PRT to maximize Redwood City transit
usage & protect the climate
For consideration for the long-range
transportation/circulation plan - requires further study. Stations, etc are
guaranteed to be somewhat "wrong."
System could begin operation 2012-2017.
First sketches: February, 2009
ULTra is a battery-driven, 100-mpg-equivalent,
elevated personal rapid transit (PRT) system with many four-person vehicles.
First deployment is scheduled for London Heathrow Airport in Q4 2009, 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, samTrans bus, and
effective, by solving the "last mile problem." PRT also enables longer
bike commutes and shopping trips. A three-minute
animation of ULTra: http://www.ultraprt.net/. 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
Caltrain transit increased beyond 15%. PRT systems are being actively pursued
for San Jose Airport, Santa Cruz, Alameda Point, and Virginia.
the advantages of New Urbanism - its compact land saving density, its walkable
mix of uses, and its integrated range of housing opportunities - would be
supported and amplified by a circulation system that offers fundamentally
different choices in mobility and access. Smart Growth and new Urbanism have
begun the work of redefining America's twenty-first century development
paradigms. Now it is time to redefine the circulation armature that supports
them. It is short sighted to think that significant changes in land-use and
regional structure can be realized without fundamentally reordering our
circulation system. We've been developing TOD without the T for far too long.
PRT is the T." - Peter Calthorpe, co-founder, Congress for New
The PRT system should be part of the SamTrans/Caltrain
transit system, with seamless fare box/fare gate integration.
PRT Benefits for Redwood City:
For the Saltworks project to capture the
imagination of Redwood City Council and voters (and to avoid the slings of
FORC and Save The Bay), the project will surely need to be exceedingly green
and truly unique. PRT may be the easiest way to bring this about. Given
state law AB32 and the SB375 Sustainable Communities Strategy, it can be
argued that all new residential development in Redwood City should generate
one-half of the annual per capita miles of driving by existing residents. PRT
may be the most cost-effective tool to reduce per capita automobile driving
(see the first paragraph above). For South Bay transit-oriented housing right
next to a mixed-use Caltrain station, transit commute mode share is only 17%.
These places are is still "auto-centered." For Saltworks, because of large
wait times, slow journey times, the conventional transit "transfer penalty,"
shuttle buses or conventional rail transit from Saltworks should be expected
to generate a low transit commute mode share.
From the RC Saltworks web: "Our goal is to make
the Saltworks a showcase of environmental protection. Currently,
more than 40,000 out-of-town commuters drive into Redwood City to work every
day. Many of these commuters drive from two or more counties away adding
significantly to traffic congestion on freeways and bridges. A major goal of
the 50/50 Plan is to get many of these commuters off the roads and out of
their cars by providing them with a local place to live. Planning experts say
this will dramatically reduce traffic and greenhouse gas emissions from cars."
fast, car-free travel from homes to
downtown Redwood City restaurants and night life. No searching for parking on
busy evenings. Encourages residents to spend their money downtown.
Provides more residents with easy, fast access
to the Saltworks sports fields, parks, and natural spaces.
Maximizes Redwood City Caltrain ridership.
Should Caltrain be electrified, PRT complements this increased service level. Should Redwood City "win" a HSR station, PRT
will maximize HSR ridership. Should the Dumbarton Rail project proceed, PRT
will maximize Dumbarton Rail ridership. Increases ridership on many samTrans
buses serving Redwood City: 271, 274, ..., 397 plus express buses. Enables
"half-bike, half-PRT trips."
PRT is naturally built in phases and can grow and
adapt to match the changes in Redwood City as the Downtown Precise Plan,
Stanford expansion, and Saltworks projects unfold over the next 25 years. No
other transportation technology can flexibly grow with Redwood City.
Allows for a reduced number of parking spaces,
saving Stanford and Saltworks $50,000 per structured parking space saved.
Allows for shared parking between offices and residential development, as
these two uses are countercyclical. Saving on expensive parking spaces
improves the attractiveness of Redwood City real-estate and increases
opportunities to develop affordable housing for teachers, nurses, police, and
120 years ago, electric rail transit was a brand
new technology, providing faster, better, and cheaper local transit than the
alternatives. Starting in 1888, electric rail transit changed the way cities
were built. By 1905, the East Bay's Key System was the world's largest system.
Likewise, PRT is a brand new technology, providing faster, better, and cheaper
transit than current alternatives. Conventional local transit serves narrow
strips at a slow pace. Non-stop, faster-than-a-car PRT serves two-dimensional
areas. Cities are two-dimensional areas, not narrow strips. A PRT system can
put 45,000 Redwood City residents and workers within a 300 meter walk of a PRT
station; conventional local transit will serve only a small fraction of that
many people. At the Congress for New Urbanism 2005 Conference, Peter Calthorpe
said, "One of my pet peeves is that we've been dealing with 19th Century
transit technology. We can do better. We can have ultra light elevated transit
systems with lightweight vehicles. Because the vehicles are lighter, the
system will use less energy. If you think about what you'd want from the ideal
transit technology, it's PRT: a) stations right where you are, within walking
distance, b) no waiting."
