With development beginning in 1985, the HighRoad technology has been focused on serving the individual rider rather than just the masses. This meant that transit vehicles should be available with minimal wait times and be truly rapid for a person to go places. Stations should be convenient to where people live and work. The resulting product should be viable competition with the personal automobile. It should have its own pathway of travel, avoiding ground-level congestion. And if such a system is to grow to provide increasing access for its customers, its business model must include a positive cash flow, a concept foreign to other transit technologies. Cost containment was part of the design from the start, not an afterthought.
A major cause of cost escalation in mass transit systems is the use of single-source parts. So, OTG's founding Engineer, Bill Owen, decided that the system design would use as many pre-existing and proven components as possible to keep costs low. Approximately 95% of the needed components were found to be already in use in various industries, offering the added advantage of many years of successful performance data.
Perhaps the most important innovation of the system is the shape of the concrete guideway beam. The simple shape creates a vast array of benefits, starting with the ability to "lock" vehicles onto each side, virtually eliminating derailment. It also allows a clear path atop the beam for emergency evacuations and even emergency vehicle access. The power supply bars and drive traction surface are protected from snow and ice and the steel rails can be heated as needed. Vehicles can continue to operate in windy conditions that would halt most other systems. As a major cost reduction feature, the two-direction capability of a single guideway cuts costs substantially, eliminating the need for a second beam.
Owen Transit Group, Inc., a mechanical engineering design firm founded in 1973 in Marietta, Georgia, USA, has privately funded the development of the HighRoad Rapid Transit System design concept to its current state. With expertise in mechanical, electrical, environmental and control systems, the engineering staff has applied its more than one hundred years of design experience to establishing this new kind of monorail.
William E. Owen earned a Mechanical Engineering degree from Auburn University and his Master of Engineering Administration degree from George Washington University. Following his education at Auburn he was employed as an aircraft engine installation design engineer at General Dynamics Corporation for the mach-two B-58 bomber, a classified project at the time.
As an officer on active duty at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC, Mr. Owen served as Senior Mechanical Engineer, designing systems for Coast Guard navigation stations in Turkey, Italy, Libya, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. He also designed the complex beacon mechanism and housing for two U.S. lighthouses, Sullivan's Island and Oak Island, presenting a paper on his unique design to the 1960 International Lighthouse Conference.
Following active military service he was employed by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Marietta, Georgia, as Assistant Federal Aviation Agency Coordinator, working to gain FAA approval of the designs for the JetStar and C-141 aircraft. He worked as project coordinator in Lockheed's engineering program planning and scheduling department (costs and budgets), later joining the sales group for marketing the commercial version of the C-5A cargo airplane, the L-500.
The United States Patent Office granted him a patent for the "Side-mounted Monorail Transportation System", now marketed as the HighRoad Rapid Transit System. The system patent embodies 17 unique features. A subsequent patent covering additional unique features was issued in 2001. The system design accommodates urban/suburban transit as well as the transport of freight and high-speed intercity travel. Mr. Owen states the system's benefits result from simplicity of design, making it among the most cost effective of systems currently available. "Its low construction and operation costs coupled with its massive transporting capacity make it a powerful component in the solution to our regional commuting problems." Owen Transit Group, Inc., is licensed by Mr. Owen to market the technology.
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Fig. 1. This is an end view of two vehicles mounted on the guideway supported by a single column; One vehicle is shown coming toward you, the other moving away. Another design version allows the vehicles to be raised to beam side entry and exit.
Fig. 2. The HighRoad stations can be designed easily to blend with local architectural styles. The size is comparable to a small, two-story branch bank. A station side view is shown.