, cause no doubt it already exists in Japan) wants to present an idea to abstract out the stops.

Caltrain is not the best or worst example, but the simplest example is to imagine a subway line running from east to west in a major city, spanning 50 miles and having 25 stops. If the train can start at the east side and travel at 50 miles an hour w/o stop, you can traverse the city in an hour regardless of traffic, its optimal for moving people through a city.

So the tricky part is when someone gets on at mile 20 and wants to get off at mile 22 (which would be city center and the most common usage).

So you have little mini trains at each stop. You board them, and their doors close one minute before the big train (running at constant 50mph) passes the station. Once the doors of the mini train close the mini train starts to accelerate on a mini track next to the main track. The timing is such that when the mini-train reaches 50mph the main train is right next to it, and they dock in motion, allowing people to board (from mini-train to big-train) and if the next stop is close, people can disembark from the big-train to the mini-train which will then close its door and coast to the next stop.

The whole point is to have the big train move at a constant speed, never stopping. Take the stops out of the equation and mass transit would be FAST.

Just an idea, it is a hot spell in Silicon Valley, hard to sleep, my mind wanders 🙂

Update: I ran this by my friend faisal, and he has an idea to treat the train cars like lego blocks, opening up all sorts of new strategies, then i felt inspired and drew a pathetic one minute sketch on my tablet …