Major Activity Center PRT Circulator System Intermodal Transfer Station Design and Visual Impact Study


Ron Kasprisin, with the assistance of Michael LaFond


In this paper, various aspects of the design of intermodal transfer stations and the visual impact of elevated guideways for a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) circulator system deployed at a typical Major Activity Center (MAC) are examined. The intent is to show how the design of rail/bus/PRT intermodal transfer stations can be accomplished that will facilitiate the movement of people between regular rail and bus routes and a local PRT circulator system. For our purposes, the local circulator system technology is assumed to be a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) technology like the TAXI 2000 , Korean Skycar or Raytheon's PRT 2000 system. This study provides eleven sketches to illustrate the concepts employed and to identify some of the visual impacts that could be expected to occur within and around a Major Activity Center.

Factors assumed as givens include: a Major Activity Center (MAC) anchored by a regional shopping center in close proximity to a regional transportation corridor; a Light Rail Transit (LRT) or other mass rapid transit (MRT) system located in close proximity to a regional transportation corridor; existing regional/local bus service; medium to high density office and residential developments in close proximity to the regional shopping center; a suburban type medium to low density distribution of uses dispersed by surface level parking lots approximating six to seven parking spaces per Gross Leasable Floor Area (GLA) for retail and 2.2 spaces per GLA of office development. Pedestrian sidewalks are generally provided but distances between major activity components exceed comfortable walking distances of 800 to 1,000 feet. An overview sketch (aerial perspective) of a typical MAC that is served by a PRT circulator system is provided.


The methodology used to assess the visual impact of the PRT system and to visualize the station accommodation of bus/local circulator systems is a graphic representation of selected scenarios using eye level and aerial oblique sketches and plan diagrams. The assessment of visual PRT facility impacts was in many cases combined with the station design visualizations.

Emphasis is placed on a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system as a local circulator within a Major Activity Center because of the flexibility of the system as a transportation corridor/facility introduced into an existing retail/office/residential auto-oriented center. As is demonstrated in the Scenario Assessments, the PRT facility can be accommodated within existing or previously proposed mass transit/bus intermodal transfer stations with little modification. It is also easily accommodated within regional shopping center and office complex developments, requiring little or no expansion to existing parking. Architectural modifications are required and can be compared to modifications of existing buildings to accommodate second level enclosed walkways in dense retail core areas.

Scenario Assessment: Shuttle Bus/Van Local Circulator Station

A shuttle bus/van local circulator system intercept with a regular bus route system is similar in characteristics to a timed-transfer bus facility. Development requirements include: 1) adequate space for bus bays, necessitating a sizable site not necessarily available in retail/office core areas; 2) proximity to major radial corridors; 3) proximity to business and commercial centers, within easy walking distance of major activity components; 4) linkage tope pedestrian ways; 5) site flexibility for future expansion; 6) minimize walking distances between buses for transportation riders; 7) integration with character of the MAC; 8) minimize adverse impacts on traffic circulation; 9) capital costs of construction; 10) capital costs of rights-of-way; and 11) opportunity for private sector participation through potential joint development.

Timed-transfer bus facilities, used as a model for shuttle bus/regular bus intercepts, functions at peak efficiency when available space is provided, when a part of a multiple use development area with immediate pedestrian connections, where pavement carrying capacities meet bus axial load requirements (not often existing within shopping mall properties), and where turning radii and internal roads are designed for bus vehicle specifications. A desirable location for such an intercept station would be a regional shopping center within the MAC or mass transit station in close proximity to a regional transportation corridor. Both present difficulties in accommodating bus-type local circulators for the following reasons: Shopping center pavement types and circulation roads are designed for automobiles and limited service vehicles, not buses; have numerous bus/vehicle conflicts and pedestrian/bus conflicts complicated by multiple stop indicators, prolonging the trip time.

Scenario Assessment: Mass Transit/PRT/Regular Bus Route Intermodal Transfer Station

Figure 1 is a plan view of a mass transit/bus intercept station with drop-off/pick-up and parking facilities. An elevated PRT on-line (through traffic) guideway and off-line (station-stop) guideway are depicted between the bus bay area and an elevated mass transit regional facility. The PRT combined guideway off/on-line) system occupies twelve to fifteen feet of right-of-way width with pedestrian circulation passing at-grade under the guideway structure.

