Smart mobility: transporting people and goods at Expo 2005 Aichi
Expo 2005 Aichi was an epoch-making World Expo in every aspect, as it sought innovative solutions for various issues in society, in line with the aims of Expos and the BIE. Through innovative exhibits, events, and operation methodologies, the event - themed "Nature's Wisdom" - expressed and demonstrated all the possibilities and potential embraced through technologies, social transformation and people’s behavioural changes driven by enhanced awareness.
Efficient, safe and eco-friendly transportation of people and goods has steadily increased in importance in recent times. From such a perspective, Expo 2005 Aichi in Japan applied innovative and revolutionary measures. I would like to discuss hereunder the measures taken by Expo 2005 in the aspects of technologies, social systems and people’s awareness and behaviour. In doing so, I aim to illustrate how smart mobility was not only a key feature of the Expo and visitor satisfaction, which is key for all Expos, but also an enduring legacy of the event.
"It was imperative for Expo 2005 Aichi Japan to protect the environment"
Let me first address the technological aspects of Expo 2005 Aichi in transportation.
1. Introduction of LINIMO (High Speed Surface Transport, HSST)
A magnetic-levitated linear motor car, commonly called “LINIMO”, was built to carry visitors for the 8.9 km journey from Fujigaoka Subway Station to JR Expo Yakusa Station. LINIMO was the very first commercially operated Maglev train service in Japan and played a pivotal role in transporting visitors to and from the Expo. Initially developed by Japan Airlines Co., LINIMO ran 8 millimetres above the track with a maximum speed of 100km per hour. It was an excellent mode of transport, especially in an urban area, as it could run with less vibration and noise.
"Although LINIMO was designed to serve as mere transit mode, it gained huge popularity as a mobile pavilion"
Although LINIMO was built for the single purpose of human transportation, it gained huge popularity as a future vehicle or a mobile exhibit. I recall my own experience of moving a floating Maglev train using just three of my fingers. LINIMO, which used an ordinary conductor magnet for its driving force, was a three-car train system that accommodated 244 passengers. Thus, one of the major challenges of LINIMO was to fill the huge capacity gap between LINIMO and other transports such as subway or Japan Railways. To resolve such challenge, we took various measures and techniques, such as interspersing passengers through different transport modes, as described later in the aspect of social systems.
2. Superconducting Maglev
Visitors could see a real-world superconducting linear motor car exhibited in the Central Japan Railway Company’s Superconducting Maglev Pavilion. At the 3D Superconducting Linear Motor Car Theatre, visitors were able to experience approximately 500km/h speed of a linear motor car hurtling on the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line and feel the very moment of its levitation. It became a widely popular attraction. The basic principle of its levitation and propulsion was to make a superconducting state of practically zero electric resistance by cooling liquid helium to minus 269 degrees Celsius. In April 2017, it attained the world high-speed record of 603km/h.
Construction of “Linear Chuo Shinkansen line” that adopted the Maglev technology is now underway by JR-Central to connect Tokyo to Nagoya (285.6km) with the goal of starting operations in 2027. The exhibit heralded practical application in the near future and raised the hopes of visitors for the future. Undoubtedly, it had a great impact to achieve practical application.
3. IMTS (Intelligent Multimode Transit System)
For transportation within the site, Expo 2005 adopted a new intelligent multimode transit system to combine the advantages of both automotive cruise control technology and rail operation maintenance system. A driverless three-car train system ran in disconnected convoy for the entire 1.6km route.
IMTS had distinctive features, allowing both manual (manned) driving and unmanned driving, in addition to its flexible route-setting ability to select exclusive lanes and other open roads. It was exactly the embryonic phase of what is now called a “self-driving” or “autonomous” system. Therefore, unsurprisingly, we had to undergo a continuing process of trials and errors. For instance, a problem arose where an unmanned car crossed with another manned driving car. The reason was that the unmanned driving car was unable to recognize the manned car unless the latter’s driver made an exact stop at any designated location. In such a case, the unmanned car was forced to make an unnecessary stop. The problem demonstrated how difficult it was for human drivers to make a precise stop at the exact place.
