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UPD monorail project begins

July 27—Transportation in UPD is about to get more interesting as the UP System broke ground for an initial run of the AGT or Automated Guideway Transit System.

Groundbreaking ceremonies and the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) were held last July 18 at the southern side of the campus, beside the College of Fine Arts led by President Alfredo E. Pascual and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario G. Montejo and UPD Chancellor Ceasar A. Saloma for the first phase of the project that aims to test-run a train system that if found feasible, may be designed to run throughout the sprawling UPD campus.

First step. The MOA covers the laying down of 500 meters of elevated concrete track, which will carry two electrically powered, rubber-tired 60-passenger coaches running at 50-60 kilometers per hour. Installation of the track and facilities will take anywhere from 6-9 months.

It is a follow up to the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between UP under then President Emerlinda R. Román and DOST in December 2010.

An AGT is a fully automated, driverless mass transit system aimed at serving rider loads higher than those of buses or trams, but smaller than those of conventional large-scale trains.

Among the more notable AGT lines found in different parts of the world are the Port Island Line in Kobe, Japan, the Yurikakome in Tokyo, the SkyTrain in Vancouver, the Morgantown PRT or Personal Rapid Transit in Morgantown, West Virginia and the Urban Light Transit or ULTra PRT in London’s Heathrow Airport.
The University, through the Office of the Vice President for Development’s (OVPD) Officeof Design and Planning Initiative, headed by the College of Architecture’s Prof. Cristopher Espina, will provide technical assistance, such as the conduct of site survey and pre-implementation activities.

DOST will provide funding and supervise this first phase as well as the design of the coaches and track to be used.

Both institutions will conduct continuous 24/7 test runs of the 500-meter track, checking for things like economic viability, power consumption and materials strength.

The results of the test run, if favorable, will determine the next phase of the project, a full 6.9-kilometer (approx.) intracampus loop. 

A bigger picture. The AGT project is part of an initiative by DOST to create an all-Filipino AGT system that will suit Filipino needs and resources. It is grade-separated, meaning it is designed not to hinder surface traffic.

DOST previously created an earlier prototype, launched 4-5 months ago in Bicutan on a straight 150-meter track. The UPD campus is a chance to test the system on a curved and circular track.

For UP President Alfredo Pascual, the project is a golden opportunity to demonstrate the University’s commitment to its role in nation-building.

“When the time comes that the AGT will prove itself ready to extend its service to our people beyond the confines of UP Diliman, it will be the university’s great privilege to have been part of the realization of a mass transit system, conceived by Filipino minds and created by Filipino hands,” he said.

Saloma agreed and said the AGT project is proof of UPD’s commitment to set an example and become a “source of solutions to the problems of our society,” and that the he expects some of the research and output from the project to eventually become part of UPD’s curriculum.

President Benigno S. Aquino III cited the project during his state of the nation address on June 25, saying it "could potentially provide a home grown mass transport solution that would cost us as little as 100 million pesos per kilometer, much cheaper than the current cost of similar mass transit systems."—Anna Kristine Regidor