West Virginia University is hosting an international seminar on personal rapid transit systems (PRT) May 4-5 at the Erickson Alumni Center.

PRT: Realities and Futuresis being organized by Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) in cooperation with WVU s Department of Public Safety and Transportation.

PRT is a category of public transportation systems designed to offer automated on-demand non-stop transportation, usually targeted at urban use. ATRA is a non-profit association that promotes development of advanced transit technologies to help communities, agencies and planners implement cost-effective mobility services.

The seminar will focus on the Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit project that was built and opened at WVU in the 1970s by the Boeing Aerospace Company for the Urban Mass Transit Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as PRT systems around the world, said Robert Hendershot, WVU Department of Public Safety and Transportation assistant director for PRT operations.

Congestion is a big issue, not only in Morgantown, but all across the world,Hendershot said.This seminar will look at potential solutions for long-term congestion problems.

The Morgantown PRT uses gold and blue computer-driven vehicles to move along an elevated guideway that connects WVU s campus in downtown Morgantown with the Evansdale Campus and Health Sciences facilities. Each car can hold up to 20 passengers. Over the past three decades, the PRT has had a strong safety record, with an estimated 56 million people having traveled 20 million miles along its electrically-powered, dual-railed tracks. That works out to well over 15,000 riders a day during the school year.

Options to enhance Morgantown PRT service will be discussed at the May seminar, such as potential expansion of the PRT or a less expensive option of usingfeedersystems, consisting of smaller cars, which could, for example, travel from Engineering to the Coliseum, Hendershot said.

Other topics at the seminar will include how PRT systems operate, impacts on land, housing and parking, world PRT developments, airport and airfront projects and emerging mobility markets.

This is the second seminar ATRA has organized in Morgantown. The first, in 2005, focused on thenuts and boltsof running a PRT , such as operation and maintenance, upgrades and software. The 2005 seminar attracted transportation planners and researchers from as far away as Sweden and South Korea, said Lawrence Fabian, ATRA treasurer and seminar coordinator.

ATRA is interested in the Morgantown PRT because it is ahigh order transit system,Fabian said.

The Morgantown PRT has incredible capabilities that other systems dont have,he added.Its the only passenger-initiated system in the world that has off-line stations. Its also unique in its safety functions, such as having an in-vehicle switch.

We have had a remarkably good safety record over the 30 years the Morgantown PRT has been in operation,Hendershot said.Our system has the most advanced service concept. It can schedule all trips non-stop on-demand.

Despite being three decades old, WVU s PRT remains highly advanced and relevant in todays world, Fabian noted.

With the increased concern about global warming, more people than ever before are interested in alternative transportation,he said.Even though the PRT in Morgantown is 30 years old, there is a lot that can be learned here.

When the Morgantown PRT was being designed, every aspect of its effect on the environment was taken into consideration. The cars are powered by electric motors, so there is no air pollution, and they run on rubber tires to reduce noise pollution.

The seminar fits in well with ongoing community-wide efforts to reduce traffic congestion such as the work of the WVU Transportation and Parking Planning Committee and efforts under way by the City of Morgantown and Monongalia County through the Greater Morgantown Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

This seminar will be a contributing factor to improving and possibly expanding our service to meet the needs of our students well into the future,Hendershot said.We want to make sure we look at all potential solutions and foster continued collaboration between WVU , Monongalia County and the City of Morgantown.

The seminar is a perfect fit for local officials, as well as other leaders and transportation planners, Hendershot added.

Seminar registration is $125 ($75 for ATRA members) for those registering by April 15. After that date, registration is $145 ($95 for ATRA members). Registration includes lunch, coffee, parking and a transcript of seminar presentations. For the full schedule of events or to register, visithttp://www.advancedtransit.org/news.aspxor by sending a check or money order payable to ATRA , P.O. Box 220249; Fields Corner Station; Boston, MA 02122 -0013.

For more information, contact Fabian at lfabian@airfront.us or 617-825-2318.