Posts Tagged ‘congestion’

Personal Rapid Transit News (June 2014)

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Breaking news related to automated transit networks (ATN – an umbrella term for personal rapid transit (PRT) and group rapid transit (GRT) systems, also known as podcars), along with links where available. Reader beware: we publish links to articles that appear to be newsworthy, without concern as to whether or not they are for or against PRT and without checking their sources. Comment directly on the original article, not here.

news_LODJun14On-Demand Levitating Monorail Could Revolutionize Urban Commuting

This unique hybrid maglev-monorail system is more than just a pipe dream.  Many people who advocate for public transit also fear opposition from those who are accustomed to being able to move about in an individual manner with cars. In certain circles, this group sometimes seems to have won out. However, a futuristic on-demand 500m monorail test loop being built at the Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI) campus in Lod, Israel combines the best of both worlds and might have you thinking differently about transit.  Read More…

Futuristic elevated transport system to be built in Israelnews_IAI

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – California-based skyTran has teamed up with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to construct the world’s first public pilot project for skyTran’s elevated transit network.  A number of skyTran projects are being planned globally, including in India and the United States, pending the success of the pilot in Israel.  Read More…

High-Speed, Elevated, Mass Transit Gets Real

SkyTran and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to build a skyTran Demonstration System…skyTran, Inc., headquartered at the NASA Research Park (NRP) near Mountain View, California, and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a company headquartered in Lod, Israel, entered into an agreement today for the construction of a skyTran technology demonstration system (TDS) on the grounds of IAI’s corporate campus.  Read more….

COMMON GOOD at PCC-2014

If government is supposed to be about the pursuit of common good, then public officials should be thinking of ways for us the people to live in harmony and promote a sustainable general welfare.  Auto De-Addiction: Our transportation infrastructure, so heavily weighted to auto addiction, is sadly unsustainable.  Do we need an unending stream of new cars, vans and trucks?A Pod-Way Out of Our Dilemma: We, the People of the USA and the World, need preemptive policies to get us out of our auto addiction. There are very strong arguments that investing in pedestrian and bikeway networks provides more benefits per dollar than highway improvements.   Read More…

Welcome to Podcar City 8! Podcarcity8Conf14

Dear attendees, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors – Welcome to the 8th International Podcar City Conference – To the Next Level!  Learn from experience, meet the experts and network for a better understanding of the next generation of public transportation – A Podcar comes when you push a button and it takes you directly to your destination.  Read More…

ATRA Forum for ATN

ATRA, Advanced Transit Association has initiated a new FORUM where members of ATRA will answer questions related to Automated Transit Networks.  ATRA is available to support you if you have, or are considering, an ATN system.  Sample topics may include:

  • Planning & Design
  • Operation & Maintenance
  • Information on ATN Systems and Technology

To view or join the discussions, log on to http://www.advancedtransit.org/forums/, register, and start posting your questions!

UP inks over Rs 54,000cr business deals

NEW DELHI: The UP government signed MoUs worth Rs 54,606 crore on Thursday, including a Rs 220-crore (US$37M) project for a personal rapid transit (pod taxi) system in Noida. Twenty-three companies inked a pact with the UP government at its Investors’ Conclave in Delhi, some promising to expand existing businesses, and others pledging to set up shop in the state over the coming years.  Read More…

Suyzer -  Innovative public transportation for people and goods.news_Suyzer CEO

We have made a choice….Creative intelligence does not rely on the past. It is more inviting to create a resourceful future instead of preserving the all-consuming past. We have a dream and left behind the legacy of confined business models that are only suitable to those who control them. We want to give and share and in addition make a profit. To reach this goal we had to develop a system that is beneficial to the core of society. A system, that helps people to meet face to face instead of digital.  Read More….

news_Sanders1Skytran:  first contact

The first meeting between the inventor of skyTran, the American Gerald Jay Sanders, and Alain Mollet, project manager for special projects Poma, the Grenoble company ranked among the world’s two leading manufacturers of lifts, held Tuesday at the Hotel Palladia.  Alain Mollet refused to comment at the end of this presentation he calls “simple handshake.” Organized at the initiative of the Association of Friends of skyTran the meeting yesterday morning was aimed at presenting to investors and industrial operation of air shuttle monorail according to Jean-Pierre Plancade, leader of the “Love Toulouse ‘list could one day supplement arsenal transit Toulouse.  Read More… Note:  Translated from French.

news_SJSUStudentsSJSU students to unveil their innovative solar-powered Automated Transit Network design at upcoming Maker Faire

In an interdisciplinary effort, San José State University engineering, business, design and urban planning students are determined to revolutionize transportation with their new Spartan Superway, a 100 percent solar-powered Automated Transit Network (ATN), using driverless podcars. The ATN project was first motivated by a solar design challenge proposed by the Institute of Sustainable Transportation (INIST) two years ago, to help cities move toward a more sustainable future.  Read more…

news_LightweightLightweight Transport for a Crowded World

The larger the mass, the more energy is required to move it. In an aircraft more mass means more power is required to keep it in level flight. On a train, car, truck or bus, more mass requires more power to accelerate and more power to keep it moving. Reducing the mass reduces the fuel burned and emissions generated.  Read More…

news_LHRPod14The Heathrow Pod

The Heathrow pod is Ultra Global’s innovative Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system at London’s Heathrow Airport, the service provides passengers transport between the airport’s Terminal 5 and a designated business car park. The PRT system has been open since May 2011 and has carried close to a million passengers. Mark Griffiths is Ultra Global’s Head of Operations and has been in charge of the team of controllers and technicians responsible for the day to day running of the system.  Read More… BlogIT-003

Frost & Sullivan Perspective on: The Impact of Driverless Podcars on Dubai Roadsnews_MasdarArt514

The Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems in Dubai are certainly a good first step towards mitigating traffic congestion. In a land where oil is abundantly available and cars are highly affordable, congestion is an obvious challenge. Enticing people to use personal rapid transit and other modes of shared mobility can remove personal vehicles from the roads. However, the biggest challenge is still first- and last-mile connectivity.  Read More…

news_Masdar1mil1 Million Mark

On May 22nd at 13.55 hours, the PRT system at Masdar welcomed its 1 millionth passenger. ‘This milestone demonstrates the popularity of the technology being showcased at Masdar City,’ said Anthony Mallows, Director of Masdar City. ‘The PRT system has made a significant contribution to the city’s development thus far, and will continue to feature as an important function of the city’s transportation system.’  Read More…

Cross Kirkland Corridor Symposium Summary

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

By Kate Engel

The Kirkland Symposium was held on Saturday, February 8, 2014 with good attendance.  The agenda consisted of a brief Welcome and Introductions by Darcy Nothnagle, Public Affairs and Government Relations Managers, Western Region, Google (in whose building the meeting took place).  She emphasized that Google promotes a ‘green’ environment and greatly supports the efforts that will be discussed in the Symposium since they will be directly affected by the decisions made in Kirkland.

This was followed by some brief comments on the theme ofSuburban Transit Innovations’:

Mayor Amy Walen, City of Kirkland

Mayor Amy Walen wants to find ways to make transit happen sooner and applauds the goals of the symposium!  She set the theme ‘Why Not Us?’ and ‘Why Not Now?’ as the Cross Kirkland Corridor theme for innovation.

