2 companies bid to build Greenville’s driverless transit system

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Two companies have submitted proposals to build a 20-mile long automated transit network (ATN) in Greenville connecting CU-ICAR and downtown Greenville. The system would begin on the abandoned rail corridor along Laurens Road and could potentially use personal rapid transit (PRT) electric vehicles or podcars.

Skycabs International of Auckland, New Zealand, and Taxi 2000 Corporation of Fridley, Minn., responded to a request for proposals issued by the Greenville County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) earlier this year. Of four companies reportedly interested, the GCEDC received two proposals by the June 1 deadline and will review them on Friday, officials said.

Both companies currently run test tracks and facilities for PRT vehicles. The electric cars run on rubber wheels along dedicated guideways rather than tracks and carry several people at once.

Similar systems are used at London’s Heathrow Airport and in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Morgantown, W.Va., has had a system since 1975 that features eight-passenger cars on nine miles of guideways.

The GCEDC request requires that responding companies build the system without county funding and would make roughly 20 miles in phases. The PRT system would complement other transit routes and could also include routes connecting downtown and the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville Health System’s Memorial campus to downtown and St. Francis Downtown to the Greenlink transfer station. Cost is estimated between $6 million and $27 million per mile depending on whether it is high or low capacity and terrain, according to the RFP.

Ideally a pilot system would help create an economic ecosystem for ATN systems and attract more companies developing the technology, Greenville County Council Chairman Bob Taylor said at a recent GCEDC meeting. GCEDC will hold conferences with respondents on June 23 or 24 and award the contract on June 30, tentatively.

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