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Steve, as long as it's not obvious, yes, you can patent an idea like you hint at, and no, you don't need a prototype. You just need good enough illustrations to illustrate your concept.

be sure to do a patent search first though...for a device such as a people mover, you'll find that people have been working on some very innovative and oddball contraptions for the past century. I don't want to say everything's already been thought of, because it hasn't, just that it's a hard field to innovate in (when looking at the larger perspective of types of vehicles).
 
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