The following documents describe the first step in the acceptance process for the first-ever Major Investment Study (MIS) that has been done for an application of a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) technology anywhere in the world. This material was presented to the Transportation Policy Board of the Puget Sound Regional Council on January 8, 1998. These materials provide a brief history of the study and an analysis of the findings and conclusions.

ACTION ITEM December 29, 1997

To: Transportation Policy Board, Puget Sound Regional Council

From: King Cushman, Director, Transportation Planning Department

Subject: Completion of SeaTac Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) Major Investment Study


In 1993, the Regional Council provided ISTEA funding for the City of SeaTac to undertake an analysis of alternatives to meet its local circulation requirements. This included an assessment of the feasibility of developing and operating a personal rapid transit (PRT) system to link the airport with major hotel complexes and commercial activity areas. This planning study was also designed to meet federal major investment study (MIS) requirements. The City of SeaTac has completed and submitted its Personal Rapid Transit Feasibility Project MIS (June 1997) for review and endorsement (see Attachment A, letter from City of SeaTac). The Regional Council must find that programs/projects subject to a Major Investment Study (MIS) meet Federal MIS requirements (CFR 450.318) prior to the program/project being fully eligible in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP). Attachment B provides a staff assessment of how the MIS study complied with Major Investment Study requirements and is consistent with the adopted MTP.


Based on the City of SeaTac's documentation of completion of the MIS process requirements, the Transportation Policy Board should recommend an Executive Board finding that the MIS process employed by the City of SeaTac satisfies the level of effort and range of documentation required by federal regulations for MIS content and procedures, thereby making it eligible to proceed for further more specific environmental analysis and testing of "the marketplace" for potential public-private collaboration on implementation.


MIS documentation submitted by the City of SeaTac has been analyzed by Regional Council staff with respect to the federal guidelines for preparation of an MIS. Each of the following areas required to be addressed in the MIS process was adequately completed and documented by the City of SeaTac:

- Description of Corridor-level or Subarea Level Problems and Scoping Results;

- Collaboration with Affected Stakeholders;

- Multimodal Analysis and Rationale for Selecting the Preferred Alternative;

- Broad Range of Decision Criteria Appropriately Applied;

- Reasonable Public Involvement; and

- Specific Outcomes that Affect the MTP.

For more information, please call Peter Beaulieu, (206) 464-7537.


A. Letter from City of SeaTac (not included here)

B. Finding of Satisfactory Completion of Federal MIS Requirements by the City of SeaTac .

Attachment B:

Finding of Satisfactory Completion of

Federal MIS Requirements by the

City of SeaTac (lead agency)

for Compliance with CFR 450.318

Based upon Analysis of

"Personal Rapid Transit Feasibility Project

Major Investment Study"

June 1997

For review by the Transportation Policy Board

January 8, 1998

For Final Approval by the Executive Board of the

Puget Sound Regional Council

January 22, 1998


The City of SeaTac's preferred alternative for elevated Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) provides a new system of personal mobility within SeaTac's emerging urban activity center. This alternative travel mode provides a high degree of service and is not affected by worsening ground-level congestion. The Major Investment Study (MIS) builds on an earlier multimodal analysis and, therefore, is scoped largely as a PRT feasibility assessment. The proposed PRT system -- Alternative C - (see Exhibits 1 & 2 for conceptual layout at end of Finding - not included here) provides a preliminary layout with 12.1 miles of elevated guideways serving 21 stations between South 200th Street and South 170th Street and aligned generally with International Boulevard.

A major finding of the MIS is that transportation problems in the area do not justify the full estimated cost for PRT as a totally private system. However, in addition to a possible physical system, the preferred alternative also includes and depends upon a public-private partnership, and recommends a specific implementation approach. A key checkpoint for implementation is whether a competitively selected private vendor concludes that the project, funded only in part by public partners, merits private sector financial risk. (This judgment will be based, in part, on how successful the innovative PRT technology being developed for testing in another metropolitan region actually turns out).


