Is Personal Rapid Transit or podcars a solution to Charleston’s traffic?

Is Personal Rapid Transit or podcars a solution to Charleston’s traffic?
July 13 18:18 2017 Print This Article

The West Ashley Revitalization Commission (WARC) convened Wednesday to discuss transportation. With 50 people moving to Charleston a day, traffic congestion has become a serious problem in West Ashley. The Berkley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG) presented a slide show on plans for a Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) from downtown Summerville to Charleston. The busses will travel 23.1 miles down Highways 78 and 52 on the median. The project doesn’t touch West Ashley. The agency reported that light rail is five times more costly with operational costs about four times greater. The earliest this project would be completed is 2025. It is projected to bring in 4000 new mass transit riders per day.

Then the Dover Kohl Consulting Firm hired by Charleston City Council presented a transportation overview for West Ashley. West Ashley’s population is estimated at 72,000. 84% of residents work outside of the area. The three major West Ashley road projects funded by the 0.5% transportation sales tax approved in 2016 are upgrading the intersection of Highway 17 and Main Road, widening Glen McConnell Parkway, and improving numerous Savannah Highway intersections.

The WARC commissioners each offered their comments on West Ashley transportation needs. Morris Ellison, a Charleston lawyer, wanted the commission to consider Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) and Mobi, an Israeli based software company.

Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)
PRT was developed in the 1970s by Boeing Vertol. PRT has small podcars running on special off-road tracks that hold from three to six people. Riders board the podcars on a platform and choose their destination. PRT has never been used in a large population area. The only system in the United States is in Morgantown, West Virginia and serves the University of West Virginia. It has been operating since 1975.

Mobi is an Israeli based software company. The goal stated on is to “significantly improve the mobility management of people and goods.” Mobi’s software collects data on traffic patterns, analyzes the data, and is able to predict traffic. Thus, Mobi can alleviate congestion and reduce daily commute times. Commuters can log in and receive real-time traffic information along their route.

Traffic congestion was listed as the most pressing issue during four planning sessions held in different parts of West Ashley. In addition to improving roads and offering new transportation choices, WARC Commissioners stressed that more job opportunities for West Ashley residents will shorten commute times. Encouraging employers to allow telecommuting is another way to relieve traffic congestion. The next WARC meet is Wednesday, August 9 at 5:00 pm at The Schoolhouse at 720 Magnolia Road.