NPR aired the last episodes this week in their year long series titled Climate Connections by focusing on the new “zero-emissions” city being built outside of Abu Dhabi called Masdar City. With an expected population of 50,000 people, the “experiment” in green technologies and sustainable design will be the largest effort ever to create a carbon-neutral urban center. The project is the crown jewel in the Abu Dhabi’s amibtious plans to become the ‘silicon valley’ of the renewable energy world. The Middle East certainly isn’t naive when it comes to looking past oil for the future security of their economies.
One of the more interesting technologies being put into action in Masdar is the PRT — or Rapid Transit System. Designed to hold six people, these pods will travel to more than 1,500 stations distributed throughout the city. From the NPR clip,
“‘Really, all it is is a car,’ says Scott McGuigan of CH2M Hill, the construction firm that’s building Masdar City. ‘It’s a simple vehicle [for] six passengers. It’s designed like a car, but obviously it’s powered by solar energy with batteries.’”
Unlike other PRT systems in development, this one will be completely underground. In fact, don’t expect Masdar City to go looking like something out of Blade Runner. The architects are sticking to a purely traditional Arab theme — not only because it makes people feel more “at home”, but also because narrow streets and shaded walks keep things cooler; reducing the need for air conditioning.
But back to the PRT — they will basically take you anywhere you want to go. No fixed routes like a Subway. Once again, from the radio segment,
“‘You program what station you want to go to, and [the vehicle] will directly take you to that station,’ he says. ‘If you look at things like Blade Runner, etc., that we had 15 years ago, it’s really bringing that to the fore now.’”
Hmm…then again, perhaps we will get a little Blade Runner in the mix. Construction on Masdar City starts this summer.