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The 1973 Oil Crisis, Apply Hard Won Lessons

In response to the 1973 Oil Embargo, the US Senate asked DOT for mobility solutions to prevent hardships in future embargoes. PB-244854 found an answer in Automated Guide ways and Personal Rapid Transit.

Morgantown PRT opened in 1975 and has delivered 110 million injury-free passenger miles. Germany built a similar system with Cabinetaxi (updated system at Dortmund, Germany).

Mayor of Morgantown explaining the benefits of PRT in his city.

Modern computer networks and materials will result in a Physical-Internet(TM), built at 10-30% of the cost of 1970's networks.

Mired in administrative delays, the success of systems like Morgantown were not reinforced. We lost 30 years to incrementally change from oil based to sustainable infrastructure. Now we must build significant systems within five years or face radical consequences from world politics, Global Warming and Peak Oil. Indicators of these consequences are two wars in the last 16 years, 9/11 and a tripling of oil prices in the last 6 years.

Call for action in 1974 faded as the oil crisis past.

Study resulted in the conclusion that "PRT has the highest potential service level and may have the highest patronage level of all AGT [Automated Guide way Transit] systems."

The Study accurately predicted what would be its own failings:

  • Federally sponsored R & D has not included a coordinated program for conversion of successful products into operational systems.
  • UMTA's R&D programs [US DOT Urban Mass Transit Administration]... have neglected near-term ... simpler approaches to correct transit problems.
  • Finally, institutional failures may have hindered implementation.
Automate Guide way Transit, An Assessment of PRT and other New Systems, March 1975, a 375 page report (PB-244854):

SHUTTLE- LOOP TRANSIT (SLT: automated systems dedicated to solving a specific transit problem)

SLT system research and development to date has been largely financed by private industry. However, there is little incentive for industry to spend additional funds for follow-on development, testing and Product improvement without positive inducement in view of UMTA’s [US DOT Urban Mass Transit Administration] negative attitude regarding capital grants for new systems. The government’s R & D program also offers little encouragement to pursue SLT since most of the budget is devoted to the more complex classes of AGT.

  • SLT systems appear worthy of careful consideration as transportation alternatives for many specialized urban transportation problems. UMTA’S research and development program does not emphasize improvement of technical operating characteristics and reduction of SLT system costs.
  • UMTA’S technological R & D is not matched by a corresponding program to develop a better understanding of problems in the area of economics and public acceptance. SLT systems should receive emphasis in such a program.
  • An urban demonstration project for SLT appears justified. Such a project should concentrate on gathering economic and acceptance data and on improving the technical operation of the system.
  • There is a lack of criteria for qualifying SLT systems for capital grant funding. There is no apparent mechanism within- UMTA for the transfer

The Morgantown project is significant because it represents the most ambitious effort thus far to build a full-scale system capable of providing service on demand from origin to destination and to [create] vehicles on 15-second headways in a real life environment. The prime contractor, Boeing Aerospace Corporation, has delivered 18 of the 45 vehicles required under the contract and expects to complete the prescribed acceptance testing in mid-1975.

[Morgantown has since logged more than 100 million injury free passenger miles. A savings of lives, Green House Gases, energy and congestion.]

  • UMTA's R&D programs for new systems have emphasized advancing the state of technology but have neglected near-term system improvements to perfect and apply simpler approaches to correct transit problems.
  • Better results might be achieved from cooperative arrangements between government and industry.
  • The scope and objective of UMTA's AGT Technology Program needs to be clarified.
  • Transit research and development is receiving a disproportionately small share of federal R&D funds.

Dortmund suspended train. Follow-on. Bus sized vehicles.

ULTraPRT at Heathrow

Mister-PRT, Poland

Kiva Systems, example of robot warehouse similar to JPods. Recently purchased by Amazon for $775 million.