– The pod cars of San Jose

In the United States, several communities have begun to explore the possibility of building a personal rapid transit system, but none has advanced as far as San Jose, Calif.

The city is planning to build a PRT system that will run between the airport and a Bay Area Rapid Transit station as well as a nearby light rail station. They say it will include up to five stations, but this and other details are still being worked out.

The city has issued a request for proposals and allotted $4 million to conduct an economic and technical evaluation, and then to work with a vendor. When San Jose compared PRT with an automated people mover, the kind of large, driverless shuttle that is common at airports, officials decided that PRT would be cheaper and more convenient for passengers. The government has not sworn off other options during this exploratory phase, but officials say they will most likely proceed with a PRT system.

Although the city is planning to start small, officials there say that their hope is that if it succeeds, the system can be expanded to other parts of San Jose, and possibly elsewhere.

“We have cities all around us who are watching to see what happens with this project,” says Laura Stuchinsky, the sustainability officer for San Jose’s Department of Transportation. “The process we are planning to use will help us develop the standards for this kind of technology.”

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.
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