Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Was Minnesota Personal Rapid Transit Huckster Run Out of Fayetteville, Georgia on " a Greased Rail" After "Press Release Hoax"?

That's the opinion of one of the Personal Rapid Transit aficionados at the Transport Innovators Google forum:
In February, JPods' Bill James outlined a demonstration project for "a type of monorail system that would use solar power to operate to move small cars, or pods, across portions of the city." (link to The 2/26/13 Citizen article "JPods don't get off the ground with F'ville Council")

After a fried[sic] discussion at a retreat on February 22/13, mayor Clifton said "it would be better for JPod Corp. to pursue a participant from the private sector, adding that there is no current need for a city committee to be established to (even) study the proposal."

James badly damaged himself with his press release hoax. Basically, they ran him out of town on a greased rail.
Apparently, the would-be PRT vendor Bill James (JPODS)sent out a press release that suggested his proposal to cover Fayetteville and the sprawling Atlanta metropolitan area with pods on elevated tracks was a done deal (download PDF HERE):

Fayetteville resolution supports building of PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) network Fayetteville, GA. Dec 21, 2012: JPods, Inc of Atlanta, GA and UK-based Equility Capital Ltd have signed a Letter of Intent to build and fund the world’s first solar powered Personal Rapid Transit (PRT or podcar) network in Fayetteville, GA. The $100 million project is part of a larger $3 billion, three year effort to build a network that solves congestion in Atlanta. The project will commence as soon as all rights of way, planning, engineering contracts and other agreements are in place.

The Fayetteville project will be the first PRT system built in the US since a nine-mile network was built in Morgantown, WV as a solution to the 1973 oil embargo. The Morgantown network has since delivered 110-million oil-free, injury-free passenger-miles. On Sept 6, 2012 the City of Fayetteville passed a resolution to support transportation innovation. Bill James, President of JPods, Inc said: “The Fayetteville resolution on innovation opens a door. The Performance Standards resolution will allow building the first PRT network in the US since Morgantown. CSX Railroad commercials note ‘Our trains move a ton of freight 423 miles on one gallon of fuel.’ Radically greater efficiency is practical. JPods achieves efficiency by combining computer networks with ultra-light personal trains. Next time you ride in an elevator, you are riding in a vertical-JPods, pick a destination and you are chauffeured there using 1/10th the energy of cars or buses, without car payments, gasoline, accidents or congestion. You do not wait. You do not ride with strangers.”

Equility Capital is the leading global specialist in providing project finance from the alternative capital market. The market, now widely recognized to be worth $67 trillion, is backed with private money channeled through hedge funds, asset managers and similar institutions. Because most of the money was earned by entrepreneurs, the alternative capital market has a huge supply of ‘innovation-inclined’ funding to support new technologies and other ventures that traditional banks and lenders shy away from.

David Rose, CEO of Equility Capital noted the provision of funds is contingent on the Fayetteville project being ‘shovel ready,’ Rights of way agreements, building permits, design, civil engineering, manufacturing contacts must be signed as part of a viable business case to secure the release of funds.

The Fayetteville City Council has a resolution pending to grant rights of way access based on a set of Performance Standards where projects are privately funded, operate without government subsidies, exceed 120 passenger-miles per gallon, are regulated by theme park standards (12,000 time better safety record than highways), privately insured with environmental approvals granted based on saving energy relative to transport modes already approved in the rights of way.

James said: “We will be appointing the lead contractor, hiring and breaking ground as soon as the City Council passes the regulatory Performance Standards resolution and choose the partners to build.”

JPods has two signed agreements to build in China. Other existing PRT projects include the Ultra PRT system recently opened at Heathrow Airport in London, and Vectus PRT has a network in Uppsala, Sweden.
The press release has contact info for "Equility Capital" who James says would be the financial backer for the project.

A February 18 Fayetteville Daily News article says the JPODS press release became part of the discussion at a city council meeting:
While the presentation offered an interesting look at a transportation system that some cities in other countries have implemented, the viability of the idea for Fayette County was questioned, as were James' intentions. Councilman Larry Dell challenged James with a press release he found online, bearing James' name, entitled "Fayetteville, Ga. Signs PRT Letter of Intent: Georgia To Be First with Solar-Powered Transport System."

