The demise of PRT!

I have included this item because of Raytheons’s involvement of this particular PRT system at a time when they were acting as engineer/consultants for the then Broadway-Lougheed light rail project.

It came closest in the 1990s, when defense giant Raytheon purchased the rights to Taxi 2000ai??i??s technology.

Raytheons negativity towards LRT at the time, encouraged the Glen Clark NDP to make the disastrous decision to build with ART, instead of light rail.

The late Des Turner, noted public transit and LRT advocate and also expert on ICTS/ALRT SkyTrain, wrote a letter to Raytheon Engineers, inquiring as to their knowledge of LRTAi?? planning and construction and in reply received a letter stating that LRT was obsolete and PRT was the way to go, complete with a VHS tape video, which Zwei still has!

VHS tape, like PRT, is obsolete!

Gadgetbahnen, yesterday’s transit for today!

 

The Twin Cities transit revolution that wasnai??i??t
Personal rapid transit company Taxi 2000 shut down last June after a major investor decided to cut off support. At Taxi 2000ai??i??s Fridley headquarters, visitors could ride a prototype pod on its 60-foot demonstration track. (Submitted photo)
Personal rapid transit company Taxi 2000 shut down last June after a major investor decided to cut off support. At Taxi 2000ai??i??s Fridley headquarters, visitors could ride a prototype pod on its 60-foot demonstration track. (Submitted photo)

The Twin Cities transit revolution that wasnai??i??t

By: Brian Martucci April 9, 2018 7:02 am 0

A rendering shows a concept station for Taxi 2000ai??i??s Skyweb Express personal rapid transit system. (Submitted image)A rendering shows a concept station for Taxi 2000ai??i??s Skyweb Express personal rapid transit system. (Submitted image)

More than three decades after it launched, promising nothing less than to revolutionize urban transportation, Minnesotaai??i??s only homegrown personal rapid transit company is no more.

Last June, Fridley-based Taxi 2000 mothballed its 60-foot demonstration track, first displayed at the 2003 Minnesota State Fair, and laid off CEO Mike Lester, its sole remaining employee. According to filings with the Minnesota Secretary of Stateai??i??s office, the 34-year-old company was formally dissolved on March 13 of this year.

Taxi 2000ai??i??s demise is, in part, the story of a changing transportation landscape.

Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft are now ubiquitous in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and have pushed deep into suburbs and some smaller cities outside the metro. Fully autonomous vehicles loom, promising even greater disruption. Big cities continue to invest in conventional transit; the Twin Cities will add two new light rail lines and several bus rapid transit lines by 2024.

Meanwhile, personal rapid transit, or PRT, never lived up to its backersai??i?? fervid predictions. The few modest systems that made it to service proved clunky and unreliable. More ambitious projects were stymied by engineering challenges, political resistance, concerns about extensive elevated trackways, and wildly optimistic cost projections that never panned out.

For Taxi 2000, the final blow was the apparent withdrawal of an anonymous, deep-pocketed investor.

ai???Our angel investor decided last year that it was no longer in a position to continue investments,ai??? wrote Taxi 2000 Chairman Morrie Anderson in a terse letter to shareholders posted by a ai???transport-innovatorsai??i?? Google Group member.Ai??ai???We have been unsuccessful in finding other investors, licensees or purchasers of the company assetsAi??and we are now out of funds.ai???

Since the 1950s, PRT proponents have hailed the concept as a catch-all solution to urban transport and land-use woes.

Taxi 2000ai??i??s proprietary system, Skyweb Express, resembled a miniature monorail, with two- or three-person autonomous ai???podsai??? running on narrow, elevated guideways powered by grid electricity. While the company never managed to push the pods past the prototype stage, it claimed they would cost no more than $20 million per mile to implement ai??i?? one-third the cost of light rail transit ai??i?? and dramatically reduce traffic congestion.

Fully built-out PRT systems could theoretically provide door-to-door or corner-to-corner service, obviating the need for traditional stations, funding operations through fare collection alone, and all but replacing private automobiles.

But reality hasnai??i??t caught up. Morgantown, West Virginia, is home to the United Statesai??i?? only operational PRT, a finicky, five-station line opened in 1975. (Purists question whether its 20-person, 8,700-pound cars even qualify as PRT.) A handful of smaller-capacity examples exist overseas.

Taxi 2000ai??i??s mysterious investor had previously promised $30 million to construct and fund a working PRT demonstration system ai???if there is local support,ai??? according to Taxi 2000 founder J. Edward (Ed) Anderson, the former University of Minnesota professor who developed the companyai??i??s technology.

That local support never materialized, and Taxi 2000 closed without constructing a full-scale demonstration system or collecting a single passenger fare.

It came closest in the 1990s, when defense giant Raytheon purchased the rights to Taxi 2000ai??i??s technology. Raytheon modified the technology, rechristened ai???PRT 2000,ai??? and inked a contract with the Chicago Regional Transportation Authority to construct a fare-collecting line near Oai??i??Hare International Airport.

According to a contemporaneous account, Raytheon invested at least $45 million in a 2,000-foot demonstration track at its Massachusetts headquarters. The systemai??i??s eventual per-mile cost ballooned to more than original estimates, threatening its self-sustaining promise. As the Chicago RTA and other prospective customers balked, Raytheon pulled the plug in 1999.

Taxi 2000 itself had been on life support for years, surviving on dwindling feasibility study revenue and periodic investor infusions. Its last serious business development effort came in 2015, when it responded to a request for proposals for a 4.2-mile line in Greenville County, South Carolina.

For the rest of the story….

Comments

One Response to “The demise of PRT!”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Interesting article, I love it when these hucksters go down. It’s companies like this that really stall good public transport in many cities. Anti-transit politicians use technology like Personal Rapid Transit to hold back real and significant spending on more useful conventional transit not just LRT, BRT, Metros/Subways and Commuter Rail.

    Zwei replies: We still have a few people trying to sell PRT to rubes in Metro Vancouver and strangely enough SFU.

    When I hear a transit project is going to solve our transit woes, I just know it is a dud, yet both the promoters of the Broadway SkyTrain subway and Surrey’s ludicrously expensive LRT are doing just that.

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