Imagine a transportation grid built for you.
In the morning, you walk the five minutes (or ride an electric scooter) to the nearest neighborhood station. The small station contains several waiting 'cars'. You step up to the one in front, swipe your SmartCard, and get in. The door closes quietly as you settle into the comfortable seat. You speak the name of your destination station and within a few seconds, the on-board computer has automatically chosen the quickest route. When an empty spot is available on the main line (one comes along every few seconds on average), you feel the quick, smooth acceleration as your 'car' zips up to a steady speed of 100 mph, merging perfectly with traffic on the main line. Since the computer is doing the driving, you can relax, reading the paper, using the onboard Internet access to get some work done, or just watch the scenery. Eight minutes later, you feel the 'car' decelerate as it leaves the main line for the off-line station located on the third floor of your office high rise in the city centre. In 8 minutes, you have just traveled the 13 mile commute that used to take you 40 minutes by car. Your SmartCard keeps track of your miles and bills your credit card at the end of each month: only 10 cents per mile, compared with the 35 cents per mile cost of automobiles (plus $10 a day for downtown parking).
Does this sound futuristic? Believe it or not, but all of the technology needed for the above scenario is readily available today. Check out the following sites for more info on how PRT networks may be implemented. The biggest obstacle to PRT implementation is overcoming the inertia and funding monopoly of the present day transportation paradigm of mass transit. Once people realize that mass transit doesn't need to be accomplished by massive vehicles, PRT should blossom.
Unfortunately, this is a short list. Once a first system is built, I'm sure this will change.
ULTra: Urban Light Transport -- This will be the world's first application of the modern PRT concept. The National Assembly of Wales has approved £19.2 million (US$30 million) funding for the company to go ahead with their Stage 0 pilot scheme in Cardiff Bay, the government seat of Wales. If all goes well, a further £20 million of funding could be released, allowing the Stage 1 link between the Cardiff city centre and the Bay area to open by 2005. The elevated vehicles would consume about 2 kW of continuous power (much less than automobiles or other transit modes) as they travel nonstop at a constant speed of 40 km/hr (25 mph) to their destination on several loops. This will be a great improvement over the current 13 km/h (8 mph) average speeds in the congested city centre. Heavy and light rail was also studied, but would have cost signficantly more ( £120-150 million; US$190-230 million) and offered a lower level of service. News on the ULTra project (from a Seattle PRT page).
The Cincinnati Sky Loop -- This system would have used the Taxi2000 design for an elevated PRT circulator system connecting downtown Cincinnati with the Northern Kentucky cities of Covington and Newport. Unfortunately, the Central Area Loop Study Committee rejected PRT in favor of more traditional surface-based rail. This set the project back by several years.
Gateway PRT -- This system is proposed for St. Louis, MO and use the Taxi2000 design.
Seattle PRT -- Another Taxi2000 system proposed for Seattle, WA.
San Francisco -- PRT replacement of Proposed BART extension -- A proposed 22 mile BART heavy rail extension from Milpitas to San Jose is projected to take 10 years and cost $3.8 billion. For half that amount, PRT could provide 80 miles of transit with 20 times as many stations, with lower operating and environmental costs.
PRT Proposed for Long Branch, NJ -- Asbury Park Press
Mercury News | 12/12/2003 | Personal transit system offered
Duluth News Tribune | 12/16/2003 | Duluth in lead for innovating transit system
SkyWeb Express (formerly Taxi2000) -- Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) -- the technology to make cities more friendly, convenient, and healthy. This company's plan is further along than any others in the United States. They are currently raising capital to build prototypes and test tracks. Using rubber tires and off-the-shelf components, there are no technical hurdles to overcome. The only hurdle to overcome is the momentum of the status quo: the traditional transit industry (light rail, heavy rail, roads) which siphon billions of dollars of tax money each year, but still leave us with inefficient and congested cities. A possible first system could be located in Minneapolis. For more details on the design and performance characteristics, see the 'In Detail' section of the web page.
YorkPRT -- This is another company involved in PRT. From the picture on their web site, it looks like they may have acquired the project work done by Raytheon (a major defense contractor which investigated PRT a few years back; they spent $45 million on design and prototypes, but eventually decided their design would be too costly). It is unclear at what stage this company is at.
MegaRail -- A dual mode initiative. The PRT part of this is called MicroRail.
SkyTran -- This concept site combines the features of PRT with low-speed (100 mph) Maglev technology. When this system is built, it will revolutionize cities. Of all the designs that I've seen, this one is most appealing. The web site has a whimsical story which explains how PRT is better than the traditional transit de jour (light rail).
Advanced Transit Association
Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit
Austin Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit
PRT Index Page
Automated People Mover (APM) Links -- Contains many links of interest pertaining to early PRT designs and current systems using some PRT characteristics.
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