The Future of Transit – PRT vs Maglev

The Baylink connector is important because it connects Miami’s vibrant downtown with our number one tourist attraction—South Beach. Baylink requires some elevated spans because it crosses the bay and was always conceived as an elevated system on rail. As a former Baylink Executive Committee member, I convened sunshine meetings in March to present Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) as an innovative solution for the Baylink. Mayor Gimenez referred to the PRT columns that support the guiderail as “glorified light poles” because PRT columns don’t occupy much space on the ground and can be placed in the middle of causeways, like the MacArthur.

PRT allows for personalized and autonomous train operation, with trains that are light-weight and fully electric. Commuters can board trains arriving at greater frequency and can determine the train’s destination, making a direct trip with no stops if desired. It is a viable solution especially given the inexpensive cost compared to Metrorail or Metromover which stand at $30 million per mile, compared to $100-250 million. With overwhelming support from all the principal policymakers, PRT was included in the scope of the study.

Another innovative solution we should consider is magnetic levitation (Maglev), which was recently proposed for the North Corridor at the recent Transportation Planning Organization meeting held on November 26th. The Maglev system uses magnets, one set to repel and push the train off the track, and another to move (“float”) the train forward. Very little energy is needed as there is no friction, resulting in less turbulence. Additionally, with no moving parts Maglev trains are much quieter resulting in a better rider experience than traditional trains. This type of energy-efficient transportation system is also safer. Since there is no driver, the trains cannot crash as they are all being powered to move at the same speed.

As for cost, it’s still being debated. The Shanghai Maglev at 20 miles cost about $60 million per mile. This is still cheaper than the Metrorail at $250 million. Additionally, there is an added benefit in that the operation and maintenance costs are minimal as the trains levitate above guideways, there is no wear and tear like conventional trains.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez

The funding mechanism would be similar to what was used for the Metromover extensions. That funding mechanism is a special taxing district that impacts almost solely commercial properties found on Watson Island, South Beach, Terminal Island and the Omni area. To address any financing gap, I continue to support charging differential amounts to tourists versus residents and commuting employees. Just like visitors and even residents can afford to pay Uber and Lyft rates when they don’t want to or don’t have an automobile, it is entirely feasible to charge $15 to $25 to cross the bay and enjoy South Beach attractions. In a reverse direction, the residents of the Beach are well able to connect to the museums and sports arena which are found in the Downtown Miami and the Omni areas.

Maglev trains are mass transit solutions with cars holding up to 100 people, compared to PRT, which holds 2-6 people but runs more frequently (every 4 seconds) and can be on-demand. In either case, both of these transit systems are flexible, futuristic, and inexpensive – and would allow us to finally implement the SMART Plan, thereby connecting people and communities.

 

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez can be reached at 305-669-4003 or via email at district7@miamidade.gov.

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14 Comments on "The Future of Transit – PRT vs Maglev"

  1. In practicality, there is no ‘vs’. Consider ‘Maglev PRT’ which presents an affordable and convenient transportation solution.

  2. How come this is an option and prices are “cheap”when it comes to connect SOUTHBEACH; but this was not possible NOR EVEN thought when we ask for a train connecting the south corridor?

  3. RB Lewis-Solar | December 10, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Reply

    Positive progress for better people moving

  4. Shailim Rodriguez | December 10, 2018 at 7:56 pm | Reply

    Why not use this innovative idea to find viable transit for the counties residents that live out west. It’s a nightmare trying to get east on a daily basis. Worry about the residents first and not those on vacation.

  5. This area desperately needs transit from MB to downtown Miami! The method that can carry more people is the preferred one. Will it , can it happen???

  6. Richard N. Friedman | December 11, 2018 at 1:08 am | Reply

    At $60 million a mile for the Maglev and an estimated six miles long, the capital cost would be $360 million. Without federal and state funds, the project is not feasible. Moreover, there is an elasticity to pricing in transportation. Not too many tourists will be gouged with a $15.00 to $25.00 fare. A better solution is to use the waterway with catamarans, which are in use in the Bay of Naples and elsewhere. That would be a tourist attraction and fun to take. Use the obvious assets that sets Miami apart from other places.

  7. An Uber or Lyft from downtown to South Beach costs less than $15 most of time, and I’ve never paid more than $30 even at the highest times. So ridesharing will be more cost-effective for any group of two or more, 100% of the time, and the obvious convenience of Uber will weigh out over a couple dollars saved for those traveling alone. No tourists will ride at those prices.

  8. JPods will build this network at no cost to the taxpayers.

  9. We should focus priorities on getting residents to work and school, not on getting tourists to the beach. Look at where the worst traffic congestions are happening now and implement transportation systems to reduce those loads.

  10. How about a light rail mode of mass transit with simple and plain stations … from the Port of Miami – Miami Arena/Freedom Tower/MDC – Museum Park – Arscht Center/School Board – Wynwood – Midtown Miami – Design District – Go across on the right shoulders of Julia Tuttle Causeway – Mt. Sinai Hospital – Arthur Godfrey Road/Pinetree – South on Pinetree to a loop with route one block west of Washington Ave – Stops at MB Convention Center, Lincoln Road, 5th Street, South Pointe Park, — North on Alton Road to 6 th street – West Avenue with stops at Flamingo Park (10 Street), Lincoln Road Mall, and Sunset Harbour.. north on Alton Road until back on shoulders on the Julia Tuttle to the mainland .. It hits all of our employment centers and tourist destinations

  11. I am the Founder/CEO of SkyCar Global PRT Pte Ltd and we have a Suspended PRT which is driven by electric Linear Motors point to point. Each pod-car will fly 1-4 people in our personal SkyCar Rapid Transit (SRT) at 45 mph straight to their destination 5 meters off the ground in a low cost, safe, secure urban transport system. Our system estimated cost is 5 times lower than LRT. At $10M/km we can complete with other modes of transport and provide a profitable system for all people, the able and the less able.

  12. Richard N. Friedman | December 23, 2018 at 2:28 am | Reply

    To help alleviate some of the congestion in South Dade, as I suggested almost 40 years ago to the then County Manager, that the busway at 104th Street and South Dixie Highway be made a toll road. That will add another lane of roadway, the revenues will help support the bus deficit, and the vehicles are not likely to interfere materially with the speed of the infrequent buses that use that roadway. In the A.M. it will run South to North during morning rush hours and North to South during the P.M. rush hours.

  13. Politicians with marginal knowledge of rail transit options ought refrain from writing ridiculous columns advancing proposals for technologies with which said politicians are totally unfamiliar. PRT or maglev? Both are preposterous ideas not worthy of discussion. What Miami and the Beaches need is a proven technology that seamlessly extends its current rail transit infrastructure. Metrorail and Metromover are sound, well integrated systems. Miami, Miami Beach, and Miami-Dade County need to fast track a process to select between the county’s two existing modes of rail travel. No off-shore junkets allowed. The choice is not between PRT and maglev; it is between Metrorail and Metromover.

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