Learning from a Failed Innovation Process: Personal Rapid Transit for a Dutch City

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

policy - sustainable, organisation - regulation


Transportation policy, Sustainable transportation, Risk factors, Regulations, PRT, Political factors, Political aspects, Personal rapid transit, Implementation, Eindhoven (Netherlands), Bids


The technological and institutional innovation process in public transport is slow and difficult to control. Because many forces work on this process, predicting its outcomes is difficult. This was demonstrated in a project in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where a pilot was prepared to demonstrate the potential of personal rapid transit. The pilot was part of an innovation process to lead to a more sustainable urban transport system. The guidelines of the bureau for sustainable technological development were followed to guarantee the long-term feasibility and effectiveness of the process. Although the process was designed carefully with concern for the predictable risks, the pilot had to be stopped because of unforeseen political problems. A change of policy priorities and key people caused the project’s failure. In addition, strict regulations for tendering bids slowed the process and favored bidders without project knowledge. This paper analyzes the different risk factors and gives conclusions for improving chances for success in future similar innovation projects. Checklists provide a tool to make an ex ante analysis of an innovation project’s feasibility and to give guidance for optimal conditions for success.