History

PRT is not a novel concept: it has been around since the 50s. However, we are only seeing the first applications being realised today! Much like other products we can’t imagine being without today, time was needed for the underlying technologies to develop and improve over time allowing for the realisation of the current applications.

50’s Don Fichter The history of PRT dates back to at least 1953, when city transportation planner Don Fichter began research on PRT and alternative transit modes – resulting in the publishing of a book describing automated public transit system for areas of medium to low density in 1964. Fichter already concluded then that people would not leave their cars in favor of public transit unless the system offered flexibility and end-to-end transit times that were much better than existing systems – flexibility and performance he felt only a PRT system could provide.
60’s HUD In 1966, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development was asked to “undertake a project to study … new systems of urban transportation that will carry people and goods … speedily, safely, without polluting the air, and in a manner that will contribute to sound city planning”. The resulting report was published in 1968, proposing (amongst others) the development of PRT and thus stimulating a general effort in the early 1970’s to investigate PRT.
Monocab In the same period the Monocab system was developed by Edward Haltom. The system featured six-passenger cars suspended on wheels from an overhead guideway.  The design goal was to develop a system that could operate with shorter headways (time between vehicles), thereby allowing the individual cars to be smaller while still achieving a route capacity in comparison to a monorail. Smaller cars would mean less weight at any given point, which meant smaller and less expensive guideways.
Aerospace Aerospace Corporation, an independent non-profit corporation set up by the US Congress, performed in-depth analysis of theoretical and system aspects. This resulted in members of the study team publishing the first description of PRT in Scientific American in 1969.
Aramis The development of PRT in Europe was initiated (1967) by aerospace company Matra, making a significant investment (500 million francs) in the Aramis Project. Ultimately the project showed it was too far ahead of its time, with the control software not being able to be realized to the degree yet that (unacceptable) bumping of cars could be prevented. As a result Aramis failed its qualification trials in November 1987, ending the project when Matra decided to concentrate on mass transit systems.
70’s CVS CVS (Computer-controlled Vehicle System) was researched in Japan from 1970 through 1978. At the test facility (with a 4.8 kilometer length) 84 vehicles, with a maximum speed up to 60 kilometers (37.3 mph) , achieved one-second headways during tests. The test in the end led to a version of CVS being in public operation for six months (1975-1976), carrying 800,000 passengers.Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport eventually cancelled the project as according to the (existing) rail safety regulations, specifically in respect of braking and headway distances, the system could not be certified.
Morgantown PRT MorgantownToday the Morgantown system, opened in 1975, is still operational. Although strictly speaking it is a group transit system (with each vehicle accommodating 20 passengers), it is entitled Personal Rapid Transit as it features many of the characteristics. It has five off-line stations that enable non-stop, individually programmed trips. At times of larger demand the system operates as a ‘conventional’ Automated People Mover in a line configuration. Morgantown PRT is still in continuous operation at West Virginia University  carrying approximately 15,000 riders per day. The concept was not sold to other sites because the steam-heated track has proven too expensive.
Cabinentaxi The Cabinentaxi system was developed from 1969 through 1980 by a Joint Venture between Mannesmann Demag and MBB. The system was considered to be fully developed by the German Government and its safety authorities, but the first application in Hamburg was never realized as a result of budget cuts. With no other potential projects on the horizon, the joint venture disbanded, and the fully developed PRT technology was never installed. Cabintaxi Corporation (a US-based company) obtained the technology in 1985.
90’s Raytheon During the 1990’s Raytheon invested in the development of PRT 2000 concept. The concept is based on the technology developed by J. Edward Anderson at the University of Minnesota. The system contracted for Rosemont, Illinois (near Chicago) was not realized when the estimated costs per mile rose to $50 million per mile. The (increased) costs were stated to be the result of design changes increasing weight and costs relative to the original design. In 2000 the right to the technology were acquired by Taxi2000, now marketing the Skyweb Express concept.
2getthere The Parking Hopper system (by 2getthere), consisting of a modest 4 vehicles GRT system accommodating 10 passengers each, was realized in 1995 at the long term parking lot of Schiphol Airport (Netherlands). The system operated with considerable success until 2004 when the decision was made to stop operations rather than make the investment in the required refurbishment.
Rivium RiviumOnly 1,5 year after the Parking Hopper started operations, 2getthere announced a 2nd GRT pilot. The system consisted of 3 vehicles providing a 1,2 kilometer link between a subway station and the business park Rivium. The system was operated by the public transit company ConneXXion. In 2001 the decision was made the extend the system and develop 2nd generation vehicles.
00’s Floriade In 2002, 2getthere operated 25 4-passenger “CyberCabs” at Holland’s 2002 Floriade horticultural exhibition. During the 6-month event, the system carried over 400,000 passengers paying 2,5 euro each for a return trip up a track spiraling up to the summit of Big Spotters Hill. The track was approximately 600-metre (1,969 ft) long (one-way) and featured only two stations. The operations great public acceptance of PRT-like systems.
ULTra The prototype ULTra (“Urban Light Transport”) system in Cardiff (Wales) was certified to carry passengers by the UK Railway Inspectorate on a 1 km (0.6 mi) test track in 2003.ULTra was selected in October 2005 by BAA for London’s Heathrow Airport.
Vectus In June 2006, a Korean/Swedish consortium, Vectus Ltd, started constructing a 400-metre (1,312 ft) test track in Uppsala, Sweden. This test system was presented at the 2007 PodCar City conference in Uppsala, Sweden.
Suncheon In 2009 Vectus announced the agreement for realization of a PRT system at the wetland of Suncheon City in South Korea.
10’s Masdar MasdarOn November 28 2010, 2getthere’s PRT system at Masdar City (Abu Dhabi) was opened to the public. In 2008 2getthere was selected as the supplier for the first phase of Masdar City, providing the link to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST) by means of 8 PRT, 2 VIP (leather interior) and 3 FRT vehicles. In this phase the network will be approximately 1,2 kilometers long and feature 5 stations (2 for passengers, 3 for freight).
Heathrow HeathrowIn the 2nd quarter of 2011, ULTra’s PRT system at Heathrow experienced its’ soft opening. The official opening followed later that year (September). The system features 21 vehicles, providing a connection between the prestigious Terminal 5 and the business car park.
Suncheon SuncheonThe 4.64-kilometer-long PRT system opened in August 2013. The system runs at speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour, with a capacity to carry six to nine passengers between two stations in the Suncheon coastal wetlands in South Korea.

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