Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Finally, The Truth About Personal Rapid Transit at Masdar

After hundreds of puff-pieces about the pods at Masdar The AE National admits the PRT is no big deal:

As part of the larger review of the city’s development strategy, Masdar executives have become increasingly doubtful that a fleet of futuristic electric “pod” cars would be able to serve the entire development on their own, said Alan Frost, the director of the city’s property development unit. The city’s planners are also working to adjust to anticipated delays in the emirate’s larger public transport system, over which they have no control.

The image of the “personal rapid transit” (PRT) system of automated electric cars that whisk residents and freight around the city had become a notable feature of Masdar City since the proposed development was unveiled to the public in January last year.

And although the pod cars are already running and will be in use when the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology opens in September, they may prove impractical for the larger city, Mr Frost said.

“If you say, ‘Do I think the PRT works on a city-scale?’ No, it doesn’t.”

The cars were still being evaluated for wider city use, he added.

The key issue was the pods’ magnetic routes, which limited future transport options. The pods use exclusive tracks that mean other electric vehicles would be excluded from the city, Mr Frost said. For short trips of a few hundred metres, Mr Frost said walking would be the biggest competing technology to the pod.

You can find Masdar puffery all over the web and it will stay there forever confusing and misleading the public about real transportation choices.

The Wikipedia page for Masdar:

Automobiles will be banned within the city; travel will be accomplished via public mass transit and personal rapid transit systems...


The New York Times:

The PRT pods were all the rage as recently as January, when reporters converged on Masdar City for the World Future Energy Summit. Engineers showed off prototype pods, and visitors wondered at the air quality to be expected in a car-free metropolis.

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, in a telephone interview.

Ghneim said London's Heathrow Airport uses a similar system but that one is limited to a narrow path. The scheme devised for Masdar was to run throughout the city, which is more complicated.

One limitation is that it prevents having anything else where the tracks run," Ghneim explained. If other vehicles ran on the PRT lane, they would obscure the magnets and confuse the guiding sensors. Also, he said, committing heavily to the PRT system might not make sense just as efficient new electric and hybrid vehicles are entering the marketplace.

For now, the PRT system is being implemented just around the Masdar Institute campus. The system is sure to draw interest and generate experience with the technology, but Ghneim admitted that within that limited area, walking might be just as effective a way to travel.

Although it won't happen, this phony-baloney video showing virtual pods whizzing around a virtual Masdar will stay on You Tube forever:

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