Milpitas PRT Project

Our Climate Crisis demands that we rapidly move away from carbon-fueled transportation. In addition to cycling and walking, electrifying our transport vehicles is necessary to solving climate change. LoopWorks is working to provide electric transport to residents and visitors in the Metro Area of Milpitas using Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) technology. This dual-loop demonstration project will provide data upon which a $1T industry may be built.

Metro Area of Milpitas, Calif.

A nearly ideal location for a starter PRT system?

In European cities renowned for their public transit, public transit is used in fewer than one in four trips, while more than half involve walking or biking. In Milpitas, like many cities across America, walking and biking are discouraged by physical barriers that prevent people from easily moving around town without a car. That's especially true in the Metro Area of Milpitas where barriers include 2 major roads (Montague Expressway and Capitol Ave/Great Mall Parkway), 2 rail lines (UP and BART), and 2 creeks.


Even driving around the area is sometimes difficult. While most South Bay areas do not experience congestion, the Milpitas Metro Area does. In the past decade, 7000 housing units were built there; another 7000 are expected over the next decade. In 2020, the Milpitas Transit Center became fully operational by providing access to commuter rail (BART), light rail (LRT), a bus hub, and Uber/Lyft along with provisions for cyclists and pedestrians. Unfortunately, various barriers and already-bad traffic congestion discourage access to that cornucopia of transportation options. Already-bad traffic congestion in the Milpitas Metro Area will worsen as the BART transit hub serves the projected 25,000 daily riders (12,000 daily BART riders plus a similar number for all other transit hub options). Expected soon are driverless vehicles that will further increase congestion due to use by people currently unable to drive and dead-heading (driving around empty to fetch the next rider).

The opening of the Transit Center combined with a rapidly-growing population means the need for bike/pedestrian crossings of Metro Area barriers is also growing rapidly. The map below, from the Transit Area Specific Plan, shows three blue hash-marked, double-ended arrows which indicate where the City expects to build additional pedestrian/cyclist barrier crossings. While the north-south crossing from the BART station to the Piper Drive area was built at a cost of $14M, the cost estimate for an east-west crossing along Penitencia Creek could reach $25M.


Transit Area Specific Plan (TASP) zoning map

Milpitas PRT by LoopWorks

Bringing PRT to Milpitas -- and the world!

The Metro Area around the Milpitas Transit Center is badly congested, densely populated, and rife with barriers that challenge pedestrians and cyclists. Most of the area is in transportation disadvantaged census tracts that are noisy, overburdened, and underserved.

A Milpitas PRT System is proposed to mitigate both the congestion and the accessibility issues. Using small electric vehicles on elevated guideways, unobstructed by ground-level conditions, residents from 7 separate housing areas could easily access the Milpitas Transit Center (BART, LRT and bus terminal), the new elementary school, the Great Mall shopping center, and three city parks.

As shown below, an initial dual-loop PRT system is proposed to include 4 miles of guideway connecting 12 stations for a cost of $60M (4 miles x $15M/mile), or about the cost of Milpitas City Hall in inflation-adjusted dollars. Operations & Maintenance (O&M) costs would run between $0.6M and $1.8M per year ($60M x 1-3%).

Milpitas PRT Dual-Loop Configuration

Blue lines = guideways. Yellow stars = stations.

ITNS-designed PRT technology is a fundamentally new form of public transportation. It is designed to provide users with a high level of safe and reliable service over an urban area. Furthermore, PRT maximizes ridership while minimizing operating costs, energy use, construction materials, land use, and noise. Being electrically operated, it does not emit greenhouse gases nor any fossil-fuel pollutants.

This remarkable set of attributes is achieved by operating small, light-weight, computer-controlled cabs on an elevated network of light-weight, small-sized guideways. Non-stop travel between origin and destination stations is achieved by placing all stations off the main line, i.e. off-line. To achieve reliable all-weather operation, the system uses non-contact linear induction motors (LIMs) like those which propel many amusement park rides.

Two barriers in particular (Great Mall Parkway and Montague Expressway) separate nearly all housing in the Metro Area from the Transit Center. Although walkable/bikeable, most parents would not want their children using those high-volume, limited-access roadways unless absolutely necessary. Even for experienced cyclists, these roads are not convivial – and, thus, another discouragement to people interested in alternative (non-car) transportation options.

Cars will likely remain the dominant way to get to the transit hub, especially for residents living in the northern half of Milpitas. Unfortunately, access by motor vehicle can be problematic during commute hours due to the heavy congestion on Montague between I-680 and I-880 – congestion that will worsen as driverless vehicles become common and thousands of new residents populate the area.

In such a congested, high-density area, common sense suggests moving into the 3rd dimension. Technologies that use elevated guideways include Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), Group Rapid Transit (GRT), and Automated People Movers (APM). PRT capacity is adequate to serve the expected demand, so higher capacity and cost GRT or APM options are an unnecessary expense.

The LoopWorks PRT system will achieve two major goals: 1) provide extraordinary public transportation service in the Milpitas Metro Area, and 2) create a new model for future transportation projects. The data and the knowledge gained from this demonstration project could spark a $1T industry that manifests our long-term Vision: The LoopWorks PRT project inspires rapid adoption of advanced transit that dramatically reduces transportation sector emissions.