cost of a PRT system is relatively easy if one is willing to settle
for a general "ball park" number within 20% of actual
costs. Two primary methods for estimating costs suggest
themselves: 1) review the costs for whatever PRT prototypes
have been built, and 2) find projects similar to PRT
in terms of size, weight, and complexity. For purposes
of estimating the costs of PRT in transit projections, the following
leads to a conclusion that PRT costs
between $10M/mile and $15M/mile.
Costs of PRT prototypes
The Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) offers a good starting point with their
reports on "Personal Automated Transportation: Status and
Potential of Personal Rapid Transit". A table on page 89
of their Technology
Evaluation (dated January 2003) presents
cost estimates from PRT vendors. Of the 14 systems reporting
cost estimates, four have actually built a prototype: Cybertran, Frog
(CyberCab), Taxi 2000, and ULTra.
Most of the other estimates are lower than these, probably because of 1)
missing project costs (site prep, utility relocation, foundations,
landscaping, etc.), or 2) the assumption of some level of (as yet
unattained) mass production.
For those four, guideway costs range from $2.6M/mile for Taxi 2000 to $5.0M/mile for Cybertran.
Assuming a saturation level of one vehicle every 100 feet (or 50 per mile of
guideway), vehicle costs range from $2.1M/mile for Taxi 2000
($42,000/cab) to $8.0M for Cybertran. [Note that Cybertran
vehicles carry 6-20 passengers while Taxi 2000 and ULTra vehicles
hold a maximum of 4 passengers. The smaller vehicles and
superstructure likely account for the lower costs of both Taxi 2000
As indicated in the "Additional component costs" on page 90, station costs
can range from $100K to $500K per station. Stations would be
ADA compliant and usually include elevators. Planning for two
stations per mile would add, at most, $1M/mile to guideway costs.
Costs for land
acquisition are excluded because public right-of-way (primarily
roadways) will be used. Due to the small footprint of each
supporting post (approximately 7 square feet every 60-90 feet) and
the flexibility of routing, utility relocations will be minimal and
relatively insignificant. Other costs might include modifying
buildings, providing parking at stations, and enhancing aesthetic
features. Adding an extra 20% for planning, engineering,
environmental studies, and project management seems reasonable (based
on Figure 8 entitled "Component Cost Distribution" in the
document at http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/yoder.pdf).
So, the minimum cost would be $2.6M/mile(guideway) +
$2.1M/mile(cabs) + $1.0M/mile(stations) + 20%(overhead) = $6.8M/mile.
In summary, full costing for these four systems can be expected to range from $6.8M/mile
to $16.8M/mile. Bi-directional costs, which are useful for
comparison to corridor-type transit systems, would be $13.6M to
$33.6M/mile. Note that the high end of the range is set by
Cybertran which, due to size and design, costs more than true PRT systems.
[ATRA's report, "Personal Automated Transportation: Status and Potential of
Personal Rapid Transit can be found at
comes from a recent article in the Feb.
2004 "Mechanical Engineering Design". The
ULTra system is estimated to cost $8-12M/mile (one way).
Here's an excerpt from page 33:
In Cardiff, a half-mile test track for ULTra has been up and running since 2001.
Lowson and his team have taken to heart the lessons from Raytheon's
failure. "Raytheon didn't pay enough attention to the
infrastructure," Lowson said. "It got seriously oversize
and overweight and therefore over cost. We've spent a lot of time
looking at optimizing the infrastructure." For example, the
depth of the steel guideway is only 18 inches, which saves on
material both in the guideway itself and in the structures that
span-width ratio exceeds the normal rule of thumb, but we can exceed
them because our loads are very different," Lowson said.
"It's not a footbridge, and it wouldn't work as a footbridge
because it's too thin. But it works as a PRT guideway."
Raytheon, which developed all the technology for its system from
scratch, Lowson's team concentrated on finding off-the-shelf parts to
build ULTra. Lowson's group built the vehicles from automotive
industry parts, which enabled them to piggyback on decades of
research. Consequently, Lowson says that ULTra has greater
reliability and lower costs than other transit systems.
