The concept of a PRT (Personal Rapid Transport)
system has been about since the 50s, although to us commuters it makes
great sense, many governments have put very little effort into its
development until now. The ULTra (urban Light Transport) is based on a
concept developed by the Advanced Transport Group at the University of
Bristol. In conjunction with the Cardiff City Council a small test track
has been set up in Cardiff and if successful it will be expanded, it is
hoped the first paying passengers will hop on an ultra carriage in 2005.
The ULTra joins a host of systems around the world racing to be the first
commercial PRT service which have been spurred on since the rapid
development of computers during the 80s and 90s. The idea behind PRT
systems is quite simple, traditional transit systems like trains and
buses are costly to run and many times of the day they are being operated
with very few passengers because their schedule says so. A PRT does away
with schedules and long costly to run carriages, instead each system has
hundreds of small 4 person electric driverless cars, made from light
materials the cars are cheap to run and instead of constantly running all
day they only operate when someone buys a ticket.
When you arrive at your station to board your car,
there will be several empty cars waiting for passengers. If one station
gets a build up of too many empty cars the system will automatically ship
them off to another empty station, 95% of all passengers will wait less
than 1 minute for a car in peak periods. Each station sits just off the
main track, if you want to go from the local station to the city station
you wont need to stop at each station on the way, your car will bypass
these stations making the ride faster than a normal train.
Other benefits include up to 80% less energy required per passenger than a
train with zero emissions in city areas, it is also expected the system
will be whisper quiet. While it seems like a dream for most cities, in the
future this system may be more cost effective as fuel and wage costs soar,
the benefits of replacing existing infrastructure may outweigh the cost
persisting with the existing transport technology.