Queens Residents Speak Up for Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven

New York City can do better by bus riders and pedestrians on Woodhaven Boulevard, shown here at Jamaica Avenue. Photo: Google Maps
New York City can do better for bus riders and pedestrians on Woodhaven Boulevard. Photo of Woodhaven at Jamaica Avenue via Google Maps

Woodhaven Boulevard is one of the city’s most dangerous roads — eight pedestrians were killed there from 2010 to 2012, more than any other street in Queens. And while bus riders make 30,000 trips on Woodhaven each day, they’re slowed down by congestion and awkwardly designed service roads.

The MTA and DOT are working on a redesign that could dramatically improve both problems by dedicating more space to walking and transit. As the plans are developed and the agencies present the project to the public, residents say there’s a disconnect between who’s speaking the loudest at community meetings and who would benefit from the potential improvements. There are people who support major changes along the Woodhaven corridor, but their perspectives aren’t coming through in the local media coverage.

Toby Sheppard Bloch and his wife, a Queens native, have lived in Glendale near the busy intersection of Woodhaven and Metropolitan Avenue for almost 10 years. They have a 5-year-old daughter. “I drive a bunch. I’m a general contractor, so I’m often behind the wheel,” he said. “Even as a driver, it’s a nerve-wracking road to drive down. There’s a lot of speeding, and it’s very crowded.”

Sheppard Bloch has seen many serious crashes on Woodhaven, and the danger spills over as impatient drivers use local streets as shortcuts. He’s worried about his daughter, who will soon be walking around the neighborhood to meet with friends. He and his wife often take the bus or their bikes to catch the subway at Queens Boulevard. The buses are often overcrowded and slow, he says.

The redesign needs to make a clean break with the status quo, he said. “We’ve committed as much space as we possibly can on Woodhaven to cars,” Sheppard Bloch said. “It’s broken. We need to think about a different approach.”

He’s attended meetings organized by the MTA and DOT, and he hopes they pursue physically-separated bus lanes running down the middle of Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards. “I see a separated center lane as a real solution to all those problems,” he said. “I can almost walk it faster than I can take the bus during rush hours.”

The Woodhaven/Cross Bay project could transform about 14 miles of a major bus corridor in Queens. Map: DOT/MTA
The Woodhaven/Cross Bay project could transform about 14 miles of a major bus corridor in Queens. Map: DOT/MTA

Stephanie Khan understands the frustration. She lives in Ozone Park near Woodhaven and 101st Avenue and works as a registered nurse at NYU-Langone Medical Center. She used to drive often, but an ankle injury has her on the bus more often now. At work, she sees people recovering after getting hit by drivers “all the time” and thinks a center-running bus lane would help make Woodhaven safer, so people don’t have to dash across the entire width of the road to catch a bus coming in the other direction. “I don’t see it as taking lanes away from the road. I see it as an improvement,” she said of BRT. “Safety is my number one concern.”

Emily December, a Queens College senior who lives near Woodhaven and Atlantic Avenue, is canvassing Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevard for the Riders Alliance this summer, talking to riders about bus rapid transit and asking if they’d like to sign on in support.

“There’s so many people that don’t understand or don’t know about bus rapid transit, so I try to educate,” she said. “They like the fact that you can pay before you board, and that it can turn the lights from red to green, and the designated bus lanes.”

“I’ve noticed as the years go by that more and more people are taking buses on Woodhaven Boulevard, especially at night,” she said. Buses don’t run as often then, and many of them are overcrowded. “There’s a lot of young women coming home from work at the [Queens Center] Mall,” she said.

December went to a meeting the Riders Alliance organized last month about Woodhaven, and noticed differences between who came out for the event and who signed her petition. “Most people that sign the petition don’t make it to the meeting, and I can understand why,” she said. “Because at the time the meeting occurs, they’re commuting home.”

Sheppard Bloch said two groups — people who live or own a business directly on Woodhaven and community board members — formed the majority of people at public meetings hosted by the MTA and DOT where concerns about parking and removing car lanes took up a lot of oxygen. “The issues that are discussed are issues about the primacy of the car,” he said. “I don’t see why one person in one car should be entitled to inconvenience hundreds of people trying to commute back and forth from work.”

