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People Movers

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People movers (or Podcars or PRT's) are a category of public transport that is still in its infancy. This page tries to map different approaches together, comparing their pros and cons, listing existing uses etc.

Disclaimer: traditionally the term "people mover" has been used with light rail systems s.a. in amusement parks. They run on a closed loop, stopping at each station. This page is not about those, but about transit that can go directly from any stop to any other, hopefully without interim stops. We're using the term 'people mover' because it's descriptive and non-acronym. PRT (person rapid transport) or APRT (automatic ...) are terms usually found on web sites.

If you are new to the concept, here is [one introduction].

Making such a page should be in accordance to the Notes for contributors - the companies innovating around People movers are normally not traffic operators themselves. If I am mistaken, please bring it up.

People movers can be categorized in many ways. One essential is how they are bound to the rails (or if there are rails at all) and whether they occupy a separate, normally leveled traffic infrastructure or try to mingle among regular traffic.

The projects are listed in alphabetical order.


Contents

APGM

[APGM website]

[APGM Feasibility Study]

  • Finland
  • railing: elevated (and covered) guideway
  • switches: guideway crossings "via electromechanic navigation"
  • power: via "electric brushes" from the guideway
  • capacity: 4
  • cargo option: only in the name
  • speed: 40km/h
  • data network: wireless
  • access to disabled: yes (mentioned)
  • business since: 2004-2005

The APGM project seems to have lit and extinguished rather fast around 2004-2005. There are some thorough background studies available on the net (some in Finnish only), evaluating the social and usability aspects of the system.

The covering intended for the track should have brought some problems in practise (bad air inside, need of cleaning, ...) - not the least the psychedelic effect already experienced when watching the APGM concept videos. Row of rings approaching you while travelling is not mildly hypnotic. It's really distracting.

All in all, APGM seems like a concept study of a fairly usual PRT plan that was never executed.


Bombardier

[Bombardier Advanced Rapid Transit]

Bombardier ART
  • Canada
  • railing: train-like solutions
  • switches: --
  • power: --
  • capacity: dozens of people
  • cargo option: xx
  • speed: xx
  • data network: xx
  • access to disabled: yes
  • business since: pre 1971

"ART excels as a medium capacity transit system on dedicated guideways, whether at-grade, elevated or underground."

Bombardier is included on this page not because of its innovation or some modern pod-like concept, but because it has made a business of light train person movers for a long time. It surely has the connections, the capacity and the knowledge to remain a major player in the time of networked traffic pods.

At least when the town of Toronto starts revising its public traffic, discussed somewhere to be a 5 billion dollar bid, this company from the very same town should be making bids.


JPods

[www.jpods.com]

JPod prototype
  • USA/San Jose (CA)
  • railing: hanging rail
  • switches: yes, within the rail element [[1]]
  • power: electricity from the rail (with proposed solar panels alongside the rail)
  • capacity: 6 persons (or 520 kg)
  • cargo option: xx
  • speed: 50 km/h
  • data network: depending on configuration ("optical, wired or wireless")
  • access to disabled: yes
  • business since: 1998

The project seems to be a concept study with details about multiple parts of the system. There is a prototype but it only remotely resembles the concept pictures.

JPods currently has a written proposal under consideration by the City of San Jose ([[2]]). JPods states they expect Letters of Intent shortly to build networks in China.

Mist-er

[www.mist-er.com]

[Polish Podcar Progress.pdf]

Prototype of mist-er on show in Opole, Poland
  • Poland
  • railing: isolated elevated rail (hanging gondolas)
  • switches: seen in the concept pictures; this would traditionally be the touch point of hanging gondolas
  • power: electricity over the rail
  • capacity: 5 (2 fixed seats + 3 foldable)
  • cargo option: no (but ability to carry 400kg loads)
  • speed: 50 km/h
  • data network: optical and wireless
  • access to disabled: yes
  • business since: 2004
  • test track to be assembled in Opole, Poland

Mist-er seems to have a realistic, working approach. They mention patenting "contactless rail switching”, which "enables to add on any new line, intersection or station without physically modifying any of the other parts of the rail infrastructure."

The rail construction is utterly simple (triagonal profile, 60 kg per meter) and sturdy; should also be cheaper to produce than competing non-hanging solutions, since only one element is needed. It is noteworthy that the gondolas use two support points (two corners of the element), making them more stable than freely hanging ones.

Using gondolas is beneficial in entry/exit to stations. Declinations of 45 degrees can be used without debalancing the passanger cabin. At corners, the cabin can tilt 20 degrees sideways.

Youtube snapshot of the rail construct

Switching is traditionally the problem in gondola systems. Based on animation pictures, it seems they are solving it by the fact that the gondola has two support points on the triangular rail profile. Also, the gondola connector is symmetric, able to grip either left or right. With this, one can make a fully networked rail system, even though it's hanging. This is definately the innovative part of the Mist-er concept, setting it apart from other gondola projects.



