Re: [carfree_cities] Masdar and PRT
- The stations at Masdar look amusingly similar to the docks in the Carfree
Cities book, although they function differently. Link below for an image.
On Sun, Feb 1, 2009 at 5:26 PM, Jon Koller <jonkoller@...> wrote:
> The stations at Masdar look amusingly similar to the docks in the Carfree
> Cities book, although they function differently. I've attached an image for
> those interested.
> -Jon Koller
> On Sun, Feb 1, 2009 at 12:06 PM, Christopher Miller <
> christophermiller@...> wrote:
>> Treehugger has an article today from its reporter at the World Future
>> Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi on plans for Personal Rapid Transit as a
>> part of the transportation infrastructure in Masdar.
>> Some very interesting comments fromt he planner being interviewed
>> about the contexts where this is workable compared to mass public
>> transportation, including the cultural context in Abu Dhabi. I also
>> find their planned 7 m/s speed (around 25 km/h or some 15 mph) a bit
>> of an eye-opener: about the same as riding a bike at a good clip.
>> Abu Dhabi to Debut Personal Rapid Transit "Podcars" Later This Year
>> by Jesse Fox, Tel Aviv, Israel on 02. 1.09
>> CARS & TRANSPORTATION
>> BUZZ UP!
>> PRT car designed by Zagato, unveiled recently at the World Future
>> Energy Summit.
>> The designers of Masdar City, Abu Dhabi's new post-petroleum city, are
>> not bound by the usual set of rules and constraints. Money is not
>> really an issue, and the political leadership is always willing to try
>> out innovative ideas that the rest of the world regards as unproven,
>> unorthodox or just plain fantasy.
>> One of them is PRT, personal rapid transit, a system of transportation
>> featuring compact, driver-less "podcars." In Masdar, where the streets
>> will be entirely free of automobiles, a network of these compact
>> electric taxis will provide clean and quiet transportation to the
>> city's residents, as well as commuters. The first PRT cars are set to
>> begin running later this year. Admittedly intrigued, TreeHugger sat
>> down with one of the system's designers recently at the World Future
>> Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi to hear more about the project.
>> Luca Guala is a transportation planner with Systematica, the firm that
>> drew up the plans for Masdar's PRT system. According to Guala,
>> Systematica's planners spent months working with Foster + Partners,
>> the city's architectural planners, to integrate sustainable transport
>> solutions into the city's design.
>> In addition to PRT, he says, a light rail line will snake through
>> Masdar, most likely running between Abu Dhabi's international airport
>> and the city center, some 20 km away. Although no cars will be allowed
>> into Masdar City, nine multi-story parking lots will be scattered
>> along its perimeter. Residents, commuters, visitors and buses will all
>> have dedicated parking spots there, allowing them to own and use cars
>> outside the city walls.
>> TreeHugger: Would it be fair to describe PRT as a system of
>> transportation which combines the sustainability of a light rail with
>> the convenience of the private car?
>> Guala: The PRT system in Masdar City will be a complementary system to
>> the light rail, which will cross the city. PRT is not a system that
>> can move huge masses of people, for that you need a light rail or a
>> metro. A metro can move 60,000 passengers per hour � that's equal to
>> about 20 lanes of highway.
>> One of the differences between car travel and public transportation is
>> the experience of traveling at rush hour. On the highway, you may be
>> stuck, but you're sitting in the comfort and privacy of your car.
>> Meanwhile, on the subway you're in motion, be you're packed in with
>> hundreds of other people.
>> Masdar City's PRT system will have no rush hour congestion. When the
>> computer sees that the network is approaching capacity, it will simply
>> not allow cars to leave stations. This will not happen frequently, and
>> when it does happen, passengers will be asked to wait for a few minutes.
>> Generally we foresee no more than a three minutes wait for passengers
>> at a station, but there may be special occasions when the wait time is
>> longer. If the Rolling Stones have a concert in Masdar, an event like
>> that is bound to create congestion, and you may have to wait for more
>> than three minutes. But we do not expect anything like that on a
>> normal workday morning. You won't be late to work in Masdar City
>> because of traffic.
>> The PRT vehicles will travel at speeds of approximately 7 meters per
>> second, with the longest routes in the city being perhaps 2.5 km. So
>> let's say you reach a station, wait maybe 1.5 minutes for your car to
>> arrive, travel for 5 minutes if your destination is relatively far
>> away, and then exit the station, which will take around a minute. So
>> the longest trips in the city will be around 7, perhaps 10 minutes long.
>> PRT cars will move along rights of way, approximately 6 meters under
>> street level. [Masdar City's streets will be raised off the ground,
>> but buildings will be built at ground level, with the first couple of
>> stories serving as basements and space for technical equipment.]
>> We decided not to build elevated tracks in Masdar. Elevated tracks
>> would put the cars between the first and second floors of buildings,
>> and no one wants to see cars, even silent ones, zooming past their
>> window. Plus a spaghetti grid network might not be so nice to look at
>> from below, and could become a real visual issue in the city's narrow
>> TH: What will it be like to travel on the PRT system in Masdar?
>> Guala: Passengers would descend a flight of stairs or an elevator to
>> the station - perhaps an escalator in larger stations, but we decided
>> to use only a few escalators, since they are more energy intensive.
>> Elevators are necessary for the mobility disabled.