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, 1st Congressional District of Washington

Strongly agreeing with Mayor Walen, Suzan DelBene applauded the areas’ “incredible spirit of innovation” and creativity, as well as  a community of risk-takers.  She agrees that the vision for Kirkland is ‘futuristic’ and believes that Kirkland will build a world-class, public amenity.

Triplet KS 1Kurt Triplett, City Manager, City of Kirkland

Kurt, the Symposium’s organizer, also believes that the NW region is one of great innovations.  He continued to tout the ‘Why Not Us’ theme of the symposium.  He challenged attendees to ‘use our imaginations to move forward’, and reminded all why we are here.  He asked:  ‘How do we create brand new, clean, green, transportation technologies that fit into the suburbs, that don’t have emissions, that are quiet, and don’t need gas.”   He showed existing Kirkland transportation modes, but highlighted the ‘gaps’ that need to be discussed today.  Planning for today and future is an important component in meeting the demands in the timely matter.

The rest of the day was split into 4 panels with multiple speakers in each followed by a brief Q&A session.  Here is a brief summary of those panels and speakers, in order of presentation:

Panel 1:  The Corridor Connections to our Regional Transportation System facilitated by Mark Hallenbeck, Director, UW Washington State Transportation Center

Mark emphasized what a wonderful opportunity we have to build something great here!  However, we must support our Public Servants in getting the public to, literally, ‘buy’ into whatever we come up with.

Judy Clibborn, Chair, House Transportation Committee, Washington State Legislature

Judy discussed the intricacies of government funding for transportation, and the battle for funds.  She advised of the newest ‘Senate package’ coming out next week that will provide needed funding for the 520 Highway, no tolling on I90, and a number of major projects based on freight mobility.   To get packages approved, there is a lot of compromise.  They must concentrate on completing existing projects as well as maintaining existing roadways.  They also compete with non-transit needs such as education (which is a mandatory expenditure).  She continues to champion the way for funding transportation, but asks local governments to keep pushing to find creative ways to fund transit needs.

Lorena Eng, P.E. Regional Administrator, Northwest Region, Washington State Department of Transportation

Lorena Eng announced the new governor’s mission:  ‘Be the best at providing a sustainable and integrated, multi-modal transportation system’.  The value is to view innovation as ‘sustainability’ with goals for modal integration and smart technology.  She featured current integrations of ‘smart technology’ in the area that support the commitment to an innovative future in line with the goals of this symposium.

She asked:  How can we build on the technology that’s out there?  And how can we link the new technology to existing transit:  buses, rail, streetcar, ferries….  Input from this symposium will go into their ‘plan’!

Trinity Parker, Depart of Planning, Environment and Project Development, Sound Transit

Sound_KSFilling in for Ric Ilgenfritz, Trinity Parker explained the Sound Board has 18 people who meet, discuss, and determine needs for the area.  They gather demographic data to determine needs – highlighting population employment areas and how to connect them.  Plans are already in the mix to increase Light Rail by 2023 to 33 stations, 14 cities and over 280,000 riders/day – up from current 30,000.  This Sound Board as the ability to fund future projects, and estimates that by the end of 2014, they could start the steps to get the ‘Cross Kirkland Corridor’ on the ballot for funding.

Harold Taniguchi, Director, Department of Transportation, King County

LongRangeHarold’s concerns include all modes of transportation, from Ferries to Vanpools.  Sales Tax is the predominate factor in the revenue structure and the recent economic downturn affected their spending, requiring them to ‘buckle’ down and make changes accordingly.  King County already offers a huge variety of transit modes including:  Vanpools, Vanshares, DART, Dial-a-ride, Water taxis, Rideshares, hybrid-electric buses, electric trolley/bus fleet, Metro-pool, and they are installing electric stations.  They have re-assessed needs based on new ridership studies, but believe that with more service comes more riders, and they have come up with an elaborate, methodical method for determining service levels and demands which will help propel them into the future.

Panel 2:  Introduction to Advanced Transportation Technology, facilitated by Dr. Stanley E Young, President, Advanced Transit Association, University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology

ATN_KS2Dr Young gave a general overview of PRT:

-Fully automated

-Typically small vehicles (- 4 passengers)

-Rapid (25mph)

-Direct origin to destination

-3 Second headway

He also defined ATN as a more inclusive term for automated transit.

So, what about automated vehicles?  And how will that affect our transit concepts?  Although not a big discussion here today, but certainly something to consider.  He also offered up some ideas for ATN as an activity center circulator and major transit feeder, or as a Transit Interconnect as being discussed as options in the D.C. area.

3sysPTT_KSPeter Muller, President, PRT Consulting

There are currently 3 systems in use today, with data and statistics to validate concerns.  Each system operates a bit differently:

  • Masdar City, Abu Dhabi (4 passengers)
  • London, Heathrow Airport, U.K. (4 PAX + luggage)
  • Suncheon, Korea (6 PAX seated, 6 standing)

Mr. Muller also explained the statistical comparisons between these

systems. He showed results from numerous studies in the US and abroad that indicate the high level of service of ATN will dramatically increase overall transit mode share.

David Gow, Editor, PRT NewsCenter

STARR_KSAddressing GRT (Group Rapid Transit), David explained that GRT lies somewhere between PRT and mass transit (e.g. Bus/Streetcar/LRT/Metro/Intercity).  He gave us a ‘history’ of GRT, starting in the 1960s when the Urban Mass Transit Admin was formed and tasked with ‘PRT Implementation’.  The resulting “STARR Car” was promoted and demoed in Morgantown, WV (due to political connections of the US Rep there).  There were trials and tribulations (including locking Julie Nixon in the car during the highly publicized introduction), but eventually Morgantown became one of the first successes of PRT/GRT, linking campus for the UWV.  It is still in existence today!

Panel 3:  Opportunity for Emerging Technology on the Cross Kirkland Corridor, facilitated by Steve Marshall, Executive Director, Center for Advanced Transportation and Energy solutions

With the focus on emerging technologies, Steve emphasized the need to provide accident-free, congestion-free, lower-cost, green transportation in the future.  We are looking at huge changes in transit that the CKC can help bring in from the future!  He challenged the panel to discuss 3 Qs:

What other cities are using this ‘futuristic’ transit?

Do any systems meet the CKC requirements?

What the opportunities for expansion?

LevX_KS1Jo Klinski, Chief Operating Officer, LEVX

As a local NW company, LEVX has long integrated smart technology into their company focus.  They focused on replacing weight-bearing wheels with magnetic levitation.  She explained what their technology could look like in CKC.

  • The system would operate above ground with minimal structural needs, adding to safety, land usage efficiencies, and possible additional bonuses (restrooms for pedestrian/cycle paths).
  • Bi-directional guideways, with options for a variety of vehicle sizes; from 6 PAX to 80 PAX – operating on the same track, thus filling needs for high-demand times vs low-demand.
  • Options for freight vehicles on the same track.
  • Ability to extend into Redmond and additional communities beyond.
  • Low energy usage, as well as being non-electric (stills runs even if the local power goes out)

Estimated data provided that shows a   Renton to Woodville/Redmond line, end to end, would be FASTER than driving HWY 405 the same distance!

skyT_KS

Robert Baertsch, EVP Software Engineering, SkyTran

The BIG Question?  How do you fund these systems?  Robert challenged that cost is directly connected to the weight, and SkyTran provides an excellent alternative to higher-cost, heavier systems.  The SkyTran vehicles holds only 2 passengers, keeping weight, hence, costs, down.

