Many people especially in this part of the world where the economy and the culture has been shaped by the automobile believe green cars are the silver bullet of sustainable transportation. The benefits brought by green automobiles have made them so popular that it is hard to think of personal mobility beyond the automobile. These electric and alternative fuel vehicles reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and petroleum use thus increasing energy independence and national security. Despite their monumental benefits green cars do not address the remaining growing challenges we face in automobiles and traditional transit:
- Environmental issues created by vehicle road infrastructure. Parking and roads occupy 75% of the urban real state displacing green space, natural habitat, preventing absorption of rain water which disrupts hydrology and water quality. Roads can also impact community life creating divisions and producing isolation.
- Noise pollution from passenger vehicles and regular transit.
- Driving safety hazards lately increased by traffic density and use of personal communication devices
- Traffic congestion. According to The Hartford 2010 Drivability Survey, “the daily commute is a major source of frustration and time consumer for many drivers stealing from each driver an average of 52 minutes per round trip, what amounts to 56 hours per year or the equivalent of seven full working days. Although transit greatly decreases congestion over car use, deceleration and acceleration of large vehicles can slow down surrounding traffic
- Fast increase in aging population. 70 million baby boomers will soon reach retirement age and will not take long for them to lose their ability to drive safely in a growing traffic.
- Inability to afford the cost of owning and operating a passenger vehicle
PRT is a public transportation system made up of pod-like, lightweight, computer-controlled electric vehicles gliding above the traffic on slender elevated guide ways, not unlike monorail trains or Detroit’s People Mover. The vehicles offer private travel and can carry up to 6 passengers or light freight.
The main advantage of this concept is that it is free from the inefficiencies of scheduled route typical to most public transportation. In scheduled route systems each passenger or group of passengers going to a specific location need to wait for the transport to stop, drop off and pick up passengers at all stations before arriving to the specific destination. Such inconvenience is worsened by irregular schedules.
PRT overcomes such inefficiencies through an on-demand and point-to-point system that takes passengers non-stop to their destination through the most direct route. Passengers request the PRT podcar pressing a button. switching control systems allow the podcars to bypass intermediate stations, located on tracks parallel to the main one and forming a network.