Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

The closest thing to a large-scale, real-world PRT system is the project in Morgantown, WV. However, the vehicles are bigger than those in a PRT system: each one can carry about 20 people. During peak hours they run on a schedule, like a conventional transit system. That system, which was expensive and suffered from many problems, especially at first, may have helped give PRT systems a bad name, says Jerry Schneider, a professor emeritus of urban planning and civil engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle and a long-time advocate of PRTs. “People would get on the vehicles and they wouldn’t stop. It got ridiculed roundly in the press. At one point they talked about dynamiting it, tearing it down.”

After the initial problems, however, he says that the system has run well–it still transports students at the University of West Virginia. What’s more, he says that technology has improved since then–for example, small computers are now more powerful than the large mainframes used to control the Morgantown system. Several new PRT vehicles have been developed and tested on small tracks. But there haven’t been adequate demonstrations to convince local governments to approve the new designs and convince investors to take the risk. “The simulations run fine,” says Schneider, “But until you put people in the cars and run them out in the open air, you can’t really be sure what’s going to happen.”

While Heathrow and Masdar could provide the demonstrations necessary to convince other cities to adopt PRT, they are special cases with controlled environments, says Luca Guala, a transportation planner at Systematica, a company planning the layout of the PRT system at Masdar. In both cases, cars are banned, so there’s no competition. What’s more, at Masdar, the organization of buildings within the city has been modified to accommodate the system. Indeed, the city will be constructed so that the main level is several meters above the ground, primarily to make room for the PRT. It will be more challenging to incorporate PRT systems into existing cities. However, he says that the projects at Heathrow and Masdar will help drive down costs, and that could make them feasible elsewhere.

15 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credit: Jesse Fox
Video by Foster + Partners

Tagged: Energy, energy, Masdar

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me