Top 6 things you didn’t know about WVU’s Personal Rapid Transit that make it amazing


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.

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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.


13 thoughts on “Top 6 things you didn’t know about WVU’s Personal Rapid Transit that make it amazing

  1. trentcu says:

    I really enjoyed this attaching of historical context to such an integral part of the university’s infrastructure. Though I was already aware of some of these facts, there were others of which I wasn’t aware.

    A minor nitpick: some more links to the information you alluded to would be useful.

  2. iamoore says:

    I found this post fascinating. I often think the PRT gets a bad reputation, however I lived on the Evansdale Campus for two years and had to rely on the PRT multiple times a day, and it usually served me very well. The amount of research you put into this post made it fun to read and the numbered list made it engaging for the audience. Good work and I learned a lot from this post.

  3. ryanglaspell says:

    Tim are you trying to make the PRT interesting and endearing? Well, it’s kind of working. I’ll still rag on the PRT, it comes with being a student. But I didn’t know many of these facts and it’s pretty cool. I was unaware of there being a PRT schedule on hand like that. Also, the link to TripAdvisor was a great touch. Seeing the headline “PRT–must do if in area” makes me laugh. I got a history lesson, helpful tips, a laugh, all the while feeling manly.

  4. cricha18 says:

    As someone who has been on the PRT numerous times it is really great to see facts that I didm’t previously know about the PRT. Even though many WVU students have had the fair share of headaches associated with that thing it still is a remarkable form of transportation.

  5. Awesome post. I thought the title was great to draw readers in, and the content was laid out very simple and clean. I thought your voice was also humorous, yet informative which is always good. I certainly did learn more about the PRT than I ever knew, and I’m honestly glad I did? I’m about to graduate, so getting a brief history lesson before I leave makes me feel a little nostalgic already. Thanks for the read!

  6. This is an awesome post. A slightly long title, but it works and draws the readers in. I didn’t know most of those facts, especially the 98% number! I don’t use the PRT much, when I need to it’s extremely efficient. It takes me across campus with no stops or traffic lights. It’s something the bus can’t do, making the PRT extremely useful.

  7. This is a cool post because it gets the attention of plenty of the students and staff here at WVU of course, but I think these are facts that anyone from or around Morgantown would be interested in knowing. Knowledge is power and knowing 6 facts about the PRT helps inform the people in and around Morgantown on some cool history! The PRT isn’t just part of the school, people who don’t attend WVU are able to use it and do use it, so this post applies to many people as well.

  8. dkrotz says:

    Awesome post! Some of that information I knew, but I didn’t have any idea it was connected with the Nixon administration! The thing I like most about the PRT is that it isn’t limited to people who go to school at WVU. Sure, the majority of the stops along the track are WVU-related locations, but at least once a week I see a non-student riding the PRT and have on several occasions seen people taking the PRT to get groceries. When I’ve had friends come to visit Morgantown, the PRT is the one thing they always are eager to try. They normally freak out when it moves the first time and ask, “Who is driving this thing?,” but it always makes for good entertainment.

  9. acampb22 says:

    This is a really interesting post. We all complain about the PRT but really there are a lot of things about it we should appreciate. I especially found the history behind it’s creation interesting. Yes, the PRT can be a pain at times but we should be proud of it and appreciate the history behind it. Good for you for shedding positive light on the PRT for once.

  10. ryanfadus says:

    Didn’t realize there was so much more to the PRT. Lots of good information here and contains a lot that people don’t know about. It was interesting to read that Morgantown was the first place where these things were tested. Even though it is always good for a laugh to make fun of it, but there really is a lot of interesting information behind it.

  11. karleapack says:

    I’m actually in awe that I was so interested in this post about some chunk of metal that I usually can’t bare to even think of. The reliability percentage being so high was a big shock to me as well. I never knew any of this information and didn’t care until just now. You made it not seem so bad after all. Good job at changing my opinion!

  12. aaaaaargh says:

    Interesting facts, but we really need to see some sources – *I* trust you, but verification is always necessary. Also, check that hed: “Rapit”?

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