As a result,
Lowson says he can deliver ULTra at a cost of between $8 million and
$12 million a mile, far cheaper than conventional light rail systems.
And in comparison to relatively inexpensive solutions such as diesel
buses, ULTra can theoretically carry far more people per hour. Based
on rider studies conducted in Cardiff and on estimates of the
capacity of the line, the system could deliver about 2,000 people
each hour among a dozen stations.
Engineering Design article entitled "Ready when you are?"
can be found at http://www.memagazine.org/medes04/readywhn/readywhn.html]
Smaller vehicles allow a light- weight guideway with total system costs estimated at under $15 million per mile.
SmartSkyways offers their own "Estimate of Costs for Skyways Infrastructure" at http://www.smartskyways.com/Technology/development_costs.htm.
Costs and Ridership Estimates of Personal Rapid Transit"
by Supin L. Yoder, Sidney E. Weseman, and John DeLaurentiis (January, 2000)
This report examines the personal
rapid transit (PRT) system project in Rosemont, Illinois. A
method was developed to compare PRT system components (versus the
entire system) with the components of existing automated-guideway
transit (AGT) and automated people mover (APM) systems.
Components examined included (1) guideways; (2) stations; (3)
maintenance and control facilities; (4) power and utility systems;
(5) vehicles; (6) command, control, and communications systems; and
(7) engineering and project management. In their
examination of 17 AGT systems, they created Figure 8, Component
Cost Distribution which shows that the average cost
distribtuions were guideways (27%), stations (10%), maintenance and
control facilities (6%), power and utility systems (7%),
vehicles (18%), command, control, and communications systems (14%),
and engineering and project management (18%). Their conclusion: "Raytheons
PRT capital cost estimate is within the range of $27-$37
million/lane-mile of PRT-comparable AGT system cost."
Both this range and the report's
broader range of $15M/mile to $50M/mile are much higher than the
other estimates on this Web page. Three aspects of the report
call into question its high estimates:
Although the reports lowest estimate for PRT is $15M/mile, the Clarian
APM cost only $14.2M/mile. PRT, being much smaller and lighter than the Clarian APM, would likely
cost less. (See Clarian photos at http://www.sibelle.info/peoplemover/carpics711.htm)
Table 2 of the report, Major Factors Impacting Component Capital Costs,
shows that all PRT components lie on the LOWER COST side
with these exceptions: linear induction motors (guideway), and ADA
compliant (vehicle), freestanding (station), ADA/Elevator &
Escalator (station), Fare collection (station), and CCTV, Intercom,
PA (station). PRT, with so many lower cost attributes, would
likely lie at the lowest end of the range, not the middle.
lighter has a ripple effect. As some or most parts of a
guideway or vehicle become smaller and lighter, other parts can also
be scaled down. Smaller vehicles lead to smaller guideways and
stations. This synergy toward small, light, and efficient
and its resulting lowering of capital costs - isnt addressed
in the report.
[The article can
be found at http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/yoder.htm]
[The Figures can
be found at http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/yoder.pdf]
Costs of PRT-like Systems
to the October 2002 issue of TeMPO published by the Metropolitan Planning
Organization for the Indianapolis, IN, region:
Clarian People Mover is America's first privately owned transit
system to operate over city streets. Each vehicle can seat 8
and stand another 19. A train-set includes 3 vehicles for a
total of 81 people. Each fully automated trainset will travel
at up to 30 mph on rubber wheels riding on pre-stressed concrete
guideways. Empty weight of each trainset is 45,000 pounds.
[Note that each Skyweb Express cab weighs only 1000 pounds.]
Even though a 1700" section of an 18" gas main had to be
moved laterally 5 feet, the overall cost of the system was only
$40M. The Clarian People Mover is 14,800 feet long (7,400-foot
long two-way guideway), or about $14.2m per one-way mile.
