What is ATN/PRT?
Milpitas BART Loop
MOU to Milpitas Council
Goliath vs. David
(BART Burrow vs. PRT network)
Our Climate Crisis demands that we move away from carbon-fueled transportation. In addition to cycling and walking, electrifying our transport vehicles is necessary to solving climate change. LoopWorks plans to do that here in Milpitas.
In European cities renowned for their public transit, fewer than one in four trips involve transit. More than half, however, involve walking or biking. Here in Milpitas, like many cities across America, walking and biking is discouraged by physical barriers that prevent people from easily moving across town without a car. Here in Milpitas, those barriers include creeks, freeways, railroad lines and Montague Expressway.
2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 arrival of BART in Milpitas and the rapidly-growing population in the transit area around the station, the need for a bike/pedestrian crossing of Montague Expressway is rapidly growing. The map below, from the Transit Area Specific Plan, shows three blue hash-marked, double-ended arrows that indicate where pedestrian/cyclist barrier crossings are needed. The north/south crossing from the BART station to the PIPER DR area is already in the plans and has funding identified. The circled east-west crossing of Montague Expressway is the one that must now be included in the Capital Improvement Program to qualify for grant funding from transit agencies (which could cover up to 88% of the cost). Such an east-west crossing of Montague Expressway will enable:
- BART/LRT/bus commuters to access businesses, education and recreation facilities (many at the school site) west of Montague Expressway.
- McCandless residents west of Montague Expressway to access the transit hub.
- several thousand residents south of the transit hub to access the school site west of Montague Expressway.
A standard steel-and-concrete bicycle/pedestrian POC (pedestrian overcrossing, or bridge) is estimated to cost up to $14M. Instead, let's spend about $15M for a 1-mile loop that not only crosses Montague, but connects the BART Transit Hub with the Great Mall, the new elementary school, and the planned grocery store.
A 1-mile loop of a fully automated, elevated, electric-powered fleet of small-scale cabs could provide quick and safe transit between stations. These characteristics cause many people to recall the PeopleMover at Disneyland and rightly equate the easy and fun of that amusement ride with the with today's Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). A 5-station PRT Mini-Loop could transport people and their stuff (bikes, wheelchairs, groceries, etc.) similar to a taxi cab, but for little or no cost. People get into a "cab" at one station and ride to and of the 5 stations on the Mini-Loop, like a horizontal elevator. There, they exit and continue to their destination.
A successful 1-mile-long PRT Mini-Loop pilot project could be expanded into a 3-mile BART circulator that would help solve several getting-around problems for people and businesses in and near the transit area of town.
The Sunnyhills Neighborhhood Association (SNA) is working toward the goal of a PRT feeder from their neighborhood at the North end of Milpitas to the BART/LRT/bus Transit Center at the South end of town 3.5 miles away. PRT is a new technology, so it makes sense to limit our risk by starting small loop of guideway and cabs to shuttle between a few stations. Such a demonstration system, requiring about 1-mile of elevated guideway, is estimated to cost about $15M using open-source Taxi 2000 technology. The PRT Mini-Loop will allow us to verify PRT technology before expanding the system to serve other locations.
Since 2010, commercial PRT systems have operated at Heathrow airport in England and Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. In 2012, after a 2-year study, the City of San Jose issued its report on the potential for a PRT system at the Mineta San Jose International Airport. As the accelerating effects of Global Warming impact our lives, and congestion worsens, institutions are searching for better solutions. Milpitas can lead the way to the better solution of PRT with a pilot project as pictured to the right (inner loop).
The blue lines in the image indicate guideways and the yellowstars indicate station locations.Such a connection and alignment relies on these points:
- The property owner, Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD), grants an easement for PRT guideway. SCVWD has worked with the City of Milpitas to provide channel access in the past (often with the City picking up certain maintenance costs). By erecting the guideway along the northern edge of the Penitencia Creek East Channel, the 30-foot wide northern embankment/levee is mostly available for SCVWD equipment to maintain the channel. SCVWD does not have defined criteria for encroachments, but rather decides on a case-by-case basis. Because PRT guideways are small and easily routed, we expect to reach a mutually beneficial joint-use agreement with SCVWD for use of their 70' wide right-of-way. Also, a permit will likely be required from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.
- Taxi 2000 guideways and vehicles can negotiate turns with a mere 25' radius (50' diameter).
