KunstlerCast: Personal Transit & Green Buildings


08 May 2008 |
View all related to City Structure and Design | green building | KunstlerCast | post carbon cities | Transportation
View all related to James Howard Kunstler | Duncan Crary
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James Howard Kunstler takes questions on personal rapid transit, sustainable green buildings and the happy motoring program in America. He also scolds us for us referring to ourselves as consumers. This show is the result of a special collaboration between The KunstlerCast and Planetizen, the online network for professional planners.

AudioKunstlerCast #13: Personal Transit & Green Buildings (audio) (length 0:15:01): download,
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re personal rapid transit cranks

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Per your comment about personal rapid transit: “I don’t get the whole idea.  Seems crazy.  Maybe I’m missing something.” 


Here are some pro-PRT thoughts from professional planners who you cannot dismiss as “cranks:”

Peter Calthorpe, author: Next American Metropolis: We need better transit circulator technology: personal rapid transit:

  • Urban Land Magazine, March 2008. (Circulation: 40,000 ULI members). Article: Riding on the Future: “We’ve concocted a system where local trips take an auto,” explains Peter Calthorpe, principal at Berkeley, California–based Calthorpe Associates. “That’s our biggest tragedy.”  Streetcars, such as those used in Portland’s Pearl District, and elevated people movers, like those in downtown Miami, are moving people from rail stations to their final destinations. But a new concept, personal rapid transit (PRT), may help revolutionize urban transportation, providing a cost-effective way to get people from train stations to where they need to go, notes Calthorpe. PRT involves individual cars on a track that connects light- and heavy-rail stations with dense commercial districts and office parks. Private, safe, and requiring little maintenance, PRT cuts transit time because there are no stops and no waiting. Users can push a button and the software-controlled system automatically moves cars to where they are needed. The system can fit on any existing rightof-way, produces little noise, requires no at-grade crossings, and costs one-tenth as much to build as light rail—$10 million per mile ($6.2 million per km) versus $100 million per mile ($62 million per km), according to Calthorpe. A pilot of the ULTra PRT system, developed by U.K.- based Advanced Transport Systems Ltd. (ATS), is under construction at London Heathrow Airport. The $49 million project will provide travelers transportation from the business parking lot to Terminal 5 via 18 low-energy, battery-operated, driverless PRT vehicles."
  • "We've been developing TOD without the T for far too long.  PRT is the T."
  • In a six-page paper, http://www.calthorpe.com/clippings/UrbanNet1216.pdf , Calthorpe writes: "All the advantages of New Urbanism - its compact land saving density, its walkable mix of uses, and its integrated range of housing opportunities - would be supported and amplified by a circulation system that offers fundamentally different choices in mobility and access. Smart Growth and new Urbanism have begun the work of redefining America's twenty-first century development paradigms. Now it is time to redefine the circulation armature that supports them. It is short sighted to think that significant changes in land-use and regional structure can be realized without fundamentally reordering our circulation system."
  • At the CNU '05 conference, Calthorpe said, "One of my pet peeves is that we've been dealing with 19th Century transit technology. We can do better than LRT. We can have ultra light elevated transit systems (personal rapid transit) with lightweight vehicles. Because the vehicles are lighter, the system will use less energy. I used to be a PRT skeptic, but now the technology is there. It won't be easy to develop PRT technology and get all the kinks out, but it is doable. If you think about what you'd want from the ideal transit technology, it's PRT: a) stations right where you are, within walking distance, b) no waiting."

Sir Peter Hall: author: Cities of the Future: "The social perception of public transportation depends on the quality of the transportation. I think we may be looking to technological advances in public transportation to create new kinds of personal rapid transit. We had a big breakthrough announced only a week ago that a British system called, literally, PRT, Personal Rapid Transit, is going to be adapted for Heathrow Airport progressively over the next ten years. And when you drive your car into Heathrow to one of the parking lots, you will get your own personal vehicle and program it to go to your terminal, or vice versa. And if this is as successful as I think it will be, this could be a big breakthrough in developing new kinds of totally personalized rapid transit, which could transform our cities in ways that we can't yet see." Dec 15, 2005, Natl Building Museum.

- Steve Raney, Advanced Transport Systems Inc, makers of ULTra PRT (Heathrow PRT)

Palo Alto, CA