“The only time I heard about parking issues is when I went to the forums,” December said. “I never really hear about parking concerns, because the majority of people I talk to are bus riders.”

Sheppard Bloch said he hopes the planners hear from more than just the people who show up to meetings, and suggested an online map as one way for people to offer their input if they can’t make it to the forums.

The first phase of the project, set for implementation this year, would feature curbside bus lanes for a few blocks near Liberty Avenue and offset bus lanes for 1.4 miles between Eliot and Metropolitan Avenues [PDF]. A larger plan for a more robust BRT route is anticipated this fall.

In the meantime, bus riders continue to put up with crowded, unreliable service along one of the most dangerous streets in Queens. December occasionally takes the bus home at night from the Rockaways. “By the time I hit 153rd Avenue and Cross Bay, by the Waldbaum’s, the bus is full,” she said. “That’s the reality.”

  • Howard Hecht

    While BRT would be a great improvement, why not consider Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). Recent improvements in automation can result in a modern, efficient PRT system with sufficient capacity to move over 1,000 rides an hour on a demand call basis. Such a system might cost $10.0 million a mile. Google Sky Tran to see what is being planned by a NASA act company for Tel Aviv.

  • Joe R.

    In Queens especially where many local trips aren’t amenable at all to public transit PRT would be just what we need. The idea of being able to go directly from point to point anywhere the system serves ultimately means PRT can be just as convenient as a car, but without the downsides. Moreover, since such systems are by their nature grade-separated, they aren’t subject to traffic delays, nor do they cause delays to anyone at street level.

  • Howard Hecht

    Are you familiar with the Sky Tran system. If not, Google it. It is of light weight, prefab construction. It has a two person maglev cab capable of speeds up to 150 mph (not that that is feasible in the NYC environment) and a demo project could be built for a rounding error in the MTA’s budget. While I am not a transit expert, I sense that in the Queens and suburban area of NYS, PRT is the right approach to get people out of cars and to create a modern efficient supplement to our rail system.

  • Joe R.

    I’m familiar with PRT systems in general. Incidentally, the design of this system actually doesn’t preclude 150 mph even in NYC. The actual travel speed would probably be inversely proportional to how many vehicles were on the guideway. In the final analysis, this system could well offer better travel speeds than cars and nearly door to door convenience (i.e. you might need to walk a block or two at each end of the trip but not much more).

  • lop

    Hell at that price screw the SAS just put that on the east side in Manhattan.

    Of course in NYC it would probably cost more per rider than subway or El expansions, so not worth doing.

  • Howard Hecht

    How can we get PRT into the discussion? I feel that the transportation people have discarded it in favor of what they are familiar with. One MTA guy I spoke to never even heard of it and was shock it its concept and low capital cost.

    By the way, one Swedish company has, at least on the drawing board, a design that deals with the last few blocks or miles issue you raise. The PRT cab doubles as an electric auto and disconnects from the guideway to be driven to its owner’s car port. I don’t know if this would be practical in Queens or the NY suburban region, but at least smart people are thinking through the issues.

  • Howard Hecht

    Unfortunately, PRT cannot replace high volume subway lines in Manhattan. Subways are appropriate and the best solution for the types of traffic volumes they handle. I would love to see more fixed rail in Quuens but the costs of construction at a couple of billion a mile for a subway and probably $200.0 million a mile for light rail would make these options prohibitive (I think). However, the lower cost to build and operate PRT makes it a feasible option to bring people to subways and for intra-borough commuting, and one that could be continually expanded at a much more reasonable cost in order to meet growing demand.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    We won’t have effective bus lanes until people in cars start to think about people not in cars. Or we vote them out of office and throw them off community boards. Either one is valid.

  • Ian Turner

    Hey, it’s the return of the pod people! Ever notice how PRT has been “being planned” for decades but never seems to get anywhere? For some reason when reality strikes the costs increase by an order of magnitude or more. Just look at Masdar…

  • Howard Hecht

    The only way to get people out of pods (cars) is to put them into one. Besides, all the other transit options come in right on budget and they start out so cheap too…

  • mike

    There are plenty of places that have significant other than car mode share (including right here in NYC) without your nonexistent pods. What do they offer that a driverless taxi wouldn’t?