- PG&E high-voltage lines running north-south on the east side of Montague Expressway are high enough for PRT to operate below them safely. A minimum for the Taxi 2000 system would be 25 feet: 16 feet above grade + guideway height(3') + vehicle height(5') + 1 foot gap = 25 feet.
- PRT cabs will go counter-clockwise on this pilot project.
- The BART Circulator will proceed north toward the BART station along the eastern border of the "new park" and the Lyons Communities development above the planned 26'-wide access road/fire lane (for details, see page 17 of this City document), across Capitol Avenue and under the 25' elevated LRT into the BART station.
- Foot bridges across the creek channel and PG&E easement are currently planned near the School/Park station.
Installation and Operation:Ground-level impact on the property owners (Santa Clara Valley Water District and PG&E) is expected to be minimal with 2' x 2' footings (spaced 50' to 90' apart) and 2' diameter poles supporting the guideway above. With the exception of the short construction time and time spent coordinating the project with the contractor, no other costs to SCVWD and and other property owners are expected. Concerns about security and vandalism at the stations can be addressed by installing a motion-sensing-and-tracking video recorder system (possibly with video-drone capability). The video stream could easily be linked to the police substation located at the nearby Great Mall. Since PRT is a fun and humanizing technology that people embrace, less vandalism is expected.
Capital costs for design, construction and testing is expected from foundations and government agencies with an interest in reducing CO2 emissions or supporting transit. To provide free service to Milpitas residents, on-going O&M financing is expected from stakeholders and advertisers, not patrons/users. Due to PRT's automatic, energy-efficient electric drive, operating costs are expected to be minimal. so small that a nominal fee (say $0.25 per ride) would likely cover it. If the two-station crossing is expanded into a BART circulator or multi-station, networked feeder system, O&M would be covered at the system level.
Advantages to Early Adoption: As an early adopter of PRT technology, the PRT Mini-Loop and BART Circulator will both enjoy a funding advantage over other projects. Extensions beyond the BART circulator would likely include high-value destinations like the Library, City Hall, medical clinic, shopping centers, Sports Center and Senior Center. As the system grows and connects with other popular destinations, it becomes more useful. Because PRT is scalable, we can grow the system over time as need and opportunities arise.
If a quick installation of this minimal system results in the first PRT system in the USA, Milpitas will have another showpiece to attract tourists (and their dollars) and major media coverage. Some judicious promotion by the City's Economic Development team could attract lots of favorable publicity and business opportunities. Expect synergy when PRT is added to the Great Mall, transit hub and the entire
While a PRT Mini-Loop would support transportation needs of growing population in the Transit Area Specific Plan, it would also establish Milpitas as a likely center of PRT innovation – which in turn would generate local economic activity. As a small-scale PRT project, the Mini-Loop could leap-frog proposals already under consideration in San Jose, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Santa Cruz.
Some observers may be concerned about the risks of PRT which include unknown staffing time/effort, redundancy to other technologies, and a low ROI for PRT that could lead to financial failure. While these risks are significant, the potential upsides of a PRT Mini-Loop must also be considered:
- explore/develop another technology to reduce our Global Warming gases
- attract attention and status to the City by being first to experiment with PRT
- obtain real-world results and data that informs other efforts, including the proposed PRT link between Diridon Station and the Airport
If the worst fears of critics are realized, and the PRT Mini-Loop is a financial and people-moving failure, all the above-ground infrastructure can be unbolted from the foundations and removed. Even in that unlikely event, we will still have all of the above benefits – and at no out-of-pocket cost to the City if a locally-controlled organization successfully completes the project.
What is PRT?
Automated Transit Networks (ATN), and the small-vehicle subset of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), are emerging technologies that can help solve the related problems of congestion, dependence on foreign oil, and planetary climate change. ATN/PRT offers clean, quiet, responsive public transit with automated non-stop service available 24 hours a day. In addition to these service benefits, PRT costs far less to build and operate than other transit options _ and is safer than walking and cycling on nearby busy streets. In addition to computer controls and sensors, PRT consists of 3 primary parts:
- Cabs (right) are small, light-weight, and electric powered. Each cab accommodates 1 to 4 people and travels at 20-50 mph. Computer-controlled operation provides safe, 24/7 service. Like cars, each cab usually transports only 1 person. However, with 2-second spacing between each computer-controlled cab (as recommended for car drivers), each PRT guideway can transport 86,400 passenger per day - three times the expected 2040 capacity of the San Jose BART Burrow.
