The infrastructure for Las Colinas’ vacant Area Personal Transit System may serve as a testing ground for a next-generation people mover system after Regional Transportation Council action July 13.

What happened

Council approved $500,000 for design of a modernization pilot to be retrofitted to a segment of the system's existing guideway. The project, which was identified as part of an Automated Transportation Systems Development study, aims to retrofit the infrastructure so automated vehicles can operate on the guideway.

Transportation Director Michael Morris said the project is a great way to test ATS technologies on the vehicle side as infrastructure research continues.

“It’s not a bad way to actually test the mettle of—is the autonomous people mover system going to be a logical path forward for us?” he said.

Funding will come from the Surface Transportation Block Group Program, according to the meeting agenda. Council also approved funding of up to $500,000 for staff to support other ongoing ATS pilot projects throughout the DFW region.

The background

The North Central Texas Council of Governments identified an opportunity to retrofit the guideway with ATS vehicle technologies while conducting an Automated Transportation Systems Development Study in consultation with Lea + Elliott Inc.

The study was completed in early 2023 and aimed to develop guidelines for deployment of ATS systems in the region. It’s available online and provides information on available ATS vehicles, set standards for grade-separated infrastructure and more.

During the July 13 meeting, Program Manager Brendon Wheeler said the guideway would require few changes to implement an ATS vehicle so costs would be minimal.

“We wouldn’t have to tear out any of the columns, tear out any of the bridge structure,” Wheeler said. “That would all remain in place.”

How we got here

The guideway was previously used for Las Colinas’ Area Personal Transit System service which was operated by Dallas County Utility and Reclamation District. The service was suspended in 2020 however, and the district had requested the council of governments to review if the guideway could be retrofitted.

After completion of the study, the district had accepted a proposal from the council of governments to move forward with a pilot project in March.

What else

The action signifies another step for the council in exploring next-generation automated transit systems.

Council had previously approved funding in 2020 for pilot projects in the Dallas International District and Arlington General Motors Plant. Those projects are in the predesign development phase with construction expected In the next three to four years.

Notable quote

Irving Mayor Brad LaMorgese voiced support for the action and pointed out that the segment is currently planned to reach the businesses and the entertainment district.

“We’re only building more buildings over there, so I think it’s going to be a great use,” he said.

Also on the agenda

In the same meeting, the transportation council also approved $5.3 million for enhancements to the Silver Line Regional Rail Project and up to $1.8 million for continuing the Collin County Rides program in Allen and Fairview.