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When consideration is given to transport in its entirety, it must surely be the world’s biggest industry. This inefficient industry must be seen as the biggest consumer of energy as well as the biggest environmental polluter. Therefore, it is imperative that transport efficiency be improved to avoid the ongoing perils of climate change.

Driving of cars represents 15% of global GDP and this is without any consideration for vehicle manufacturing and maintenance, or infrastructure costs and maintenance. Car and automobile sales is the world’s third biggest business by revenue, with car and automobile manufacturing fourth. Oil and gas exploration and production tops the list, with the majority of oil being consumed by the transport industry.

Investment in renewables is ludicrous when so much energy is being wasted in the transport sector, surely reducing this energy waste should be a priority.



We are definitely not inventing anything and this system is not intended to replace cars. The objective is to reduce the number of cars, save land space and lives while reducing the environmental impact of transport. This solution to current transport problems is not a new concept having been clearly identified and well researched over a period spanning more than 60 years. What has been envisaged for so long is now able to be produced and implemented.


What is a PRT transport system?

Today’s transport systems (chiefly automotive, bus, and train) originated more than a hundred years ago. A hundred years on and automobiles are not proving to be the best solution for many trip demands. The facts have shown that roads have become a congested and dysfunctional environmental disaster. This is the reality of the situation.

Addressing the symptoms alone is no solution; we must face up to the underlying causes: the conventional use of conventional cars. The solution will not come from some variant of the conventional car and the system they operate within.

For more than 50 years PRT has been envisaged as being the transport solution for the future. PRT is a mode of transport featuring small automated vehicles operating on a network of specially-built guide ways. The system entails a passenger entering a destination into a transport App that will book a high speed pod/capsule from the nearest station. On arrival at the station the passenger boards the waiting pod/capsule without delay and is automatically transported to the selected destination, fast, efficiently and economically.

PRT with its low ground footprint, will achieve the desired result of reducing greenhouse gas and carbon emissions, along with deaths and injuries, while significantly reducing overall costs.

PRT will not replace cars, but will fit many foreseeable trip demands, reducing reliance on cars.

To-date this well-conceived system has for various reasons never managed to be developed to meet its full potential and expectations.


We look at the reasons why.

For many reasons change must come to transport as life depends upon a transport system. Globally transport systems suffer from inefficiency, consuming far too much energy and are not economically viable. Air, noise and aesthetic pollution from all current modes of transportation are far too high. To date, there is nothing forthcoming that is likely to address these problems. For the sake of future generations these problems must be alleviated sooner rather than later.

PRT is not new, we are not inventing it. As far back as 1953 a transportation graduate student in Chicago, Donn Fichter from the New York State Department of Transportation, started to think seriously about cities and their transportation needs. In 1964 he published a book on the subject “Individualized Automated Transit and the City”. In this he strongly stressed the necessity for the smallest and lightest-weight cars designed for one person, hence the smallest and lowest cost guideways possible. These characteristics are the requirements that need to be met by any functional PRT system.

There have been numerous attempts, past and present to design PRT systems, but all have been limited in application, technically flawed, not financially viable or unable to achieve the broader objectives. In the first instance the primary objectives and requirements for a future transport system should have been determined. There has not been anything past or present that could have in any way been considered to be ‘rapid’.


 Previously identified primary objectives.

Donn Fichter (1953) strongly stressed the necessity for the smallest and lightest-weight cars designed for one person, hence the smallest and lowest cost guideways possible.

Monocabs (also in 1953) Edward Haltom reasoned that to reduce the guideway size and cost, he had to reduce the weight of the vehicles substantially by using many small, automatically controlled vehicles running at close headways.

Uniflos (1961) Lloyd Berggren sought to lay down basic ideas that would enable a transport system to be competitive with the automobile, and thus arrived independently at all of the key ideas of PRT. He felt it was very important to keep the cost and weight of the vehicle to a minimum.

Urbmobiles (also 1960’s) Morton Weinberg and Robert Wolf at Cornell Aeronautic Laboratories made an important contribution to the development of PRT, mainly because the Cornell people recognized the need for operation at headways down to one half to one second to get adequate capacity, and were able to show how it would be possible to operate vehicles safely at such short headways.

Robert Bartells (1962). The importance of Bartell’s ideas is they came from a planner faced with the practical problems of improving the mobility of people in a city. In 1962 in a paper explained all of the principle ideas of PRT.

Congressman Henry S. Reuss of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Congressman Reuss had become aware of the ideas of PRT and Dual Mode systems in the early 1960’s and at that time gave speeches in which he urged political support for the development of new transit concepts. Because of his interest, he was assigned to a subcommittee that developed the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964. The key paragraph of that section read as follows:

“The Secretary shall undertake a study and prepare a program of research, development, and demonstration of new systems of urban transportation that will carry people and goods within metropolitan areas speedily, safely, without polluting the air, and in a manner that will contribute to sound city planning”.

The new Urban Mass Transportation Act followed the direction of Congress and initiated a series of studies in 1966 to carry out the directive of Section 6 of the Act. Some 17 studies were authorized each at a level of $500,000, and became known as the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) studies. The HUD studies were summarized in a report, “Tomorrow’s Transportation”, authored by William Merritt.