As of press time, the press release dated Dec. 21, 2012 can still be found on the blog of Personal Rapid Transport Consulting, at the website www.prtconsulting.com. A google search for 'JPods Fayetteville' also yielded a Google Groups discussion group featuring correspondence from James saying "it looks like we've broken the right-of-way barrier," and then referencing a September resolution from Mayor Clifton that generally supported "private sector solutions" to Atlanta's traffic congestion. The resolution made no specific reference to JPods or any other specific transportation innovations.

In response to Dell's questioning James said the press release was not meant to be released to the public and that he had thought the resolution had been passed within the context of the JPod idea. Councilman Walt White emphasized that the resolution had been passed with the Mayor's tie-breaking vote. The resolution was in fact passed with White and Dell opposing it, while Paul Oddo and Mickey Edwards voted in favor. Councilman Ed Johnson abstained from voting, allowing Mayor Clifton to break the tie in favor of the resolution.
The lesson for public officials - If you're wondering whether PRT is a boondoggle or not, Google is your best friend.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Senator Torrey Westrom (R) Promotes Personal Rapid Transit at MN Legislature Hearing Yesterday

Former Representative, turned pod lobbyist Mark Olson would be pleased to hear his Personal Rapid Transit  boondoggle mentioned by Senator Torrey Westrom (R) during yesterday's Transportation and Public Safety Committee hearing for the confirmation hearing for Charles A. Zelle, our new MnDOT Commissioner.

As loyal readers of this blog will recall, the former MnDOT Commissioner flushed thousands of dollars down the drain on PRT which according to the pod people caused Sorel some unpleasantness. PRT has no chance in this legislature as the previous post explained. But the MNGOP has become the party of really bad ideas and they seem determined to return PRT to the mix this year.

Senator Westrom, in a rambling question, seemed to suggest PRT was some sort of "reform". Westrom mentions the "moribund" Taxi 2000 Corporation.

Can we expect Taxi 2000 lobbyist Ed Cain (also lobbyist for fraudster "Bobby Thompson") to return to the legislature to promote PRT? How about pod booster extraordinaire Congresswoman Michele Bachmann?


Other political pod news comes from New Hampshire by way of Rep. Steve Smith:
Today, the Transportation Committee voted down my bill to create a committee to determine what NH needs to do to allow this new, green, personal mobility solution to come to NH. I can’t help but think that I failed in presenting the idea well enough. I’ll take another crack at it when it goes to the House floor. I’m not asking for money. I’m asking only that 5 people spend some time meeting with the builders of these systems, and other folks knowledgeable about them to see if we can move NH forward and enable disadvantaged and disabled folks the freedom to get where they need to go.
Here's a video of Rep. Steve Smith endorsing another brilliant idea - Herman Cain for POTUS:


Thursday, November 15, 2012

No Chance for Personal Rapid Transit Projects to be Funded by the Minnesota Legislature

Elections have consequences; in Minnesota, the last election slams the door on any chance of public funding for  PRT projects (there are a bunch, see below).

Both houses of the Minnesota Legislature are now controlled by the DFL. The MN Senate caucus just announced their choices for committee chairs and Senator Scott Dibble is Chair of the Transportation and Public Safety Division. Here's a quote by Senator Dibble from a 2011 article about PRT:

State Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), who heads the senate’s transit subcommittee, said that he thinks the proponents of PRT are sincere, but he dismissed their plans for implementation as that of “technophiles” who are not interested in examining the ramifications of a PRT line in terms of the overall multi-modal scheme, land use, economic development, mobility, urban form and the environment. 
“There’s this constant refrain, ‘Build PRT everywhere, all your problems will be solved,’ with no acknowledgement that it is a political impossibility and that we would be throwing a bunch of money at something that’s completely unproven with a lot if implications that haven’t been addressed,” Dibble said. “All I ever here from folks is personal-freedom rhetoric about going anywhere and everywhere, but what happens to the urban forest if you’re running these things all over the place.”
In short, PRT is soooo not happening in Minnesota.

Apparently, there are still pod people who hold out hope for PRT in Minnesota -  the ULtra PRT website still has a page up about "PRT Niche Options for Minnesota" and there is the  proposed $100 million pod project in Coon Rapids.

