PRT Car Comfortability – Is it Possible?

By Tyler Pope, Jade Artherhults, Jillian Clemente, and Athbi Khalifah

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The changing of the seasons brings variability to Morgantown, from snow in April to 60-degree days in December. Since Mother Nature is so unpredictable, it’s hard to maintain comfortable temperature levels that correspond with the weather while indoors. The Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) has issues keeping its internal car temperature regulated, too.

The PRT facilities management crew turned to the Twitter-verse for help keeping initial track of this information.

An inexpensive microcontroller called an Arduino was used to collect data of the temperatures of 32 of the PRT’s 71 total cars. The Arduino can use sensors to measure different types of data, such as temperature, and can easily sit on a laptop to measure the PRT’s internal temperature.

Of the 32 cars measured, the average internal temperature of a PRT car was 65.05 degrees. Passengers in each car ranged from 1 to 12, and the cars departed from all stations at different times of the day.

This data was measured from March 16-18, final prt grapha time where temperature can fluctuate dramatically. The external temperatures ranged from 38 to 72 degrees.

The ideal temperature PRT cars are set to maintain is between 66 and 72 degrees according to John Massullo, a PRT maintenance manager.

“If the system is working correctly…the temperature is automatically set for seasonal changes,” Massullo said.

graph 1 copy

However, students have varying opinions on PRT car comfort. In a convenience sample of 43 WVU students collected using a Google Forms survey,  41% said their comfortability rated a 3 on a 5-point scale, meaning they were neither comfortable or uncomfortable.

The survey is not a fully representative snapshot of a PRT rider experience, according to students who were about to board the PRT.

“It’s always too hot, no matter the temperature outside,” said Lauren Hall, a senior strategic communications student. She suggested manually fixing each car to make sure the hottest ones could cool down.

George Jacobs has similar feelings.

“During the early fall semester, it can be kinda hot inside of the PRT and I can start sweating. I don’t like that,” said the sophomore international studies student. For Jacobs, the cars are fine in the winter.

The same goes for sophomore journalism major Ella Jennings.

“In the winter, I’ve never had a problem with it being too cold, but in the summer thegraph 3re’s definitely some PRT cars that don’t have a working AC system which can really cause some discomfort on the way to Evansdale,” she said. “There is AC in some, but it’s luck of the draw.”

She suggested being able to open a window of some sort.

Massullo said that there was some thought about installing a deeper tint on the windows.

“This would help cut some of the heat buildup,” he said.graph 4

Massullo explained why it is difficult to maintain the internal temperature. The car opens for 15 seconds at each stop and only has a certain allotted time to fluctuate its temperature back to the targeted 66 to 72-degree sweet spot. For example, Massullo said, the ride between the Towers and Engineering station is about 3 minutes. In that frame, the car can’t immediately go from 78 to 72 degrees. However, the ride from the Medical to Walnut station is about 12 minutes and the car has more time to balance the temperature.

graph 2The PRT itself has transported over 83 million passengers since 1975 and transports about 15,000 people each day. In these cars, the temperature data was collected by an Arduino sitting on a laptop.

Curious how to construct the Arduino and build the temperature circuit? See the video here:

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