Move over Disney, national magazine rates WVU's people mover tops

The PRT at West Virginia University

West Virginia University has a ride that even Disney World can't match.

WVU's Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) was rated Best Overall Performer in the "People Mover" category of The New Electric Railway Journal's annual competition. Disney World's Monorail was given honorable mention.

"Being recognized by this national journal is quite an accomplishment and makes a strong statement about the PRT," WVU President David C. Hardesty said. "It's been a dependable and efficient means of transportation for students and for townspeople for more than two decades. And with recent funds for a much-needed upgrade to the computer system, the PRT's stature as one of the most modern transit systems in the world is further enhanced."

Journal senior editor Van Wilkins rode the PRT during several visits to campus and was impressed with its performance.

"There are few transit systems of any type that out-perform it," Wilkins said. "And the people who run it have come up with some ingenious solutions to problems they have had."

WVU received a certificate and letter of congratulations signed by Journal editor-in-chief Richard R. Kunz.

Kunz said, "This is our ninth annual ‘competition,' and we heartily congratulate those transit carriers who constantly strive to provide a level of service that distinguishes them and the communities they represent. Thank you for your continuing efforts to improve the image of the transit industry in the minds of the riding public."

An estimated 48 million people have traveled 17 million miles along the electrically- powered, dual-railed tracks since the PRT began passenger service in 1975 — that's about 15,000 riders a day (during the school year).

Students ride for free with their student ID card, and faculty, staff and other citizens can ride to any one of the PRT's five stations for 50 cents. The system employs more than 70 vehicles accommodating about 20 passengers each and is powered by non-polluting electric motors running on rubber-tired wheels. Approximately 50 cars will be in service and on the guideway at any given time.

The PRT serves as a model for large cities with major transportation problems and stands as an example of how towns can better cope with pollution, traffic and environment demands in the next century, said Bob Hendershot, assistant director of public safety and transportation services.

New freshmen arriving on campus and visitors to campus still delight in this "futuristic" ride, he added.

"West Virginia University would be remiss if we didn't tip our hat to Sen. Robert C. Byrd," Hardesty noted. "He has backed this project since its inception and provided significant input and funding."

The magazine also included transportation system ratings for heavy rail transit; light rail transit; electric trolley bus and heritage trolley.

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