"IMTS became so popular that the total passenger count reached 1.8 million during the Expo"
In order to expand the range of recognising the stoppage, we spent many days modifying the software, causing the system to go out-of-service for one month. However, the transit system became so popular that the total passenger count reached 1.8 million during the Expo, probably because Morizo and Kiccoro, the official mascot character, were driving unmanned train cars. It was also an event that helped visitors realise the potential of future technologies. After the closing of the Expo, further research and development works for the commercialisation of such technologies have continued. By the end of February 2020, the experimental run of unconnected trains (with manned vehicles leading and unmanned vehicles following) was implemented on the actual highway.
4. Fuel Cell Hybrid Shuttle Bus (FCB) between two Expo sites
As the Expo 2005 took place in two separate venues (Nagakute and Seto, Aichi, Japan), transporting visitors between them was a big challenge. In order to cope with the issue, a 1,120m-long gondola was set up. The transportation capacity still fell short significantly. Therefore, we decided to introduce Fuel Cell Hybrid Buses (FCB) to fill the gap.
FCBs are an extremely clean transportation mode, as they use liquid hydrogen for its fuel and only emit water. In 2005, they were quite innovative although fuel cell vehicles had already been introduced on the market in Japan. We brought in nine FCBs to transport one million visitors. Alongside, we built hydrogen-fuelling stations to supply liquid hydrogen for the buses, although we could have considered regular bus transport as an option. However, the introduction of FCB caught the attention of visitors. It made them wonder about the potential of future transport and deepened their understanding before it became a familiar technology. We adopted two passenger-car type FCBs to serve as lead cars for dignitaries on national days.
Today, the Tokyo Metropolitan Bus Co. is using the fuel cell buses, which I also ride from time to time.
5. Support for the movement of the disabled and the elderly
To enhance the social participation of people of all ages and abilities, it is important to support their mobility. To this end, Expo 2005 developed a system to guide disabled people to their destinations and conducted demonstration experiments. It was an integrated system that combined multiple functions including: GPS, a global positioning system to identify one’s destination; a frequency modulation (FM) wave function to identify the location of intersections or entrances of buildings and the like; an infrared ray (IR) radiation system; and an IC tag system to recognise the exact directions of objects in the surrounding area. The system was embedded in braille blocks and other points to indicate the passengers’ location. This experiment allowed us to gain the appropriate knowledge and insight. I believe that the demonstration of future technologies heightens the attractiveness and significance of the Expo. On the other hand, it might not be easy for the general public to realise what kind of experiments were going on in the transportation technologies. Moreover, the Expo 2005 Aichi had seen more trials and experiments of advanced technologies in sectors other than transportation.
After looking at the technological aspects of the different forms of transport employed for Expo 2005, I would now like to turn my attention towards the behavioural aspects by looking at the social systems.
Expo 2005 Aichi Japan attracted 22.05 million visitors. For every Expo, it must be a critical agenda to transport such a great number of people in a smooth manner. It is especially true when mass transportation systems are insufficient. Thus, for Expo 2005, it was essential to secure the smooth transportation of visitors, by channelling them into different transit modes including LINIMO, subway, JR, bus and private vehicles as mentioned before. In addition, our concern was a big capacity gap between LINIMO and subway/JR. That was a potential bottleneck to cause traffic congestion.
Moreover, to address scarce parking space near the venues, we introduced the so-called “park-and-ride” system. We established six car parks and shuttle buses to connect each car park and the Expo sites. The shortest ride to the site was about 15 minutes while the longest was 35 minutes. At any rate, the key to a smooth transit was distribution. In other words, decentralisation of multi-modal transit between rail (subway and JR) and other mass transport systems (buses and private vehicles, etc.) was an overriding issue, besides the allotment among six car parks. The number of visitors who used the most distant 35 minute-car park exceeded our estimate significantly. The reason was that more and more people preferred to ride the shuttle bus from the farther car park rather than the nearest one in their attempt to avoid traffic, presuming that everyone would go to the nearest parking lot. The result showed how many visitors made the right choices.
1. Encouraging visitors to use different transport systems
The Nagoya Station was the place where visitors concentrated the most, necessitating various transport options. Hence, we offered a range of information to guide visitors.
Firstly, a large screen panel was prepared to telecast real-time traffic updates at the subway/LINIMO transit station. It brought a significant impact, because visitors had the options to choose JR or the bus instead of the subway after watching the telecast.
Secondly, we broadcasted traffic information on a regular basis on the FM radio station that was launched exclusively for the Expo. As the head of the organising body, I also served as the director of the FM station.Thirdly, we offered exclusive shuttle bus services in order to mitigate congestion at the transit station, Yakusa Station, where JR and Linimo crossed.
