On August 15, 2013 the Suncheon personal rapid transit (PRT) system opened to limited public use with 20 vehicles. We understand that another 20 will be added in the next few months to bring the system up to its designed capability. Each vehicle holds six seated passengers with room for an additional three standees and operates at speeds up to 37 mph serving two stations 2.8 miles apart.
Vectus PRT System in Suncheon, Korea
In late 2010, early 2011 Move Mile, 2getthere and Ultra all had systems entering public service and PRT proponents could confidently announce that modern PRT systems were now in operation and available from more than one supplier. Move Mile had been developed “below the radar” and many were surprised by its entry into the market. At the same time, although it also utilizes small, autonomous, rubber-tired, battery-powered vehicles it was perceived as not having the sophistication of the other two systems with their elaborate stations and destination-selection kiosks.
Just another shuttle?
The Vectus system only has two stations so is it just another shuttle or is there some real significance to its addition to the stable of available systems? Read on and decide for yourself.
An examination of the track layout quickly shows merges and diverges at both stations. Vehicles can clearly leave each station and travel to the other or loop around and return to the station of origin. Furthermore, at the northern station, vehicles leaving the station have the choice of four destinations:- they can loop back to the station, travel to the other station or enter the maintenance facility at one of two different entrances.
Unlike Move Mile which shows very few differences from Ultra and 2getthere (other than the integral wheelchair ramp), the Vectus system has numerous differences which potentially equip it to serve markets the other three may not be well suited to and could also make it less likely to be well equipped to serve other markets the others may better serve. Some of these differences are discussed here.
The Suncheon system is captive bogey or, put another way, rail-based. This may make it better suited to high speeds (it runs at up to 37 mph – much faster than the 25 mph maximum of the other systems) but somewhat less flexible. It is noteworthy that the minimum radius used is approximately 70’ despite indications that Vectus can achieve radii as low as about 17’.
The system picks up wayside power. This has the potential to give it unlimited range whereas battery-powered systems can only increase range by adding heavier batteries.
The vehicle is somewhat larger and holds nine. Assuming it can attain a four-second headway, as advertised for the test track, it has a maximum theoretical capacity of 8,100 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd). This far exceeds the maximum theoretical capacities of the Heathrow and Masdar systems which are less than 3,000 pphpd. Furthermore, Vectus claims they could operate even larger vehicles on the same guideway and station infrastructure providing yet higher capacities.
Unlike Heathrow and Masdar, which have station bays that are offline to each other, the Suncheon bays are inline, one behind the other. While this reduces station dwell time per vehicle, some believe it could be problematic if a leading vehicle is slow in boarding. Suncheon appears quite well positioned to answer this question.
A final difference is that the Suncheon system incorporates a fare collection system, although we understand fare collection will not commence until October, 2013.
PRT or GRT?
With only two stations and nine-passenger vehicles (including standees) some would argue this is more of a group rapid transit (GRT) shuttle. It seems to me that it does not matter what we call it. We should look at what it is demonstrating it can do. Then we should consider what kind of capabilities such a system could reasonably be expected to achieve and what types of applications it would be best suited to serving. I can think of a few. How about you? Is this just another shuttle?
Tags: group rapid transit, GRT, personal rapid transit, PRT