The individualised Public Transportation System

Imagine if you walked into an elevator wanting to reach the twelfth floor. But in order to get there, you and the elevator have to stop at every floor along the way just on the off chance someone else wants to get in. Most people would not tolerate this. So why do we tolerate it in our public transportation systems? The Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system at West Virginia University did away with intermediate stops thirty years ago when it first started running. Here, it is not the journey that matters but the destination, and only the destination.

A unique mobility solution to a not-so-unique traffic problem

West Virginia University, like many universities in the 1960’s, experienced dramatic growth. But since the University and the town, Morgantown, West Virginia, are nestled between the rolling Appalachian Mountains and the snaking Monongahela River, the addition of two offshoot campuses and a rapidly expanding student body choked the areas narrow, winding roads. The introduction of shuttle busses simply added to the congested mayhem. Then engineers created the world’s first fully automated rapid transit system.[1] The Personal Rapid Transit system conquers West Virginia’s hilly terrain and withstands dramatic weather. The PRT was designed to transport passengers from point A to E without stopping at points B, C, and D! Riders approach the platform and push a button for one of the five stations. A bright blue and yellow carriage sans driver then arrives to take up to twenty passengers directly to their destination. The carriages travel at speeds approaching 50 kph and connect the University’s three campuses, a student-housing complex, and the city’s downtown. In the winter, warm water and a chemical mixture are pumped through pipes in the 14 kilometre long concrete tracks to melt any and all snow and ice.

30+ years of mobility and still running smoothly

Despite first opening in 1975, the PRT still stands out as one of the most effective and safe transportation systems in the world. No one has ever been seriously injured on the PRT while it handles about 7 rush hours a day as students and professors change classes. Over the past 37 years the system has successfully handled a student body population that has nearly tripled. The University is currently considering plans to expand the system since it projects yet more growth over the next ten to twenty years.[2]

A mobility model for today

Despite its early rough planning and testing phases, West Virginia University’s Personal Rapid Transit System is a mobility model for other universities and corporations who need to connect campuses and premises. [3] Also, the system’s cutting edge technology is still at the forefront of modern transportation systems. [4] The University’s Associate Director of Transportation, Arlie Forman, and the rest of the University take pride in that the “Morgantown PRT stands as an example of how cities can better cope with pollution, traffic and environmental demands.”[5]

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