Innovation and Public Policy: The Case of Personal Rapid Transit

by Catherine G. Burke

Professor, School of Public Administration, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

This book is focused on the relationship between technological innovation and politics, with special reference to the case of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). In includes a useful framework for the analysis of this problem as well as a wide variety of results from interviews with the key figures involved with PRT activities during the 1970's in the USA and elsewhere in the world. It also includes some penetrating analytical work on the many public documents that together describe the efforts of many public officials to come to grips with the need for and concepts of a new mode of public transportation. It is sobering and "must" reading for anyone interested in trying to bring a new mode of transportation to life in the 1990's and beyond. And, it is remarkable how current it seems indicating how little things have changed since it was written in 1979 -- except that all of the urban transportation problems current then have gotten much worse.

The text is richly documented with references for anyone who would wish to dig more deeply into these exciting times. Especially interesting and still relevant are the case studies in four cities: Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul. The book was published by Lexington Books: D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, MA. in 1979. It contains 401 pages and can probably be obtained through interlibrary loan in most cases. The call number is HE 308 B87.

The book is now available on-line and can be downloaded for personal use at:  Or it can be purchased at   for $20.00, including shipping and handling. A potential customer can click on the "Order" button and enter the Access Code: Bur3135

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Table of Contents

Part I --Politics, Innovation and Transportation (94 pp)

Chapter 1 -- Introduction

--The Problem of Innovation

--Personal Rapid Transit

--Objective and Methods

Chapter 2 -- Politics, Technology and Innovation

--Political Subsystems

--Macropolitical Systems

--Domains - Consensus and Conflict

--The Power Setting

--Network Patterns and Relationships

--Environmental Conditions

--Organizational Politics

--The Urban Transportation Network

--People and Politics


--Technological Innovation

--Scope and Depth of Change


--Invention and Innovation

--Systems of Appraisal

--The Role of Government




Chapter 3 - The Rise and Fall of Public Transportation

--Historical Overview of the Public Transit Industry



Chapter 4 - Today's Problems and Alternatives

--Land Use


--Access and Mobility


--Energy Consumption

--Resource Consumption

--Quality of Life in Urban Area


--Freight Movement

--Institutional Problems

--Private Transportation

--Public Transportation


--The Transit Paradigm

Part II ---The Federal Experience (97 pp)

Chapter 5 -- History and Development of Personal Rapid Transit

--Early Ideas

--The HUD Studies


--Transpo '72

--Summary and Conclusions

Chapter 6 -- The Challenge of Personal Rapid Transit

--Alternative Systems

--PRT - Service and Technology

--Conceptualizing Change

--PRT and the Urban Transportation Problem

--The Paradigm Challenge


Chapter 7 -- Paradigm Challenge and the Political System


--New Technology Opportunities Program

--Automated Guideway Transit Technology

--Local Politics and Federal Programs

--Downtown People-Mover Project

--Implications for Theory

Part III --- A Tale of Four Cities (86 pp)

Chapter 8 -- Denver
Chapter 9 -- Minneapolis-St. Paul
Chapter 10 -- Las Vegas




Chapter 11 -- Los Angeles
Chapter 12 -- Local Politics and Federal Money

Part IV --- A Larger Perspective (55 pp)

Chapter 13 -- The International Experience

--England -- Cabtrack

--Japan -- CVS

--Germany -- Cabinentaxi

--France -- Aramis


Chapter 14 -- Technology Innovation and Public Policy

--The Hypothesis Restated

--Technology and the Struggle for Power

--Forces for the Status Quo


Notes; Glossary; Selected Bibliography; Index; About the Author

Catherine G. Burke is a Professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA. She can be reached via e-mail at

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Last modified: July 01, 2008