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WVU PRT breakdowns can cause misery, panic

Daily Athenaeum photo by Andrew Spellman Students wait along Monongahela Boulevard in a stalled PRT car during their commute.
Daily Athenaeum photo by Andrew Spellman
Students wait along Monongahela Boulevard in a stalled PRT car during their commute.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Whether traveling to class, work or a sporting event in Morgantown, W.Va., there’s always a risk in taking the Personal Rapid Transit as it frequently breaks down.

The 40-year-old system is convenient because it avoids traffic, is free for students and transports riders to any major part of West Virginia University’s campuses. But, if users have somewhere to be at a certain time, becoming trapped on the tracks can result in tardiness.

Aside from the possibility of not making an appointment or being late for class, there is a question of safety and what actions students should take if they’re trapped on the PRT.

On Sept. 20, the day West Virginia played Oklahoma, one of the cars stopped right before the Medical Station near the football stadium. The car had 15-20 people crunched inside who would end up being trapped for approximately 30 minutes.

“It was so hot that people were trying to use the emergency exit,” said Cory Gabrielli, a senior at WVU. “We teamed up to pull a door open to get air inside, and lodged a water bottle in front of the door to keep it open. If we didn’t get the doors opened, people would’ve passed out.”
Dylan Schaffer, another senior who was trapped in the car, stressed the biggest problem was a lack of staff.

“They announced over the intercom that there was a guy on his way but he was stuck in traffic. But, you would think that on game day they would have people ready for this kind of thing to happen,” Schaffer said. “You know it’s going to break down, and you know traffic is going to be bad. They need more people ready to help if something does happen, because had it been an hour instead of 30 minutes, it could have been really bad.”

Another idea that has circulated is the installment of a backup air conditioner in each car in the case of one breaking down.

“The situation would have been completely different if we weren’t sitting in a sauna of sweat,” said WVU alumni Darren Klaus. “The heat, mixed with the stress of the situation, just made everyone panic. They need to make some changes to the system to make it safe for everyone.”

Arlie Forman, associate director of Parking and Transportation at WVU, said with the age of the system, problems like these shouldn’t come as a surprise…

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