Highways such as Highway 101 tend to split cities
in half, whereas PRT will narrow the distance between the west and east sides
of Redwood City.
PRT is faster than a car from Pacific
Shores to downtown Caltrain station (3.5 miles):
PRT: 8 minutes
Driving in light traffic: 12 minutes measured 1PM,
Thurs August 27, 2009. Google Maps yields 9 minutes.
Driving in heavy traffic: 18 minutes
Streetcar: 36 minutes (6.5 min average wait at Pac Shores,
13.8 min 2.3 mi trip @ 8 min/per mile, 6.5 min average wait at Broadway/Chestnut, 9.6
min 1.2 mi trip @ 8 min/per mile to Caltrain)
PRT is faster than a car from Stanford Outpatient (450
Broadway) to downtown Caltrain station (3.0 miles):
PRT trip: 30 second wait plus 4 minute trip
time: 4:30 trip time.
Google maps driving time (with no traffic): 7
minutes. Heavy traffic will double this trip time to 14 minutes.
Shuttle bus with lots of stops
and light traffic: 5 minute
average wait (with 10 minute headways) + 14 minutes drive time = 19 minutes
Streetcar trip: 30.5 minutes: 6.5 minute wait
(with 13 minute headways) + 24 minute streetcar trip (3.0 miles @ 8 minutes
1. Large System: Accommodate Saltworks 8,000 to
12,000 New Homes
13.5 miles / 21.7km guideway
Very rough capital cost range: $100M to $202M.
(Please see the ULTra PRT "$7M
to $15M per mile cost" explanation.)
It's hard to put PRT capital cost in perspective,
but 12,000 $500,000 Saltworks homes are worth $6 Billion, hence the PRT system
is inexpensive in comparison. In addition to $6B Saltworks, Stanford's RC campus
will be worth in excess of $1B and the existing RC real-estate is also of very
1B) High resolution satellite photography version of
the alignment, showing 300 meter walking radius around the PRT stations.
Directional arrows show the direction of PRT vehicle flow on six connected
guideway loops. The loops alternate between counter clockwise to clockwise,
eliminating large trip "detours."
Click on the image below for the 2600 x 1800 high
- 300 meter walk radius shown
One of the early illustrations of the "alternating
loops" technique was University of Washington Professor Jerry Schneider's
Bellevue PRT alignment.
2. Redwood City PRT "Starter System"
A "Phase 1 starter system" could be
even smaller than the following:
A starter system could be as small as the lower
loop. Such a system could combined with existing shuttle buses, such as the
Pacific Shores shuttle buses, improving those services. IE shuttle buses could
always stay on the east side of 101, using PRT trip to avoid congestion west of
3. The June 30 Draft General Plan Streetcar Network:
Circulation Vision: 2030
"Redwood City residents, employees, and visitors will have choice of
transportation systems – bicycle, pedestrian, buses, train, streetcar,
automobile, and ferry. We have reduced our dependency on private,
single-occupant vehicles through the integration of land use and transportation
(from page BE-100):
Typical streetcars provide an average speed of 7-12
mph for local-stop service (6.5 mph from a separate analysis) - jogging speed.
Streetcars are further slowed by long waiting. Headways are 13 minutes during peak hour in Portland.
Streetcar speed is
often exceeded by ordinary local-stop bus services. One clear
speed-and-reliability benefit of the bus is intrinsic to the technology: Buses
have the physical ability to go around obstructions that occur in their lane,
while the streetcar is stuck behind them. (see:
is unsettling to see a "city planning leap of faith" ("a desire named
streetcar") being made to argue that 79,000-population suburban Redwood City will have
the same streetcar experience as 537,000-population urban Portland. Like
San Francisco, Portland is a major transit-served urban center with many
downtown jobs. In contrast, Redwood City is 27 miles from both downtown San Jose
and San Francisco. It would seem more analogous to consider the experience of
Peninsula suburban VTA light rail as the predictor for Redwood City
streetcar experience. VTA light rail has the nation’s worst financial
performance, with fare box receipts covering less than 14% of operating costs.
VTA light rail provides only 1/3 the ridership per system mile as does Portland
MAX light rail, another good indication that Redwood City isn't Portland. VTA
LRT-served Santa Clara County transit commute mode split is only 5%, again
indicating the great challenge with attracting peninsula residents/workers to
jogging-speed transit. (See:
MTC/RIDES 2005 Commute Profile:
4. Handy background information: