Another mass transport system

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Thursday, March 13, 2014


MY March 4 column, “Mass transport system for SRP” that tackled the push by the SM group for the realization of a mass transport system at the South Road Properties (SRP) in time for the opening of SM Seaside City next year invited a response from Bert R. Ginampos, who is based in Tampa, Florida.

Mr. Ginampos sent me a lengthy email making a case for a mass transport system with the kilometric name, Metropolitan Individual System of Transportation to set up an Elevated Rail (Mister)-Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). So from the Metro Rail Transit (MRT)/Light Rail Transit (LRT) to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and now Mister-PRT.

“Mister PRT is Cebu’s better choice as mass public transit as it is very secure, comfortable and fast,” wrote Ginampos, who traces his roots to Davao City. He said he is helping the inventor and president/CEO of Mister Ltd. in introducing Mister-PRT to the Philippines.

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Ginampos said he introduced Mister-PRT to Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival “through a common friend” but didn’t get any feedback. Interestingly, the committee on transportation of the Davao City Council held a hearing last month to tackle a proposal to set up a Mister-PRT system in that city.

Mister-PRT is actually a variation of the personal rapid transport (PRT) that has been in operation in Morgantown, West Virginia since 1975. The PRT, also called a podcar according to Wikipedia, is a “public transport mode featuring small automated vehicles operating on a network of specially built guide ways (akin to a rail in the MRT/BRT system).

While the small automated vehicles (pods) of the PRT sits on the guide ways, those of Mister-PRT hangs below them, like pods of a Ferris wheel, only that the guide ways are not circular but straight. The guide ways are iron trusses held some ten meters up by circular posts that can be built either on the island or the curb of an existing street.

This is Mister-PRT’s advantage over the BRT, which needs a dedicate a width of several meters of road for the buses to operate on, displacing existing modes of transport and possibly needing a good amount of money for road-right-of-way acquisition in case route expansion is required.

I checked with Youtube and got a futuristic feel of this mass transport system. The airconditioned pods can carry one to five passengers each, accommodating people like a taxi would, only that they move above the roads where the guide ways are built. With an extensive network of guide ways, the Mister-PRT can operate tens or hundreds of these pods.

The pods’ advantage over buses can be the short waiting time. Buses accommodate more passengers and thus needs to be filled up before these could leave. Empty buses would affect profitability. Pods only carry at most five people so these don’t have to wait long to be filled up.

Ginampos’s email contains computations on the number of passengers that a Mister-PRT system can move in a certain period of time compared with either the BRT or MRT/LRT.

But I won’t dwell much on that because that can be tackled in a public hearing, if ever.

By the way, the Mister-PRT system proposed to Davao City officials is initially a 10-kilometer network that would be built through public-private partnership. I don’t know how that proposal will pan out in the months to come. Maybe if that is realized, then we can have a model mass transport system to copy in the future.

Also, since the technology used is new, there is still a need to look into the weaknesses of the Mister-PRT system, including safety, profitability and other concerns. I am only writing about it to spark a discussion.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 14, 2014.

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