MonicPRT.com

[www.monicprt.com]

  • Singapore
  • railing: xx
  • switches: xx
  • power: xx
  • capacity: 2-6 persons
  • cargo option: xx
  • speed: 40-70 km/h
  • data network: xx
  • access to disabled: xx
  • business since: 2006 - are they?

This seems to be a (very raw) website from 2006. Most likely they are dead.

"...to build an efficient personal system, comprising of automated, on-demand and non-stop transportation on a network of specially built guideways."

(what did they make that website with? All text is embedded pictures... Scrap!)

Robosoft

[RobuCAB]

  • France
  • railing: none
  • switches: N/A
  • power: electric engine
  • capacity: 4-6 persons
  • cargo option: no
  • speed: 7-30km/h
  • data network: N/A
  • access to disabled: doable
  • business since: 1985

RoboCAB4 runs on regular roads, instead of an isolated driveway or rail system. It has safety sensors to stop if there were any obstacles ahead (s.a. a dog, bycyclist, ..). This may make for a bumpy ride, compared to the isolated system alternatives. Also, top speeds will be left low because of collision danger. All in all, it may be useful in hotel neighbourhoods or other such restricted areas, most likely not in regular city traffic.

"For certification reasons, CTS are not yet available on public roads, only in private sites."

The company, however, has a fruitful portfolio of robot solutions and might well be using its expertise in the future to come along to the restricted network person mover business.

"We demonstrate that alternatives to traditional vehicles do exist, are now operational and usable, and show that a real, durable development for our city centers is nowadays possible."


RUF

[www.ruf.dk]

  • Denmark
  • railing: isolated elevated monorail
  • switches: open non-railed areas with electronic guidance
  • power: vehicle engine
  • capacity: 4 persons
  • cargo option: yes
  • speed: anything
  • data network: xxx
  • access to disabled: depends on vehicle
  • business since: concept only

RUF is an interesting concept, since it differs greatly from other proposed solutions. It is centered around a vehicle that can travel both on road but also on a monorail train-like.


Skyweb Express

[www.taxi2000.com]

  • USA / Minnesota
  • railing: elevated monorail
  • switches: yes (no technical details)
  • power: xx
  • capacity: xx
  • cargo option: xx
  • speed: xx
  • data network: xx
  • access to disabled: xx
  • business since: ?

Skyweb/taxi2000 has good looking concept videos and they have a working miniature prototype of a full system.

Looks like a startup "ready" to collect funds. Which it probably never got. Will remain here until we get a more mature representative for U.S.

They do seem to have a very mature looking controlling software, but also that could be just a "demo" for investors.


ULTra

Advanced Transport Systems Ltd. - www.atsltd.co.uk

[www.atsltd.co.uk]

  • UK
  • railing: isolated elevated guideway (no rails)
  • switches: opening in the guideway works as a switch
  • power: batteries
  • capacity: 4 persons
  • cargo option: no
  • speed: 40 km/h
  • data network: xxx
  • access to disabled: yes
  • business since: ~1996
  • pilot in Heathrow airport (2009-) connecting terminal to parking
  • shown in concept pictures of [Masdar city]

ULTra is one of the few people movers that actually seems to be properly funded and getting from prototypes on to field usage.


Vectus

Vectus.jpg

[www.vectus.se] [www.vectusprt.com]

  • Sweden (Korean owned)
  • railing: isolated elevated rails
  • switches: vehicle controlled switching (stationary rails)
  • power: linear motors, electricity from the track
  • capacity: 4 persons
  • cargo option: xx
  • speed: xx
  • data network: xx
  • access to disabled: xx
  • business since: 2005
  • working prototype in Uppsala, Sweden

Alongside ULTra, Vectus seems to be properly funded and practically usable system. Having rails instead of guideway should make it more tolerant to different climate conditions (snow, ice, leaves, sand).

Doing the switching in the vehicle, not the track, gives multiple advantages. The track is more solid, maintenance breaks are reduced, maybe the system is more weather proof as well (ice, leaves, sand..). It brings the cost of the track down but the cost (and weight) of the vehicle up.


Challenges

For the first, most people movers seem to be travelling way too slow. A speed of 40km/h would not be bad, but it's not good either. At least 60km/h or rather 80km/h should be the goal, without compromising passanger comfort and/or fuel efficiency. This is of course a design criteria; more speed means heavier and costlier tracks, and therefore 40km/h (remember this is sustainable speed) might not be bad in city traffic. On straight tracks (s.a. roadside, leading to suburbs) a faster speed could be applied.

Elevated guideway (no rails) option (ULTra and Kone APGM) has one main drawback: the guideway is open for snow, ice, leaves and sand to collect. The ULTra website says "approaches to ice and snow control have also been prepared for applications in cold climates" but no details are given. Covering the guideway or warming it up are not good alternatives. Covering causes more construction costs, requires cleaning, disturbs passanger views and collects heat in summer months. Heating adds up to the overall energy consumption of the system (and does nothing to leaves and sand).

References

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