  • Joe R.

    Basically they offer the flexibility of a car or driverless taxi but with much faster trip times. Even a driverless taxi will be subject to traffic delays, obstacles, etc. PRT systems run above the streets to avoid these delays, and some are designed for much higher speeds than cars can reach even on highways. In this case, we’re talking about speeds up to 150 mph. As mentioned already, PRTs are most definitely not replacements for conventional rail systems. Instead, they make mass transit viable in markets which are currently mostly served by cars.

  • Joe R.

    For most of Queens, even much of Long Island, I think there is sufficient population density such that we can build a viable PRT system which puts most people within a few blocks of a PRT station. That’s often good enough, especially if even taking into account walking time the trip ends up faster than driving. Last mile only becomes an issue if a large number of potential users aren’t located within easy walking distance of a station. I doubt that would be applicable here. If a region can support a network of local buses, as most of NYC and much of Long Island already does, then it has sufficient density for a PRT system without needing to resort to using the PRT cabs as electric automobiles. Of course, this idea is still good if the destination happens to be far out in the suburbs, well away from a PRT station.

  • mike

    It’s not mass transit!! It’s extra room for low capacity vehicles. You want vehicles streaming by at 150 mph twenty feet in the air? That doesn’t belong in a city.

  • Joe R.

    Call it whatever you want but it’s something better than cars for areas where cars are currently heavily used and nothing else is viable for many trips. That actually includes large parts of the outer boroughs and just about all of Staten Island.

    As for vehicles screaming by at 150 mph 20 feet in the air, with proper streamlining they’ll probably be quieter than cars going by at 30 mph at street level. Maglev systems don’t have wheels, so that’s already one major source gone. All you have is wind noise, but that can be all but negated through design. As speeds go, 150 mph isn’t that fast in terms of aerodynamics. It’s relatively easy to make shapes which slice through the wind at those speeds with minimal drag and noise. Heck, we’ve already made shapes efficient enough to take us past 80 mph on human power. Noise is more or less proportional to the power required to hold any given speed. These pods should be able to hold 150 mph with less power than it takes for an SUV to go 30 mph. 200+ mph, and especially 300+ mph, start to get into the realm where noise becomes an insoluble problem but you don’t need those kinds of speeds for local travel within NYC. Arguably, even 100 mph is probably more than sufficient here. That’s enough to take you from one side of the city to the other in under 15 minutes, or from city limits to midtown in under 10 minutes.

    Oh, and although PRT advocates never mention this, I think a PRT system can double as a great delivery system. That could take lots of trucks off the roads.

    PRT isn’t a universal solution. Neither are cars or conventional mass transit. If anything, it’s really personal cars which don’t belong in cities. Whatever we can do to reduce their numbers is something I’d welcome with open arms.

  • mike

    You want to replace cars with…faster private pods?

  • mike

    >Whatever we can do to reduce their numbers is something I’d welcome with open arms.

    Get rid of yards and low density housing tracts, replace them with high density buildings, Els, and streetcars.

  • Joe R.

    Try to convince a significant portion of the population to do that. Most of the people already living in places where PRT would work have in fact bought into higher density living-to an extent. They have much smaller homes on much smaller plots of land, and some do live in apartments. Unfortunately, that’s often not dense enough to support conventional mass transit. Even if that’s the case, I don’t see NYC running to build more subways or els in the parts of the outer boroughs where they might be heavily used. Supposedly PRT can be built for a lot less, and can operate for a lot less. Of course, I have a healthy skepticism of this but nevertheless it should at least be put on the table. To reject it outright makes no sense.

    Another issue here is that everyone can’t afford to live close to their jobs, and higher density wouldn’t change that. Why should people in much of NYC be forever stuck with crappy commutes? Ironically, a decent PRT system might dramatically increase density and dramatically decrease car use in the run, perhaps to the point other transit options could be made to work.