There's a list of Personal Rapid Transit projects in Minnesota on the Google Transport Innoovators forum:

* Coon Rapids for Rob Jacobs,

* Winona and Duluth for Taxi 2000,

* Bill James talked about an effort in New Jersey and a computer campus N. of Duluth,

* I think that Joe Lampe has an edge city to the N. of downtown Minneapolis

* Ed Anderson is quiet, but says that he has some irons in the fire.

List of PRT businesses is from a CPRT brochure (view on Google):

PRT Updates from Minnesota


Hull, MA passed a resolution supporting PRT. JPods expects to lease private land and build the first leg there in the next 4 months. New Jersey is considering declaring performance standards, allowing anyone access to public rights of way that can privately finance transport networks that exceed 120 mpg.

PRT International

Dr. Ed Anderson has been working for many years to acquaint planners and decision makers with the potential of an optimized version of PRT for solving urban transportation problems. He gave a presentation to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority in December 2010. Dr. Anderson works on advising a number of people in various locations around the world on various PRT projects or pending projects. He is willing to give courses on PRT of any desired depth.

PRT Minnesota

PRT Minnesota’s current focus is on preparing a patent submission for their PRT mechanical design. PRT Minnesota is still
seeking funding to complete the technical development program and achieve manufacturing readiness.

PRT Partners

PRT Partners is based in the Minneapolis area and is headed up by Robert Jacobs. PRT Partners assembles teams, technology, and projects that solve specific urban transportation and land use challenges.

Taxi 2000 and Skyweb Express

Currently, Taxi 2000 is working with two financial institutions interested in implementing Skyweb Express projects using a private public partnership agreement. They are also working with corporations for implementing system on corporate campuses. Taxi 2000 continues to work with Winona, Minnesota to build a PRT demonstration and laboratory facility.

Not mentioned is Rob Jacobs' other company Smart Infrastructure which is pitching the pod project for Coon Rapids.

There are two PRT lobbyists - Mark D. Olson for Smart Infrastructure and Edwin Cain for Taxi 2000 Corporation. Taxi 2000 spent nearly $80K since 2004 lobbying in Minnesota.

Suncheon Bay Vectus "PRT" Revealed to NOT be Personal Rapid Transit

The Vectus October update (PDF) has a preview of their much-ballyhooed Suncheon Bay project in Korea.
Station Two is currently under construction and due to be completed by the end of December 2012. Both stations will feature in-line berths, platform screen doors and touch screen passenger information/destination selection facilities.
According to the Wikipedia PRT article which is mostly written by fans of PRT,  offline stations are  a defining characteristic of PRT:
In PRT designs, vehicles are sized for individual or small group travel, typically carrying no more than 3 to 6 passengers per vehicle.[1] Guide ways are arranged in a network topology, with all stations located on sidings, and with frequent merge/diverge points. This approach allows for nonstop, point-to-point travel, bypassing all intermediate stations
So Vectus is just another monorail/people-mover that exist in airports, amusement parks etc. all over the world. Not the revolution in transportation we were promised, not "faster,  cheaper,  better" than conventional transit modes.

And if anyone thinks Vectus can be integrated into a city, take a look at the massive guideways and stations:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Personal Rapid Transit in Amritsar, India: " faces wrath of traders as well as historians"

From Punjab News Express:

The traders feared that the high track of magnetic pods would adversely affect their business. The traders sat on a dharna and raised slogans against the government’s decision. Traders resented that the administration was bent on dislocating the businessmen of the century-old Hall Bazaar and appealed to at least change its route so that the market business would not suffer.

The historians alleged that it would mar the historic structure of the city. The century-old residential buildings, especially those located on the left hand side of the route, was also an obstacle. In view of their weak foundation, there was threat to these structures when six-ft-deep gorges would be dug up to erect pillars for supporting the elevated track.

Amid all these hiccups, the necessary amendments were made in the original model of the project. The root was also changed. But changed root also faced the wrath of traders.

With reports of the state government mulling alternative route for the PRTS project, the members of Rambagh Bazaar Traders Association shut their shops and staged a protest. They warned the government not to take the PRTS route through their market. They even blocked traffic at Gol Hatti Chowk and later at Ram Bagh Chowk few days ago. 
In this way the project is still lying in limbo amidst all these hurdles. Authority sat silent and passing the buck to each other. The shut their mouths saying, that the study of project is in process.
This is reminiscent of the 2009 protests in Daventry:
MORE than 100 Daventry townspeople voiced their opposition to proposals for a pod transport network in the town at a public meeting on Monday night.

