Some cool stuff on Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)

I have my questions about PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), but it’s very interesting new technology, and I’ve just gotten an informative email from Steve Raney with a bunch of information. He’s given me permission to share:

FYI: We recently updated the ULTra PRT web site:

1. Heathrow “revenue service trials” produce excellent results

The four recent weeks of “Simulated Revenue Service” trial – intended to mimic real operating conditions – using Terminal 5 staff as passengers – is now complete. This involved operation of the system for 10.5 hr each day of the trial period. During these trials ULTra achieved a System

Availability -defined as the ability for any passenger to travel to any station during any given minute — of 99.6%. For comparison, most APMs (Automatic People Movers) in similar applications function with availability levels between 97.5% and 99.5%, and are more reliable than manually-driven alternatives.

Among all transit modes, ULTra’s debut performance puts it near the front of the pack in terms of delivering proven reliability.

All elements of the automatic control system worked extremely well throughout. The Automatic Vehicle Protection (AVP) safety system, vehicle control, and central control, routing and scheduling systems recorded 100% availability. Overall the vehicles and the system have performed very well;
exceeding the objectives for the trial.

2. A wave of news about ULTra PRT in India

ULTra PRT has formed a joint venture with Fairwood Consulting to implement ULTra systems in India and elsewhere in Asia. Fairwood is an integrated urban development company, with over USD $20 billion worth of projects under its purview. Headquartered in India, Fairwood brings 18 years of experience in executing large-scale infrastructure projects in India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Domiciled in Singapore, the ULTra-Fairwood Joint Venture is now pursuing the development of ULTra projects throughout this region.

“India represents a tremendous opportunity for the development of ULTra projects,” said ULTra CEO Phil Smith. “The pace of urbanization in India requires it to look for new transport solutions that can provide comprehensive area coverage, high capacity, an excellent quality of service, and much more efficiency in its use of land and energy. ULTra fits the bill perfectly, and key policymakers in India understand this.”

ULTra-Fairwood now has two BOT (build-operate-transfer) projects under active development in India. The first of these consists of 8 km of guideway, 7 stations, and 300 vehicles. It is a high-capacity system which is projected to carry approximately 35 million passengers per year. The second system is an order of magnitude larger than that, and dozens of other cities are vying to get into the queue. Both of the current projects will operate under government concessions but will be privately financed, requiring no government funds and recouping 100% of their capital and
operating costs from the farebox.

“The attractiveness of the Indian market is largely driven by the pace at which urbanization is occurring,” said Smith. “A recent McKinsey study put it this way: India will be building the equivalent of the entire city of Chicago, every year, for at least the next 30 years. That’s a market worth pursuing.” In addition to its applicability to new urban areas, ULTra is also uniquely suited to enhance transportation in existing Indian cities, where dense development makes it difficult to build traditional transport infrastructure. With its slender columns, 2.1m-wide guideway, 5m turning
radius, and 10-degree grade-climbing capability, ULTra can thread its way through the most challenging urban environments.

ULTra has received an enthusiastic reception in India, garnering tremendously positive press coverage. One TV news program enthused that ULTra could be the “answer to India’s urban chaos — something that could spell the end for India’s terribly congested and potholed roads. ULTra is

At the recent Urban Mobility India conference in Delhi, ULTra exhibited one of its vehicles, to critical acclaim. Bupinder Singh Hooda, the Chief Minister of the state of Haryana (population: 21 million), called it an “excellent concept” which “should prove useful” in the ongoing development of Haryana’s fast-growing economy. Other comments that were received from senior planners and government officials include: “Amazing!”, “Looks like a great system – if it gets integrated with MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) it would make for a great city”, and “Superb technology. I hope that we will see this
technology all over India very soon.”


– News X TV coverage. 3-minute “answer to urban chaos” video, featuring M.
Lowson and A. Ruddle. [ Video: ]

– Urban Mobility India conference – 4-minute conference video features
ULTra vehicle and Fairwood’s Ranu Das. [ Video: ]

– Fairwood’s ULTra PRT web page: [ ]

– Times of India article: [
ns-pod-dream/articleshow/7045000.cms ]

– Automotive Horizon article: [
car-in-india_12_2010_postedby_jayashankar-menon ]

3. ULTra performs well in the snow

ULTra vehicles ran well in snowy days in December. Because of their frequent movements, ULTra vehicles can clear a light snow as they pass by. For heavier snow falls, a special snow-removal vehicle may be used to clear snow.
[ Pictures: ]

For PRT locations with frequent snow and bad weather, the ULTra all-weather fiberglass open grid guideway is recommended. The open grid guideway lets rain and snow pass through without requiring gutters. This guideway also robustly handles ice events: A) It is difficult for ice to
form and attach to the pebbly fiberglass surface. B) Movement of vehicles on the guideway acts to flake off any ice that sticks. Traction is maintained in wet conditions. [ Open grid guideway: ]

4. TV coverage of San Jose Podcar Conference

The largest PRT conference ever was recently held in San Jose. PRT provides the convenience of a car with the benefits of mass transit. PRT might be the best way to connect San Jose Airport with Caltrain, light rail, and BART. ULTra PRT President of Sales, Nick Ford, stars in the 2-minute [

5. Raleigh-Durham PRT interest

The Raleigh-Durham Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA) recently held its annual meeting. More than 200 business leaders, elected officials and transportation experts from across the Triangle region gathered to hear the “State of Mobility” presentation on transportation issues and
accomplishments. ULTra PRT is featured as the lead image in news coverage. Commuter rail or LRT is envisioned on the existing rail right of way and PRT could serve as a high quality feeder to rail. [ Article: