It might seem like science fiction, but local leaders say it could be the wave of Winona’s future: a test site for a transit system featuring pod-like cars that ride along tracks built high over the city.
Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems have garnered some interest from state leaders, with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) recently appointing a new director of PRT technology. And, after meeting with industry and Mn/DOT officials on the potential for such a new system, Mayor Jerry Miller has thrown Winona’s name in the hat as a potential site for a $25 million test bed.
Local leaders say that such a test bed could help spur job creation, and that composite companies in the area could potentially build components of the system, too. They say that such a PRT test site would be used, but wouldn’t aim to solve any big transit problems in Winona, rather it would serve as a site that could demonstrate how the new technology works for other interested cities and officials.
Skip to the bottom of the article for some common sense....
One of PRT’s most outspoken critics, Dr. Vukan Vuchic, Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote a 2007 book, “Urban Transit Systems and Technology,” which argues against PRT as a model for future transit.
Calling the concept “inherently unsound,” Vuchic says that complicated and expensive guideways coupled with low density small vehicles doesn’t make sense anywhere. In big cities, he says, where transit needs could justify the cost of guideways, small low density cars can’t meet the need for transit. And in smaller cities, where such low density cars would be feasible, the cost of guideway infrastructure outweighs the need for such transit. “Consequently, the combination of the two features -- small vehicle and complicated guideway -- is paradoxical and makes the PRT mode impractical under all conditions.”