Alameda Point – Developer Proposal

At the September 28, 2008 “presentation to the City Council, Calthorpe Associates principal Peter Calthorpe suggested that PRT might solve any traffic woes that SunCal’s plans to build 6,000 housing units might bring to Alameda. The PRT would run on an elevated track from Alameda Point and connect commuters to Jack London Square across the Oakland Estuary. See the Alameda Sun article for further details.

A system sketch of the proposed Alameda Point PRT network (Orange-Red: 13 miles guideway, 17 stations, 65' Rail Lift Bridge Crossing).

In addition to providing a congestion free mode of transport, ULTra PRT makes carpooling and other transit more effective by solving the “last mile problem.” PRT also enables longer bike commutes and shopping trips, offering added flexibility to both residents and visitors.


For Alameda Point, PRT will create a very efficient transit village, providing fast, car-free access to multiple destinations along the Red and Orange routes:

  • Fruitvale BART
  • Downtown/Park Street shopping
  • Marina Village jobs
  • College of Alameda and Rapid Bus transfer
  • Alameda Point 53-acre Sports Complex
  • Alameda Point National Wildlife Refuge
  • Bridgeside Shopping Center
  • Alameda Point cafes and parks
  • Fruitvale Shopping Center

Additional Alameda stations may also be created along the Purple route. The Blue route could ultimately link to Downtown Oakland, Oakland Chinatown, and Jack London Square, or to Lake Merritt BART.

A look at the Fruitvale Rail Lift Bridge:

San Jose Airport – $4M Study

The City of San Jose has allotted $4 million to conduct an economic and technical evaluation of PRT for San Jose Airport and surrounding destinations, and then will work with a PRT vendor to implement PRT. A Boston Globe article explains more: October 2009 Globe news story.

The proposed San Jose Airport PRT network.

Request for Interest

In September of 2008, the City of San Jose issued a Request for Interest for an Automated Guideway (PRT) system for San Jose Airport. On the right is a sketch alignment of a PRT system (12.6 mi, 21 station, $189M estimated capital costs) for San Jose Airport and surrounding activities.

Working as circulator transit for office parks, airports, universities and other major activity centers, ULTra PRT provides a congestion free mode of transport which also makes carpooling and other transit more effective by solving the “last mile problem.” In addition, PRT enables longer bike commutes and shopping trips, offering added flexibility to both residents and visitors.

KGO TV covered the story: Laura Stuchinksy is a sustainability officer for San Jose’s Department of Transportation. She and other city officials are considering the idea of having such a public pod system link the Mineta San Jose International Airport with area businesses, hotels and other nearby transit options, like Caltrain, BART and the VTA Light Rail.

“One of the advantages of this automated transit network is that it offers a lot of flexibility. It’s much less expensive than traditional transit. It doesn’t serve the same needs as high-speed rail or BART. It’s a complement to those systems,” said Stuchinsky.

The city is in the exploratory stages of a public-private partnership, reviewing proposals from 18 companies from Silicon Valley and around the world. A four-person pod would travel on elevated guide-ways, about 15-feet above the ground.

Cardiff Study

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, and is rapidly redeveloping its old docklands with shops, leisure facilities, offices and homes. A case study assessing the potential for ULTra PRT was conducted in 2004, which focused on the Phase 1 PRT network shown on the right which connects the city center rail stations (Central and Queens Street), and the shopping area around them, with the rapidly developing Cardiff Bay area about 1.5km to the south. The report concluded that:

ULTra offers Cardiff a financially strong transport solution which would provide an exceptional level of performance:

  • ULTra easily covers its operating costs
  • System comes very close to covering capital costs at standard public sector 6% discount factor even at the low £1 fare assumed (and in practice is likely to do so completely as travel patterns adapt to make more use of PRT).
  • Surveys of passengers riding the prototype show they are willing to pay several times this fare, and are very enthusiastic about all aspects of the system.
  • Commuters transferring from car to public transport plus PRT increase bus and rail use by 5%.
  • Large social benefits give a very good rate of return:  +£133M NPV, benefit/cost ratio 392%, first year rate of return 27%
  • Conventional public transport cannot meet this performance.
The proposed Cardiff ULTra network; the Phase 1 network (red) is assessed in detail, blue shows envisaged future expansion. ULTra PRT would provide high quality access to the Bay Area, with fast, nonstop, no-waiting and private access direct to the major attractions. Transit time from Central Station to the Bay Area is about 5 minutes and a £1 fare per vehicle was assumed (about 70p per passenger at average occupancies).

Cardiff Objectives

  • Improve public transport connections between city center and rapidly developing Bay Area
  • Support Cardiff’s development as a thriving and attractive European Capital City, serving commercial, retail and leisure activities in the Bay
  • Protect and enhance the new environment, encouraging transfer from car to public transport and reducing air pollution from traffic

Cardiff Bay

The recent waterfront developments contain new offices, shops and leisure facilities, and a substantial amount of new residential development between the waterfront and the central area. The Bay area also contains the Welsh National Assembly building, the new opera house under construction, and the Cardiff County Council offices.

