With an increase in breakdowns, students who use the PRT call on its staff for answers about the system, and they have come out from behind the curtain to respond.
The PRT is an unmistakable landmark of West Virginia University. Used by students during their class commute, the transportation system performs anywhere from 16,000 to 18,000 rides per day. It’s a one of a kind transportation system for a college, intended to reduce Morgantown bus and car traffic while still getting students to class across the three large campuses on time.
While students know the goal of the system, recently they have been finding it hard to appreciate it with the increased system down time, firing tweets and complaints at the PRT staff.
"We are an envy of the world," said Clement Solomon, the director of the department of transportation and parking at WVU. "We have such a unique asset here. Everyone is fascinated by it. I was interviewed by PBS years ago and they were amazed at this hidden jewel nestled in the mountains of West Virginia."
As a former student, Solomon traveled thousands of miles across the ocean to attend WVU. He has been a PRT user for 25 years. Being the overseer of the $54 million modernization of the system, he revealed the three part process is currently in the second phase working on guideway electronics and attributing to the increase in shutdowns.
Having a long history with the PRT system, Solomon has seen a lot in his time. This includes some crazy platform stories, and acts of PRT misuse that are a good story, but have detrimental effects to the system.
"With over two million rides a year your chances of meeting someone new or forming a strong friend are overwhelming, you can see it developing on the platform," Solomon said. "It’s a social place, full of action."
When talking about the antics that occur on the system, Solomon is quick to warn that however these things are funny for a short period of time, some acts are highly unsafe and can add the downtime of the system. So, it is not just the modernization causing issues, it is the riders themselves.
"We also have kids who have jumped on the 575 volt track," he said.
As safety protocol, the entire PRT system must be shut down and inspected when someone jumps on the track, throws something on the track, or possibly shuts the system down by blocking doors to the carts, and other acts of user error. This causes long delays and system shut downs.
"Don’t jump on the track, don’t throw things on the track, and don’t push and crowd people," Solomon said about PRT safety that will help to decrease the downtime caused by users. "Don’t block the doors, and be especially cautious on high traffic game days. It’s a lot of safety common sense."
He encouraged riders to keep their heads about them, not only with safety, but in understanding when the downtime is not user error, but due to modernization.
"Our workers started when the system started, they’ve been here for 30 years (or more)," he explained. "We love the university, and we love what we do. That’s why we do it. That’s why we choose a job where we get blamed on Twitter. We get to interact with the students, and all of the University."
"There is so much more than what people think behind the scenes," Solomon continued. "It’s easy to only see the inconveniences, but imagine a day without the PRT at all."
Solomon encouraged PRT users to imagine the chaos and traffic without the PRT, and asked for them to be patient as the system is renewed for their benefit.
For people’s own convenience and relief from the stress of a potential breakdown, Solomon strongly enforced following the twitter for immediate updates and having a back up plan for transportation before the event of a shutdown.
The PRT is a unique transportation method for WVU. It is not only a prideful system for those who work on it, but for the entire university. Riding the PRT can be an interesting experience as well as frustrating at times, but no matter what let it be a safe experience.