The fundamental differences with SkyTran from other PRTs is SPEED!  SkyTran provides a 2 speed guideway that allows for an inner-city speed of 40mph and a ‘suburban’ speed of 100mph.  Like RevX, it operates on a magnetic elevation system or magnetic ‘wings’.  Their aluminum rails are simple to manufacture, also at a lower cost.  The guideways are narrower (4 feet wide) and boasts the option to be ‘hanging’ or ‘top riding’ .  Using solar power is also an easy add-on with the less-intrusive, minimal infrastructure needed to support SkyTran.  He emphasized that SkyTran is FAST, SAFE, GREEN, and ENERGY efficient.

CyberKSNeil Sinclair, Chairman, CyberTran International Inc.

A group of engineers were tasked to define the needs and abilities for the best solution to high-cost, efficient transit, and they came up with utilizing old and new technology.  They combined the traditional ‘steel wheel on steel rail’ system used today with the smart technology of the future to suggest an ‘ultra-light rail system’.  This would be a combination local, commuter, and high-speed system that can travel FAST (150mph), with an optimum capacity of 6-30 passengers, and could run on electric or solar energy.  Stations might also include TOD.  The last slide depicts a modern vision for the CKC.

cableKSSteven Dale, Founding Principal, Creative Urban Projects

Cable-propelled transit has been around for years…and it just gets better!  This is a PROVEN system that boasts of lower costs, faster implementation, and a bit of ‘flare’.   Images of falling off ski-lifts as a child meld with the newer, bigger, cable-car systems in use today:  Medellin, Columbia (now in its’ 3rd phase addition), Sentosa, Singapore (one station built into an existing high-rise), Roosevelt Island, NY (recently renovated).  Cable transit is one of the fastest growing technologies in the world today, with Latin America as its ‘epicenter’.  It is, again, a PROVEN system with lower implementation costs, less invasive, and with a bit of ‘tourism’ added in, possibly profitable.

Panel 4:  Case Studies:  Implementation of Advanced Transit Systems, facilitated by Jon Pascal, Principal, Transpo Group; Chair, Kirkland Planning Commission

Jon Pascal challenged:

How do we get beyond the academic side? What does it take to implement an advanced transit system? What are the things that regional and local areas need to think about? And how do we operate it over time?

IstituteKSRon Swenson, Co-Founder, International Institute of Sustainable Transportation
It takes a lot of different players to come up with the best solutions, and incorporating Universities into the mix (as they have done in Europe and Mexico) is an excellent option.  Ron’s group issued a challenge to universities to come up with ideas, and the results were amazing.  Industrial Design students, Urban Planning students, and even MBA students offered input.   Some of the results of their efforts showed:

  • Solar power should be used (yes, even in Seattle)
  • Speed, end to end, should be better than driving.
  • There should be a ‘direct’ connect (bypass any ‘center point’)
  • Vehicles should be suspended for narrower, less invasive design

Ron stressed that we all need to raise the bar to succeed!

SJCAP_KSLaura Stuchinsky, Sustainability Officer, City of San Jose Transportation Department (virtual)

Tasked with Project Management of a feasibility study to connect the SJC airport with existing transit, Laura determined that the original idea of APM connecting underground was too expensive, but a form of PRT was more flexible and less costly.

Positives:

  • Better quality of service (could actually provide additional stops/advantages for passengers)
  • Capital Costs were lower
  • O & M costs were similar to bus shuttles

Challenges:

  • Exceeded proven capabilities
  • Costs and Risks high until 1) Refine/Confirm capabilities and business cases and 2) US regulation requirements are established

Conclusion:  The City of San Jose turned down the options as there are too many ‘unknowns’; however, the City of San Jose does see ATN/PRT as a viable options for future projects, and they have actually identified several locations for future discussion.

Fred Payne, County Councilmember, Greenville, South Carolina

GSPKSSelf-professed academic, non-bureaucratic civil servant, Fred Payne, discussed how they used Steven Covey’s 7 ‘habits’ to come up with a plan for implementing PRT.   Using the end goal of GreenvilleVillages Development helped them plan their implementation for a multi-modal transit system utilizing 3.4 miles of railroad track they purchased.  This systematic process, along with a lot of research will propel Greenville, SC into the future!

news_Moti KSMoti Pinhassi, Urban and Regional Planner, City Center Renewal Division, Netanya Municipality, Israel (virtual)

As a University student, Moti was challenged by a Professor to ‘show the future’ in the year 2050.  He came up with a design of a downtown street that held no cars, just a park with an elevated, ATN system.

When he looked online, he found it already existed, and that shaped his future endeavors.  He now works in Netanya, Israel and is working on a solution for transit within this town ‘divided’.  Like Kirkland, a major highway separates the 2 sides of the town – old town and new.  The old town suffers from congestion and a lack of parking, which prohibits growth and deters prospective visitors.   Moti believes that PRT is a viable solution to their space and structural challenges, and will promote PRT as their best option.

CaseDENKSPeter Muller, President, PRT Consulting

Once again, Peter Muller joined in to show case studies of actual comparisons of PRT to other modes of transit.  He provided statistics on PRT vs  Circular Bus, BRT (Greenville), LRT (Denver), Rail (Chicago), and Ft Carson (Colorado).

Each instance showed positive impact when choosing PRT – both in the efficiency and cost factors for implementation.

This concluded the panel discussions, and what ensued were open, facilitated discussions.  To view in its entirety, View Here…


Some Thoughts on PRT Station Layouts

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
Offline Station with Offline Bays

Offline Station with Offline Bays

A major advantage of PRT is the ability to provide offline stations that allow vehicles to go non-stop, from origin to destination. The ability to have station bays that are offline to each other was first conceived during the Heathrow Project and has also been implemented at Masdar City.

Offline Station with Inline Bays

Offline Station with Inline Bays

On the other hand, the Suncheon project has a more conventional layout where the bays are in line with each other.  In-line bays are more efficient and require less vehicle dwell time. However, a delay in a preceding vehicle delays following vehicles. This is not thought to be a significant problem given the high reliability of PRT systems and their simplicity of use. Now that Suncheon is operational, we should be getting data regarding the effectiveness of inline station bays.

Offline Bays Requiring No Reversing

Offline Bays Requiring No Reversing

The late Professor Martin Lowson patented a modified station bay layout that allows independent vehicle operation without requiring the vehicles to back up.   This more efficient operation is partially offset by the need for a longer platform to accommodate vehicle departures.

In considering a PRT system serving a commuter rail station, PRT consulting developed the conceptual station layout shown below. It combines elements of in-line and offline stations and is expected to be quite an efficient way of laying out a large capacity station.

Offline Station with Inline and Offline Bays

Offline Station with Inline and Offline Bays

It should be noted that offline station bays require vehicle paths to cross each other. While this can be safely accomplished in a station environment by open-guideway type PRT systems (such as Ultra and 2getthere), captive-bogey systems (such as Vectus and Taxi 2000) probably will not be able to maneuver in this way.

