LonCon3 and the Airport of Ultimate Urban Delights

Yep, Heathrow has PRT (that’s Personal Rapid Transit for the uninformed).  The system goes by the name ULTra Global PRT and it is a really fine example of people just deciding to get something done and then making it happen. Even better it is a sustainable business model, if you will (you hear that Seattle Monorail?). Oddly enough I found this watching video on alternative wind power projects (alternatives to industrial turbines), but I clicked on through when I realized it wasn’t a test system and it also wasn’t a virtual representation of something someone wants to build. Yeah, it’s there. You can ride it. Development work has been completed. The system could be expanded. How cool is that?

So, as I look into the potential that I’ll be able to go to WorldCon/LonCon3 later this year, I’m also getting excited about traveling between airport terminals at Heathrow. Maybe schedule a day to ride the PRT back and forth through its many connection points. Yes, you read that right, “excited”. Which qualifies me as an uber-geek, I know. Because while I love to drive, I also love the freedom that transit systems offer. PRT is sort of the sweet spot between these two modes of transport, and I actually relish the notion of trying it out for myself. It gets you efficiently between connection points without the bother of bus-stench.

Plus, I’ve already integrated PRT in a number of stories and open projects, but since I lack any real experience with a system of this description is sort of an inferred, BS narrative. Getting the opportunity to ride this gem would take that narrative to the next level. <explodinghandbump />

Finally, I’m going to put on my “futurist” hat for a moment, and ask you to compare a system like this (or PRT in general) to something like High Speed Rail. A thought exercise like this happens infrequently, but it is the sort of thing that I think should happen a lot more often. Sure the Heathrow PRT system is much slower than even the slowest HSR system. Both of these systems occupy different places in the mass transit matrix of the future largely because of their maximum speeds relative to one another. HSR is roughly the more efficient equivalent of regional air service while PRT should be likened to driving a car inside an urban corridor.

But I’m going to ask you to think about your morning commute. If you’re having trouble, right now, overcoming the shock and trauma you’ve recently experienced in that colossal cluster event of motoring mayhem, a relic of the 20th century, I won’t hold it against you. But consider for this brief moment how little it would cost to build an HSR network where you live. How much utility you’d likely get from it on a day to day basis. Now, with that thought in your mind, consider taking a single lane of any major urban motor way and outfitting it to support a PRT system. Consider that land grab against the easement necessary to construct an HSR line between the nearest major urban centers in your area.

Think about that the next time you creep toward the bridge in the morning rush. Think about how fast a PRT bubble would whisk you through your city the next time you’re stuck waiting on an accident to clear on the 405, or sitting in your car, needing to pee, watching some construction dude grimace at you from behind a stop sign.

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