Private Fast Transit Will get A Makeover : NPR

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A single journey on the Morgantown, W.Va., PRT prices simply 50 cents — and is free for college kids. The system supplies about 15,000 rides a day (and double that when WVU has a house recreation).

Joanne C. Sullivan/Flickr

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Joanne C. Sullivan/Flickr

A single journey on the Morgantown, W.Va., PRT prices simply 50 cents — and is free for college kids. The system supplies about 15,000 rides a day (and double that when WVU has a house recreation).

Joanne C. Sullivan/Flickr

This can be a story a few revolution that by no means occurred.

In 1975, a novel transportation system referred to as Private Fast Transit, or PRT for brief, began working in Morgantown, W.Va. It was imagined to usher in a brand new age of public transit.

It did not.

However West Virginia College, which operates the PRT system, stays dedicated to it — and is spending greater than $100 million to refurbish the growing older system.

PRT could be very totally different from standard mass transit. Usually, whenever you get on a subway or gentle rail, you get into a big automobile with plenty of folks, and also you cease at each cease on the road (besides in instances the place some specific trains cease much less regularly, like in New York Metropolis). With PRT, you get in a small automobile — and your automobile solely goes to your vacation spot. It does not cease anyplace else.

“It is undoubtedly simpler than driving and making an attempt to park,” says Tiffany Kornberg, a second-year scholar in pharmaceutical sciences at WVU.

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At a station within the metropolis middle, riders climb to an elevated platform. There is a turnstile on the prime of the steps. It is 50 cents — free when you’re a scholar. However earlier than you possibly can undergo, you need to choose the station you are touring to. This can be a key to utilizing PRT.

There are a number of boxy PRT automobiles stopped on the station. Every holds about 18 folks. They’re brightly painted with West Virginia College’s blue and gold colours.

An indication over the automobiles signifies the place they’re headed. A automobile headed for the Medical Heart cease takes off, and because it approaches the engineering campus cease, the automobile by no means slows down. That is PRT’s benefit: On conventional transit, the automobile would have stopped there — even when nobody needed to get out. The PRT simply zips proper previous.

One other PRT function: If there is a noon lull, and the automobiles aren’t wanted, they only sit at a station and wait, saving sources. Conventional transit retains empty trains operating on schedule.

“This is likely one of the best-kept secrets and techniques within the transportation world,” says Clement Solomon, who runs the PRT system.

Solomon says the system supplies 15,000 rides on a typical day (Morgantown has a inhabitants of 30,000) — and doubles that ridership when there is a residence soccer recreation.

Just a few years in the past, Solomon says, the college needed to decide. The PRT automobiles have been sporting out and the management techniques wanted updating. Ought to they refurbish the system, or abandon it?

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So WVU commissioned a examine.

“We must do anyplace from 30 to 60 buses in loops, operating nonstop, to move our college students,” Solomon says. Refurbishing PRT was the best choice, in accordance with the report.

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“When you take a look at it, there is not a system on the earth that may do what this method can do,” he says.

However elsewhere, PRT hasn’t caught on. There are a mess of possible causes: Opposition from corporations that make techniques for buses and lightweight rail, questions in regards to the reliability of the brand new know-how, uncertainty about PRT’s cost-effectiveness.

There is a system at Heathrow Airport in London, and in Masdar Metropolis, a deliberate neighborhood in Abu Dhabi. A number of locations are contemplating PRT, together with Greenville, S.C.

However a revolution in public transportation? Not a lot.

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