Connecting Greenville

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
I facilitated a connectivity workshop in Greenville, South Carolina recently. The results are summarized below.
Connecting Greenville
Linking neighborhoods and businesses through innovative transportation
Using multiple modes: walking, cycling, car, bus and personal rapid transit
Creating GreenVillages where connected people love to live, work, shop, dine and play
Anywhere, anytime – it’s a moving experience
In a workshop held May 9 and 10, 2013 over 35 community leaders, professionals and citizens agreed personal rapid transit (PRT) solutions in Greenville should be seriously explored in order to:
Create a sustainable future for Greenville by improving accessibility and economic vitality
PRT is like a driverless taxi system and attracts choice riders. Since it operates on overhead guideways, it takes you safely to your destination nonstop. Numerous stations reduce walking distances and wait times are very short. The system can operate 24/7 and, because of the lack of drivers, operating costs are low. Because PRT offers first class private transit, its impacts on land values are expected to at least match those of regular transit (found to increase land values by an average of 42% by the American Public Transit Association). A survey of Greenvillians is finding a surprisingly high proportion of car drivers would consider switching to a high quality transit system like PRT.
In considering the potential impact of PRT on problems associated with cars and roads, the group compared it with other modes and concluded it could be far more effective.
I facilitated a connectivity workshop in Greenville, South Carolina recently. The results are summarized below.

Connecting Greenville

Linking neighborhoods and businesses through innovative transportation
Using multiple modes: walking, cycling, car, bus and personal rapid transit
Creating GreenVillages where connected people love to live, work, shop, dine and play
Anywhere, anytime – it’s a moving experience

In a workshop held May 9 and 10, 2013 over 35 community leaders, professionals and citizens agreed personal rapid transit (PRT) solutions in Greenville should be seriously explored in order to:

Create a sustainable future for Greenville by improving accessibility and economic vitality

PRT is like a driverless taxi system and attracts choice riders. Since it operates on overhead guideways, it takes you safely to your destination nonstop. Numerous stations reduce walking distances and wait times are very short. The system can operate 24/7 and, because of the lack of drivers, operating costs are low. Because PRT offers first class private transit, its impacts on land values are expected to at least match those of regular transit (found to increase land values by an average of 42% by the American Public Transit Association). A survey of Greenvillians is finding a surprisingly high proportion of car drivers would consider switching to a high quality transit system like PRT.

In considering the potential impact of PRT on problems associated with cars and roads, the group compared it with other modes and concluded it could be far more effective.

Potential Impact on Car and Road Problems

Potential Impact on Car and Road Problems

Will you join us in Connecting Greenville…
When: Starting now! Downtown to CUICAR by 2018!

Surface Transportation System Automation

Monday, April 15th, 2013
Surface Transportation System Automation
Introduction
The US department of Transportation is presently soliciting input on the above topic. Our response to some of their subtopics is presented here.
General
1. Role of government
Federal government should work to understand how market forces and regulatory requirements may unbalance the playing field to the detriment of society. Some examples follow, comparing autonomous vehicles to personal rapid transit (PRT) where PRT is a systematized form of autonomous vehicles travelling on separated fixed guideways and functioning as a public transit system, while autonomous vehicles function individually and travel on the open road.
If autonomous vehicles can increase road safety and capacity, significant benefits will accrue to the travelling public. PRT is already proven to reduce road congestion and to be orders of magnitude safer than cars and transit and, if it also proves to be scalable, significant benefits will accrue to the traveling public. It seems that both technologies (variations on the same theme) have the potential to significantly benefit the travelling public and will probably each address different segments of the market that may blend over time.
a) Market forces
Since autonomous vehicles will mostly be sold to the general public and since they are being developed as incremental modifications of conventional automobiles, the barriers to entry are not high. In addition, since most households own cars, the general interest in autonomous cars is naturally high and many already dream of owning one.
On the other hand PRT is a system that requires new infrastructure. Even though the total cost of a PRT system per passenger mile can be much less than the total cost of the road/automobile system, this requirement for new infrastructure is a huge barrier to entry. It means that most PRT systems will be purchased by government agencies and require significant upfront capital funding. Federal government agencies tend to react to requests from their constituents, many of whom have never heard of PRT and do not understand its potential to solve their problems. In addition, the political situation is such that a mayor would often rather wait for a $1 B light rail project with 50% FTA funding than proceed immediately with a $400 M locally- funded PRT project that does a better job but does not bring $500 M of federally funded jobs to his/her community. Even if the PRT project were FTA funded it would only bring $200 M federal money to the community. The current federal subsidy of fixed guideway projects is thus a barrier to entry for new, innovative and less expensive solutions.
In addition, federal funding of transit projects is biased towards conventional corridor-based modes since many qualification criteria are based on corridor analyses. PRT can function in a corridor but, in many applications, provides optimal service when functioning as a network. Since most people desire to travel from origin to destination with little or no need to pass through a corridor on the way, it would seem more appropriate to consider transportation alternatives on the basis of service area analyses rather than corridor analyses.
While it is appreciated that the scope of this RFI has been broadened to include PRT, this is insufficient. The scope needs to also include the driverless transportation of goods and freight – preferably not limited to roads but also including railroads. The driverless revolution will impact all of these modes and the interaction between modes must be understood if full advantage is to be taken of automation. The ability for automation to allow us to reinvent the entire surface transportation system (and some aspects of the air transportation system too ) should not be underestimated.
Automating cars in mixed traffic is a challenge. However, the mix of small and large vehicles may change dramatically if drivers are eliminated. To what extent will it be necessary to have large vehicles transport freight if all vehicles are driverless? What proportion of freight would be more economically and efficiently moved in small driverless vehicles that require much smaller and less expensive supporting infrastructure? How much less capital and O&M cost would be required for the infrastructure? What would the impacts on road congestion be?
The role of the federal government should be to understand the societal benefits of the different solutions and seek to balance market forces in a way that society receives the solutions it needs, not just the ones that natural market forces and political considerations tend to favor. The federal government needs to lead in the development of an integrated automated surface transportation system for people and freight that dramatically improves safety, efficiency and sustainability. Such a system needs to address all of the following issues related to surface transportation:
Congestion
Safety
Energy use
Foreign oil use
Emissions and climate change (cradle to grave)
Overall mobility/accessibility
Mobility/accessibility of non-drivers
Mobility/accessibility of non-vehicle owners
Logistics
Severance of neighborhoods
Right-of-way requirements
Capital, operating and maintenance costs
Walkability
Economic impacts
Land use
Specifically with regard to PRT, one role of the federal government should be to fund a PRT demonstration program. While many of the concerns expressed in the recent San José PRT feasibility study  may be easily addressed, some, such as scalability to large networks, require complicated hardware-in-the-loop evaluation, and almost all could be overcome with an extensive demonstration program. Without such a program, PRT in the U.S. will continue to languish behind systems being deployed elsewhere and will likely be limited to small campus-type applications for many years. A PRT demonstration program is needed in order to demonstrate if PRT is scalable to widespread urban deployment of the kind necessary to attract many drivers from their cars – a feature that could probably eliminate congestion long before autonomous vehicles are able to do so. If PRT can be widely deployed, its ability to significantly increase transit mode share has been demonstrated in many studies such as by Dekhordi  which show transit mode shares doubling, tripling and more in many European cities.
b) Regulatory Requirements
Cars have a horrendous safety record yet the general public seems to have grown immune to the dangers of driving – they are presently outraged at gun-related deaths but seem not to realize or care that even more are killed by cars every year. On the other hand the Morgantown PRT system has completed over 140 million injury free passenger miles in its 37-year existence – a safety record unmatched by any non-automated transportation system .
The regulatory requirements for PRT in the U.S. seem likely to be based on the ASCE Automated People Mover Standards which seems reasonable since PRT is a subset of automated people movers. The safety requirements in these standards are very rigorous and will result in PRT systems far exceeding the safety of driven systems.
The regulatory requirements for privately-used autonomous vehicles seem unclear but may be no stricter than those for present-day automobiles. Autonomous taxis on the other hand could be regulated as automated transit just like PRT. This could create an interesting situation where privately-used autonomous vehicles come to fruition quickly, but do not bring substantial safety benefits and autonomous taxis struggle for a long time to meet the rigorous standards PRT currently meets.
The role of the federal government should be to evaluate the benefits and costs of regulatory requirements w.r.t. safety (and other issues), to determine appropriate requirements and to ensure that all transportation systems provide similar levels of safety. The current disparity between automobile and airline safety should be eliminated (and not by decreasing airline safety!).
2. Smooth assimilation of automation into an integrated transportation system
PRT is leading the way in automating passenger vehicles because it is doing so in a controlled environment – automating vehicles on the open road is far more difficult and being undertaken in an uncertain regulatory environment. Autonomous vehicle developers could learn from the experience of the PRT community.
Smooth assimilation of automation into an integrated transportation system will not occur without a rigorous systems engineering process. This process must start at the highest level and incorporate all surface transportation. The federal government needs to initiate a process whereby the requirements for an integrated fully-automated transportation system of people and goods are developed and agreed upon. Only once we understand the end system that we are striving for can we know how each component should be developed and can we design a logical phased implementation plan. The opportunity exists for the U.S. to develop a revolutionary automated surface transportation system that is highly efficient and safe. It will probably require a Kennedy-like vision and sense of mission to accomplish this.

