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.