Introduction in English:
Sportaxi (PRT): Goal and plans
Our goal is to make cities friendlier to human beings and the environment – by promoting user-friendly technology in urban traffic, especially applied IT. We also want to increase Norwegian technical competence through the provision of a new industrial basis for Norway by getting into the PRT business:
Our solution is a variant of the 50-year-old concept cabtrack (sportaxi), known today as PRT, which stands for “Personal Rapid Transit.” In the Scandinavian countries / the Netherlands PRT is called (some variant of) "Sportaxi", a combination of “spor”, meaning trail, track (& footprint) as in the word spoor, and “taxi”, which is the shortened form of “taxicab”. Our team consists of qualified civil engineers, industrial designers, and business and national economists with up to 30 years experience in the field. Our technical solution may be combined with licensing.
So far, we have focused on urban transport. Nevertheless, our future efforts will be geared towards an integrated solution for transport with a minimum of transitions. Such a system would both be for persons and goods, as well as urban, regional, national and international. This would have to be done by establishing cross-urban and cross-national standards, first in the EU.
This will enable passengers and goods to travel more efficiently and with more comfort. The positive effects of such a system could easily be imagined in the densely populated and cross-national Euregio: Maastricht, Liege and Aachen etc.
Using, in a pragmatic way, instruments like automation and off-ground tracks (elevated/tunnels), costs may be cut considerably, regarding initial investments, maintenance, pollution, traffic accidents, as well as reducing the (social) barricade effects of modern transport corridors.
Why is PRT smart?
As repeatedly pointed out in the EU's White Papers on transportation: Transport is the driver of industry, trade, EU integration and way of life and and consists of a € 1000 billion market. Infrastructure is the foundation of society upon which all social activity is built, but modern cities are still irrationally organised: up to 40 % of the area of modern cities is occupied by transport, and this area functions to a large extent as a barrier to communication instead of integrating and facilitating it as it should.
Urban transit consists of transport corridors instead of the transport networks that modern business requires for efficient operation. Next, urban transit is to a large degree destructive: and traffic causes damage and pollution. Transport is expensive: 25 % of Norwegian GNP (gross national product) goes on transport (Sweden 20 %, USA 17 %), and close to 2/3 are due to labour related costs.
The solutions are: Automation, and thereby small vehicles and elevated tracks. The latter provide leaner dimensions, flexibility, user-friendliness, good economics etc. Then add the solution of stations on sidetracks, in order to secure non-stop full speed on the main track, and we thereby have the principles behind PRT (“sportaxi”).
PRT is, in short, small and automated electric vehicles, or “cars”, normally on elevated tracks – on poles 4-5 meters above the ground but may also be run as “dual-mode” on streets – automated or manually. PRT may transport both persons and light goods. PRT may be compared to a horizontal elevator and to pneumatic dispatch: It is well suited for a company’s internal transport between geographically scattered locations.
PRT provides flexible and user-friendly service for all - 24 hours a day - for children, elderly and disabled, and does not require a driver’s license. PRT can merge with and complement existing infrastructure, among other reasons because PRT-systems are not built like traditional infrastructure in corridors, but are networks densely covering an area (giving quick, easy access to stations). The combined effect gives many user-friendly advantages: minimal noise, maximum use of ground area, no barrier effects, no pollution, secure and reliable transport, large and flexible capacity, speed, cheap construction costs, cheap to use, and simple removal if necessary:
In short, sensible transport and jobs: A positive solution
PRT may complement traditional transit, supply existing public transport with more passengers and ease the pressure on existing road systems. PRT will therefore be an ally of both public transport and normal road traffic. Use of PRT will encourage a switch from private transport to the public system, as it will frequently offer a better alternative. Existing road traffic will be less congested and will operate more cheaply.
The basic idea of cabtrack is positive, and therefore diametrically opposed to the restrictive/negative actions that politicians today see as necessary solutions to urban traffic problems: inhibiting car traffic and thereby lowering the enjoyment of the users, while at the same time increasing their costs. These costs affect individuals, companies, and society generally. Cabtrack technology will instead INCREASE urban social efficiency and will be healthy for people and the environment as well.
If PRT is such a great idea, why is it not more common?
The reasons are mainly political : "The Catch 22 of Infrastructure" :
The industry only builds what is already being demanded by the public authorities, and the public authorities only demands what is already being built by the industry.
The idea of PRT took shape in the US during the '50s. Morgantown in West Virginia built a system in 1968. Germany and Japan built large test applications in the '70s. However, as technology was being sufficiently perfected for general installation, the trend in economic policy changed in the direction of "post-industrialism" and "neo-liberalism". Therefore, after approximately 1980, public agencies avoided large investments, especially in ”unknown” terrain, and private entrepreneurs alone have built automated transport.
At the end of the '90s a climate change has resulted in larger public interest and further constructions, e.g. in Copenhagen-Oerestad, France, USA, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, China, etc. The time has again arrived for the most user-friendly type of automated people mover, PRT. Nevertheless, even though private interests may well build PRT in many cases, construction of public infrastructure is still subject to public approval.