  • Howard Hecht

    You should Google Vectus PRT in Suncheon, south Korea as a most recent example of a GRT/PRT system currently being installed (a portion of which is operational). Obviously, Morgantown, WVa’s system has been operational (as an early model) since the late 1960’s. It handles about 60,000 rides a day and was fairly recently upgraded (rides are free for students and I believe under a dollar for the public). SkyTran is developing a system for Tel Aviv (intending to eventually service the Tel Aviv metro area of about 2.5 million residents). Admittedly, the examples are limited and there have been some failures but the automation technology has just now caught up with the concept (and will only improve over time). What they offer is that they are less expensive to construct and operate (they are six times more efficient than an auto), they operate on their own platform above any road (they do not create road traffic), they can supplement our current transit system and their economics can work in an outer borough and regional area to address transit inequality. And by the way, no one says we should not have driverless cars and taxis as well.

  • Ian Turner

    Suncheon PRT is a toy project with two stations 4km apart and in-line stations. A system of this scale (comparable to Masdar or Heathrow) is not a solution to any major city’s mobility needs.

    Get back to me in another 40 years and we can talk.

  • Andrew

    The only way to get people out of pods (cars) is to put them into one.

    Most New York City residents already don’t own cars.

  • Howard hecht


  • Howard Hecht

    This is why I would like to see how the Tel Aviv system develops (SkyTran). The intent there is to build a more substantial project. As far as I know, a demo will be built near Ben Gurion Airport (of course, geopolitical issues might slow things down). 40 years, I don’t think so. By the way, I would not envision PRT as anything more than a supplement to our current MTA/NYC transit system, starting in eastern Queens and for Long Island (both to bring people to mass transit stations and to provide local commuting (Long Island counties – and I include Queens – have very poor north-south transit access. Plus, due to a lack of service, Queens residents’ use of public transit is low – about 53%. Of course, it is higher where the subways are and much lower were they are not. PRT could address these areas, particularly as our population grows, which is projected.

  • Komanoff

    Terrific reporting by Stephen Miller, changing the narrative from the self-entitled CB members and the myopic business owners, to “everyday” people who are grounded in the community and can see past their own noses.

    Too bad the Comments section got hijacked/diverted into a PRT blind alley. Obsessively pushing a marginal agenda doesn’t exactly make for sparkling comments.

  • valar84

    PRT has been quite studied, but ultimately it is always rejected for practical use (except a few specialized use like inter-terminal trips in airports or in universities).

    The big problem with PRT is that:

    1- It has a very low capacity, precluding its use in urban areas with significant density. 1 000 rides an hour as you suggest is much too limited. Even articulated buses with 5-minutes intervals can carry 1 500 people.

    2- The installation costs of the infrastructure are much too high to be financially viable in low-density suburbs where the system might actually make sense. Even the low estimates by proponents are too high for such use… before the cost overruns that always run up costs 3-4 times higher than promised by proponents.

    So PRT is between a rock and a hard place: too low capacity for practical urban applications and too expensive for low-density suburbs. That’s why it never amounts to anything. In the future maybe driverless taxis will do roughly the same thing, though I am a skeptic of even their potential (too expensive due to deadheading if it gets mainstream, I estimate a bit over 1$ a mile in costs).

    Some people seem to always be on the lookout for a magic solution for transit: hyperloop, monorail, PRT, etc… Frankly, the old solutions seem to be the best and they are tested and true. Buses, light rail, subways and trains still seem to be the best applications of transit. Europe and Asia run on these and they work extremely well. I feel people are wasting years delaying common sense investments in transit holding out for “pixie dust” projects that never amount to anything.

  • mike

    They’re waiting for PRT pods instead because they want their yards and big homes.

  • valar84

    To work in low-density areas, PRTs would require vast penetration in neighborhoods. Not just one line would need to be build, but a whole grid of them. The problem is that one of the only PRT lines built in the US cost a whopping 89 million dollars per mile (in 2004 dollars). That’s more expensive than a streetcar or light rail line.

    So even if theoretically the system could work well, the reality is that it is just not economically feasible. The estimates shown by proponents at 10 million dollars a mile are insanely optimistic, and even at that price, it’s not really feasible economically in low-density areas.

    The point is, PRT has been tried and not achieved anywhere like the promised benefits. And even if it succeeded in getting people out of cars, the reality is that it wouldn’t have the required capacity to absorb that demand.

