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Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) "ferry" over the railroad tracks in Milpitas

Intro How it Works  Construction   Economics  Point-To-Point Transport  Capacity   Concerns  PRT and the Environment SF Bay Area Further Information

The Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association (SNA) wants a PRT feeder from their neighborhood in northern Milpitas to the Great Mall Transit Center (LRT, buses and future BART) at the South end 3.5 miles away. PRT is a new technology, so it makes sense to start small. A simple PRT "ferry" using a minimal system of two stations and a loop connecting them could be constructed and used to safely "ferry" people over the railroad tracks. People get on at one station and ride safely to the other station.

The Milpitas PRT "ferry" over the railroad tracks will connect Curtis Avenue with Yosemite Drive at the north end of the Great Mall. The blue dots indicate the general location of the two stations. The green dot shows the LRT station above Main Street.


1996 at-grade crossing = $300,000, but railroad rules prohibit new at-grade crossings
1998 early estimates of pedestrian over crossing (POC) = $2,000,000
2000 VTA esimate = $3,000,000; first conversations with Solectron (owns property east of RR tracks)
2004 latest feasibility study estimate = $5,500,000 (location offset southward by 1/3 to 1/2 mile)

Benefits of $3M PRT crossing

Three City documents call for a pedestrian/cyclist crossing at that location (Bicycle Master Plan, Trails Master Plan, and Midtown Area Plan).

Such a demonstration system, costing less than the currently proposed steel-and-concrete pedestrian bridge, will allow us to check out PRT technology before we decide about expanding the system to service Sunnyhills.

Because PRT is scalable, i.e. it works as a small or large system, we can grow the system over time as need and opportunity arise. For example:
- extend from the Yosemite/Curtis crossing to the LRT station ($5M)
- extend from the LRT station to the Library on Main Street ($30M)
- create a loop connection library, LRT station, Yosemite/Park Victoria, City Hall ($40M)
- add loops to connect Sunnyhills ($100M)

Advantages of being the first City to implement PRT

If we're first, the Milpitas PRT will become both a regional and a national tourist attraction bringing fame, acclaim, and extra tax dollars. Remember, the City gets a full 6% of every 8.25% sales tax dollar spent in our RDA (Re-Development Area).

By being first, we will pay less; outside funding from groups interested in our "experimental project" will help reduce our portion of construction costs from the standard 20% to only 10% -- or even less. (It could be argued that Milpitas shouldn't pay anything because we're taking the "risk" of being first.)

Being first will also put us in the lead for heavily subsidized funding of extensions to the Library, Sunnyhills, and perhaps the BART station in Fremont. The first public PRT project will be a regional and national tourist draw, injecting more interest into extending the project.

Problems of PRT crossing

Solectron's resistance to a POC crossing

Solectron owns a 1/3-mile long stretch of land east of the RR tracks. They object to a standard steel-and-concrete POC on four grounds:
  • on-site security (they don't want strangers on their property)
  • parking disruption (they're concerned about placement of supporting pillars interfering with parking and traffic flow)
  • mischief from above (people throwing things onto their property)
  • esthetics (a world-class company needs to project a clean, modern image).
The use of PRT technology for the crossing would resolve all four concerns. If Solectron resists PRT technology, then other legal approaches may be employed to gain permission.

Security supervision of the tiny starter system - how to keep it from being vandalized?
Installing a motion-sensing and tracking video recorder system will cut down vandalism a lot. Proper industrial design will eliminate another big portion. Finally, the fact that PRT is fun and humanizing will reduce the number of people that want to damage it.

Operations & Maintenance (O&M) costs. Who pays? Who does the work?
Since our "ferry" would be a beta site for some PRT company, it's arguable that the company should absorb all O&M costs for the first 10 years. This provides invaluable feedback for the company and acknowledges our contribution by being first. Beyond that time, O&M is so inexpensive that it's possiblea nominal fee (say $0.25 per crossing) would cover it. Any required subsidies should come from the beneficiaries: LRT, Great Mall, users, and BART. As part of an expanded system, O&M would be covered by the system.


  • transportation equity for cyclists, the poor, and the environment
  • responsibility for the larger good; Milpitas has the resources and opportunity
  • cost-conscious, effective government (people want safe and reliable transportation)Click image to learn more about SkyWeb Express.


A first step for any public works project is writing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which, for this "ferry" project, will cost about $50,000. SNA will apply for grant funding from foundations and other sources. Many may find this project attractive because PRT addresses environmental issues, social equity and transportation issues, and also provides a model that can be repeated in most cities of our nation.

You can help. In addition to foundation funding, SNA is inviting $5 pledges from people who are willing to back this "ferry" with $5 of their own money. After the first $45,000 in grant funding is secured, we'll return to those who pledged $5 to collect. Your pledge will demonstrate the public support which makes the grant funding part even easier. If you'd like to participate in this experiment in democracy, contact Rob Means at 408-262-0420 or rob.means@electric-bikes.com. You can also print the pledge form at www.electric-bikes.com/prt/prt-survey-2.html

  • Individual - pledge $5 toward EIR.
  • Organizations - pledge $100 toward EIR (e.g. either or both BTAC and City Council)

Questions and Answers

What do you need to know before supporting a PRT "ferry" in Milpitas?

Looking West from Yosemite Drive where it curves South to become Gibraltar Drive. Gibraltar Court enters from the right. The yellow circle highlights the connection to Curtis Avenue.

For additional site photos, go to www.electric-bikes.com/prt/prt-eir.html

Find the draft of a funding proposal at www.electric-bikes.com/prt/prt-grant.html

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