Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fate of Masdar PRT Not Yet Final

©MMXI Get On Board PRT!NewsCenter

We knew it was coming. Last October the news broke that the Masdar City project -- already retreating from ambitious goals of zero-carbon, zero-waste and producing all energy onsite -- had decided against installing Personal Rapid Transit throughout the 2.3 square mile 'eco-city.' The news came just as the inauguration of the pilot section of the PRT system, 'Phase IA,' was imminent.

And so we were not surprised when the wave of news items arrived. Environmental journalists attending January's World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi on the one hand wrote in giddy prose of riding the driverless pods, while on the other hand chuckling at the brevity of the 2-station route. It sounds so small when you say the stations are "a mere 800m" apart. That's half a mile to Americans.

Some scribes went so far as to pass on the official Masdar explanation that the collapse of the global real estate market made the 'undercroft,' effectively a utilities basement that would also house the PRT network, too expensive. No undercroft, no underground PRT. Let's emphasize that, since it went over the heads of most writers: it is the undercroft that was unaffordable, not PRT. PRT doesn't require undercroft.

But we can report that the fate of Masdar PRT -- while dim -- has yet to be finalized.

In the undercroft

Robbert Lohmann, Marketing & Sales Manager for PRT maker 2getthere, tells NewsCenter that the Masdar organization has not told the company anything about the future of the fledging podcar system, one way or another.

So for now, 2getthere is assuming nothing has changed. "We have seen the reports in the media, however, nothing has been communicated to us officially," said Lohmann.

"We as a company still believe an expansion makes sense and keep in contact with Masdar about the various options, including how to decrease costs or integrate PRT in a different way than the undercroft," he said. Presumably, this means an elevated alignment, as originally envisioned by architect Norman Foster.

Foster's original vision with elevated PRT

However, Lohmann noted that the primary driver for Middle East projects is cost.

Lohmann confirmed that Masdar's intention has been to bundle 2getthere PRT with solar, wind, and other systems developed at Masdar, and commercialize them as Masdar green technologies. This remains the objective as far as 2getthere is aware.

The Masdar PRT itself continues to operate well after three months, with 10,000 passengers in December, rising to 18,000 passengers in February. The average vehicle occupancy was 1.8 passengers in December, and 2.1 in February. Vehicle availability is steady at 99.7% through the 3 months of operations, while system availability was 98.6% in December, 99.3% in January, and 99.2% in February.

Another successful aspect is the worldwide attention directed at 2getthere, in connection with the launch at Masdar. 2getthere has several potential PRT projects in the pipeline, according to Lohmann, and the company expects to secure another deal this year.

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