    PRT is a non-starter. New York is too populous to be the guinea pig in transit experiments like this. It’s better to stick to tried and true modes of transit. BRT or, better yet, LRT would be better for the corridor.

  • We already have PRT. It’s called bikes.

  • How PRT got to be talked about in this one post is pretty remarkable. Good news is that NY1 just requested BRT footage from me for a story in NYC.

  • Howard Hecht

    Thanks for your comments. You might want to take a look at Queens bus usage stats. I believe you will see that few approach 1,000 rides an hour. A more extensive PRT system could meet future demand.

    As for cost, there is no cheap answer. Some transportation experts believe a modern PRT system could be built in NY for $10.0 mllion a mile. SkyTran thinks it can be done for less. I guess we’ll see how it goes in Tel Aviv, where it is designing a transit system.

  • valar84

    I’m sorry, but I think one of the major errors here is that you presume that transit demand is “fixed”. How many people are turned off from using the bus because it is too slow or too full and might be enticed to use transit if it was faster and more comfortable? Could the PRT absorb the demand its predicted performance would attract? What if NY leaders get an attack of common sense and upzone the area, could the PRT deal with it?

    As to the issue of cost. First of all, I find myself seriously doubting the 10 million dollars a mile estimate. Many times, PRT projects were launched with such promises (just like SkyTran in Tel Aviv recently), only to be quietly canceled a few years later as more in-depth estimates revealed costs many times higher than the initial prediction.

    ULTRa is one such technology that has been proposed as cheap PRT, with the company quoting costs of 3 to 5 million pounds per mile (5 to 8 million dollars per mile). When they had the occasion to demonstrate their technology in Heathrow airport, the entire system cost 30 million pounds (around 50 million dollars) for a mere 2,4 miles, that’s around 20 million dollars per mile for a very low capacity system. And this system is not elevated (which is bound to push prices up).

    So yes, I’m skeptical, very skeptical on the promise of PRTs. It’s an old idea that has never really been able to fulfill its promises.

  • Joe R.

    So yes, I’m skeptical, very skeptical on the promise of PRTs. It’s an old idea that has never really been able to fulfill its promises.

    I jumped into this discussion of PRTs because they were mentioned in a transportation engineering course I took in college in the early 1980s. I think one big reason PRT systems to date haven’t lived up to their promises is because the technology needed was beyond what we were capable of. A massive grid-style PRT system of the type I might envision serving NYC would have thousands of stations and would need extremely powerful computer systems running very complex algorithms for routing, vehicle control, etc. The vehicles themselves would also need semi-autonomous programming in case the master computer made a mistake (i.e. put two vehicles on a collision course).

    After this you have the maglev guideway. Again, electronics 30 years ago, even 10 years ago, weren’t sufficiently reliable to control something like this. If I recall, we had to have all sorts of mechanical kludges to do things we can do electronically now. That increased cost dramatically and decreased reliability. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

    A great analogy here might be that building PRT systems 30, 20, even 10 years ago was akin to the lunar landing in the 1960s. Sure, it was done with primitive technology-at great expense, and just barely. However, it’s only now maybe that technology caught up to the point where lunar landings might be routine and cost effective even for private enterprise. It’s much the same with PRTs. We’re probably there as far as the needed technology goes. We need a demo of a small scale state-of-the art system to see how it works in practice. It might be an awful solution in NYC even if it works. Or it might be great, and take huge numbers of cars off the roads (and I agree the capacity for that, or at least the ability to add the capacity down the road, would have to be designed in from the start).

  • Guest

    One reason not to consider PRT is that it does not exist.

  • Andrew

    Details, details.

  • Morgantown PRT ran on Apollo 11 type hardware & software while managing some 40 vehicles. They have used this system for 35+ years without a fatality or any serious injuries while carrying some 16,000 riders per day. I feel this is sufficient to say there IS potential in PRT.

    NYC has 8.5 Million people in 305 sq miles per wikipedia for 28,000 per sq mile. You have tons of vehicle traffic (almost gridlock 24/7) and heavy subway & other transit usage.

