Pod Cars of the Past and Future: The Morgantown PRT
Pod Cars of the Past and Future: The Morgantown PRT


This is one of the Personal Rapid Transit
pods at London’s Heathrow Airport. It’ll take you from one of the car parks to
Terminal 5, and from Terminal 5 to one of the car parks. And that’s about it. When it was installed in 2011, oh, this was going to be the future of transport. But it hasn’t really worked out that way. And more than that: they got beaten to the punch by 35 years. Because in 1975, West Virginia University
opened this: their own Personal Rapid Transit system. The pods here in the city of Morgantown might
not be quite as sleek and rounded… but there’s 70 of them, they carry more people, and they go to five stations along an eight-mile
track. This really is personal transit: you push
a button, and a car arrives to take you where you want
to go, non-stop. At peak times, there’ll be a car along every
few minutes for each separate destination. PRT never shuts down. We have run 40 years without any major incident. 10 inches of snow and we’ll be fine. That’s because we had a heated track here. Kids don’t like it because we keep the school
open! There are no variables; if I’m going from
point A to point B, if it’s eight minutes, it is eight minutes. Back in the 1970s, the only option for getting
students between all the separate university campuses
here was a fleet of buses. But Morgantown is a city with steep hills
and narrow roads, so the result was gridlock. And at the time, American politicians were actually having
a bit of a craze for systems like this. Richard Nixon announced that there was development
money available, and West Virginia senator Robert Byrd, who was famous in part for just how much money
he managed to bring back to his own state, he managed to get Morgantown selected as the
testing site. The Boeing Company, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, were involved with getting the system to work. The system, right now, can carry well over
4000 passengers an hour. Every vehicle, when it departs station, has
a route. Every time an assigned vehicle moves over
a presence detector, that location is monitored by the station
electronics which then conveys that message back to the
central control room, and then that message is depicted by the mimic
board in central control. And each one of those blinking lights represents
a presence detector, but it also represents
five seconds of travel time. In the train world, all the switching is done
on the track. So the track physically moves to orient a vehicle down a different pathway
on a different rail line. In our system, the vehicle switches on board. The result of all that 1970s engineering… well, it was massively over-budget and a little
rough around the edges to start, but that happens with prototypes. The important part was: it worked. And it worked well enough to be expanded and
kept updated into the 21st century. Well, one of the problems we are having today is with obsolescence of parts for the vehicle, as well for the electronics for the system. And back in the 70s, the Minuteman missile
system was the basis for the design of the electronics
for the system. And there’s a company called Thales, and they are here on site now upgrading the
electronics and the software for the system. The old system uses a little bit different
technology to run cars up and down the guideway. The cars do not know where they’re located
out on the guideway. In the new system, the Thales system, they
will know where they’re at. So that’s a big help when you’re trying
to ask a car where it’s at! The technical manual for the system is online
on WVU’s web site, and it is 1970s engineering genius. Just like the pods at Heathrow decades later, this was going to be the future of travel. So why wasn’t it? Why aren’t systems like this everywhere? Well, in most cases you can do almost everything
that this can with regular light rail with less upfront cost and less political
risk. Sure, the PRT is a bit faster and a bit more efficient, and it’s a bit more pleasant to ride, because every journey is non-stop — but the rest of the world went with cheaper, simpler systems… just with much less charm. It’s the spine of our transportation network. It is also an icon for this institution. We do have some challenges, but we have an excellent crew, a dedicated,
passionate crew that just finds a way to make the system work
and keep going. It’s that little engine that could. Thank you to everyone at the Morgantown PRT
and West Virginia University. Pull down the description for more links about
them, and about the college!

49 thoughts on “Pod Cars of the Past and Future: The Morgantown PRT”

  1. Ethan Cooper says:

    They are like the peoplemovers at disney

  2. norgepab says:

    Prt has a lower cost per mile than light rail…

  3. iDhagu ! says:

    Almost heaven…

  4. JoyTheGeek says:

    Transit poooooods
    Take me hooooome
    To the plaaaaace
    I be-looooooong
    West Virginiaaaaaa

  5. Mike Presents says:

    I was ridding on that in 1986 when the electric cut out and left us stranded up in the air (like at 3:55 ). We were just about ready to pry the door open and jump down onto someones roof when the power came back on.

  6. Cody Nemo says:

    West Virginia
    Country rooooooaaaadddss….

  7. Planespotting Nürnberg says:

    This combines the benefits of public and individual traffic: You don't need to drive yourself, you're not stuck in traffic but also you have your own space.

  8. Sphinx Rising says:

    Fort Worth International Airport had them in 76.

  9. slashing mars81 says:

    Almost heaven, west Virginia, blue ridge mountains, pod cars?

  10. Caucasian Invasion says:

    That spokes person is lying, I have a few friends in that school and it breaks down weekly

  11. William Dorward says:

    So it’s a tram

  12. Dave K says:

    Everytime I have to be somewhere is when the PRT conveniently shuts down

  13. MaKeyev says:

    “Welcome to the Black Mesa Research Facility”

  14. Nick Lough says:

    I'm a little late, but the PRT is currently being updated at WVU. I cant be believe I haven't seen this video sooner!

