Inside the PRT network, the system offers the following sustainability advantages over traditional transit and passenger vehicles:
- Minimum disruption of the urban landscape. PRT’s elevated guide ways are designed to be built integrated in the urban environment following the roadways and topography. The ground below the guide way is left for open space and greenfield sites.
- Design for drive-less access and convenience. PRT vehicles and stations are compact enough to fit inside buildings, allowing customers to arrive directly in airports, hotels, shopping malls and corporate parks, eliminating the requirement to drive or park. This offers a particular advantage to senior citizens and persons with disabilities or unable to drive.
- PRT can enable children’s transport to school, to extracurricular activities, and back home again.
- Pollution reduction. PRT replaces cities ‘main source of noise pollution, the internal combustion engine automobiles with silent electric vehicles. PRT also reduces air pollution significantly as it has no tailpipe emissions and can even decrease overall emissions further if operated with renewable energy.
- Energy use reduction. While passenger vehicles weigh from 1.5 to 3 tons, PRT pods weigh about 0.5 tons decreasing the inertia loads particularly when compared with big buses. PRT also saves precious energy from the stop-and-go travel in traffic. Additional savings arise from the fact that PRT vehicles will not move until there is a demand for them.
- Elimination of traffic jams. PRT vehicles travel non-stop using automatic control therefore doing away with traffic lights or stops.
- Connectivity potential. PRT can complement current transit services “filling their route gaps” with the PRT network and reaching across neighborhoods. A positive side effect could be increase in property value.
PRT has been the subject of research and development since the 1960s. The first operational project was the Morgantown PRT at West Virginia University. Morgantown is still in use and may be expanded further. Morgantown validated the viability of PRT as it proved it was a reliable system of automated transit with low operating costs.
This year the UK based company Advanced Transport Systems LTD plans to start operating its ULTRa PRT at London Heathrow Airport. The vehicle accommodates four people and is solely powered by its battery. Other PRT around the world projects are planned or in development including the countries of India, South Korea and Abu Dhabi.
Last year Google Co-Founder Larry Page encouraged his alma matter, the University of Michigan to develop a PRT system in Ann Arbor. U-M has since been exploring the idea and today it is involved in the Ann Arbor Connector Feasibility Study. The committee members reported last November 14. They are considering the following options for transit: Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit, Streetcars and PRT. The study area covers Briarwood Mall and extends northeast to Plymouth Road on U-M East Campus. The study will continue but there is no plan to select any options yet.