    A PRT system to cover this with stations within a 2-5 minute walk could do it with a 1 mile by 1/2 mile grid network and stations every 1/2 mile. This works out to some 1800 stations and 900 miles of guideway.

    Software can be designed so one computer controls a 1/2 mile piece of guideway and one station while communicating to the 3 or 4 computers adjacent to it. A cluster of these could then be managed by a parent computer to smooth out peak traffic on different sections.

    There are some 150 automated people movers working worldwide and this is the next step for this type of transit as it provides higher service levels while doing it 24/7.

    The PRT concept is for small vehicles holding 2-6 people and this matches what most taxi & bus riders are doing right now. Thus PRT meets the needs of most folks with personal transit that would be just a short walk away.

    Most PRT concepts talk about operating speeds of 30-45 MPH with NO stopping between origin and destination. This easily exceeds most bus speeds that stop every block or two for traffic lights & other riders. Thus PRT will likely get NYC riders to their destinations 3-4 times quicker.

    An initial PRT system would likely be running at 1000 vehicles per hour per direction due to regulatory concerns/red tape. In theory there is no reason why this can not be increased to 3000 vehicles per hour per direction. If more capacity is needed, a second guideway could be added for that route just as we see streets with more than one lane. This network would NOT impact existing traffic as it’s completely elevated and out of the way.

    The technology for PRT exists today. We know how to build overhead structures of concrete or steel, we know how to build the software, we know how to build the small vehicles that PRT would rely on.

    The real question is: why does the government NOT research PRT when looking for new ways to handle our transportation needs?

  • mik

    It’s basically like a taxi right, it picks you up and you tell it where to take you? People are pushing this for the outer boroughs, but why wouldn’t the vehicles end up staying mostly in the Manhattan CBD the way taxis do?

  • The computers will know the normal ebb & flow of traffic after one week. It’ll then know when to send vehicles to storage after the morning rush and to pull them out as the afternoon rush kicks in.

    So, when you show up at a station and grab a PRT vehicle, the system knows to send another one over. In theory this means there is always a vehicle waiting for passengers at every station unless odd high demands or some other odd reason is affecting vehicle availability.

  • mik

    You misunderstand me. There is already a fleet of on demand vehicles and a grid to move them, you’re talking about building a new one. For hire vehicles serve outer Queens poorly. How is your system different?

    Are you planning to bias it in someway so some neighborhoods that have flying cars shooting overhead constantly are given a limited ability to use them?

  • I’m not associated with any PRT vendors. I’m simply explaining how the system works and what a large network could look like in NYC. Since these vehicles are automated, the network would try to have one standing by at every station whether it was in Manhattan or Queens. During very busy times, there could be a short wait.

    I wish I could build a PRT network! 😉

  • Joe R.

    It’s mostly because the fare structure of taxis gives them little incentive to make outer borough trips knowing they will most likely return to Manhattan empty. A PRT system on the other hand has no such disincentive. Also, given that PRT would probably cost less than taxis on a per mile basis, it’s actually somewhat more likely a PRT pod going to the outer boroughs would also pick up passengers returning to Manhattan.

    I would love to see a PRT system in NYC, probably operating as a supplement to conventional mass transit. I think it could largely replace our bus system, take many cars off the roads, and also offer much better overall travel speeds. NYC has a great mass transit system, but right now that system is mainly good at one thing-moving people into Manhattan in the mornings, and out of Manhattan in the evenings. It works passably well for some local trips, but not for most. That’s where PRT could fill the gap.

  • Andrew

    The PRT concept is for small vehicles holding 2-6 people and this matches what most taxi & bus riders are doing right now.

    Oh? Most buses carry only 2-6 people? News to me.

  • Andrew, Please reread what I said as I was talking about what riders are doing, not bus size. How often do you see folks catching a bus by themselves? How often with 1 or 2 others? Rarely do you see folks grab the bus with 4 or more friends/family.

  • bolwerk

    Why do people always make numbers up? $200M/mile? Are we talking about laying golden rails? First world street running rail costs are in the mid-eight figures per mile. Green field rail can cost a fraction as much.