Through the complimentary measures of directing people to multiple transport modes, and introducing shuttle bus services, we were able to make a great success of transporting crowds of people smoothly, while levelling the congestion among various transport modes.
2. Introduction of the ITS (Intelligent Transport System) Center System
Even in the park-and-ride system, it was essential to provide timely information about road congestion and parking area vacancies in order to help visitors make the right decision. To serve this purpose, we provided such information on specific websites and the Expo’s exclusive FM radio, in addition to indicative road signs. All traffic-related data, including at parking areas and transit stations, as well as at the cross section of the highway and the general road were constantly gathered at the Intelligent Transport System Center, also known as the ITS Center. Such real-time information became available on the video displays and I could see the situation of key locations at any time from my office. I can vividly recall the time when I could issue appropriate instructions based on those data.
"The efficient management of diverse transportation systems was integral to improving customer satisfaction"
In the park-and-ride system, a key to the success of smooth transportation was to secure an optimal number of shuttle buses and allocate them at early stages based on the forecasts.
Such forecasting could be extremely difficult. While it is important to learn from past experiences, it is more important to grasp the difference in social situations of the past and the present. For example, more attention needs to be paid to social trends, such as the economic growth of service industries, demographic dynamism, and workdays of regional companies. Specifically, Expo 1970 Osaka showed a significant difference between the number of visitors during the weekdays and weekends, while for Expo 2005 Aichi, such numbers were more levelled. Another finding was that the number of online reservations adopted for some pavilions in Expo 2005 showed a strong correlation with the total number of visitors for the day. It indicated that family members or friends found it difficult to change their schedules once fixed and that a large number of people came to visit the Expo even when they could not make prior reservations. The newfound correlation significantly contributed to our optimal allocation of shuttle buses.
As remarked above, I realised that efficient management of diverse transportation systems was integral to improving customer satisfaction. It was also necessary to smoothly operate the Expo. Moreover, I found it important to establish a flexible system and a mechanism to shape human behaviours in a positive way in order to ensure safety and mobility of visitors.
The final point I will address concerns a key aspect of mobility in the Expo site - the Global Loop.
It was imperative for Expo 2005 Aichi Japan to protect the environment. The natural environment had to be taken into consideration in building the site, land reconstruction, or altering existing topography.
There was a roughly 40-metre altitude variation in the site. To address the height gap, the “Global Loop” – the elevated Cosmopolitan Promenade was created. The Global Loop was the main corridor that encircled Nagakute Expo site, with an outer length of 2.6km and a width of 21 metres.
"The corridor in the sky reduced not only the environmental load but also the visitor load by enabling barrier-free flow of movement"
The Loop, also known as “the corridor in the sky”, reduced not only the environmental load but also the visitor load by enabling barrier-free flow of movement in a site that faced an elevation difference. It worked well from the perspective of landscaping, as visitors could easily find their destinations. Therefore, the Global Loop became one of the main features of Expo 2005.
As seen here, it is extremely important for the successful management of the Expo not only to transport people and goods to the Expo sites, but also to implement smoother movement of people and goods within the Expo venue. The construction of the Global Loop also enabled us to separate the flow of people from the transport of goods, which was especially beneficial in the management of the Expo.
The movement of people and goods can be examined from various points:
First was the technological aspect. It was a matter of how we could improve efficiency, safety and convenience through technology. Expo 2005 Aichi Japan introduced a variety of innovative transport modes, which also became one of the main attractions.
The second point was to find the optimal solution for linking various transport modes, for which we implemented various measures.
The third point was to realise the importance of people’s movement on foot. At Expo 2005 Aichi, we tried various ways to facilitate the smoother movement of all people of all ages and abilities.
Ensuring the safety, convenience and efficiency of people’s movement brings a more efficient society, abates social loads and enhances social participation of people. All of them are indispensable components for further social progress. One should also remember that it is important to encourage people to act properly by exerting influence on their consciousness or mindset. The theme of World Expos may change over time and they may be diverse, but, the transport to the Expo sites and the movement within the site should always follow. Thus, the smooth transport of people and goods must be a matter of priority for all Expos.
This article is adapted from a text that was first published in the 2017 edition of the BIE Bulletin entitled “Sustainable Innovation and Legacies in Expos of the 21st Century: A World in Common”.