Introduction

The US Department of Transportation is presently soliciting input on the above topic. Our response to some of their subtopics is presented here.

General

1. Role of government
Federal government should work to understand how market forces and regulatory requirements may unbalance the playing field to the detriment of society. Some examples follow, comparing autonomous vehicles to personal rapid transit (PRT) where PRT is a systematized form of autonomous vehicles travelling on separated fixed guideways and functioning as a public transit system, while autonomous vehicles function individually and travel on the open road.

If autonomous vehicles can increase road safety and capacity, significant benefits will accrue to the travelling public. PRT is already proven to reduce road congestion and to be orders of magnitude safer than cars and transit and, if it also proves to be scalable, significant benefits will accrue to the traveling public. It seems that both technologies (variations on the same theme) have the potential to significantly benefit the travelling public and will probably each address different segments of the market that may blend over time.

a) Market forces

Since autonomous vehicles will mostly be sold to the general public and since they are being developed as incremental modifications of conventional automobiles, the barriers to entry are not high. In addition, since most households own cars, the general interest in autonomous cars is naturally high and many already dream of owning one.

On the other hand PRT is a system that requires new infrastructure. Even though the total cost of a PRT system per passenger mile can be much less than the total cost of the road/automobile system, this requirement for new infrastructure is a huge barrier to entry. It means that most PRT systems will be purchased by government agencies and require significant upfront capital funding. Federal government agencies tend to react to requests from their constituents, many of whom have never heard of PRT and do not understand its potential to solve their problems. In addition, the political situation is such that a mayor would often rather wait for a $1 B light rail project with 50% FTA funding than proceed immediately with a $400 M locally- funded PRT project that does a better job but does not bring $500 M of federally funded jobs to his/her community. Even if the PRT project were FTA funded it would only bring $200 M federal money to the community. The current federal subsidy of fixed guideway projects is thus a barrier to entry for new, innovative and less expensive solutions.

In addition, federal funding of transit projects is biased towards conventional corridor-based modes since many qualification criteria are based on corridor analyses. PRT can function in a corridor but, in many applications, provides optimal service when functioning as a network. Since most people desire to travel from origin to destination with little or no need to pass through a corridor on the way, it would seem more appropriate to consider transportation alternatives on the basis of service area analyses rather than corridor analyses.

While it is appreciated that the scope of this RFI has been broadened to include PRT, this is insufficient. The scope needs to also include the driverless transportation of goods and freight – preferably not limited to roads but also including railroads. The driverless revolution will impact all of these modes and the interaction between modes must be understood if full advantage is to be taken of automation. The ability for automation to allow us to reinvent the entire surface transportation system (and some aspects of the air transportation system too) should not be underestimated.

Automating cars in mixed traffic is a challenge. However, the mix of small and large vehicles may change dramatically if drivers are eliminated. To what extent will it be necessary to have large vehicles transport freight if all vehicles are driverless? What proportion of freight would be more economically and efficiently moved in small driverless vehicles that require much smaller and less expensive supporting infrastructure? How much less capital and O&M cost would be required for the infrastructure? What would the impacts on road congestion be?

The role of the federal government should be to understand the societal benefits of the different solutions and seek to balance market forces in a way that society receives the solutions it needs, not just the ones that natural market forces and political considerations tend to favor. The federal government needs to lead in the development of an integrated automated surface transportation system for people and freight that dramatically improves safety, efficiency and sustainability. Such a system needs to address all of the following issues related to surface transportation:

Congestion
Safety
Energy use
Foreign oil use
Emissions and climate change (cradle to grave)
Overall mobility/accessibility
Mobility/accessibility of non-drivers
Mobility/accessibility of non-vehicle owners
Logistics
Severance of neighborhoods
Right-of-way requirements
Capital, operating and maintenance costs
Walkability
Economic impacts
Land use

Specifically with regard to PRT, one role of the federal government should be to fund a PRT demonstration program. While many of the concerns expressed in the recent San José PRT feasibility study may be easily addressed, some, such as scalability to large networks, require complicated hardware-in-the-loop evaluation, and almost all could be overcome with an extensive demonstration program. Without such a program, PRT in the U.S. will continue to languish behind systems being deployed elsewhere and will likely be limited to small campus-type applications for many years. A PRT demonstration program is needed in order to demonstrate if PRT is scalable to widespread urban deployment of the kind necessary to attract many drivers from their cars – a feature that could probably eliminate congestion long before autonomous vehicles are able to do so. If PRT can be widely deployed, its ability to significantly increase transit mode share has been demonstrated in many studies such as by Dekhordi which show transit mode shares doubling, tripling and more in many European cities.

b) Regulatory Requirements

Cars have a horrendous safety record yet the general public seems to have grown immune to the dangers of driving – they are presently outraged at gun-related deaths but seem not to realize or care that even more are killed by cars every year. On the other hand the Morgantown PRT system has completed over 140 million injury free passenger miles in its 37-year existence – a safety record unmatched by any non-automated transportation system.

The regulatory requirements for PRT in the U.S. seem likely to be based on the ASCE Automated People Mover Standards which seems reasonable since PRT is a subset of automated people movers. The safety requirements in these standards are very rigorous and will result in PRT systems far exceeding the safety of driven systems.

The regulatory requirements for privately-used autonomous vehicles seem unclear but may be no stricter than those for present-day automobiles. Autonomous taxis on the other hand could be regulated as automated transit just like PRT. This could create an interesting situation where privately-used autonomous vehicles come to fruition quickly, but do not bring substantial safety benefits and autonomous taxis struggle for a long time to meet the rigorous standards PRT currently meets.

The role of the federal government should be to evaluate the benefits and costs of regulatory requirements w.r.t. safety (and other issues), to determine appropriate requirements and to ensure that all transportation systems provide similar levels of safety. The current disparity between automobile and airline safety should be eliminated (and not by decreasing airline safety!).

