Taking Heathrow’s pod cars for a spin

In operation since April, a personal rapid transit system transports passengers between Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport (UK) and the business parking lot. New York Times writer Jim Witkin took the pods for a test spin:

Quiet and comfortable were my first impressions of the five-minute ride between the terminal and parking lot. Onboard, the only sound over the familiar whirr of the electric motor was the recorded voice announcement from the iPad-like control panel inside the car, assuring me that I was “almost there.”

BAA, which operates Heathrow, considers the pods a success. Twenty-two pod cars replaced two diesel buses and carry nearly 800 passengers every weekday; instead of looping around the airport, the pods save energy by operating on demand. Each car can carry four people and their luggage; BAA says that maintenance and repair requirements have been minimal thus far. At least one traveler remained skeptical about the future of the pods. “It seems to operate fine, but I wonder if this is just for PR value,” a business traveler told Witkin. “Would it work at the other, busier parking lots carrying many more passengers?” Link to full story in The New York Times.

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Pam Broviak

I think PRTs are the future of transportation and could go on forever about them because of this, but instead will restrict myself to the following links:



and a report by Princeton University looking at PRT implementation throughout New Jersey: http://orfe.princeton.edu/~alaink/NJ_PRT%2711/FALL2011%20ORF467%20Final%20Report.pdf

I wish someone would submit a PRT project for a TIGER grant so we can start studying how best to implement them in our country.

Tom Savoie

Pam, I think Dulles or BWI would be perfect to test this technology at. Think of the smaller carbon foot print this would give the airports.

Susan Bregman

I agree with Tom. I think PRT technology is well-suited to controlled environments like airports and could replace the endless stream of shuttles at some facilities.

Pam Broviak

If only we knew someone who was responsible for transportation at those facilities. We could talk to them about applying for that TIGER grant. If you look over the requirements, it seems that this would fit the focus of the grant: “The Primary Selection Criteria include (1) Long-Term Outcomes and (2) Job Creation & Near-Term Economic Activity. The Secondary Selection Criteria include (1) Innovation and (2) Partnership.”