Might Computer-Controlled Pods Alleviate Our Choked City Streets?

Might Computer-Controlled Pods Alleviate Our Choked City Streets?

#Austin could be the testing ground for personal rapid transit in major cities

Andrew Conrad
  • 7 january 2016

As far as society has come in the arena of communications during the last 20 years, public transportation has been treading water as city streets continue to be choked by low-occupancy vehicles.

Richard Garriott, a video game developer famous for creating the Ultima series and later becoming a private astronaut, hopes to advance the cause of efficient public transportation by bringing a personal rapid transit system to his home city of Austin, Texas.

Garriott’s company, USA PRT, would use “computer controlled, light-weight electric vehicles” to transport passengers along “elevated or ground level guide-ways direct to their destination,” according to the USA PRT web site.

The proposed system in Austin would allow residents to board a small pod attached to an elevated track, then travel to a destination on demand.

Proponents of personal rapid transit systems point to low environmental impact, relative cost and flexibility for riders as arguments for the implementation of PRT.

“Soon you will be able to call an automated private vehicle to your transit stop, hop in, and be whisked away non-stop to your destination,” according to the USA PRT web site.

Opponents of PRT argue that low capacity and expensive guideways make PRT impractical for both densely populated urban areas and lightly populated suburban areas.

There are currently five PRT systems in use in the world, including an eight-mile system on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown, though some do not consider that a true PRT due to its larger capacity pods (up to 20 passengers) and the option for it to run point-to-point rather than on demand. The Morgantown PRT has been in operation since 1975, making it the largest and oldest operating PRT system in the world.

Before USA PRT can become a reality in Austin, Garriott still has to win over the local residents and city policymakers. The Austin Citizens For Personal Rapid Transit maintain a web site that outlines their support for the project, which Garriott claims would require an initial private investment of only $100 million.

Could PRT be the solution for outdated and unacceptable urban public transportation, or should city planners focus their resources on traditional modes of transportation like buses and trains along with electric and self-guided automobiles?


+Computer-Controlled Pods
+low-occupancy vehicles
+personal rapid transit system
+Public Transportation
+West Virginia University

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