How Will the Next-Generation Personal Rapid Transit Systems Change the Future?

Transit problems are well-known to all city dwellers: traffic congestion, pollution, longer commute, inconvenience, safety issues to name a few. In our interview, Ollie Mikosza, an inventor and entrepreneur explains how futuristic personal rapid transit systems such as METRINO (Metropolitan Individual System of Transportation on Elevated Rail) will solve most of these pressing transit problems and how it will significantly change the future of urban mobility.

How do you envision the future of personal rapid transit systems (PRTs) or automated transit networks (ATNs)?

Within the next 10 to 15 years, PRTs will be used as the main transit mode in major cities worldwide – it will most likely replace metros, buses and 50 to 90 percent of cars in the area of its operation.

There might just be a few places in cities, if any, not reachable by PRT, especially with METRINO, which is a “dual mode” PRT system. METRINO will self-drive “last mile” from the nearest sub-urban stop to drop passengers off right at their doorstep, so why would one use a car to go to anywhere that METRINO can reach? Most people might still want to use cars to enjoy long drives or to reach places outside the public transport network. Self-driving and electric cars will make up the rest of the city transit with bicycles used mainly for health and recreation.

What are the challenges faced by future PRTs when compared to conventional transit modes? What challenges do they pose in regard to planning and funding?

There are no major challenges faced by next-generation PRTs as they are so vastly better in every aspect than any of the existing public transit modes – functionally, economically and technologically.

PRTs do not pose challenges in either planning or funding because future ATNs are very profitable and easy to align with existing city infrastructure. This is due to the minimal land use and ease of threading, without conflicts with underground infrastructure like pipes and cables. As a result, the speed of planning and development with low CAPEX (capital expenditure) and OPEX (operational expenditure) will make it uncontestable.

What kind of infrastructure do these future PRTs require? And how do they fit into current urban transportation landscape?

Lighter infrastructure is preferred and is the reason METRINO is favored. METRINO could significantly avoid disrupting the existing infrastructure by using suspended tracks, but, all PRT systems are by definition elevated, therefore fitting a PRT system into the current city landscape is not hard and in fact will complement existing transportation systems.

The last and only argument that detractors have left is the “visual pollution”, but somehow they miss the point that cities themselves are “visual pollution” on the face of nature, not to mention unsightly cars and trucks (often very polluting), billboards, badly maintained buildings, cables, fly overs etc.

PRTs can be visually very attractive, either minimized visually using masking techniques like reflective surfaces (mirroring, camouflage) or just the opposite – with neon lights at night.

Initially PRTs will probably be feeder systems to metros and any leftovers of bus rapid transit systems (BRTs) (which are being increasingly dismantled around the world, as they failed to deliver true benefits). But, within the next few years, when the benefits of PRTs are apparent to everyone, they will replace even metros because the communication speed of METRINO is twice as fast as the metro. The transportation capacity based on cost-performance is found to be several times higher.

How is it financially beneficial for end consumers and transportation operators or agencies?

For consumers, it will be cheaper to use PRTs than any other transit mode, especially if one takes into account the value of time, convenience and safety. Even the bare direct cost of fare, will be comparable to a bus and metro (all heavily subsidized), so why would one, as a passenger, use a bus or metro, when for the same price one can get much faster, safer and direct mode of transport from point A to B, irrespective of the place, and without interchanges? For cities or operators, PRTs will simply provide profit, not losses.

Current mass transit systems move people over scheduled routes? How will this change in the future? How will future PRTs improve accessibility and reliability?

PRT by definition is a service with no fixed routes or time tables, which is obviously so much better than having those limitations. Reliability and accessibility are also far better than anything in existence. PRT has much fewer moving parts which can break down compared to either a car or a motor bike, never mind airplane.

And if any pod should fail, it will alert the entire network automatically, so that the affected pods can go along different routes, avoiding a blocked node. Thus, very few other pods will be stuck behind the failed one and they will backtrack to the nearest prior intersection to continue their journey from there via a different route.

As for accessibility, it will be a major improvement over anything existing now. The old and the young alike will be able to travel on PRT networks with ease and safety. Also, the disabled will be able to access pods at each stop. It will be much easier for mothers with young children, as they will roll into pods with prams or bikes. PRTs will enable aging people to travel and help break down the isolation they are facing now due to difficulties in travelling.

What about energy requirements?

Negligible. For METRINO, the energy per passenger kilometer will be much less than for a car or a metro. There will be no need to start or stop or to have a big dead weight to payload ratio. We should be able to cruise over 50 kilometer per hour using 2-3 kilo watts of power, with no more than 20 kilo watts of total onboard power of electric motors.

In the future, when solar electric power becomes viable and storage problems are solved, PRT can become energy self-sufficient, but trying to do it now is not very sensible, since PRT already uses less energy than any other existing transportation mode.

What kind of impact does these next-generation PRT technologies have on the environment?

Only beneficial. There will be less energy requirements not only for movement, but also for building and materials which means less pollution (if you burn fossil fuels). It is quiet, so there is no noise pollution. With the same transport capacity, less materials will be required to build infrastructure.

In every aspect, PRT is better than any other mode of transport, especially cars and buses. And what is amazing is that all of the technological components for PRT are already tested and proven, however, investors and city or state authorities find it difficult to comprehend.

Do you think PRTs will change the future of urban mobility? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.