Comparative Analysis of Personal Rapid Transit as an Urban Transportation Mode

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus rapid transit, mode - other, mode - tram/light rail, place - north america, place - urban


Personal rapid transport (PRT), Washington, light rail, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)


Personal rapid transit (PRT) is a modern form of transportation that moves people directly from origin to destination. PRT commonly consists of four-person driverless pods that travel on grade-separate right-of-way at speeds of around 25 mph. Planned PRT systems, with the exception of a system under construction in Amritsar, India, are relatively simple systems that consist of only a few stations on a short route. The potential of PRT as a substitute for traditional medium or large-scale urban transit such as bus rapid transit, light rail transit, and modern streetcars was examined. The proposed Purple Line light rail project in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D. C., was modeled as a PRT system with the BeamEd 1.3.2 simulation tool, although the Purple Line route and station locations were not optimized for PRT. PRT, bus rapid transit, and light rail transit versions of the Purple Line were compared with respect to costs, environmental effects, and system performance. Multiple sensitivity analyses were performed to assess the effect of certain simulation inputs on PRT system performance. Comparisons between the three alternative modes of the Purple Line favor PRT in total travel times and capital costs, an indication that PRT could be a viable option as a transportation mode in other urban environments. The risk of failure in the implementation of a new technology on a grand scale is the largest obstacle that hinders wider PRT implementation.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them. Published by Transportation Research Board Washington.