Print this page

PRT for Menlo Park Caltrain to Facebook

Personal Rapid Transit or PRT, also called Automated Transit Network or ATN, is an energy-efficient, electric, elevated transit system with many four-person self-driving vehicles. Working as circulator transit for job centers, airports, and universities, PRT has a higher average speed than a car (PRT: 10 minutes from downtown to Facebook, versus 20 by car in traffic). In these applications, PRT makes carpooling, Caltrain commuter rail, and SamTrans bus more effective, by solving the "last mile problem." PRT also enables longer bike commutes and shopping trips. For Menlo Park, a PRT system should be part of SamTrans' system, with seamless fare box/fare gate integration. (PRT video:

Menlo Park PRT Sketch Benefits:

• Connects Caltrain to new development east of 101 with a no-wait PRT connection.

• Provides pleasant, car-free travel from homes to groceries, coffee, restaurants, workouts, shops and night life.

• Enables a two-car family to convert to one car, PRT, and other mobility services (carsharing, etc) for a lower cost of living.
• Increases employer competitiveness in attracting and retaining employers. 
• Train tracks and freeways split Menlo Park in half. PRT re-joins these sections, bringing the city together.

• PRT enables Menlo Park to grow in a maximally mitigated manner.

Very rough PRT System Sketch: 12 miles of one-way guideway, 22 stations, with very approximate $180M capital cost:


Higher resolution sketch imagery:

• (3Kx3K w/ aerial photography)

It is politically tricky to run elevated guideway along single family homes on Willow, Ringwood, and Oak Grove.

There are three established PRT manufacturers are 2getthere, Ultra Global PRT, and Vectus. 2getthere has a system at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi featuring 1.1 miles of guideway, five stations, and 13 vehicles. Ultra Global PRT's system at London Heathrow Airport has 2.4 miles of guideway, three stations, and 21 vehicles. Vectus has a system at Suncheon Bay (South Korea) with six miles of guideway and 40 vehicles. 2getthere and Vectus also offer automated transit with larger vehicles. Additionally, there are several startups (some in the Bay Area like Skytran) working on concepts, with a variety of speeds, passengers-per-vehicle, and infrastructure designs. PRT technology needs to progress to provide higher capacity before it can be applied in the Bay Area. Self-driving car efforts (Mercedes, GM, Google, Tesla, Uber, etc) may be able to progress PRT technology more rapidly.

PRT combines low-cost infrastructure with compelling fare box and real-estate economics, to the point where the Heathrow system was financed solely by private sector sources. For PRT systems, a rule of thumb is "PRT infrastructure costs less than two percent of the value of land and buildings that are served."

Peer-reviewed market research for two Bay Area transit-served major job centers, Palo Alto's Stanford Research Park (SRP) and Pleasanton's Hacienda Business Park, forecasts a PRT-induced commuting mode reduction from 80% single occupancy vehicle (SOV) down to 45% SOV. In these two studies, carpooling increased to more than 25% and transit increased beyond 15%. Such commuting shift could free more than 50 acres of surface parking for higher use.

One of the advantages of PRT "is that it offers a lot of flexibility. It's much less expensive than traditional transit. It doesn't serve the same needs as high-speed rail or BART. It's a complement to those systems," Laura Stuchinksy, Sustainability Officer, City of San Jose Department of Transportation. "We've concocted a system where local trips take an auto. That's our biggest tragedy. Streetcars, such as those used in Portland's Pearl District, and elevated people movers, like those in downtown Miami, are moving people from rail stations to their final destinations. But a new concept, PRT, may help revolutionize urban transportation, providing a cost-effective way to get people from train stations to where they need to go." - Peter Calthorpe, Berkeley-based Calthorpe Associates.