Personal Rapid Transit: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

<p>Malcolm Buchanan writes that advances in control technology and the upcoming launch of the Heathrow Airport PRT mean that Personal Rapid Transit is ready for the spotlight.</p>
July 25, 2008, 8am PDT | Tim Halbur
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It took a long time and the personal commitment of a president of the United States for the concept of travel to the moon to be made a reality, and there were many who doubted it would ever happen. Personal rapid transit (PRT), also called Personal automated transport (PAT), has had a similarly long gestation, and the concept was perhaps oversold in the 1960s when, in the UK, drawings were published of clumsy elevated structures cutting through Central London and looking almost as intrusive as the six-lane expressways to which they were claimed to be an alternative.

The promises made about PRT in those early days still blight it today, and there are many transport planners who will give a wry smile when told that the first PRT system will come into service over the next year at London's Heathrow airport.

Whereas PRT was formerly something that would be nice to have if it could be made to work and demonstrated to be acceptable in city centres, today it is fast becoming essential, and we now need a latter-day John F. Kennedy to challenge the public transport industries to deliver PRT systems in the variety of shapes and with the range of performance characteristics that will be needed.

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Published on Sunday, July 20, 2008 in
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