Archive for September, 2010

PRT @LHR 2010 – Summary of Personal Rapid Transit Conference at Heathrow Airport – Days Two and Three

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Wednesday – Thursday 22nd – 23rd September 2010

I attended the morning tour of the PRT system thereby missing the first four Wednesday presentations. I had previously seen and ridden on the entire system. However, I had not seen the T-5 station since it was completed. It is an elegant and well-designed facility that appears to have ample space. Strolling around it, one appreciates some of the difficulties of designing for a system few will initially understand. For example, when passengers read “wait here for an empty berth” will they understand what a berth is and be able to determine where one ends and another begins? During the remainder of the tour and the ride the following morning (the system was closed for track maintenance on Wednesday morning), I paid attention to the opinions of others. Perhaps most telling was the comment of a Bombardier representative who indicated the system was much better than he had expected. I was interested in better evaluating the ride quality which, while not perfect, is definitely better than that in the back seat of a taxi.

Sven Beller, PTV AG, discussed the adaptation of existing tools such as VISUM and VISSIM to simulate PRT systems. Necessary adaptations can be scripted through the Application Programming Interface using other tools such as Excel’s Visual Basic for Applications.

Joerg Schweizer, Universita di Bologna presented work he is doing on a PRT Capacity Manual. The manual is intended to provide performance models that are quick and easy to apply with a focus on station operations.

Jochen Rabe, Associate, Ove Arup & Partners Ltd., said that comprehensive PRT networks covering entire cities may not be realistic. Local authorities must compare the transport service benefits of PRT with the visual impact and potential privacy loss.

Gabriele Giustiniani, Researcher, University of Rome ‘La Spienza’, outlined a CityMobil project with a round trip of 1.61km, 11 stops and 6 cybercars. He found the mode share for the cybercars was 10% more than that for a mini bus with the same schedule.

Steve Perliss, Lea+Elliott moderated a Procurement Workshop which included addresses from Bo Olsson, Senior Strategist, Trafikverket, David Holdcroft, PRT Manager, BAA, Martin Lowson, President, ULTra PRT, Robbert Lohman, Commercial Director, 2getthere and Jorgen Gustafsson, Managing Director, Vectus Ltd. Olsson described a two-step procurement process (first qualifications, then price) and said numerous questions must be answered before committing to a procurement process. Holdcroft described the process used to select ULTra. He said they received 15 responses. Lowson and Lohman implied they approved of the BAA procurement process. Perliss said it is important to give responders time to build teams and to bring them in early to get feedback. Ahuja said this is not possible in India where the tender period is limited to 6-8 weeks. Lowson and Lohmann agreed that the supplier must have control of the structural specifications to ensure ride quality and vehicle interfaces are adequate. Gustafsson said clear roles and responsibilities with simple interfaces and a lean organization able to make quick decisions (especially on the client side) were important. He said the Suncheon project will comprise 11km, 40 vehicles with 3M annual visitors. It will be mainly point-to-point and is being financed by Vectus who will receive an annual stipend. Muller pointed out that the workshop seemed to be moving towards guidance for consultants in preparing tender documents and that guidance for owners in moving from considering to implementing PRT was perhaps also needed. Lowson stated that, in his opinion, the ASCE APM standards are insufficient on the topic of safety and that safety clearance requirements vary greatly from country to country and even within some countries like the U.S.A.

Simon Babes, Director, Colin Buchanan, discussed a potential role for PRT in the Chinese megacity of Shanghai. He presented an analysis of a 20km, 20 station PRT system with 500 vehicles and 67,000 daily trips connecting a business park to a metro station. He anticipated fare revenues plus savings in shuttle bus operating costs could cover PRT operating costs and pay back the capital investment in five to ten years.

Richard Caple, Engineer Project Manager, Daventry District Council, said the major concerns for the Daventry PRT project include: visual intrusion; cost; anti-social behavior; ease of use and the complexity of the network. There is no funding presently available but he expects the system will happen eventually. He briefly outlined a document called Outlines for the Implementation of PRT in Urban Areas.

Peter Muller, President, PRT Consulting (the author), suggested that the true benefits of PRT will only be realized when it is used to develop entirely new cities built with a focus on ideal living conditions along with sustainability. He outlined how his vision for a “perfect” city could be enabled by PRT and recommended that those attempting to retrofit existing cities with PRT might want to keep this vision in mind, as something to strive towards. A poll of the audience revealed that about 75% would like to live in such a city.

Colin Bates, Managing Director, Customer Champions reported on a study of ULTra’s previous leads and key contacts. They found that the key barriers to sales were: risk aversion; desire not to be first (Heathrow will help but is not always applicable); urban developments are impacted by politics; PRT is not understood by decision makers; there is a lack of comparable data and proven benefits.

Malcolm Buchanan, Director, Colin Buchanan, summarized the conference. He asked if roads and cars or rail networks could eventually become PRT networks.