2. Smooth assimilation of automation into an integrated transportation system

PRT is leading the way in automating passenger vehicles because it is doing so in a controlled environment – automating vehicles on the open road is far more difficult and being undertaken in an uncertain regulatory environment. Autonomous vehicle developers could learn from the experience of the PRT community.

Smooth assimilation of automation into an integrated transportation system will not occur without a rigorous systems engineering process. This process must start at the highest level and incorporate all surface transportation. The federal government needs to initiate a process whereby the requirements for an integrated fully-automated transportation system of people and goods are developed and agreed upon. Only once we understand the end system that we are striving for can we know how each component should be developed and can we design a logical phased implementation plan. The opportunity exists for the U.S. to develop a revolutionary automated surface transportation system that is highly efficient and safe. It will probably require a Kennedy-like vision and sense of mission to accomplish this.

Personal Rapid Transit and Autonomous Taxis

Thursday, February 7th, 2013
Personal Rapid Transit and Autonomous Taxis
Driverless cars are moving ever closer to reality and promise many of the benefits offered by personal rapid transit (PRT). Shared driverless cars could function as automated taxis (AT) and, some think, could replace the need for PRT altogether. This article briefly examines the similarities and differences between AT and PRT. First, let’s define AT and PRT for the purposes of this discussion with the understanding that the lines between the two are liable to blur with time.
ATs are driverless cars which operate on the road in mixed traffic providing door-to-door service on demand. They are available for general public use and the user is assumed not to own any portion of the vehicle.
PRT consists of driverless vehicles custom-designed to operate between stations on a fixed guideway separated from other vehicles and pedestrians. As for autonomous taxis, the PRT vehicles are available for general public use and the user is assumed not to own any portion of the vehicle or associated infrastructure.
ATs will benefit from being able to use the existing road infrastructure. This will make them much cheaper and easier to bring to market than PRT which requires expensive guideways and stations. However, ATs will also have to deal with all other road traffic and the associated congestion. This congestion may be alleviated with time as the other road traffic becomes automated too. A number of factors will play into the extent to which automated vehicles alleviate congestion.
Congestion Relief
Many assume that automated vehicles will be able to travel closer together, thus increasing capacity by jamming more vehicles on existing roads. This may be easier said than done. Vehicle spacing is already too close for safety. Yes, computers will be more alert and have shorter reaction times, but rubber tires on highly variable road surfaces will never result in reliable braking situations. In addition, if autonomous vehicles park themselves, this function could add a leg to each trip (that could be quite long if people attempt to save on parking costs). ATs are also expected to run around empty some of the time going to pick up the next fare. This additional empty vehicle movement will require additional capacity.
Autonomous vehicles may be able to operate safely in narrower lanes allowing more use to be made of existing pavement. Once again, this benefit will probably not be realizable until all vehicles are automated and it may require separating large trucks from smaller vehicles – possible but not easy.
One advantage provided by the separate guideways required for PRT is that traffic congestion will immediately be relieved to the extent that drivers are attracted to the PRT system.
Ridesharing
Some think that vehicle occupancy will be higher with ATs than it is with present-day cars. However, ridesharing is not just a matter of willingness; it is also a matter of convenience and logistics. Since the AT is picking up at a discrete point in time and space and delivering to another discrete point out of many tens or hundreds of thousands, there will almost never be a stranger at the origin discrete point and time heading to the destination discrete point. This will make finding a stranger to share a ride with very difficult for those who wish to do this.
Even the chances of a stranger being at the origin discrete point and time heading to a discrete point along the AT’s planned route is likely to be remote. Sharing will thus involve, at a minimum, some way for strangers to coordinate their travel plans, an intermediate stop and a possible detour. Ridesharing cellphone applications could facilitate picking up hitchhikers at the expense of extra stops. These applications have not made a significant dent in automobile congestion and it is not clear if they would work any better with ATs. ATs may feel more like cars than transit and users may resist sharing rides with strangers.
PRT has discrete stations that require walking distances up to about ¼ mile. An advantage that results from this is that there are far fewer discrete origins and destinations. In addition, the station platform can be used to organize people into groups having similar destinations, or destinations along a route. Schemes have been proposed for two-class PRT systems having lower fares for those willing to share rides and have a few intermediate stops. Passenger behavior on existing PRT systems shows a propensity for ridesharing and people hold the doors just as they do on elevators. For these reasons, it seems PRT vehicle occupancy will be significantly higher than that for automated taxis.
Availability
The final factor considered here is availability. The availability of ATs may depend more on regulation than on technology developments. If automated taxis are regulated as driverless transit, they will have to meet very stringent safety requirements. It is unlikely that they will be able to meet these requirements until all vehicles sharing the roads with them are also automated. Even then, meeting these requirements could require larger spacing between vehicles to the point where ATs contribute to, rather than relieve, congestion.
Low speed, low range PRT is already available. Higher speed, unlimited range is also available and about to go into public service in Korea. High speed unlimited range is on the drawing boards of more than one PRT developer. Speeds of 40 mph (70 kph) in town and up to 125 mph (200 kph) between cities are likely soon to be available. Intercity travel at these speeds to stations within ¼ mile of actual origins and destinations will be very competitive with automobiles and short range air travel. Few road vehicles are likely to reach anywhere near these speeds, driverless or not.
Conclusions
It seems unlikely that driverless vehicles will be implemented in sufficient numbers to start to have an impact on congestion within the next twenty years. Until that time, and possibly for some time afterwards, ATs are likely to have limited efficiency. The disadvantage of having to build and pay for PRT guideways and stations gives PRT the advantages of immediately alleviating surface traffic and being better suited to ridesharing.

Driverless cars are moving ever closer to reality and promise many of the benefits offered by personal rapid transit (PRT). Shared driverless cars could function as automated taxis (AT) and, some think, could replace the need for PRT altogether. This article briefly examines the similarities and differences between AT and PRT. First, let’s define AT and PRT for the purposes of this discussion with the understanding that the lines between the two are liable to blur with time.

ATs are driverless cars which operate on the road in mixed traffic providing door-to-door service on demand. They are available for general public use and the user is assumed not to own any portion of the vehicle.

PRT consists of driverless vehicles custom-designed to operate between stations on a fixed guideway separated from other vehicles and pedestrians. As for autonomous taxis, the PRT vehicles are available for general public use and the user is assumed not to own any portion of the vehicle or associated infrastructure.

ATs will benefit from being able to use the existing road infrastructure. This will make them much cheaper and easier to bring to market than PRT which requires expensive guideways and stations. However, ATs will also have to deal with all other road traffic and the associated congestion. This congestion may be alleviated with time as the other road traffic becomes automated too. A number of factors will play into the extent to which automated vehicles alleviate congestion.

Congestion Relief
Many assume that automated vehicles will be able to travel closer together, thus increasing capacity by jamming more vehicles on existing roads. This may be easier said than done. Vehicle spacing is already too close for safety. Yes, computers will be more alert and have shorter reaction times, but rubber tires on highly variable road surfaces will never result in reliable braking situations. In addition, if autonomous vehicles park themselves, this function could add a leg to each trip (that could be quite long if people attempt to save on parking costs). ATs are also expected to run around empty some of the time going to pick up the next fare. This additional empty vehicle movement will require additional capacity.

