Marshall Brain and Seth Hollar, two engineering professors at North Carolina State University, noticed a gap in university transit. In fact, for over a decade the master plan for NC State has shown a transportation corridor marked “Future monorail” between the libraries on Main and Centennial Campuses. Now, with collaboration from the university and private sector, the colleagues are developing an ultra-light weight and low-cost transit system to fill that gap.
The privately funded EcoPRT system will provide autonomous vehicles that carry one or two passengers at a time to certain stops around campus, including D.H. Hill Library, Hunt Library, Engineering Buildings I, II, and III. Brain and Hollar have also spoken with local shopping developments such as Cameron Village about extending the transit system. “If we put a system into NC State, maybe Cameron Village wants access to 30,000 students, so they can build a spur [of EcoPRT],” Hollar said.
The professors are designing the system to encourage nearby shopping and residential centers to build and connect their own customers, creating the world’s first entrepreneurial automated transit system that can be applied to a large number of scenarios like college campuses, airports, and shopping centers.
Funding for the system will depend on who builds it and where it goes. NC State will most likely use student fees to cover the cost, while other branches of EcoPRT around the Triangle would get paid through fares, profits, or revenue. “We would like to charge a fare on the order of 50 cents per mile,” said Brain. “We’re trying to stay right in that zone of what it costs to drive a car.”
For more information on the costs and benefits of the EcoPRT system, watch their video below:[youtube]http://youtu.be/V2NmOcQxSpI[/youtube]
Brain and Hollar said they are are looking for more students to get involved with EcoPRT. A public meeting about EcoPRT will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. in the Hunt Library auditorium (room 1103).