1. What are the MIS problems and scoping statement results?

The MIS addresses both innovative mobility and unique implementation issues. First, the current mobility problems within the SeaTac high density area are: surface congestion on International Boulevard, the Airport's limited curb access roadways, the number of low-occupancy shuttle trips, unpredictable ground travel times, and traffic diversion onto International Boulevard from Interstate-5. Future needs of the airport and of the intended SeaTac urban center add to these current mobility concerns. Within this context, future PRT markets are: airport work trips (3 percent), airport passenger trips (31 percent), non-airport related trips (20 percent), and regional transit trips (45 percent).

Second, because of the high startup costs involved in PRT as a new technology, the MIS also focused on innovative financing methods. Thus, the recommended action is a PRT alignment combined with a selected public-private implementation strategy. This PRT alternative also is offered as a technical and implementation demonstration project with possible application in other activity centers within and outside of the region.

2. Did the lead agency collaborate with other affected stakeholders?

The project steering committee included SeaTac staff: Planning Commission and Council members; staff from the Port of Seattle; the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT); the Regional Council; King County; and private interests.

Interagency and public-private negotiations are identified as major and continuing efforts that will build directly on the completed feasibility assessment (the MIS). This future work will entail considerable coordination among:

• affected operating agencies (e.g.,$117,000 in remaining project funds were reprogrammed in September for system integration analyses relating to the Regional Transit Authority's [RTA] three light rail transit stations designated for the SeaTac area);

• private stakeholders (the future franchisee private beneficiaries); and

• between the public sector and the franchisee (e.g., respective cost shares).

The focus on innovative financing opportunities and strategies, added during the MIS process, was a direct response to the concerns of potential stakeholder agencies (the RTA, the Port of Seattle, the Office of Urban Mobility, and the Regional Council).

The most suitable implementation method analyzed in the MIS is the "partnership franchise" method. This was recommended over several other franchise methods: conventional, limited turnkey, turnkey, super turnkey, four-phase turnkey, build/operate/transfer, and full franchise. (These methods are compared in one of nine MIS Appendices.) Franchisee responsibilities and public sector responsibilities are identified in the MIS for use in subsequent steps to solicit, screen, select, and work in partnership with a franchisee. Under the partnership franchise, a private franchisee is responsible for a large share of the finances and would help decide the final project scope, layout, and design.

3. Is the analysis multimodal, and why was the preferred alternative selected over the other alternatives?

The analysis adds to earlier work to determine if a people-mover system might be worthwhile within a limited area of the City of SeaTac and Sea-Tac International Airport. The SeaTac People Mover Study (February 1992) evaluated bus (airport high occupancy vehicle [HOV] access), light rail transit, group rapid transit (GRT), and personal rapid transit (PRT). It concluded that these four components would likely be staged as the area grows and as system technologies continue to advance. (Light rail transit was regionally approved by voters in November 1996 as part of the RTA Ten Year Plan.)

The current MIS contributes to this multimodal solution by focusing on the potential PRT element. Combined with this broader previous work, the focused range of PRT alternatives satisfies the MIS requirement. As required by federal guidelines, the MIS directly considers the no-action alternative and transportation demand management/system management (TDM/TSM) options. Many TDM/TSM actions are already committed or completed, such as a HOV lane on a widened International Boulevard. Already committed (TDM/TSM) actions broaden what is included in the required "no-action" alternative (presented as a "baseline" alternative). As a new TDM option in the MIS, private shuttle service is grouped geographically to more efficiently serve major shuttle markets that could otherwise be served by the proposed PRT. These markets link the hotels, car rental agencies, and park-and-fly lot businesses to the airport. Public shuttle service between Sea-Tac Airport and Bellevue is a TDM measure that now is being tested by the Port, Metro, and the City of Bellevue.

For the two examined PRT alternatives, Alternative A offers a more extensive alignment than does the cost-effective and preferred Alternative C described above. The PRT recommendation is based on superior service for system users, lower total and unit costs compared to the more extensive Alternative A, and the assumed results of franchisee arrangements yet to be achieved as a condition of any project development. A successful franchisee package will depend in large part on agreements between a franchisee and existing and future courtesy van operators and other benefitting public/private properties within the study area.

From a multimodal perspective, the PRT system can be an important part of the potential nexus (immediately east of the Sea-Tac Airport parking garage) among several converging travel modes. These modes are: regional light rail (RTA); bus (King County Metro); pedestrian movements on International Boulevard; and an east-west moving walkway connecting these elements to each other and to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Port of Seattle).

