Researchers at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have come up with an innovative addition to the city’s public transit system. Called Waterway 365, their project follows the principle that “across is always closer than around.” They propose incorporating water buses into the existing public transport service, and their system design involves a water bus unlike any other you have seen before.
The efficiency of public transit systems is a key factor in their uptake by the communities they serve. Cities with significant water frontage face particular challenges as road and rail systems must rely on bottlenecked bridges and tunnels, while ferry systems and water taxis offer a number of inconveniences besides an unwanted shower. The team at KTH proposes an innovative system design based on a number of key factors to improve the efficiency of the interface between land- and water-based transport modes.
While the design focused on Stockholm, the research team believes their project could be applied to other waterfront cities too. Project researcher Karl Garme says five basic conditions must be taken into consideration when assessing whether a city can support such a system. Firstly, water buses have to integrate efficiently with the land-based transport system, both at interchanges and in payment systems. The team makes special note of bicycle transport, pointing out that it is easier to get a bike on and off of a boat than a bus. Water buses would also have to operate year round, a particular challenge in a city like Stockholm where the waterways ice up. The team propose using ice breaking vessels at such times in a similar fashion to snowploughs. This would allow water buses to be built of lighter-weight material, and the team states, “Our opinion is that lighter material can handle some ice, and we save fuel during the summer if we don’t need to carry around a heavy, steel-reinforced hull that isn’t needed then.”
A key difference between the KTH proposal and existing water taxi or ferry services is the efficiency of moving passengers on and off. “We want the boats to work as a subway or a bus, where you get on and off from the sides, instead of at the bow or stern,” says Garme. Naturally, the boats also need to be energy efficient both while in use and during production. It is proposed that they also be modular, with different sized compartments for different needs. The team also makes a point that the window of opportunity for such a project could easily be lost, as waterfront development and the rising cost of such prime real estate could price the transport sector out of the market.
The KTH team worked with Susanna Hall Kihl of Vattenbussen AB on market developments and planning issues, and the project was supported by the Swedish Maritime Administration.
Lead image by Linnea Våglund and Karin Bodins—students from KTH and Stockholm’s University College of Arts, Crafts and Design; map by Stonyyy via Wikimedia Commons