Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

PRT at Heathrow

with 7 comments

I have now and again posted about the idea of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) which has always seemed to me to be just beyond the horizon. It turns out that there is indeed an application where PRT is now working – shuttling passengers between the car park and Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

It’s a five minute ride – and the pods are not equipped with windscreen wipers. And that female voice they use sounds very familiar. I thinks its may be Sonya (as in “It gets on ya nerves”)

Of course here the same job is done by the Canada Line. Indeed the original idea behind what became Skytrain was an airport shuttle (which originally would have been MAGLEV as well as LIM) – a function it does serve at JFK.

If the video is not enough POPSCI has an article they credit to the New York Times


Written by Stephen Rees

August 9, 2011 at 10:55 am

Posted in transit

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7 Responses

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  1. Nice, but seems inefficient to me. It must cost a lot more per passenger to get them moved from one location to another. Quintupling the size of these vehicles would get 5x more passengers in them, but would not be 5x the cost.

    I guess the advantage is that each vehicle can go to a different destination, but really in an airport, how many places does it need to go to?

    Andrew E

    August 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm

  2. The system replaced conventional shuttle buses.

    It is the common “many to few” issue: one terminal but a huge surface parking lot and people with bags not willing to walk very far. So there must be “many” points where these things pick up and set down within the car park – but only one terminal station.

    The efficiencies probably come from the elimination of bus drivers.

    Stephen Rees

    August 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm

  3. I am not too excited by these small pods wouldn’t be so bad if there quite a few following one another somewhat closely, like prayer beads on a string…
    I much prefer the automated trains that are used in many airports, from Kansai airport to Las Vegas to CDG Roissy etc.

    re the inspiration for SkyTrain:
    From Wikipedia (

    “Kobe’s Port Liner is the world’s first mass transit AGT, which began operating in 1981. It connects Kobe’s main rail station, Sannomiya Station, with the dockyard areas and Kobe Airport to the south. The VAL (Véhicule Automatique Léger) system in Lille, France, opened in 1983, is often cited as the first AGT installed to serve an existing urban area. The Scarborough RT, Detroit People Mover and Vancouver SkyTrain followed in the next few years, and then the Docklands Light Railway in London….”.

    While the quote above about the Port liner is correct, the link from Port Island (a man-made artificial island) to Kobe airport (on another man-made island) only go back to 2006….Port island has hotels, a convention centre and more and more condos,,

    There is another AGT in Kobe, going to Rokko man-made island, one in Osaka (Nanko port town line), two in Tokyo (the Yurikamome, going from the mainland to Odaiba, a man made extension to a small island, and the Nippori-Toneri Liner, linking Tokyo JR loop line (with over 3 million passengers a day) to a suburb. There are others in several towns.
    All the AGT in Japan and France (Lille, Toulouse, Rennes) have platforms screen doors to separate platforms from the tracks. More and more subways are retrofitted with these.
    video of actual screen doors :

    Red frog

    August 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm

  4. Hi Stephen:

    Can you be the first blogger to write a blog article on the new Regional Growth Strategy? That would be cool!



    August 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm

  5. No – I am not going to write a blog article on the new Regional Growth Strategy. I did go through the process of what was supposed to be the consultation – but the mess at the end left me confused – indeed the fuss made by some Coquitlam councillors baffled me. And anyway, as long as the Province pursues its current transportation policies whatever the RGS says matters little. Expanding freeways has only one, inevitable result – and it ain’t livable or sustainable or whatever the current catchphrase is.

    Stephen Rees

    August 15, 2011 at 9:48 am

  6. Stephen,
    The following is not about the PRT but about taxes to provide funds for transport, transit, roads etc. Couldn’t find a good place to tell you about it.

    The Seattle Times had an article on August 17th (see

    “Seattle City Council sends $60 car-tab fee to Nov. ballot
    Seattle residents will be asked to vote in November on a $60 car-tab fee, which would bring in more than $200 million in 10 years for transit, road maintenance, pedestrian and bicycle projects”

    Of course many people don’t like the this will be added to the $ 110 or so car-tab they are they already paying…

    Do the BC Liberals and the TransLink board knows what is done across the border and in other countries? likely not, as proven too many times by them trying to build a square wheel..

    Red frog

    August 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm

  7. Seems to be a very complex, expensive way to solve a simple problem.

    I can (just) see the logic of using them in airports where people have lots of luggage etc. But anywhere else? I couldn’t help thinking that you could get a heck of a lot more people along that route if you just made the track a bike lane.

    Andy in Germany

    August 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm

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