Unfortunately, it is difficult for public agencies to accept new technical solutions. First, because public agencies include few entrepreneurs, i.e. people who are innovative and willing to stick their necks out for new technologies that seem risky. Better then to lay low and stick to the old technology. Second, because public subsidies to traditional transport industry is being used to lobby for these old technologies, since industry also is risk averse: Better then to lay low and stick to the old technology. By force of socio-economic logic, PRT and other innovative technologies do have have the sufficient vested interests behind them to efficiently challenge established interests. The result of the established vested interests is old solutions to new problems.
Aesthetics is another reason: PRT is not invisible and this is the price we have to pay for all the advantages of PRT. Nevertheless, although early PRT solutions were less than beautiful, they may be made elegant and beautiful.
Fornebu and ”The Business Belt – Meeting Place Smart Oslo”
Norsk Sportaxi has developed a proposal for a PRT system for the suburb and peninsula Fornebu, close to downtown Oslo. Fornebu is the recently abandoned airport of Oslo that is the building site for the national IT- related centre for competence and business activity. Investments are officially estimated to be in the range of ten times the size of the 1994 Olympic Winter Games at Lillehammer, Norway. Here is information in English on the project.
It is easier to build new infrastructure if you can arrange conditions from the start. This we may do at Fornebu. The opportunity exists for a spacious new suburb for Oslo, providing room for both people and open green space, with an effective and acceptable traffic network. Therefore, we have developed a proposal for a PRT system for Fornebu. Our plans incorporate technical solutions, network layout, project economy, social economy.
More specifically this includes: 23 km guidelines, 42 stations and 450 vehicles to a cost (for materials) of some € 150 millions, of which one third is R&D costs. The Mayor of the Bærum municipality (most populated and richest suburb of Oslo), Odd Reinsfelt, unveiled our model for the press on June 9th, 1999. Some press coverage in the Aftenposten (Norway’s largest serious daily) may be found under "news" and here : http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/d85160.htm and here: http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/d85158.htm See also: "Wants PRT evaluated" (says the Mayor of Baerum and IT-Fornebu ): http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/d142962.htm and http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/d142973.htm
In order to gain sympathetic understanding for the use of a first PRT system e.g. at Fornebu, positive effects have to be shown for travellers, other types of transport and the region. We started - in late 1999 – the working schedule to show how the relatively small Fornebu project could start a renewal of the transport system in the Oslo region and relieve an already overloaded Ringway system, under the title ”The Business Belt – Meeting Place Smart Oslo”
In Oslo, it would be most rewarding to start a PRT development through the belt of ”business pockets” along Ringway 2 & 3. This ”business belt” may, in co-operation with existing infrastructure, integrate, develop and connect pockets of existing business activity (Lysaker, Skøyen, Gaustad-Ullevål, Nydalen, Økern) – as well as future large development areas like Fornebu, Lodalen and Bjørvika. From Bjørvika it is a short distance to Skøyen, and we may thereby encircle the whole city by a PRT network through relatively simple and inexpensive measures.
Light elevated tracks may easily be erected over physical hindrances like highways, traffic hubs, rivers etc. As a rough measure, 140 km track will cost € 125 millions (for materials) for the whole project. This would involve good area coverage in the ”business pockets” – based on a cost of € 0,9 mill per km track, including stations. Starting with this ”business belt” the net may, as desired, expand both inwards towards the centre of Oslo and outwards towards the periphery. ”The Business Belt – Meeting Place Smart Oslo” was first presented to the public Oct. 16th '99 at the conference Oslo@2020, arranged jointly by Oslo City Forum and The Polytechnic Association; “Bolig og Byplanforeningen” i Oslo. Other public presentations are underway.
Economics, technology – and industrial policy
Infrastructure is the foundation of society, upon which all economic activity is built. Infrastructure is, like education and innovation, a public good. Economically this means: Concentrated costs for the investor and widely disbursed advantages for society at large. A private developer would be left with all the costs of the investment, but would still not receive all of the benefits - generally only ticket income. From the point of society, a purely businesslike calculation would lead to systematic under-investment in innovation and in infrastructure: "A structural sub-optimal investment-level". Only the most obvious profitable projects would be developed. Public institutions have a duty to consider wider socio-economic relations, like the positive effects of new infrastructure for the region and the whole nation. During the last two decades of the 20th Century, the liberalisers of economic policy unfortunately forgot this very explicit message of Adam Smith ("Wealth of Nations", Book 5, Ch.1, Part 3).
The PRT-projects we propose will not only be profitable from a national point of view, they will also be profitable from a commercial private business point of view, i.e. self-financing. Therefore there will be NO subsidies to this kind of urban transportation. User-friendliness will secure passengers and good income. Cost will be kept down with this technical solution. It is based on conservative simplicity - in order to maximise reliability and minimise costs. This entails surveyable investments: Few elements and standard technology, with prefabricated elements consisting of e.g. concrete modules for stations, steel modules for tracks, vehicles with aluminium chassis and plastic body, rubber wheels and electric linear or rotation motors. Our industrial designers / civil engineers produced their first commercial electric cars in 1971 (For SAS & NSB), created a detailed computer based lay-out of a cabtrack-PRT system for Oslo in 1972 and have, since then, gained considerable experience in mechanical design, closely related to guideline construction for PRT..
On our homepage, you may find our articles (in Norwegian only, sorry to say), calculations, pictures, illustrations and maps regarding PRT and the development of the Fornebu area and gradually more on Oslo. You may also find links to Norwegian and foreign sites related to PRT, traffic, urban environment, Fornebu and Oslo.
Do contact us