    Granted, NYC would probably blow those costs up, but there is no reason to think NYC wouldn’t blow up PRT costs, even if they are as low as PRT fappers like to claim.

    NYC needs to fix its costs problem with off-the-shelf stuff, not build transit incompatible with best practice elsewhere.

  • bolwerk

    You answer your own question. BRT is probably about $10M/mile in capital expenses and can move an order of magnitude more people than that comfortably.

  • valar84

    Your idea for a complete PRT grid for New York would quickly lead to insane jams on the PRT grid, which links have far too low a capacity to deal with the amount of people converging onto a few trunk lines. Creating an interconnected grid would also create intersections which would result in jams when two lines both above half capacity converge into a single other line. PRT in this context could only work if New York had no concentration of anything whatsoever so that trips were perfectly distributed… just not realistic.

    The cost would also be overwhelming: Based on the ULTRa system cost in Heathrow, that would be a cost of about 27 billion dollars… for a system that has less capacity than the current street system. Even streets with 2 lanes per direction would have an equivalent capacity to PRT lines, far more once you account for buses which can increase street capacity.

    PRT has been researched at length in universities, likely with government grants providing funding. The problems of PRT have proved insurmountable for large-scale real-world applications. I don’t know why we should keep throwing money at it, when century-old transit has been demonstrated to work perfectly fine.

    Sure, nothing is theoretically as fast as PRT… But is that speed something that really answers cities’ needs for transport or is it overkill that, at worse, will CREATE new needs by inciting people to live farther and farther away?

  • Traffic jams would be a good thing as folks would be seeing very real value in riding PRT. Those areas that need more capacity could have a second lane added to double capacity fairly easily since they would have all of the supports & stations already in place.

    Again, PRT will likely start off with capacity of 1000 vehicles per hour per direction (3 second headway) and by the time we see something like you suggest, it would have Millions of miles under it’s belt and probably be allowed to go to 2000 per hour, maybe even 3000 per hour. So, there are other areas that would allow for more capacity.

    Plus there would still be the subway, taxis, and others to move people in conjunction with a large PRT network.

    If the intersections were level crossings, you wold have a point. But, no PRT concepts that I know of would even consider them for a large system. I would expect these to be one-way guideways with two ramps to connect them. Thus they both can run at near 100% capacity full time.

    Ultra is a short length system that is heavy on initial infrastructure (operations, maintenance, storage, etc). A large 900 mile long PRT would see numerous economies of scale price reductions over this comparison. The basic components of PRT are a guideway (3×2 ft made of steel w power & comm lines inside), 2 ft wide supports every 50-100 ft, prefab stations every 1/2 mile, several storage garages, several maintenance shops spread out, operations control room, and the operating software. Rough cost estimates are in the $10 to $15 Million per mile range vs your $30 Million.

    What studies are you talking about? I haven’t seen any and would love to see them. San Jose State University is just starting out a research program on PRT and they say they are the first to seriously explore PRT in the higher ed arena.

    Efficient transportation is a major benefit to people and freight since it reduces the cost in time & money. This allows us to decide where & how we use those resources to improve our lot.


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The new center roadway bus lane and SBS station on Woodhaven Boulevard just south of Jamaica Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

Select Bus Service Launches on Woodhaven Boulevard

Select Bus Service is live on Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard in Queens. As of Sunday, the SBS package - off-board fare collection, camera-enforced bus lanes, and other transit-priority treatments - is speeding trips for tens of thousands of people who ride the Q52 and Q53 each day.

Eyes on the Street: New Bus Lanes Arrive on Woodhaven Blvd

It’s not quite Select Bus Service, but it’s a step in the right direction: A pair of long-awaited bus lanes are rolling out on Woodhaven Boulevard. Offset bus lanes, installed to the left of curbside parking, are being added to both sides of Woodhaven between Dry Harbor Road and Metropolitan Avenue, covering about 1.3 miles [PDF]. Streetsblog […]

This Week: Vote! Plus, the Big Reveal for Woodhaven BRT

On Wednesday DOT and the MTA will present their proposal for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard in Queens. These extremely wide streets present the perfect opportunity for better busways that won’t get clogged by cars, and the local City Council members all want to see a design that puts transit […]