RALEIGH - The best way to get from here to there is something federal, state, and local leaders have been working on, and arguing about, for years. But Raleigh's North Hills area may soon take a step forward.
Personal Rapid Transit, or PRT, is an electric, battery driven system where small, automated cars run on a grid of elevated tracks. Users are able to take the four-passenger cars on demand directly to their destination, often saving time over typical bus or rail service.
"I think it's a game changer,” said developer John Kane. “I think it's fun."
Kane is best known for redeveloping North Hills Mall into what's now Raleigh's emerging Midtown. He got an up close look at the technology at London's Heathrow Airport, and thinks its the next step in North Hills' evolution.
"We think people are going to be more desirous of living here and staying here and working here and playing here if they can get around in a very safe and easy way to move around," Kane said.
As part of the plan, PRT rail would go over Six Forks Road, with possible future connections to hospitals, neighborhoods, and even mass transit.
"Then we can tie into those systems and enhance those systems,” Kane said. “And make the experience really fluid, if you will."
Jill Peters, who owns Certain Things at North Hills, likes the idea of easing congestion around Midtown, and possibly bringing in more customers, as long as new transit doesn't damage the area's integrity.
"I think right now, it's quaint. It's nice. It's very local,” Peters said. “Very Raleigh, to be quite honest. We're not New York City!"
Kane estimates the cost of establishing a personal rapid transit system to be around $30 million. The system could be expanded based on demand.
He's currently conducting a feasibility study and says that the system could be in place in about four years.