Personal Rapid Transit: the Future of Public Transportation
The future is closer than you think. After stalled plans for 15 years, the rapid-transit tunnel that links downtown to Miami Beach is finally moving forward – in more than one way. Any resemblance to the old plans has been disregarded to favor a future-forward technological solution instead. According to Miami-Dade commissioners, the new plans will eliminate the need to construct heavy and expensive rails.
The newest plans revolve around PRT vehicles, or Personal Rapid Transit, which will seat four to six passengers and will offer a solution to congested Miami Beach traffic and be an additional draw for tourists.
“The future of transit isn’t mass transit,” declared Mayor Carlos Giménez, “it’s PRT.”
During a meeting between Commissioners Xavier Suarez and Bruno Barreiro last week to discuss the Baylink plans, stakeholders were able to gain further insight into PRT. They left knowing that PRT is a solution which offers a cheaper, lighter rail alternative with a smaller footprint in the long run.
The PRT system is very well thought out. Because of the lower number of passengers as opposed to mass public transportation, it allows PRT users to personalize their destination, avoiding the need for frequent stops, ultimately saving both time and money. Mayor Giménez is thrilled by this method. Fully supporting the idea, he’s said, “I like the point-to-point system; it’s much faster than a car.”
Due to congested traffic in Miami-Dade, the average car speed during transit is about 16 miles per hour, while the PRT trains are projected to run at an average of 28 miles per hour. The faster alternative will appeal to not only locals during their daily transit, but also tourists looking for a quick alternative to make their move.
PRT trains are very light-weight, 100% electric, and take less space because the tracks are half the width of traditional rails or bus lines. Each individual car can hold four to six people, and the added bonus of connecting cars offer group transit that isn’t a struggle. The car’s ability to connect allows them to travel together to a destination. While the overall passenger capacity is lower than a traditional rail, the overall travel time is much quicker, and the cars will arrive more frequently and allow commuters to board continuously.
Also, there are several bonuses to PRT, the first one being that they’re flexible and easy to move. Cars can be rerouted to high volume stations during peak hours, allowing response to a high number of commuters. They also have the option to be used dually as vehicles on the streets, and be able to join up with the railway again autonomously.
PRT is also a money saving decision, which costs only $10 million per mile as opposed to Metrorail’s $100 million per mile price tag. Mr. Barreiro suggested the MacArthur Causeway be the start of PRT rails, saying “it’s the path of least resistance.” The first stop, he said, would be Watson Island, with the second at Fifth Street and Alton Road.
When questioned regarding competition to build the rails, Florida Department of Transportation District Six Secretary, James Wolfe, said a very similar project in South Carolina had several bidders.
Mr. Suarez believes PRT could become a major attraction for tourists which would bring funds into the county. He suggests, “We could light it up and make it high in the air to draw tourists here,” and offer separate rates for residents and tourists. The next steps of PRT involve a sunshine meeting with Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr to have an “in-depth dialogue.”