4. For the needed decision, was a broad range of decision criteria appropriately applied?

The PRT evaluation criteria are reported in the MIS Executive Summary and include several measures each for service and mobility, environmental impacts, and economic feasibility. Additional measures were used during the study (such as measures of total ground congestion and of ambient air quality), but the benefits under each alternative were either so minor or so uniform that the criteria did not distinguish between the PRT and other alternatives. The findings under all criteria are reported in the MIS Appendix.

Because economic feasibility is such a decisive factor in implementing PRT, the scale of the preferred alternative was reduced, and the MIS scope was broadened. The broadened scope examines public-private funding options in detail and then recommends a franchise arrangement. The scaled-back and preferred system alternative, PRT Alternative C, generally follows International Boulevard from the north at South 170th Street and to the south at South 200th Street. The alignment circulates into the airport terminal building and south between 24th and 28th Avenues South as well as east of International Boulevard along 32nd Avenue South. This alignment no longer extends north to the Sea-Tac Airport employee parking lot, but could represent a "first phase" of a more extended system.

In the second response to the economic feasibility criterion, the preferred alternative now includes a franchisee proposal. It was found that despite the high capital cost ($300-450 million) and annual operating cost ($7.5-$10 million) for PRT, the resulting average cost per passenger ($2.42 to $4.53) remains within the range expended by the private shuttle operators (and recovered indirectly as part of hotel room charges). With this comparison in mind, the MIS scope was expanded to directly address innovative financing, and calls for significant private financing by a competitively selected franchisee as a condition for project implementation.

5. Was the public reasonably involved at important decision points?

During the MIS feasibility assessment, public involvement efforts included stakeholder interviews, scoping meetings, a meeting with courtesy van operators who were identified as key stakeholders, a meeting with area businesses, an open house near completion of the project, articles published in the local media, and public city council action to accept the MIS. The MIS is a Type I MIS effort, meaning that it does not include an environmental impact statement (EIS), but does include sufficient environmental information to support the MIS decision on PRT feasibility.

The alternatives to be carried forward into EIS review of a possible franchisee proposal -- and involving additional public review -- include the no-build alternative and a PRT alignment.

Given the unusual nature of the project and technology, strong public support will be important, more so than for more conventional transit procurement projects. The adopted SeaTac Comprehensive Plan, with its own earlier public review process, includes policies supporting a PRT element (Policies 3.4C, 3.4D). Further, the selected PRT financing method, an integral part of the preferred alternative, removes most of the financial burden from the public sector.

6. What are the specific outcomes that affect the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) or the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)?

Generally, projects in the MTP can be reclassified from candidate (C) to approved (A) with completion of: an MIS (if needed); local reviews and approval (including environmental review); regional air quality review; regional policy consistency; and sponsor identification of funding sources. The MIS effort responds to these points.

First, while local PRT at the City of SeaTac is not specifically listed in the MTP, PRT is consistent with the MTP's regional policies for activity centers and for multimodal transportation solutions which reduce automobile dependency. Regional air quality review of a more finished project design can be considered, when needed, as part of the Regional Council's annual TIP amendment process.

Second, the completed MIS identifies innovative public-private partnership options for financing. Only if a franchisee approach is successful can the project realistically proceed. Parallel to its franchisee search and negotiations, the City will also continue to seek public share funding from the TIP as well as other sources (federal demonstration grant, the state, the RTA's innovative technology budget, and the Port of Seattle). With these public sector efforts and a private franchisee commitment in place, the PRT project can satisfy the legal requirement at the regional level for a financially balanced MTP.

And, third, the project sponsor, the City of SeaTac, accepted the MIS document at its regular Council meeting of July 22, 1997. Full local acceptance depends upon further project review, interagency negotiations, development of an environmental documents, and a potential franchisee agreement.

Future project-level preliminary engineering and EIS work is now eligible to compete for TIP support. It is understood that under the specifically recommended franchisee model, final project scope and layout responsibilities including preliminary engineering, may be shared with a prospective private sector franchisee.


Last modified: January 16, 1998