December 6, 2013 by frostedtsaar
Why on Earth would we talk about West Virginia University’s Personal Rapid Transit system here on the Man Cave, you ask? Because, my dear readers, I recently researched the PRT a great deal and came up with a list of facts you might not know about the PRT — unless maybe you’re an Engineering major. Knowledge is power and power is manly, so let’s learn together.
6) The WVU PRT was originally a political chess piece for President Richard Nixon.
In the late 1960s, Senator Robert Byrd convinced Secretary John A. Volpe of the US Department of Transportation that Morgantown, WV would be the perfect spot to start experimenting in personal people movers, a brand new concept at the time. At the time, it must have seemed like a precursor to sci-fi movie-like transportation, and President Richard Nixon strongly encouraged development to be finished by the election in November 1972. When it began to get pricey, the press began criticizing Nixon for it.
5) The tracks of the PRT use the same solution jet planes use to prevent icing.
So, that’s why the PRT tracks don’t ice over. Yep, embedded in the tracks of the PRT are pipes carrying a glycol solution, the same deicing agent used by most jet planes to prevent freezing at high altitudes, with several stations along the track dedicated to heating it. Next time you’re on the PRT, just pretend you’re on a 747 flying through the stratosphere. Not so farfetched when you consider that…
4) The PRT was made by Boeing.
Well, mostly. The cars themselves and the deicing system was developed by Boeing, while the Bendix Corporation supplied the control systems, and F. R. Harris Engineering designed and built the guideway, stations and other facilities. Most testing was done in Boeing’s plant alongside the latest generation of jet planes.
3) The PRT is not a PRT.
Everything you know is wrong. WVU’s PRT is technically too heavy and carries too many people to be considered a true Personal Rapid Transit. In addition, it only works as a PRT a third of the time, during off-peak hours. The rest of the time it functions more like tiny buses. Which leads us to our next fact…
2) There is a 5 minutes wait time during off-peak hours before a PRT comes to you.
If you’re just with your buddies, that is. Most people know that during the busiest time of the day, the PRT runs on a schedule, servicing stations that are known to have the highest demand. You can actually download that schedule here and make your commute to class a little less stressful. During off-peak hours, though, the PRT only comes when enough people want it. That is, if you’re alone and you hit that call button, the system will wait around 5 minutes before sending a PRT your way, in order to wait for other people. When more than 15 people call it, the PRT immediately deploys.
1) The system has operated at 98.5% reliability for the past 30 years.
Sure, we make jokes about the PRT and how it has a tendency to break down sometimes — my favorite is the Possibly Running Today pun — but really it’s a surprisingly efficient creature. Since 1975, the PRT runs almost every day, getting students where they need to.
Continually named as a must-see attraction of WVU, we’re pretty lucky to have the PRT here. Looking at it, it’s something of a marvel of technology and history. If that ain’t manly, I don’t know what is.