>> You will swipe a smart card through a machine, and a welcome message
>> will appear. One option is that the system will recognize you and
>> greet you personally: "Good morning, where do you want to go today?"
>> Perhaps the system will remember your usual path, and offer it to you
>> as an option. After you click on your destination, the system will say
>> something like, "Your car is arriving in 2 minutes at platform number
>> 3." You may have to stand on a line, and you will be able to identify
>> your car by its number.
>> The second option is that you will enter your destination into the
>> system when you are already sitting inside a car.
>> Initially, the system will be very simple, with only a couple of
>> stations. During this period, the system will function kind of like an
>> elevator � you press a button and go to the third floor. Think of it
>> as a horizontal lift. Later on it will be more sophisticated, and
>> passengers will be able to get within 100 meters of any destination.
>> The cars will not run on tracks, but will operate within a kind of
>> grid network, and take the shortest paths to get where they need to
>> be. The cars will have wheels, and will be battery powered.
>> TH: What kind of history does PRT have in practice?
>> Guala: PRT systems have had problems with things like cost overruns in
>> the past. Few systems have actually been fully built and implemented.
>> The one in Morgantown, West Virginia is the only one currently in
>> existence. There is also one under construction inHeathrow airport in
>> Morgantown was built some 30 years ago, and was extremely expensive.
>> They had to invent many of the components of the system from scratch,
>> including the computer system. It was a prototype in every sense.
>> Today, the computerization aspect is almost trivial. If your laptop
>> had been around back then, it would have been powerful enough to
>> implement Morgantown's control system.
>> The only pure PRT systems going up today are the ones in Masdar and
>> Heathrow � different systems which work according to similar logic.
>> One of the companies involved in developing the system here in Masdar,
>> 2getthere, has developed a system for transporting freight containers
>> in the Rotterdam port in the Netherlands that works exactly like PRT.
>> In Masdar, cargo will also be transported by PRT, using special
>> freight cars.
>> TH: How was the system planned out?
>> Guala: We used the same "predict and provide" models that are used to
>> plan new roads. We had rough data about things like population size,
>> arrival times, etc. We ran a few models and found that a few areas
>> came out congested, so we interacted with the town planners and tried
>> to get the best placement for various land uses.
>> A schematic representation of a PRT system vs. monorail. Image
>> courtesy ofSystematica.
>> For example, something like a conference center, which attracts a lot
>> of people all at once, could become a local generator of congestion.
>> So we said: let's move it slightly to the side. The end result is a
>> large patchwork of land uses, with none of the city's districts
>> clearly defined by a single use, like offices, residential and so on.
>> That is ideal from a transit perspective, because it diffuses demand
>> In Masdar, you will be able to live very close to where you work. The
>> districts will be in use at all hours. There will be nodes of activity
>> at the intersections of routes, but the trick is that each nodes does
>> not serve people doing the same thing and traveling at the same time �
>> thus no traffic is created.
>> TH: How did the specific cultural context in Abu Dhabi affect the
>> Guala: Well, I am Italian. I bring with me a certain cultural model �
>> namely the good parts of the Italian city. I think it is possible to
>> apply the Italian city model in Abu Dhabi to a certain extent. But you
>> can't just transplant something to another culture and make it work.
>> The classic Arabic city has many similarities to the Italian city.
>> There was a common way of living in the Mediterranean Basin, in
>> Christian as well as Muslim areas. From a town planner's perspective,
>> the classic Arabic "medina" [dense Middle Eastern city with narrow
>> streets and interior courtyards] and Venice are similar. Masdar City
>> takes its inspiration more from the Arabic medina than from the
>> Italian city.
>> There are other cultural preferences involved here as well. People in
>> Europe are used to taking public transport. It's not necessarily like
>> that here. Plus there is more sensitivity here to the privacy of the
>> family, which led us to suggest a different kind of system, more
>> suited to the local cultural context.
>> TH: Is PRT cost-efficient?
>> Guala: This will be an expensive system. It has to be that way,
>> because it's a prototype. From an energy perspective it's extremely
>> cost-efficient, which is what Masdar [the Masdar Initiative is the
>> corporate body that is building Masdar City] wants. The maintenance of
>> a system like this is more expensive than that of a system based on
>> buses, but the level of service is absolutely unreachable by other
>> forms of public transportation.
>> The huge advantage of PRT is that it is "on demand," including during
>> off-peak hours. During peak hours, PRT is less efficient than public
>> transport. But PRT is a 24-hour service, just as available during off-
>> peak hours as it is during peak hours. This is much more efficient
>> than running empty buses all night. There are advantages in terms of
>> personal security as well � no long waits in the middle of the night,
>> for example.
>> I don't really know about the financial aspects in detail, it's not
>> really part of our job as planners. It is technically possible to
>> cover costs with ticket fees. A fee roughly equivalent to the cost of
>> a taxi ride would cover the costs of the system. There is a huge
>> investment cost in a system like this, but after it is prototyped, the
>> costs will come down. The actual cost of PRT is lower than the costs
>> for a light rail of the same capacity.
>> TH: What kind of prospects are there for PRT in other places?
>> Guala: There is a lot of interest in PRT right now, especially in new
>> developments. In existing cities it's a bit trickier to make it work.
>> The optimum place for a system like PRT could be in smaller towns and
>> in contained, controlled environments, like hospitals, universities,
>> new business districts, places like that.
>> Christopher Miller
>> Montreal QC Canada
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