Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)
How It Works
Intro How it Works  Construction   Economics  Point-To-Point Transport  Capacity   Concerns  PRT and the Environment SF Bay Area Further Information

Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is a revolutionary transit technology that promises service that's flexible, prompt and dependable. It also requires less money, environmental impact and time to construct.

Although PRT became practical 20 years ago due to advances in microprocessors, sensors, telecommunications and software, institutional inertia has prevented deployment in the U.S. Instead of using a few large containers to move many people (e.g. a bus or BART train), PRT uses many small vehicles or "cabs" to move a few people - or a person and their baggage. Think "automobile sedan", but cut off the back (trunk space) and the front (heavy and complicated engine and drive train). Then elevate that "cab" onto a guideway so you ride above all the other traffic.

Stations, or "ports", are like bus stops located at ground level (or elevated and accessible by elevator). Most times a PRT cab will be awaiting you at your local port. Select your destination and get in. Quickly and quietly your cab leaves the station and rises up to merge with other cab traffic on the main guideway. Since all ports are offline, you never have to stop until you get to your destination port. There, your cab automatically leaves the main guideway and drops down to ground level for you to exit. Your cab is now available for someone else. Uninterrupted flow is the key to system capacity, not vehicle size. So a PRT system can carry as many people as multiple lanes of freeway traffic.

Using PRT is similar to taking the bus or train. Only a slight change is required of people. However, in terms of societal impact, PRT may prove to be more than just a new transportation technology. It may prove revolutionary. It promises a change in transportation as great as the leap from canals to railroads, or from railroads to automobiles.

To examine the history of transportation over the past 250 years is to see the rise of three major technologies. First, canal transportation developed after 1750. Railroads flourished after 1825 and then automobiles had their turn starting early last century. Each transportation system required entirely new infrastructure and vehicles. Also,each new transportation system brought benefits far out-weighing any available by simply applying new technology to the old transportation system. "So what if your canal barge has a computer control; you still can't find a place to park it."

Placed in the context of 250 years of transportation history, PRT could be the next revolution in transportation.


Revolutionary Transit Technology

Using PRT is similar to taking the bus or train. Only a slight change is required of people. However, in terms of societal impact, PRT may prove to be more than just a new transportation technology. It may prove revolutionary. It promises a change in transportation as great as the leap from canals to railroads, or from railroads to automobiles.

To examine the history of transportation over the past 250 years is to see the rise of three major technologies. First, canal transportation developed after 1750. Railroads flourished after 1825 and then automobiles had their turn starting early last century. Each transportation system required entirely new infrastructure and vehicles. Also,each new transportation system brought benefits far out-weighing any available by simply applying new technology to the old transportation system. "So what if your canal barge has a computer control; you still can't find a place to park it."

Put in the context of 250 years of transportation history, PRT could be the next revolution in transportation.


Cabs

Cabs carry 2 - 4 people, or people plus baggage, or cargo. Maximum passenger/cargo weight is 500 - 750 lbs. Some cab designs allow handicapped and cyclist use. Other systems require multiple cab designs to accomodate these "non-standard" users.


Guideways

Guideways holding up light cabs can also be small and lightweight. About the size of a paired set of escalators, the guideway is compatible with a wide range of urban and "edge city" environments. Support posts, which require a footprint of less than four square feet, are spaced 50 - 60 feet apart.


Ports (Stations)

Ports, small stations where people board and leave cabs, fit in. About the size of a bus stop, ports can be sited at ground level, elevated, adjacent to buildings, or even within buildings. The left two images show minimalist elevated ports. Seat are positioned at standard chair height above the platform.

Even with the guideway above the port (second image), the scale is still small enough to blend into populated areas. Remember, that a small guideway can carry the equivalent of two freeway lanes of traffic. PRT blends in like no other transit system.

The third image draws a picture of a handicap-accessible cab with pay point. Cabs designed and built for different purposes (handicapped, cyclist and bike, cargo) allow for a simplified version of the standard cab. Specialty cab passengers can expect to wait no more than 5 minutes after they call for a cab.

The fourth image presents a fully enclosed station for harsh weather areas.


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