A couple of years ago I wrote about PRT and Podcars that they are "a wonderful solution. I just haven't figured out what the problem is yet." As more podcar systems are proposed and installed, the problems to be solved are becoming a lot more clear. A new two mile long system has just been proposed in Amritsar, India to connect seven stations to the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for the Sikh religion. The New York Times reported last month:
Amritsar is the host of as many as 500,000 Sikh pilgrims on major holidays who visit the Golden Temple. Prompted by concerns about exhaust fumes damaging the building’s facade, which was built in the early 17th century, the government has banned nonessential motor vehicle traffic within a one- to two-kilometer radius of the shrine. Pilgrims consequently must walk or hire pedal-powered rickshaws to reach the temple. [managing director] Mr. Brown expects the electric-power pod-car system to accommodate up to 35 percent of these visitors.
According to Architzer, the scheme will also "engender a surge in tourism, leading to increased profits for local businesses."
After the Heathrow PRT opened, I spoke with Nathan Koren, formerly of ULTra PRT, the company building both Heathrow and Amritsar, and who spend a lot of time working on this project. He told me then:
The beauty of PRT in medium density environments is that it actually improves life for the pedestrian; it is the most economical method of separating them. It is very efficient and effective at 2 to 10 kilometer ranges, when there is a "broad demand peak"- where demand is spread symmetrically through the day. it is terrific off-peak but is "not ideal" as a commuting system with huge rush-hour peaks.
I asked him how it could possibly work in an incredibly dense situation like Amritsar, with peaks of half a million people. He explained that these podcars were being designed with six seats instead of the usual four, and that there would be agents on hand to ensure that for a normal fare the car would be packed. Nathan noted that when you are moving 6 people every 4.5 seconds it adds up fast. (The Fairwood website says it can carry 6,000 persons per hour in each direction)
Nathan also noted that there wasn't any room for many alternatives; the roads the podcars travel on are sometimes as little as 4 metres (13 feet) wide.
As the map shows, people are being moved from the rail station, the bus station, and the parking lot to the temple, tying together high density nodes.
Does it make sense in such a high density situation for such short distances? Do people want these elevated decks running through their historic city? Ultra PRT suggests that the system can take 20% of the cars off the road, and reduce the time of the journey from an hour to seven minutes. Mr. Brown says "We’ll be carrying 35% of the visitors in the area and removing 2.2m car trips in Amritsar per annum. It’s the future of environmental green travel."
I still see that being a bicycle, but there may be room for both. More at Ultra Global PRT