Autonomous vehicles may be able to operate safely in narrower lanes allowing more use to be made of existing pavement. Once again, this benefit will probably not be realizable until all vehicles are automated and it may require separating large trucks from smaller vehicles – possible but not easy.

One advantage provided by the separate guideways required for PRT is that traffic congestion will immediately be relieved to the extent that drivers are attracted to the PRT system.

Ridesharing
Some think that vehicle occupancy will be higher with ATs than it is with present-day cars. However, ridesharing is not just a matter of willingness; it is also a matter of convenience and logistics. Since the AT is picking up at a discrete point in time and space and delivering to another discrete point out of many tens or hundreds of thousands, there will almost never be a stranger at the origin discrete point and time heading to the destination discrete point. This will make finding a stranger to share a ride with very difficult for those who wish to do this.

Even the chances of a stranger being at the origin discrete point and time heading to a discrete point along the AT’s planned route is likely to be remote. Sharing will thus involve, at a minimum, some way for strangers to coordinate their travel plans, an intermediate stop and a possible detour. Ridesharing cellphone applications could facilitate picking up hitchhikers at the expense of extra stops. These applications have not made a significant dent in automobile congestion and it is not clear if they would work any better with ATs. ATs may feel more like cars than transit and users may resist sharing rides with strangers.

PRT has discrete stations that require walking distances up to about ¼ mile. An advantage that results from this is that there are far fewer discrete origins and destinations. In addition, the station platform can be used to organize people into groups having similar destinations, or destinations along a route. Schemes have been proposed for two-class PRT systems having lower fares for those willing to share rides and have a few intermediate stops. Passenger behavior on existing PRT systems shows a propensity for ridesharing and people hold the doors just as they do on elevators. For these reasons, it seems PRT vehicle occupancy will be significantly higher than that for automated taxis.

Availability

The final factor considered here is availability. The availability of ATs may depend more on regulation than on technology developments. If automated taxis are regulated as driverless transit, they will have to meet very stringent safety requirements. It is unlikely that they will be able to meet these requirements until all vehicles sharing the roads with them are also automated. Even then, meeting these requirements could require larger spacing between vehicles to the point where ATs contribute to, rather than relieve, congestion.

Low speed, low range PRT is already available. Higher speed, unlimited range is also available and about to go into public service in Korea. High speed unlimited range is on the drawing boards of more than one PRT developer. Speeds of 40 mph (70 kph) in town and up to 125 mph (200 kph) between cities are likely soon to be available. Intercity travel at these speeds to stations within ¼ mile of actual origins and destinations will be very competitive with automobiles and short range air travel. Few road vehicles are likely to reach anywhere near these speeds, driverless or not.

Conclusions
It seems unlikely that driverless vehicles will be implemented in sufficient numbers to start to have an impact on congestion within the next twenty years. Until that time, and possibly for some time afterwards, ATs are likely to have limited efficiency. The disadvantage of having to build and pay for PRT guideways and stations gives PRT the advantages of immediately alleviating surface traffic and being better suited to ridesharing.

Dreaming Big or Small

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Personal rapid transit enthusiasts have long been proponents of dreaming big. City-wide PRT systems offering door-to-door service at speeds up to one hundred miles an hour are promised to soon also provide inter-city transportation at even higher speeds. After half a century of dreaming, the reality is two modern PRT systems in operation that have few vehicles, a handful of stations and a top speed of 25 mph. Both are out done by the 37-year old Morgantown “PRT” system with its top speed of 30 mph, its 5 stations and 70 vehicles. The Suncheon system, due to open early next year, will only have two stations but will boast 40 vehicles and, we believe, a top speed of around 40 mph.

PRT suppliers like to walk before they try to run. It only makes sense for them to start with small systems and gradually tackle larger and more ambitious projects. Potential customers are also cautious. Why should they take on a project much larger and more complex than anyone has done before? The only reason would be if there was no other solution and usually there is, even if much more expensive and less effective. Thus the growth in size and complexity of PRT projects is likely to be slow.
If PRT has the potential to help solve urban congestion, mobility and accessibility problems, slow growth is not acceptable. Using characteristics we believe to be safety certified by Vectus – a 6-passenger vehicle operating at 40 mph and a four second headway (time between vehicles) – simple analysis shows a capability exceeding that required for the Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport and the proposed Red Line extension in Chicago for substantially less cost and with a higher level of service. Consideration of the situations in cities like Mexico City, Mexico and Kampala, Uganda, both ranked among the most congested in the world, quickly shows that a cost-effective elevated solution could substantially reduce congestion and relieve its stranglehold on public wellbeing. The worldwide economic and health benefits of congestion relief in numerous cities are just too great for us to sit around and wait for PRT to slowly emerge.
My big dream is widespread urban PRT networks operating at average speeds between 30 and 40 mph and supplementing other forms of transportation. I believe such systems could very effectively reduce congestion and improve mobility, accessibility, safety and energy use. What will it take to realize such a dream?
I believe that the first and most important steps are to determine if PRT is up to the task. I think we are well on the way to knowing what the costs are – although the progression from custom to mass production vehicle costs is difficult to estimate as are operational costs of systems of vastly differing scale.  What needs to be proven is the scalability. Will a system with thousands of vehicles and hundreds of stations be able to operate robustly at high capacities for extended periods of time? People have successfully simulated such operations but this is insufficient. What about the effects of distance on communications, inefficiencies in sensors, unforeseen passenger behaviors, etc.? What is needed is a full scale demonstration system purpose-built to facilitate extensive investigations and hardware-in-the-loop simulations.
While we work towards getting such a demonstration system funded (hopefully by inter-governmental cooperation), I suggest that cities wanting to build a small starter system, that can later be expanded throughout the city, consider this:- People hate transit transfers mainly because of the uncertain wait times involved. However, transferring between PRT systems should only involve a cross-platform walk and a wait of less than one minute. Build your starter system with the best PRT system available today. Don’t worry about its scalability (as long as the starter system is justified on its own). If it later proves not to be up to the city-wide task, do that with a different system – the transfer between the two should be seamless. In this way you can dream big but start small.

PRT suppliers like to walk before they try to run. It only makes sense for them to start with small systems and gradually tackle larger and more ambitious projects. Potential customers are also cautious. Why should they take on a project much larger and more complex than anyone has done before? The only reason would be if there was no other solution and usually there is, even if much more expensive and less effective. Thus the growth in size and complexity of PRT projects is likely to be slow.

If PRT has the potential to help solve urban congestion, mobility and accessibility problems, slow growth is not acceptable. Using characteristics we believe to be safety certified by Vectus – a 6-passenger vehicle operating at 40 mph and a four second headway (time between vehicles) – simple analysis shows a capability exceeding that required for the Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport and the proposed Red Line extension in Chicago for substantially less cost and with a higher level of service. Consideration of the situations in cities like Mexico City, Mexico and Kampala, Uganda, both ranked among the most congested in the world, quickly shows that a cost-effective elevated solution could substantially reduce congestion and relieve its stranglehold on public wellbeing. The worldwide economic and health benefits of congestion relief in numerous cities are just too great for us to sit around and wait for PRT to slowly emerge.

Mexico City Congestion

Mexico City Congestion

Kampala City Congestion

Kampala City Congestion

My big dream is widespread urban PRT networks operating at average speeds between 30 and 40 mph and supplementing other forms of transportation. I believe such systems could very effectively reduce congestion and improve mobility, accessibility, safety and energy use. What will it take to realize such a dream?

