Post by Steven Dale
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece titled Pod Cars Start to Gain Traction in Some Cities.
The author, Jim Witkin posits this basic question: Is PRT finally ready for prime time?
The article is scant on details but suggests that London Heathrow’s PRT pilot system is evidence that the technology is ready to be deployed throughout the world. Problem is, the technology is no where near “ready for prime time.”
According to the article, the Heathrow PRT system includes 21 vehicles, 3.8 km of elevated track and will carry 1,000 people per day. Per day. For comparison purposes, the Medellin Metrocable moves approximately 40,000 people per day over its 2 km of guideway.
For whatever reason, people love to debate the merits of PRT and the Heathrow system ad nauseum (see the comments on this post for just such a debate). I suspect it has to do with the ideological fervor PRT advocates possess and the natural cynicism that accompanies such fervor.
But absent from much of the debate is this: The Heathrow system doesn’t work.
Construction on the Heathrow PRT was completed in mid-2008 when testing began. Fast forward two years later to today and the system is still not open to the public and there doesn’t appear to be any consensus about when it might be. (A fact strangely missing from Witkin’s article.)
Until this (or any other PRT) system can demonstrate its functionality in a pilot program or other environment, PRT will continue to be nothing more than the public transit technology of the future – a designation its held for the last 60 years.
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