PRT for Shoreline Biz Park, Google, Mountain View Downtown, and NASA Research Park

For consideration for the long-range transportation/circulation plan.  System could begin operation 2012. 

First version: June, 2008, last update: Sept, 2009


Google co-founder Larry Page’s May 2 University of Michigan commencement speech: "When I was here at Michigan, I wanted to build a personal rapid transit system on campus to replace the buses. It was a futuristic way of solving our transportation problem. I still think a lot about transportation — you never lose a dream, it just incubates as a hobby. Many things that people labor hard to do now, like cooking, cleaning, and driving will require much less human time in the future. That is, if we 'have a healthy disregard for the impossible’ and actually build new solutions." .


"I think it's exciting. I think it's clearly in our future." Mountain View Councilman Jac Siegal as seen on KTVU TV 10PM news and KTVU web.


ULTra is a battery-driven, 200-mpg-equivalent, elevated personal rapid transit (PRT) system with many four-person vehicles. First deployment is scheduled for London Heathrow Airport in 2010, to serve Heathrow's new Terminal 5. Working as circulator transit for office parks, airports, universities, and other major activity centers, ULTra is faster than a car. In these applications, ULTra makes carpooling, Caltrain, HSR, VTA light rail, VTA bus, and Google Bauer bus more effective, by solving the "last mile problem." PRT also enables longer bike commutes and shopping trips. Google's "transportation platform" (Google Transit, Google Ride Finder, Android GPS phones, etc) can help glue all the green transportation options together. A three-minute youtube video of ULTra can be found here: Peer-reviewed market research for two other Bay Area transit-served major job centers, Palo Alto's Stanford Research Park (SRP) and Pleasanton's Hacienda Business Park, forecasts a PRT-induced commuting mode reduction from more than 80% single occupancy vehicle (SOV) down to 45% SOV. In these two studies, carpooling increased to more than 30% and transit increased beyond 15%. Such commuting shift could free more than 50 acres of surface parking for higher use. The PRT system should be part of VTA's transit system, with seamless fare box/fare gate integration.


"There is so much development going on right in this area. In 5 or 10 years we’ll have gridlock on (recently expanded) Highway 101/85 merge. We’ll need an alternative. The proposal to connect Google, NASA, and Caltrain makes sense as an alternative. PRT will be like a dam breaking. We’re all frustrated with current transit in the area." - Google employee.


PRT systems are being actively pursued for San Jose Airport, Santa Cruz, Alameda Point, and Virginia. One of the advantages of a PRT 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," Laura Stuchinksy, Sustainability Officer, City of San Jose Department of Transportation. "We've concocted a system where local trips take an auto. That's our biggest tragedy. Streetcars, such as those used in Portland's Pearl District, and elevated people movers, like those in downtown Miami, are moving people from rail stations to their final destinations. But a new concept, PRT, may help revolutionize urban transportation, providing a cost-effective way to get people from train stations to where they need to go." - Peter Calthorpe, Berkeley-based Calthorpe Associates (Alameda Point, etc).


Additional PRT Benefits:

  • Pleasant, car-free travel from homes to downtown Mountain View restaurants and night life

  • Faster than a car. PRT trip time from downtown Mountain View Caltrain to Google iPlex: 0:20 sec wait + 05:40 PRT trip time.  Driving time, via Google Maps (assumes light traffic), is 8 minutes, plus additional time spent parking. 

  • A faster way to get to Shoreline Amphitheatre concerts, Century Cinemas 16, and Shoreline recreation - without the traffic jams and parking hassles.

  • Enables NASA Moffett Field redevelopment to be even greener and more state-of-the-art. 

  • Increases Mountain View's competitiveness in attracting and retaining employers.

  • A svelte PRT crossing eliminates the need to build an large, expensive, environmentally impacting road bridge over Stevens Creek between NASA and Shoreline Business Park near Crittenden Lane.

PRT System Sketch: (15.2 miles of guideway, 40 stations - red, orange, and purple) (North is rotated about 30 degrees counter-clockwise). The orange portion is 8.5 miles of guideway with 24 stations with a rough capital cost range of $60M to $128M. The latest PRT cost information may be found at:

Higher Resolution PRT Sketch Alignment Images:

PRT Sketch Alignment Info:

  • The goal of PRT sketch alignments is to provide a conceptual understanding. Further study will refine stations, etc. Network optimization may further refine an alignment.  
  • From the Downtown MV transit hub (Caltrain commuter rail, VTA bus, VTA LRT, some chance for HSR), there are two likely choices for crossing Highway 101 to Shoreline Biz Park and NASA: Shoreline Blvd. and Moffett Blvd.  Both are feasible choices. Alternate sketches connecting downtown to NASA & Google via Moffett Blvd can be found here:

PRT is Rocket Science


ATS Founder (and ULTra PRT inventor) Martin Lowson is a rocket scientist and has worked extensively with NASA. Martin worked on the Apollo Space Program’s Saturn Rocket, where he led a team of over 50 staff. He was Chief Scientist of Westland Helicopters, generating the advanced rotor system (he holds the patent) now used on both Lynx and EH101 helicopters. This rotor set the absolute world speed record for helicopters. He has collaborated with multiple NASA wind tunnels on studies of aerofoil noise, helicopter rotor noise, and rocket noise radiation. He is Fellow of Royal Academy of Engineering, Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.


Press Coverage:

Self-Driving Electric Vehicles:


ULTra PRT is significantly more software, sensor, and communications intensive than traditional transit.  An ULTra system may have 500 computer-driven vehicles driving with a precision better than  +/- one inch laterally and longitudinally, with 100 position updates per vehicle per second. 


The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has developed a long-term vision of self-driving cars on U.S. roads called Automated Highway Systems (AHS).  Automation will increase capacity (because cars will follow more closely) while improving gas mileage and safety.  The current early DOT technology development project in this arena is called “Vehicle Infrastructure Integration” (link) and this effort is being complemented by automaker advances such as “stop and go adaptive cruise control.” All automobile manufacturers agree that it will be impractical to remove ultimate responsibility from the driver in a conventional road situation for many decades. In contrast, ULTra, offers fully self-driving vehicles now. 


The ULTra system uses a battery-powered electric vehicle (EV) and will exploit advances in EV propulsion over the coming years. As of the current ULTra Version 1.0, the system design provides opportunities for recharge after every trip and required battery pack size is low, under 10% of vehicle empty weight.   


ULTra self-driving EV at Heathrow




11x17 two-sided, one-fold Mountain View PRT brochure: