Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Another Failing Grade for Personal Rapid Transit

A memo from Los Angeles County compared PRT to other modes (PDF). The conclusion:
With the technical data currently available, PRT (as a lower capacity, on-demand version of APM) has limited applicability for connecting the regional transit system and LAX, the primary market under study for the Airport Metro Connector.
This is in addition to the memo from a San Jose city official that stated the conclusion of a $1.8 million study that Automated Transit Network (AKA podcars, PRT) was infeasible. In another post I reported that the Minnesota Department of Transportation was not going to go ahead on a $1.4 million PRT study recommended by the University of Minnesota's Center For Transportation Studies.

Although the PRT concept has been around for half a century, the PRT vendors are still not ready for prime time. No doubt the pod people will cry foul and claim the process was rigged. But, as I have noted before, would-be PRT vendors sabotage their own chances of selling their systems by not providing necessary info:
The amount of data available to support rigorous transit planning efforts, as is required for developing a regional transit connection to LAX,is still very limited. Key factors for evaluation are capital and operating costs, vehicle and guideway specifications, operating characteristics, maintenance facility requirements, and capacity and operating speeds. In June 2011, we met with ULTra, the company that developed the Heathrow PRT system, to gather information and to discuss what data were available to support evaluation during the AA. We were able to obtain some information from the Heathrow project given that it began operation later that year in September, but much of the data on modern systems are still preliminary with some information proprietary.
The reason is PRT vendors don't try harder is that PRT is more useful to promoters as an wedge issue to delay or stop funding for conventional transit.

For many years, Personal Rapid Transit promoters have claimed that PRT was faster, better, cheaper than conventional transit. They also claimed the PRT "technology" was available now for implementation in urban areas. They were lying - what they really had to offer was small-scale demonstration projects that could hardly scale up to a city-wide system. Their much-hyped PRT "success" story, the battery-powered podcars at Heathrow and Masdar have failed to be considered for far more simple applications as airport connectors.

How many more studies do we need to restate the obvious? - PRT is an infeasible boondoggle. Here's an ancient, hilarious PRT promotional video with pod hucksters attacking conventional transit modes as "old fashioned":


 Where is the Taxi 2000 Corporation today? It's still in Fridley, MN and it's "moribund".

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