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Private subway cars: The personal luxury of today

Fri, 07/13/2012 - 10:05am
Clara Ennist, Editorial Intern

It was a holiday in NYC, the express trains were making local stops, every car was packed with hot hoards of people, and a group of young men began to perform a break dance. As one of the dancers climbed up a pole and began sliding down, his foot circling closer and closer to my ear, I began to seriously regret not hailing a taxi.

While typically the cheapest way to get around, traveling on the subway can have serious drawbacks: no express trains so passengers have to wait through many unnecessary stops, no local trains in one direction so passengers ride well beyond their stop in order to catch the local train, no personal privacy or space so passengers feel entitled to use the cars as their living rooms, performance spaces, offices, and bedrooms. People fight, dance, sing, and clip their toenails. Only in New York.

Pininfarina, the Italian automaker, has come up with a solution to the long commutes and rude passengers with its Personal Rapid Transit Vehicle. The PRT vehicle, designed to update Vectus’s pod car in South Korea, allows users to ride in their own miniature subway, making only one stop. While it may seem complicated, the PRT system is relatively simple. A user calls a car from an origin station and inputs his or her destination. The PRT, able to seat up to 6 passengers, then travels to the destination without stopping by using bypass tracks at each station.

The PRT system seems like a wild fantasy; however, it has been in testing for six years in Sweden, and visitors to the 2012 Olympic Games in London will be able to see the cars on display.

Zipping around in a personal car underneath the streets of NYC is a long way off, but at least passengers will have the hope of something better than the subway.

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