PRT @LHR 2010 – Summary of Personal Rapid Transit Conference at Heathrow Airport – Day One

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Tuesday 21st September 2010

The Conference was opened by John Holland-Kaye, Commercial Director, BAA Airports, who said that the PRT system is obtaining 100% records for reliability. He was excited by the chance to create a new form of technology that will change the way people travel.

Fraser Brown, Head of Travel Services, Heathrow Airport Ltd – BAA, listed numerous advantages of the PRT system including: predictable; reduction in journey times; more than 70% have no waiting; reductions in emissions, noise and congestion; improved office rents, land values & availability as well as road safety. He is looking forward to a future where the passenger needs no local knowledge – they will not need to know where they have to go, just what they want to do. The system should be able to account for congestions, last-minute changes and delays in flight schedules.

David Holdcroft, PRT Manager, BAA, outlined completed and on-going system testing and passenger trials. He said that they have found out from passenger trials to date that passengers like the system. They also have learned that there are many aspects of the system that can be improved and have been tweaking such things as the audio message volume, door timings and button sequences. The on-going daily trials include passengers with luggage and are being used to monitor trends in the system status. The recent emergency situation rehearsal provided valuable lessons including that it resulted in duplicative responses from multiple jurisdictions. The system will open once BAA is satisfied with the results of daily trials and full integration of the PRT system with all other airport systems that could interact with it in any way. The integration process involves safety integration, new and updated operations protocols and familiarization of all potentially impacted airport staff.

Mark Griffiths, Head of Operations, ULTra PRT, continued the theme David Holdcroft started and told of unexpected passenger behaviors, such as going to an empty station berth to call a vehicle because they mistakenly assumed the one already waiting in a berth must be broken. He said they have a core staff of 24 for the 24/7 operation. Batteries must be recycled after about 3 months. Opportunity charging in stations allows a full battery pack to keep a vehicle running for several hours.

The Masdar PRT system had a two-hour test last week with 10 vehicles and 25 passengers according to Robbert Lohmann, Commercial Director, 2getthere. He said they put doors on one side of the vehicles only because doors tend to be problematic. However, this has required some special station layouts. When asked about rumors that Masdar is considering abandoning the PRT system for electric cars or other solutions, he said that Masdar is still committed to the PRT system but continually reconsidering their options because of the state of the economy.

Dario Menichetti with Mott MacDonald discussed the modeling of the MASDAR PRT system. They used conventional transportation modeling tools as well as a micro-simulation model in order to model the integrated systems and optimize the PRT topology and network performance.

Michel Parent, Team Manager, INRIA, said that cyber cars are fully-automated individual road vehicles that are part of an optimized transportation system but are not necessarily separated from other traffic. He described a cyber-car demonstration that will run for 6 months (January to June, 2011) with three vehicles in La Rochelle, France.

Tony Kerr, Director, Ove Arup & Partners Ltd., reported that they are now under contract and beginning work on the San José PRT project. The initial portion of the project will include investigating a PRT system connecting the airport to light- and commuter-rail stations.

Magnus Hunhammer, CEO, Institute for Sustainable Transportation described how they have used a full- scale portable PRT station to publicize and educate people about PRT. He also showed a PRT visualization.

John Hammersley with ULTra PRT discussed planning efforts and competition for a PRT system in the historic city of Bath. He said the competition led to overwhelmingly positive response and the PRT system could pay for operating costs and provide a return on investment of 7.3% based on a very reasonable fare.

Henk van Zuylen of The University of Technology, Delft described a PRT system connecting the Airport of Rotterdam and The Hague with existing rail and Scienceport Holland. The 21 km system would have 14 stations and 70 vehicles. Capital costs were estimated at €109M and annual O&M costs at €1.7M. He said the real barriers are institutional and political.

Sonal Ahuja, Director International Development, Capita Symonds Ltd., said there are 17 to 18 PRT projects currently being taken seriously in India where there is no recession and people pay for purchases in cash. He described a PRT study in New Delhi where they had to resort to double guideways to accommodate projected demand using 3 second headways and an occupancy factor of 3.0. The study showed a benefit/cost ratio of 4 and an internal rate of return of 18%.

Martin Lowson, President, ULTRa PRT discussed the design of a high capacity PRT station. He said they have found loading and unloading times to be quite consistent with that on other modes. Door cycle times tend to dominate station dwell times. Station designs can minimize the number of bays required by keeping standby vehicles close by in order to immediately replace departing vehicles.

Arturo Dávila, Project Engineer, IADIADA Automotive Technology SA, described a vehicle platooning system called SAfe Road TRains for the Environment (SARTRE) where the lead vehicle is driven and following ones are driverless. The intent is to increase safety and capacity while reducing energy used.

Ingmar Andréasson, Professor, KTH, discussed the ridership effects of PRT mixed with scheduled transit. He found that conventional transit is inadequate and PRT can increase total transit share and induce more travelling. In order to estimate the new transit share including PRT, all we need to know is the transit disutility and how much it is going to change, if the other modes are going to remain unchanged. He found the bus penalty relative to car to be € 2.50 and the PRT penalty to be half that, when the entire trip is by PRT.