Daventry Town Council held its annual town meeting at the Phoenix Centre, off Ashby Road, which gave any resident of the town the chance to ask questions, voice their concerns, or let their opinion be heard.

More than 100 people took the chance, with most of those present angry and upset with Daventry District Council's (DDC's) proposals for a personal rapid transport (PRT) scheme in Daventry (the pod network).
And so the pod scam continues to cause trouble around the globe....

Friday, August 31, 2012

Have the Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit Thrown in the Towel?

UPDATE: Shortly after this post appeared, the CPRT.org website reappeared - however, the dead-enders at CPRT have yet to administer similar life support to their moribund movement in the social media - as of today (9/14/12), the CPRT Facebook page has exactly 17 likes. The last entry is from 2011. Compare that with the Transit for Livable Communities Facebook page with 1,282 likes. I also looked for the CPRT Twitter handle, but that seems to have disappeared. Like everything about PRT, the CPRT as a grassroots movement is a sham.


For many weeks, the website of the Minnesota-based Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit (CPRT.org) has been unavailable. A year ago, the ATRA publication Transit Pulse (PDF) said the following:
It’s a new ballgame for PRT visionaries. There has long been a network of PRT-friendly residents in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Citizens for PRT was established around 1990. It was chartered in 1998 as a non-profit corporation. CPRT activity has waxed and waned, and today is clearly in growth mode. Several Board members tended CPRT’s booth at the annual Living Green Expo this past spring. CPRT was also at the Midwest Energy Fair last month. 
“It’s a whole new ballgame,” reports long-time ATRAmember Dick Gronning. The public ecology Expo was three times larger than last year. It is held at the Minnesota Fair Grounds as a major event in the civic life of the Twin Cities. This year interest in new-generation urban mobility was intense. For the first time ever, staff from Metro Transit visited CPRT’s table. They even stayed a while and talked. Gronning was surprised at how open and helpful Metro Transit was.

The author goes on to admonish "luddites":
Will uninformed union members and leftist bloggers counter CPRT advances in Minnesota? That remains to be seen.
"Leftist bloggers"?

If the CPRT is truly kaput, I doubt the pesky "PRT visionaries" will be missed. Here are old videos showing them pitching the pods at the Living Green Expo and defending convicted felon Dean Zimmermann (2008):

Personal Note:  I began blogging about the PRTistas back in 2004 when they managed to get a pod project included in the MN House bonding bill. I think it's safe to say, with the CPRT's exit from the public stage, state and local government in Minnesota will no longer consider wasting taxpayers' money on PRT. The pod boondoggle and allied "gadgetbahn" flim flams will surface from time to time elsewhere, but here in the Twin Cities, the public has lost interest in pie-in-the-sky transport schemes as our modern transit system takes shape. Unless the pod people make a comeback here, I doubt I will continue to add posts to this blog. I will keep this blog in mothballs for research purposes.

The future of reality-based transit in Minnesota is looking good. Here is a video showing what Minnesotans can expect in 2014:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

VIDEO: Heathrow T5 Personal Rapid Transit Pod Customer Service: " Truly Shameless"

Pod promoters always downplay the possibility of failures for PRT. The fact is failure can happen with any mechanical system. What is especially terrifying for a passenger is to experience a failure without any human available to explain what is going on.

This happened recently to a passenger on the over-hyped ULTra pod and recounted in a blog post titled "BAA Heathrow T5 Parking Pod failure - No face for BAA Customer Services here":

This is a failure of the Heathrow T5 Business Parking Pod system where you pay premium parking rates. 
Its not bad that it failed, because these things do fail, what was worse was that they refused to send anybody down for the 20 minutes it was out of order.  
We had to listen to a voice hiding behind the screen, who after a while stopped picking up the help phone also.  
This is Customer Services which is truly shameless. It was 9.30pm, totally dark but BAA Heathrow refused to send any person down to assist or help calm passengers - they even stopped responding to the support telephone also.

Read the whole thing.

Here's the video:

Meanwhile in West Virginia, that other uber-hyped, so-called PRT system continues to cause headaches for its passengers: