Can PRT, or Podcars, Replace the Automobile?


All images from Advanced Transport Systems- the ULTra

Personal Rapid Transit, or Podcars, are controversial; Catherine G. Burke of USC's School of Policy, Planning and Development makes a spirited defence of them in the Los Angeles Times. She notes that oil and emissions are not the only problems with cars:

"In the near future, 70 million of us will enter retirement, and inevitably some of us will lose the ability to drive a car, whether from physical disability, poverty or denial of insurance. We will need something better than the auto -- and better is here, now."

"It's a "podcar," also called "personal rapid transit" -- a system of vehicles that provide on-demand, private, nonstop travel. These vehicles can carry people or light freight. They ride on small, overhead guideways -- like a monorail or people mover -- above existing roads, and are powered entirely by electricity. Picture the car as an elevated, driverless taxi. It's under computer control, so there would be no accidents, thereby saving lives and lowering insurance costs."

Burke has no patience for those who say that such systems don't make sense.

"Detractors say it can't be done: That to be cost-effective, public transit must mass large groups of people together to travel to the same place; that a podcar system would be too complex and expensive; that an elevated guideway would be ugly.

The naysayers haven't done their homework. A podcar system called ULTra is being built at London's Heathrow airport. Vectus, a Korean podcar, is being tested in Uppsala, Sweden. One or both of these systems may be used in the Masdar eco-city in the United Arab Emirates that is being planned as the world's first auto-free, carbon-free new town."

She also suggests that PRTs are more flexible.

"Current public transit can only serve those who live near stations or bus lines and who want to travel where and when the system operates. That's why most people prefer a car that's available 24/7, if we can drive and can afford the gas.

Podcars offer a new kind of service, providing the convenience of an auto without the negatives for the individual -- costly to purchase plus high costs for gasoline, insurance, maintenance and parking. For society, podcars would reduce the use of petroleum as well as pollution, congestion, accidents, injuries and deaths."

Interesting reading at ::Los Angeles Times

For and against Podcars in TreeHugger:

Richard Nixon Proves Personal Transit Actually can Work
The Podcars Are Coming
Personal Rapid Transit "a Cyberspace Techno-Dream"
Avoid Interaction With Other Humans in New Train Design
Ecocities of Tomorrow: Can Foster + Partners' Masdar City in U.A.E ...

Tags: Commuting | Electric Vehicles | Trains

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