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August 18, 2011

Personal robotic transportation pods could be coming to ten cities in the United States

An ULTra PRT on a test track in Cardiff. Credit: ULTra PRT.

Technology Review - ULTra PRT (ULtra "personal rapid transit") could soon be branching out beyond Heathrow airport. The company has proposed systems similar to that at Heathrow for 10 cities in the United States.

The City of San Jose has already committed $4 million to a study evaluating whether the system makes sense for the region around San Jose Airport. Santa Cruz is interested in seeing whether a PRT system could alleviate the traffic jams that beleaguer Highway 1 on the weekend, when everyone heads to the beach. Cities from Ithaca, New York, to Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hillsboro, Oregon, might all see a PRT system in place, if ULTra PRT has its way.


What ULTra PRT thinks it's offering is a solution to the "last-mile problem," a constant headache to urban planners. In many American cities, mass transit does a great job connecting the areas where people work to the areas where people live. With one tiny caveat: it roughly connects those two areas. Maybe the rail will take you 95% of the way--and then leave the last mile or two up to you. And often, people individually choose to solve the problem of that last mile with something much less environmentally friendly--a ride in the car parked at the rail station garage, for instance. Some have proposed things like Zipcars and Segways as solutions to the problem--but others, according to a report in Good two years ago, think that personal rapid transit might be the way to go.

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