I believe that the first and most important steps are to determine if PRT is up to the task. I think we are well on the way to knowing what the costs are – although the progression from custom to mass production vehicle costs is difficult to estimate as are operational costs of systems of vastly differing scale.  What needs to be proven is the scalability. Will a system with thousands of vehicles and hundreds of stations be able to operate robustly at high capacities for extended periods of time? People have successfully simulated such operations but this is insufficient. What about the effects of distance on communications, inefficiencies in sensors, unforeseen passenger behaviors, etc.? What is needed is a full scale demonstration system purpose-built to facilitate extensive investigations and hardware-in-the-loop simulations.

While we work towards getting such a demonstration system funded (hopefully by inter-governmental cooperation), I suggest that cities wanting to build a small starter system, that can later be expanded throughout the city, consider this:- People hate transit transfers mainly because of the uncertain wait times involved. However, transferring between PRT systems should only involve a cross-platform walk and a wait of less than one minute. Build your starter system with the best PRT system available today. Don’t worry about its scalability (as long as the starter system is justified on its own). If it later proves not to be up to the city-wide task, do that with a different system – the transfer between the two should be seamless. In this way you can dream big but start small.

Travel Preference Survey

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Just a few minutes will help you understand your transit needs and preferences and help us in the fight against congestion, depletion of fossil fuel and climate change.

Please take this survey

The results will be posted here in about a month

World’s First and Largest Urban PRT System Announced

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

We are posting ULTra Global’s recent press release here due to its significance. This is not an endorsement of ULTra over any other PRT system, only a recognition of the significance of this milestone for PRT in general.

The Punjab Government has awarded a contract for the world’s first urban Passenger Rapid Transport (PRT) system in Amritsar, India to Ultra Fairwood.

At peak capacity the PRT system can carry up to 100,000 passengers a day on a 3.3km elevated guideway in over 200 specialist vehicles between seven stations, making it the world’s largest PRT system to date.

Elevated Guideways

Elevated Guideways

Financed entirely by private funding on a build, own, operate transfer (BOOT) basis, the passenger services will go live in 2014.

Although the cost of the scheme is subject to commercial confidentiality, it demonstrates that a large scale urban PRT system can be delivered on a financially viable, fare-based model and offer very real returns for financial backers.

The Ultra PRT system uses driverless, electric-battery powered, computer driven, zero emission vehicles called “pods” which :

  • can each carry 4-6 people in privacy and comfort
  • provide an on-demand, non-stop journey to anywhere on the system
  • use one third of the energy of a car, and are virtually silent with no emissions
  • travel on a segregated guideway that can run over/alongside roads, rail tracks and buildings
  • never get held up by congestion, so reduce travel time
Bi-level Station

Bi-level Station

Amritsar is home to the holiest shrine of Sikhs, the Golden Temple, and is rich in historical, religious and heritage sites. As such it’s a big draw for large numbers of visitors, especially during festivals and religious events, as pilgrims flock to the area. Up to 500,000 people visit the Golden Temple on important religious festival days. The PRT system will ease congestion and reduce the current long travel transit times.

The route will focus on taking passengers from the railway and bus stations to the Golden Temple and will:

  • take 35% of daily visitors to the Golden Temple
  • save up to 30 minutes on the current journey times
  • attract passengers from a wide geographic and demographic profile, from regular commuters to “one off day trip” users.
  • run from 04.00 – 24.00 seven days a week
  • charge fares competitive with alternative modes such as taxis and autorickshaws.

“The Punjab Government and city of Amritsar are leading the world in the application of a PRT system to provide volume transport in a major city environment. As a result Ultra Fairwood is also in discussions with the authorities in other major Asian cities which suffer from major transportation infrastructure issues – congestion, space constraints, pollution problems, capacity restrictions and passenger service issues. The Ultra PRT system can help to solve these issues.

“In one city by installing a PRT system we could potentially reduce a current journey of up to one hour in peak hours to around seven minutes, in another country we may be able to reduce the number of cars on a major city’s streets by up to 20%. People are at last starting to understand how this innovative technology can play a role in city transport solutions” said Ultra Fairwood’s CFO and Deputy CEO Alan Moore.

A sentiment echoed by Fraser Brown, MD of Ultra Global PRT, “The pod PRT system is an idea whose time has well and truly come. Using British technology and know how, we’ve proved it works at Heathrow and now with Fairwood we’re creating bigger systems, on larger routes, with more stations and pods.

“We’ll be carrying 35% of the visitors in the area and removing 2.2m car trips in Amritsar per annum. It’s the future of environmental green travel.

“Research has shown that by 2020, there could be between 50 to over 600 PRT system installations world wide. A real achievement for a system that came out of research from Bristol University.”

“Ultra Global sees the confidence that the Punjab Government have shown in PRT as further evidence of the growing sentiment amongst architects, transport planners and governments that PRT systems can sustainably and quickly transform an urban transport environment and provide users and other stakeholders with another viable transport mode in which to manage their cities and campuses.” Brown adds.

Ultra Fairwood is a collaboration between Ultra and Fairwood created in 2010 bringing the revolutionary Ultra technology to Asia. Ultra Fairwood conceives, designs, finances, constructs and operates complete PRT solutions, typically on a BOOT basis. The company is working on PRT projects for cities, campus environments and airports.

Personal Rapid Transit a Hot Topic at Meeting Between USDOT and Swedish Counterparts

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Representatives of the US Department of Transportation met in Washington DC last week for one and a half days to further advance their Memorandum of Cooperation with their Swedish counterparts on sustainable transportation. The officials from the two governments were joined by members of academia, consultants and suppliers/vendors. After joint meetings, subgroups met to discuss livability, multimodal station area planning, personal rapid transit/group rapid transit/automated transit networks (PRT/GRT/ATN) and railway technologies.

The four subgroups agreed that they all needed to collaborate since there is potentially considerable synergy between their areas of focus.

The PRT/GRT/ATN group agreed on a number of ways the two countries could work together to better understand and consider the potential for these technologies to help solve transportation issues. After the meetings, most members of this group toured the Morgantown PRT system after which Hans Larsen, San Jose Director of Transportation said, ““I (and I believe everyone in the group) thought the Morgantown PRT system tour was exceptional.  The system serves a very important transportation function for the Morgantown community.  It has high ridership and cost effective operations.  And it provides inspiration that automated transit is not a far out idea for the future; it works with 40 year old technology. “

The results of the meetings include the following:

  • Agreement between the Cities of San Jose and Uppsala to coordinate and share information about their respective efforts to investigate and potentially implement ATN systems.
  • Undertake workshops, surveys and develop a website to find out what people in different cities are looking for in transportation solutions (including their potential desire for ATN and estimates of probable ATN ridership).
  • A strategic plan should be developed outlining how ATN could be leveraged to the best advantage of transportation overall in the next 30 to 40 years.
  • Pursue more university collaboration.
  • Develop an ATN planning guidebook (probably through the Transportation Cooperative Research Program process).
  • Explore partnerships with private industry on development and manufacturing of ATN systems
  • Help facilitate further research and development of ATN demonstration projects
  • Seek a more comprehensive USDOT consideration of ATN as a compliment to existing transportation systems involving FTA (transit), FHWA (highways and parking), FAA (airports), and FRA (high speed rail).
  • Convene sessions on ATN at the 2013 meeting of the Transportation Research Board.