They received a flood of proposals from the 17 HUD-funded companies as well as from others for development of all kinds of new transit ideas, there was simply no way they could handle these proposals in an orderly manner. The reaction was to fail to consider any of them, which resulted in a great deal of frustration among people interested in new transit systems and a period of inaction at the Federal level.

Existing systems had powerful lobbies at a time when federal money was abundant. In retrospect it seems clear that placing both development of new systems and funding of existing systems in the same agency could only squeeze out the new systems.

The tomorrow’s transportation report identified two systems with high potential, one was “PRT” and the other “Fast intra-urban transit links”.

Note: $ 8,500,000 was spent on this study in 1966.

The British Cabtrack System (1967). The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough Hants established an urban-transport group and examined a wide variety of control schemes and became confident of operating at a minimum headway of 0.6 sec.

Refer to the “Future Urban Transportation” document.

After so many years of investment, investigation, study and development why do we not have operational PRT systems?

For a PRT system to take its place in the transport mix there are essential functions the systems must perform. These have not been identified or met by any envisaged or existing transport systems. It is imperative that these essential functions are met for the operational success of a future PRT system.



Along with rising global population growth there will be an ever increasing demand for transport. As demand increases, speed becomes an essential requirement to accommodate the rising demand and alleviate ongoing congestion problems.

This is simple time and motion. Over any given time period, the faster units move the higher the number of people will be moved. If it takes 1 hour to move 100 people, 200 people can be moved in the same amount of time by simply doubling the speed. Speed must be limited only by what is safely achievable with the technology of the day.

Speed cannot be a consideration on the roads with the vast mix of drivers and vehicles, in fact for reasons of safety the opposite is the trend.

With automated generic vehicles all travelling at the same speed on a guideway, increased speed is safely achievable.


Number of movements.

Congestion is a result of demand exceeding capacity. The only way to solve this problem without continual expansion of land requirement is to increase the flow rates by raising the speed. With the vast mix of vehicles and drivers on the roads, single lane flow rates higher than 1,000 vehicles per hour are difficult to achieve and raising speed is not a consideration. With passenger pods/capsules running 40 metres apart (1 second intervals) at 150 kilometres per hour, 3600 passengers per hour would be moved with a far lower ground footprint than roads. In future when the technology and development enables speed to increase and headways to be reduced further, flow rates will rise even further.

Reference: Future Urban Transportation – 5) Efficient Use of Land.



With the earliest conception of PRT systems Donn Fichter (1953) strongly stressed the necessity for the “Smallest and lightest-weight cars designed for one person, hence the smallest and lowest cost guideways possible”. This maximises efficiency while minimising costs and energy consumption, essential for sustainability of transport systems. The lower the energy consumption the lower the environmental impact.



Utilising current technology small aerodynamic lightweight vehicles would realistically be able to attain a constant trunk line speed of 150 kilometres per hour. At this speed aerodynamic force provides sufficient lift to suspend the vehicle in a state of virtual flight, reducing ground contact drag. This is flying on the ground, and Bernoulli’s Equation from the 17th century will demonstrate a requirement of 6.5 kW of power at this speed. Minimising energy consumption and environmental impact.



All past and present efforts has been concentrated on the vehicle and guideway, with little consideration given to the operational function and capability of a high capacity station. The station is the most crucial part of any operational system, and requires the most consideration. Stations for boarding and alighting must be on the sidings off the trunk line, where passengers are able to arrive, board the awaiting vehicle and depart without delay.


Boarding and alighting.

Understanding the workings of how passengers use an efficient high capacity station is crucial. Vehicles entering the station at 150 kilometres per hour, at one second intervals, must be captured into a shuttle system capable of moving vehicles out of the line of further incoming vehicles. From there they will be moved robotically to the alighting boarding platforms of the station.


Braking and Launch system.

With vehicles approaching the station at 150 kilometres per hour significant energy needs to be captured for use by departing vehicles. This requires an electronic energy recovery system capable of bringing the lightweight vehicles to a stop in a 100 metres. This energy will be stored and utilised by the launch system for departing vehicles. Departing vehicles will utilise a reversal of the incoming capture system for launch from the station. This will take 100 metres to get the lightweight vehicle to the 150 kilometres per hour operational speed before re-entering the main trunk line.


Service and maintenance.

With the high number of movements and vehicles travelling at a constant speed of 150 kilometres per hour on the main trunk lines, 100% reliability is essential. To ensure safe operation, continual service and maintenance will be required. All vehicles and systems will be checked by an automated inspection system on arrival at the station. Any vehicle that does not meet strict inspection and scrutiny will be removed and sent for service.

Use of rail corridors and abandoned railways.

A PRT system should initially be developed to operate on intercity or inter suburban routes, getting penetration into urban areas as development and demand takes place. Vehicles travelling at a constant speed of 150 kilometres per hour will require constant radius turns with minimal inclines to operate at maximum efficiency and minimise energy consumption. These characteristics can be found on existing rail corridors and abandoned railways.


Keep structure at ground level wherever possible.

To avoid unnecessary costs and complications, structures should remain at ground level where – and whenever possible.

The question must be asked: What are the criteria to make transport sustainable?

Answer: The introduction of a system that is smaller, lighter, faster, safer, energy efficient, on-demand and without causing environmental damage. Cars cannot meet this requirement, so let’s get on with creating a system that will work