- Guideways (left), with a diameter of only 3 feet, can be routed through small spaces and even into buildings. Support posts rise every 60-90 feet from a 4 ft2 footprint. Click here for a 30-second video of Taxi 2000 (pictured).
- Stations (right) are 1) small, 2) spaced about 1/2 mile apart, and 3) off the main line so cabs can proceed non-stop to their destinations. Stations may be elevated, at ground level, or even inside buildings; elevated stations include elevators. Stations include cameras for security and storage for idle cabs.
Find the "world's best general-knowledge PRT website" at http://kinetic.seattle.wa.us/prt.html
46-slide ATN presentation by PRT consultant Peter Muller (2012): http://www.prtconsulting.com/docs/AutomatedTransitNetworks.pdf
Want to create a PRT system where you live? TransitX's Handbook provides an overview of what's needed.
For an in-depth look at the hardware planned for use by LoopWorks for both the Mini-Loop and the BART Circulator, click here.ATN/PRT Videos
- 3-minute video introduction to PRT system
- Deeper introduction to PRT technology
- 3-minute mash-up showing PRT in the built environment
- 5-minute look at the existing Heathrow Airport (ULTra) PRT system
- 6-minute overview of the $880M Ajman (ULTra) project in UAE that will be the largest electrical vehicle transport system in the world.
- 3-minute overview of AutoBots PRT system being developed in India
- 5-minute overview of Supraways PRT system being developed in Sweden and SJSU
- 3-minute overview of Autotren (Modutram) PRT system being developed in Mexico
- 7-minute video of PORT: Personal Overhead Rapid Transit
- 15-minute video of Santa Cruz PRT plans and existing systems worldwide
- Vectus system at Suncheon Bay, South Korea, began operating after S. Cruz video (2014)
- 17-minute video of 1970's PRT-like system at Morgantown, West Virginia
You Can Help
- LoopWorks will lead the effort to build a locally owned and operated PRT Mini-Loop to serve the BART/VTA Transit Center.
- LoopWorks submitted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to the Milpitas City Council on March 19, 2019 that requests the City's agreement with development as proposed.
- If successful, this Mini-Loop will usher in a BART Circulator loop that inter-connects the transit hub with several housing areas, 3 parks, the Great Mall and an elementary school.
- SNA's hope is that continued success that leads to a citywide PRT system that could save transportation dollars and increase property values.
- Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has yet to see PRT's potential to create a Silicon Valley network.
- How does PRT compare with other transportation options? Here are some comparison tables.
- In 2012, the City of San José DOT received a Final Report and Appendices on the San José International Airport's Automated Transit Network Feasibility Study; several objections and rebuttals came from the PRT community.
- How does PRT compare with other transportation options? Here are some comparison tables.
- Worried about the high costs of High-Speed Rail (HSR)? Here are 3 low-cost, light-weight alternatives to HSR.
- Find more crossing background in a draft funding proposal for this project.
- Contact SNA Secretary Rob Means, 408-262-0420, 1421 Yellowstone Avenue, Milpitas, CA, 95035-6913, info@SunnyhillsNeighborhood.org
If you live or work in Milpitas, please visit the LoopWorks website about the project.
As the next step toward such a PRT shuttle project, SNA was seeking to kick-start the project by financing the City's portion of the $50,000 Environmental Impact Report (EIR). We only need $6,000 (12%) due to progressive transportation funding rules. When SNA gathers $10,000, we will work with the City to secure the remaining funding and generate an EIR. After the EIR is written and approved, engineering and construction could follow.
Funding is expected from contributions (individuals, businesses, and cities), grants from foundations, and support from U.S. transportation agencies. SNA will act as escrow agent until the EIR is started. Questions can be answered by SNA Secretary, Rob Means (408-262-8975, SNA@electric-bikes.com). Spread the word with this flyer, and make contributions (minimum $20) payable to:
Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association, 1421 Yellowstone Ave., Milpitas, CA 95035-6913
(Please indicate whether you want to remain anonymous or have your name/organization listed online.)
SNA thanks the following financial contributors (listed in order by date) for their combined funding of $1070.
- Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association
- Pattie and Dave Cortese
- Guy Haas
- Rob Means
- Bob Williams
- Mike McInerney
- Michael Joss
- Charles Margiotta, DDS
- Lee Scott
- Mark Tiernan
- Kitty Trejo
- Richard Tran
- Jennifer Strohfus
- Robert Marini
- Anthony Phan
- Xiang Yao