Figure 2A shows a cross-section of the station shown in Figure 1. It depicts all three modes in coordinated alignment. Stairs and elevator/escalator vertical access is required to accommodate the passenger intercept. Figure 2B is another cross-section sketch that depicts an at-grade Light Rail system that is cooridinated with the PRT and regular bus route systems accommodated by a second level walkway from the elevated PRT station over the light rail tracks and connected to grade by stairs and elevator/escalators. Figure 3 is a perspective sketch of the mass transit/PRT/bus intermodal transfer station that shows on-line guideways merging into a protected station area connected by stairs and elevators to at-grade bus bays and an elevated mass transit stop.

Scenario Assessment: PRT/Bus Intermodal Transfer Station

Figures 4 and 5 depict an elevated PRT guideway (on-line/off-line) with an at-grade bus bay zone, park and ride lot, and a kiss and ride facility with shelter. The PRT guideway is accommodated above and on-line with the bus shelter waiting zone, reducing the guideway corridor land requirements. Elevator/stair vertical circulation is required. Figure 6 is a sketch depicting the bus bay zone, shelter, kiss and ride zone, and PRT in the background with the off-line returning to grade as an option and where space permits.

Scenario Assessment: PRT/Bus Intermodal Transfer Station at an Office Building Complex

Figure 7 depicts a combined at-grade bus stop facility and an above grade PRT station located along one edge of an office complex with a MAC. This station arrangement is best suited for building complexes with two stories or more in height and/or access to a pedestrian "mixing" space complete with elevator/escalator facilities. The station shelter, enclosed or open-sided, is an extension of the building roof design, or in the case of a multi-story building an extension of an entry portico. The guideway itself can serve as a shelter for the at-grade bus stop. Figure 7 also illustrates an on-line by-pass of the station, with a portion of the guideway acting as bus shelter, and an of-line guideway serving the building complex.

Scenario Assessment: Regional Shopping Center Mall Station Options

Figure 8 is an illustration of an elevated guideway on-line/off-line station attached to the exterior face of a department store building at one end or corner of the shopping center mall. The three feet by three feet cross section guideway design and ninety feet column support distances reduce the visual profile of the guideway system. A limited bus bay zone is provided at grade in separate lanes under the PRT guideway. Pedestrian circulation would require specific designated crosswalk areas to reduce bus-pedestrian conflicts between the parking lot and building complexes if buses are to be accommodated in such a scheme.

Figure 9 is an interior sketch view of a shopping center mall. The PRT guideway is accommodated within the interior of the mall in this sketch, connected with the main mall area with escalators and an elevator. Limited bus bays are provided along an exterior face with transparent canopies extending from the building facade providing shelter from the weather. Also illustrated in the sketch is a parking structure option that could be located in conjunction with the PRT station, serving the shopping center and as a park and ride lot.

Visual Impacts Associated with a PRT System

Design options for reducing the visual impact of the elevated PRT guideway system are incorporated in the sketches of the station scenarios discussed previously. Regarding the system as a whole, other options worth considering include the alignment of the guideways either in landscaped parkways where right-of-way width permits; or, placing alignments within the interior of blocks along land use changes or service alleys to reduce the elevated visual impact along major circulation corridors. Figure 10 is an illustration of an elevated PRT guideway within a parkway road design in a residential area. The column spacing is the maximum ninety feet with decorated capitols and landscape islands at the column bases. Raised planted areas protected by concrete curbs reduce the risk of vehicles colliding with the vertical supports.

This report was prepared by Ron Kasprisin, Assistant Professor and Michael LaFond, Research Assistant, Department of Urban Design and Planning, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Washington, Seattle Washington. It is Part III of a much larger research study entitled Development of Methods of Analysis for Planning Transit System Components In and Around Major Activity Centers, Final Report TNW 91-13, Transportation Northwest ( TransNOW ), Department of Civil Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 1991. The principal investigator for this research project was Prof. Jerry Schneider . Printed copies of all three parts of this study are available from TransNOW.

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Last modified: August 13, 2002