A view of Cardiff Bay.

Financial Prediction

  • Total capital cost (including vehicles) £4.5M per guideway km
  • Annual operating cost £2.05M
  • Revenue £4.30M
  • System not only covers operating costs but also
  • Returns about 6% on capital investment

Net Present Value over 30-year life of benefits plus revenue less operating and capital costs: +£133M if discounted at standard 6%

System Performance

The demand levels for the Phase 1 network were predicted by logit modal split modeling calibrated on Stated Preference surveys. The analysis found:

  • 5.7 million passengers per year
  • A cost of £0.72 per person per trip
  • Attracts 8% commuters from car, 60% bus users, 9% from short walks
  • Average waiting time 0.3 minutes – most passengers don’t wait at all
  • Attitude surveys of riders on prototype vehicle show very positive acceptance
  • Disability audit shows system is more accessible to disabled and elderly people than conventional public transport

System Benefits

The benefits were assessed using standard social cost-benefit methodology, which found:

  • Saves 900 hours of passenger travel time per day (average 3.5 minutes/passenger)
  • Saves 65,500 car-kms per day
  • Transfer from car saves congestion worth £1.7M per year
  • Reduced road traffic casualties (mainly pedestrian) saves £0.5M per year
  • Saving in energy equivalent to 3M liters of fuel per year
  • Net reduction in pollutants of 45 tonnes of CO, 3.5 tonnes VOCs, 5.7 tonnes NOx, 0.3 tonnes particulates, 3750 tonnes of CO2

Corby Study

Corby is a town in Northamptonshire with a population of approximately 50,000. It has seen much of its traditional industry vanish in recent years, leading to a rapid modernisation programme involving new development on greenfield sites and a renewal of the town center.

A 2002 study by Colin Buchanan & Partners evaluated a proposal for conventional LRT, providing an opportunity for direct comparison of PRT with LRT as conducted in a case study in 2004, which found:

A very strong case for ULTra in Corby, both financially and socially:

  • Covers both its capital and operating costs
  • Attracts over 70% more passengers than LRT, 17% transfer from car: high socio-economic NPV
  • PRT offers an excellent modern underpinning to the new development, can be integrated architecturally, and run within new stores in the town center.
  • Even in the older parts of town, roads are wide enough to offer many practicable and aesthetically acceptable routes
  • In the new developments, the route and station locations can be designed integrally, to offer maximum accessibility with minimum severance, and enhance the attractiveness of both residential and commercial areas.
The proposed Corby ULTra network. The network was planned as two phases, with the full system comprising around 30km of guideway, and providing an easily accessible service to a much broader area than the LRT proposal

Corby Objectives

  • Link rapidly expanding new development on greenfield sites to a modernised town center.
  • Make the center attractive by bringing passengers directly into the shops and facilities.
  • Increase the use of public transport in the town (currently very low)
  • Contribute to an environmentally sustainable transport policy
  • Provide a direct comparison with LRT as an alternative

LRT Proposal

Colin Buchanan & Partners had recently analyzed a proposed LRT system for Corby. The same trip matrices and modal split model were used to provide comparison on exactly the same basis.

The proposed Corby LRT Network; the recent analysis of this LRT proposal allowed a direct comparison with PRT.

Developed in two phases, the full system has 28.4 kms of track serving the same areas as the PRT network shown above, but with a far higher average distance to the stations from passengers point of origin.

System Costs

Although the guideway costs of ULTra are much less than those of LRT, PRT attracts almost twice as many riders as LRT and therefore requires much higher vehicle capacity. The requirement for 895 vehicles makes the overall investment similar to that for LRT, but the performance is far superior.

Ultra                               LRT

Total Capital Cost per km             £3.2m                            £3.3m

Operating Cost p.a.                        £5.1m                            £5.8m


System Performance

Both PRT and LRT serve the same catchment area, but ULTra’s loop-based network design gives greatly improved access for passengers on edges of the area when compared with corridor-based LRT. The demand predicted for the first year of operation of each full system (both phases) is given below:


  • 13.4 million passengers
  • 17% transfer from car
  • 19.3% of all trips in area
  • £15.1M revenue at £1.13 average fare
  • 7.8 million passengers
  • 10% transfer from car
  • 11.4% of all trips in area
  • £8.5M revenue at £1.09 average fare

Cost-Benefit Assessment

30-year financial NPV (revenue less operating and capital costs):

ULTra: + £4M                         LRT: – £69M
 Both systems cover their operating costs, but LRT falls far short of covering its capital costs (at 6%) while ULTra covers both operating and capital.

30-year NPV of social benefits less costs is +£188M with a benefit/cost ratio of 260%

Social benefits include £16.9M in passenger time and money savings, accident cost savings at £0.2M, energy savings at £0.4M per year. Mean passenger waiting time is 0.3 minutes

Reductions in air pollution of 62 tonnes CO, 5 tonnes VOCs, 10 tonnes NOx, 1 tonne particulates, and 3600 tonnes CO2per year. Noise produced is below background levels.