  15. PTNLemay says:

    Kind of looks like the hyperloop. But… much slower, and on the surface.

  16. Ng John says:

    The UK pods go on the left
    The US pods go on the right.

    That is the opposite of the cars trains etc

  17. Amtrak Acela Productions says:

    when you realize the pods from morgantown in fallout 76 are based on these

  18. delta_effect says:

    country… trains!? west virginia??

  19. Abhijeet Kumar Thakur says:

    So much for mass transit and energy efficiency. It is actually one the worst model of transport.

  20. PerplexZ says:

    So y'all found the minecart

  21. fullsunQ says:

    I’ve lived in West Virginia my entire life and had absolutely no idea this existed!

  22. Mihai Jr. Corocaescu says:

    Did the roads take you home?

  23. Novar Lynx says:

    Good morning and welcome to the black mesa transit system. This automated train is provided for the security and convenience of black mesa personnel

  24. Skoper says:

    these transitions are just wow

  25. Liamolucko says:

    ♪Transport pods♪
    ♪Take me home♪
    ♪To the place♪
    ♪I belong♪
    ♪West Virginia University♪
    ♪Mountain Mama♪
    ♪Transport pods♪
    ♪Take me home♪

  26. Tom Scott says:

    This video has an error: an interviewee from the university said that the “PRT never shuts down”. That's not true: it's had some reliability problems, and it's closed on University holidays and semester breaks. That line shouldn't have made the edit. Sources for this are in the description or on the full corrections page: https://www.tomscott.com/corrections/

  27. GhostHostMemories says:

    I grew up about an hour away from the school. My sister got her degree there, and my dad helped design some buildings there. Also I worked on the PRT through Thales. I helped design some of the control panels used in the project.

  28. CrackShot47 says:

    Yep… used to take this hunk of junk to class everyday 😂😂🤣

  29. linda loyan says:

    The PRT was fun for all of us in the 70,s

  30. TerribleTonyShow says:

    They gotta visit japan to save electricity

  31. Max Salmons says:

    I go to the university, and it breaks down all the time. The technology is very outdated.

  32. Mr Corndog says:

    I hate public transport

  33. John Wang says:

    The reason why it didn't take off was resistance in the transit and LRT communities not cost. Case in point, rail lobbyists successfully argued that the Raytheon 2000 system must use proven components hence the track, wheels and bogey were those designed to support 20 ton LRT cars even though the PRT cars would only be 2,000 pounds. An LRT line starts at 20 million US a mile and us more typically 100 million per mile and though projects such as Heathrow's Ultra have been 16 million a mile, estimates are that PRT could be as inexpensive as 2 million a mile if the traditional transit groups would allow them. PRT wasn't beaten by cheaper better solutions but by a conservatism towards existing systems rather than try systems with few to no implementations.

  34. Captain Keyes says:

    How in the bloody hell did you end up finding out that old system let alone in West Virginia itself

  35. Andrew Alexander says:

    I wonder how much it's cost to keep 3.6 miles (5.8 km) of uninsulated concrete track (plus sidings at each station) heated above freezing all winter long for the past 44 winters? What's the carbon footprint on that?

  36. Sandric Bendiksen says:

    well i mean in bergen theres a thing called "Bybanen" or "the cityrail". Basically a subway but not underground.

  37. top man says:

    What was that guys accent

  38. Nonamearisto says:

    I've been on the Morgantown PRT many times. I'm from New York, but my grandparents lived just outside of Morgantown. They owned an Italian restaurant in Westover just outside of town. I don't suppose anyone else in the comments section has actually been to Morgantown?

  39. MakeMeThinkAgain says:

    I remember this from the time. Never imagined it was still running. Now if you could just get Elon Musk and the Boring Company interested in this idea.

  40. AbstracT says:

    they look like derpy little buses…

  41. Tenderizer17 says:

    This video reminded me of that video about the guy asleep at the wheel of his Tesla, and how it's frustrating that that's not legal.

  42. InuKun2008 says:

    UMW in Fredericksburg, Virginia was scheduled to receive a similar, more modern version 10 years ago, but the state legislature pulled the plug when the contractor hired to build the system, pointed out that the cost of building either tunnels or bridges across the Rappahanock river so as to link the Fredericksburg and Stafford campuses, would add way more to the initial estimate. Not to mention all the support columns which would require real estate acquisition through eminent domain.

  43. Benjamin Ramsey says:

    I love it, very cool stuff!

  44. M1A1 Abrams 3rd Generation MBT says:

    Dude just did /tp Tom_Scott Morgantown_PRT

  45. cursethesemetalhans says:

    Thales… they'll still be upgrading that system now…

  46. Mechanik Kolor says:

    You can visit Wrocław there is a cable car that conects two parts of university

  47. Rebel with a Cause says:

    Would love this running round the coast of Britain 👍🙏

  48. Jonathan Hynes says:

    Kinda cool to watch when I’m sitting in my dorm room at WVU now thinking if the PRT will be broken down tomorrow morning when I have to get to class

  49. Mary kai says:

    College party pods ? When they were set up in the 70s security cameras were not common.

  50. Cjmclaughlin1 says:

    It is interesting to note that this transportation system resembles the one found in the game Fallout 76 that just so happens to be set in Morgantown West Virginia…

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