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Progress: Heathrow, Masdar, San Jose, Tysons, Mtn View, Portland

June 1, 2010

PRT (personal rapid transit) is an electric, 200-mpg-equivalent, elevated transit system with many four-person vehicles. Working as circulator transit for office parks, airports, universities, entertainment centers, and other major activity centers, PRT is faster than a car. In these applications, PRT makes carpooling, light rail, commuter rail, bus, and bike more effective, by solving the "last mile problem." PRT provides new riders for conventional transit at minimal cost, improving public transit finances. Each PRT vehicle takes 30 cars off the road.

SUMMARY: London Heathrow PRT opens this summer. New first-look Masdar PRT video. PRT passenger capacity world record. Mountain View City Council PRT resolution. Indian government officials praise PRT for Gurgaon. Tysons Corner PRT transformation envisioned. Portland new urbanist AmberGlen specific plan includes PRT.

1. ULTra PRT for London Heathrow Airport on-schedule for historic Summer 2010 start

This summer, the London Heathrow ULTra system will become the world's first PRT system to enter revenue service. Commissioning activities at London Heathrow continue with "passenger trails and proving out the system in various scenarios: large influxes of passengers, emergency scenarios, and non-standard use cases where passengers have special needs or seek to use the ULTra system in an unexpected manner. This comprehensive test program will ensure that the ULTra system provides a reliable, user-friendly, high-quality service from the very first day of public operation."

2. New video of 2getthere Masdar (Abu Dhabi) ecocity PRT

5-minute video by NYU students provides extensive footage of the 2getthere vehicle (inside with passenger controls, moving, etc), covers magnet-in-the-road control system, broaches technical concerns by CH2M Hill Transportation Program Manager. ULTra and Vectus footage is mixed in.!

Meanwhile, there are some hints that Masdar's PRT system is having a bit of trouble. "The PRT pods were all the rage as recently as January. But a few months later, Masdar officials took a step back from that promise. 'We need to look at whether it works,' said Fares Ghneim, Masdar's chief of communications." NY Times article.

3. PRT passenger capacity world record

In March of 2010, ULTra PRT demonstrated 48 passengers departing from the four-berth London Heathrow (LHR) Terminal 5 multi-story car park (MSCP5) station in 5 minutes, for a world-record hourly PRT outbound station capacity of 576 passengers per hour.

4. Mountain View: first US PRT council resolution

The City Council of Mountain View, California, became the first US city to pass a PRT resolution. The resolution "supports the general concept of a PRT system in Mountain View." As motivation for supporting PRT, Mountain View cited climate protection, fossil fuel over-dependence, air pollution, travel speed, travel safety, and need for better "last mile" solutions to assist traditional transit. Text of the council resolution and press coverage is provided.

5. PRT for Gurgaon, India

600,000-population Gurgaon is the call center capital of the world and won India's "best city to work in" and "best city to live in" titles from Business Today magazine. Hindustan Times embraced PRT for Gurgaon: "It may well be the answer to reducing travel time in growing traffic snarls of our cities. The state of Haryana government has shown interest in this futuristic transport system for Gurgaon." Says Transport Commissioner, Anand Mohan Sharan: "It is an environment friendly system and a green solution to congestion caused by vehicles used for local commuting." Hindustan Times article.

6. PRT for Tysons Corner, Virginia

Tysons Corner (Virginia) is a well-known suburban "edge city," on 4.9 square miles with a worker-heavy daytime population of more than 100,000. A specific plan is being developed to transform the area with an emphasis on reduced auto-dependence and more housing. While Tysons will have four new Metro stations, recent press coverage highlighted complaints from major landowners about the lack of a "last mile" solution. PRT offers the only realistic last mile solution for Tysons. A system sketch, circulator service comparison, and transit planning "use cases" are provided.

"Instead of waiting until Tysons' very long-term [$165M per mile] fixed-guideway transit is built, Tysons could become a visionary community by building and implementing a state-of-the-art PRT system at the beginning.
" - Steve Offutt, Greater Greater Washington blog.

7. PRT for Portland New Urbanist Amberglen Plan

Portland suburb Hillsboro became the first U.S. city to adopt language favorable to PRT within a city-adopted specific plan. The ambitious 582-acre Amberglen Plan states, "A transit circulator facilitates quick connections to transit stations. Eventually ... PRT or other local circulator could serve to focus area investment near transit corridors." The distance from the north end of Amberglen to Quatama MAX light rail station is 2.0 miles. A faster-than-a-car PRT system makes this connection five times faster than jogging-speed circulator bus or 19th-century streetcar. A PRT system sketch is provided.

8. Sept. PRT@LHR and Oct. San Jose conferences

Those considering PRT for their locale should consider attending the following 2010 conferences:

8A. Podcar City Conference San Jose, October 27-29, San Jose City Hall.

"PRT fits perfectly with public transit and high-speed rail," said Rod Diridon, Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute and a California High Speed Rail Authority board member. "It is a brilliant solution to the first and last mile of travel, connecting people to the primary transportation lines. They also allow many people to have greater mobility, such as seniors, disabled people, and anyone else who cannot easily walk to transit."

"We place significant value on the development of transit options for residents and visitors that further the San Jose Green Vision. PRT definitely will help us reach our Green Vision goals, while serving as a model for other cities around the world." said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

8B. PRT@LHR 2010 Conference, London Heathrow Airport, September 21-23.