A more sustainable transport future : the effectiveness of personal rapid transport in edge cities

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This thesis investigates how effective a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system could be in addressing sustainability challenges in edge cities. The study aims to enrich debates and decision-making processes over a future vision of more sustainable polycentric cities. A case study of an ‘edge city’ within an emerging Australian multi-centred form examines the potential of a PRT system to change travel choice in a car-dominated urban form. The Macquarie Park case study not only extends the number of studies which identified the evolution of edge cities in a variety of national and continental settings, but demonstrates that edge cities have also evolved in Australia over the past two decades. The thesis develops a design-based solution for increasing the accessibility of main transit nodes in Macquarie Park through a PRT network, and tests its service performance under different levels of demand, during peak and off-peak hours for an average weekday. Simulation results show a positive system performance, at high capacity demand during busy commuting hours and at low capacity demand for all-purpose trips during nonbusy hours. The high theoretical performance and the positive return rate of investment draw the conclusion that PRT may be worth considering in future strategies. This study presents a preliminary analysis of selected environmental, urban and health impacts compared to a business as usual projection of current transportation trends by 2031 and current planned transport improvements. The analysis confirms the findings from other studies regarding the low environmental and urban impacts of the PRT system. Potentially, the urban space released by retrofitting edge cities with a PRT system could be redesigned to encourage greater physical activity and social interaction. The original contribution of this research to the body of knowledge is the analysis of health impacts that a PRT system might have. Nevertheless, it points to further research which should be undertaken to fully understand the health implications of implementing such a novel transport system. The thesis concludes that an non-traditional transit mode such as Personal Rapid Transit could bridge the gap between the car-dependent urban forms we have inherited and the transit-focused urban future that is essential in order to meet sustainability goals.
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