Brief History of the Advanced Group Rapid Transit (AGRT ) Program

This is an excerpt from a larger study conducted by the Office of Technology Assessment in 1979-80. Additional information is available on-line

The AGRT program was conceived in the wake of TRANSPO '72 Exposition, a Department of Transportation (DOT) sponsored transportation exhibition held at Dulles Airport. The Expo was a showcase for new transportation technologies and four AGT concepts were displayed under  sponsorship by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now called the Federal Transit Administration). The AGRT program, as announced in February 1974, was to consist of two phases—a 7-month preliminary design phase followed by a 36- to 40-month prototype development phase. The entire project was scheduled to be completed in 1978. Three contractors, Boeing, Otis, and Rohr were selected during the Phase I competition to prepare preliminary designs. Proposals for Phase II work were submitted in September 1975 following completion of the preliminary designs. The table below lists the technologies that each of the contractors proposed to meet the system specifications.

Contractor Suspension Propulsion Guideway Command & Control Switching
Boeing Wheeled, rubber  tires d.c. electric motors 8' wide, bottom-supported, U channel Moving block, collision avoidance radar High speed, on-vehicle
Otis Air levitation Linear induction motors 8' wide, bottom-supported,  channel guideway Moving block High speed, on-vehicle
Boeing (formerly Rohr) Magnetic levitation Linear induction motors 4' wide, top-supported monorail beam Moving block High speed, on-vehicle

At this juncture, the program underwent the first of several major modifications. Responding to recommendations contained in the FY 1976 DOT Appropriations Conference Report, UMTA restructured the program. Instead of selecting one of the three contractors to proceed with a test track development, a decision was made to split Phase II into two parts, thus extending the completion date to the first part of 1981. All three contractors were invited to continue design refinements and laboratory testing of key components during an 18-month Phase 11A.

This work got underway in June 1976. As a part of Phase IIB, a single design was to be chosen for full-scale prototype testing at the DOT test center near Pueblo, Colo. During the fall of 1977, as Phase IIA was nearing completion, a task force was formed within DOT's Office of the Secretary, once again to review the AGRT program and to chart a course of further activity. The DOT review led to the following recommended program redirection:
  • maintain competition by funding both the Otis air-cushion and Boeing wheeled-vehicle technologies in Phase IIB;
  • continue technology development on the Romag magnetic levitation system but at a lower level than the other two systems;
  • fund Boeing and Otis to conduct a facility commonality study with the aim of achieving a common test track at Pueblo;
  • continue study and development of operating vehicles in trains; and
  • conduct a departmental review of proposals for construction of the test facility at Pueblo following the detailed design activity period.

As a result of these recommended changes and adjustments for inflation, the total cost of the AGRT program increased from $43.5 million to $110.9 million.  The program then took another turn, when in early 1979 UMTA scaled down the scope of Phase IIB work. Instead of testing prototypes of the Boeing wheeled-vehicle and Otis air-cushion system at the DOT test facility near Pueblo, Colo., the test was now to be carried out at each of the contractor's plants, using engineering vehicles. Program costs through Phase IIB now totaled approximately $73 million.

Following completion of the Phase IIA contract, Rohr decided to abandon work on urban transit systems and on February 3, 1978, signed a licensing agreement with Boeing for rights to the Romag technology. Numerous Phase IIB proposals were being submitted by the two remaining contractors in response to changing UMTA requirements, but contracts were not signed until June 1979. A lapse of 18 months occurred between the time Phase IIA work was completed and Phase IIB contracts were signed. These frequent alterations in the program, coupled with the lack of continuity in funding, led the contractors to question the depth of UMTA commitment to advanced systems development. (This assessment was correct as the program was terminated shortly thereafter).

home2.gif (1492 bytes)

Revised: October 08, 2004