Operating costs are estimated at $900K per year (2.25% of
construction cost). The project broke ground in May of 2001,
and the superstructure was completely erected by mid-2002, right on
schedule. The system was commissioned in the Spring of
2003. System capacity is 1800 riders per hour with an expected
500,000 riders per year.
Although most APM
systems run $20-30M/mile (world-wide estimate of systems in
development or recently completed), this one cost only $14.2M/mile.
A large part of the difference can be attributed to the smaller,
lighter design. However, the fact that the Clarian system is
privately built (and therefore more financially accountable) may
explain a significant portion of the cost reduction.
[View other photos at http://www.sibelle.info/peoplemover/carpics711.htm.]
recent costing study was BART's Group Rapid Transit Investigative
Study. Although GRT differs from PRT, an independent GRT
costing provides a reasonable upper limit for PRT costing.
In the BART study, one of the subs on the SFO people mover came up
with costs for a 5-mile system for Cybertran's GRT system. The
guideway structure is rated to sit on the Oakland Airport fill and
withstand a big earthquake. Although the final report has not
been finished, the consultant's version of the costing should be
available to MTC from BART. Note that Cybertran vehicles
carry 6-20 passengers while Taxi 2000 and ULTra vehicles hold a
maximum of 4 passengers.
technology that in many ways resembles PRT is amusement and
"roller coaster" rides. Here's an excerpt from an
e-mail sent by Dick Gronning, a PRT supporter:
called S&S Mfg. that does roller coasters. Their smaller track
can be had for $3.2 million a mile, which is about what Taxi 2000
says its track should be. However, S&S produced a track in
Japan that looks very similar to the Taxi 2000 track and cost $7.1
million a mile [see photo]. This track regularly takes twenty
riders to over 110 mph with forces five times normal gravity.
This is a bit more than what Taxi 2000 needs.
Then I talked to
Met-Con Construction in Faribault about the price of stations.
The estimator engineer said that a three car station would be $150 to
$200 thousand with stairs and elevator. He said that a five car
station would be between $400 and $500 thousand per station.
Taxi 2000 uses figures of $400 to $600 thousand for stations.
A harder estimate
is the cars. A small Ford Focus, or Chevy Malibu can be
purchased at about $10 thousand, but these cars are manufactured at a
rate of 20 thousand a month. They are also much more
complicated and have far more moving parts than a Taxi 2000 car.
So, what could a car like Taxi 2000 with only sixteen moving parts
and only produced at a rate of two thousand a month really cost?
Taxi 2000 says that if they could get someone to manufacture 2000
cars a month, the cost would be about $25 thousand, but if they only
produced 1000 cars, the cost would go up to $30 thousand per car.
Zimmerman has proposed a system for Minneapolis that has 31 miles of
track, 68 stations and probably can use about 2000 cars. I
calculated the cost using the highest figures from the estimates
above and got $320.8 million, or $10.3
million a mile.
One could also
examine the costs of systems that WGH has built at a UK mall, a UK
entertainment complex, and museums in Helsinki and Abu Dhabi.
vehicles vary from light to heavy. Generally speaking, cost
increases with weight. (Thanks to Larry Fabian for suggesting
this and providing background.)
Electric Bike and Scooters
200 - 400 lbs.
800 - 1500 lbs.
taxis, mini-vans, SUVs)
2000 - 8000 lbs.
Transit (GRT) and Automated People Movers (APM)
9000 - 20,000 lbs.
Light Rail Transit (LRT)
(Caltrain, ACE, BART)
Based on the above figures, one
can reliably predict that fully costed PRT will run about $12.5M per
mile. Utilizing a "fudge factor" of plus or minus 20%
gives us a cost range of $10M/mile to $15M/mile. Although
somewhat higher than most PRT estimates, this range provides an added
degree of confidence until an actual system is deployed.
For purposes of estimating the costs of PRT in transit projections, transit
professionals can use
a range of $10M/mile to $15M/mile for all financial
costs of putting a PRT system into operation.
Learn more about
PRT at www.electric-bikes.com/prt-info.html
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