Monday, December 28, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Personal, Slow, Boring ... Whatever...

This is it, the great "transportation revolution".... what a joke...

Over-hyped, you think? Click on the image to make larger:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ghosts of "Innovative" Transportation's Past

From the old Taxi 2000 website, The Transportation Renaissance, by Edmund Rydell and Hennepin County Court records.

Click on pics to make larger...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winona Post Article on the Pods

Sarah Elmquist in the Winona Post:

It might seem like science fiction, but local leaders say it could be the wave of Winona’s future: a test site for a transit system featuring pod-like cars that ride along tracks built high over the city.
Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems have garnered some interest from state leaders, with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) recently appointing a new director of PRT technology. And, after meeting with industry and Mn/DOT officials on the potential for such a new system, Mayor Jerry Miller has thrown Winona’s name in the hat as a potential site for a $25 million test bed.

Local leaders say that such a test bed could help spur job creation, and that composite companies in the area could potentially build components of the system, too. They say that such a PRT test site would be used, but wouldn’t aim to solve any big transit problems in Winona, rather it would serve as a site that could demonstrate how the new technology works for other interested cities and officials.

Skip to the bottom of the article for some common sense....

One of PRT’s most outspoken critics, Dr. Vukan Vuchic, Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote a 2007 book, “Urban Transit Systems and Technology,” which argues against PRT as a model for future transit.

Calling the concept “inherently unsound,” Vuchic says that complicated and expensive guideways coupled with low density small vehicles doesn’t make sense anywhere. In big cities, he says, where transit needs could justify the cost of guideways, small low density cars can’t meet the need for transit. And in smaller cities, where such low density cars would be feasible, the cost of guideway infrastructure outweighs the need for such transit. “Consequently, the combination of the two features -- small vehicle and complicated guideway -- is paradoxical and makes the PRT mode impractical under all conditions.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Paper Critical of PRT for Winona, MN

From Michael Setty at PublicTransit.US:

OK, OK, we have spent way much more time on PRT than it really deserves, however...As a favor to the taxpayers of Winona, Minnesota, and for future cases of other municipalities suffering from the "Music Man" style of PRT salesmanship when it comes to town, we have posted a new paper debunking Personal Rapid Transit, "Professor" Harold Hill Pitches PRT to a River City on the Mississippi in Minnesota. Link is Even though this paper has been available only since the morning of Sunday, December 20th, it has already created quite a stir among the PRT hoi-polloi.

This is an excellent paper.

This paper will join Personal Rapid Transit – Cyberspace Dream Keeps Colliding With Reality and the Central Loop OKI report, and Professor Vukan Vuchic's writings as essential reading for citizens, public officials and investors who have been approached by the PRT guys.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Editorial: "Space pods seem a little too far out "

Winona Daily News:

Last week, Winona learned of a plan by city leaders to court public funds and private investors in a collaborative effort to develop a model for personal rapid transit systems.

They’ve been dubbed “space pods,” because drawings of such a system depict streamlined bubbles on tracks that pass by not-too-distant-future type buildings.

For a moment, though, let’s pause on that thought — just drawings.

We only really have drawings of PRTs — and there’s a reason for that.

As Winona begins to explore and advocate for a $25 million model, which will not really serve the area’s own transit needs, there has never been a successful PRT system launched.

One system is slated for London’s Heathrow Airport, but right now, it’s still not functional.

Good editorial, read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

PRT Promoter David Gow Has a Twitter Meltdown

David Gow, who maintains several PRT websites and several attack blogs aimed at me, is one of those people who thinks that his activity on Twitter is private and did not anticipate I would read his tweets about me and make those tweets public.... now, Mr. Gow is furiously tweeting that he was being "sarcastic" (see screenshot, below).

David Gow (Blogger ID- Mr_Grant) is very much the public face of Personal Rapid Transit on the internet. I hope Governor Pawlenty, MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel and elected officials take a good look at PRT promoters like David Gow before they waste additional time or money on PRT.

Why Is PRT Promoter David Gow Tweeting About Anonymous Comments on a Crime Story?

The easy answer is I am mentioned in a recent City Pages article about a fugitive from justice, a former Green Party candidate for Ward 10 and a former friend of mine. I am quoted in the article saying clearly that Knapp should be brought to justice and that I had no knowledge of the crimes Knapp is accused of committing.

Here is a list of Mr. Gow's recent tweets about me... four out of five mention myself and the fugitive, Mark Knapp and link to the article :

David Gow's latest tweet says the following:

More comment in City Pages' #MarkKnapp story #KenAvidor

There are two new comment(s) to the article. The first states the following:

So where's the photo of Knapp so we citizens can help capture him? Maybe Ken Avidor could could submit a perp sketch. Oh wait - after looking at his Petters trial sketches, that wouldn't help.

Well, there's a screenshot of Mark Knapp's old campaign website with a photo of him in that article.

The other anonymous comment Mr. Gow tweeted about says the following:

I never did trust that Ken Avidor. Cynicism is the easiest out. Interesting that the federal marshalls are visiting him. he just spent several weeks sitting next to his FBI buddies in federal court. Go figure. he is not one to trust

It is true that I sat next to the FBI during much of the trial, because that was the best place to sketch the witnesses. During opening and closing arguments, I sat far to the left side of the gallery to get a profile of the attorneys.

As for describing the FBI as my "buddies"... I have sent three Freedom of Information requests to the FBI for the audio and video exhibits shown in open court at the trial of Gary Dean Zimmermann.... and all three requests were rejected because the FBI said I needed a waiver from Zimmermann, which he refused to give me.

Do I support Federal investigations into economic crimes such as Ponzi schemes, bribery and identity theft? You bet I do. Do I think the investigations, trials and convictions of Gary Dean Zimmermann and Tom Petters were fair and just? Absolutely. Until Mark Knapp is apprehended, we will not know whether he is guilty of the crimes for which he has been charged. However, Mark Knapp's flight from justice is a crime. In order to apprehend Knapp, law enforcement came to my home and others... I don't have a problem with that. The Feds are working really hard to investigate and prosecute white collar crime... and they deserve our support. They have my support.

Do the PRT guys support the Fed's effort to investigate and prosecute economic crimes?

Listen to Margaret Beegle, director of Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit, a participant in the recent MNDOT PRT symposium as she accuses the FBI of setting up Gary Dean Zimmermann:

Here's Gary Carlson, the witness in the trial of Dean Zimmermann talking about Zimmermann asking him for $250,000 for PRT:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Article: "Winona Officials Release Details for PRT funding plan"

Winona Daily News:

Winona officials gave new details Tuesday of their proposal to use state, federal and private funds for a PRT test lab at the Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical campus. They'll probably have to vie with other cities, as the Minnesota Department of Transportation soon may solicit proposals for PRT test sites elsewhere, a MnDOT official said Tuesday.


Minnesota legislators considered funding a PRT test lab in 2004 but balked amid skepticism at its viability - and concern that it would drain funding from other transit modes such as light rail. PRT still draws interest from some state lawmakers, though others in key posts recently told a St. Paul think tank they won't support funding for it.

That think tank, the liberal-leaning Minnesota 2020, has criticized Winona's bid to host a PRT test site, saying it "strains credulity."

Minnesota 2020 fellow Conrad DeFiebre last week quoted transit committee chairmen in both chambers - Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. D. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis - as saying they oppose funding the proposal. Neither lawmaker returned calls this week from the Daily News.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he welcomes funding for PRT development in Winona or elsewhere. He said lawmakers might discuss whether to fund a study of test sites for PRT during the 2010 legislative session. Murphy's Republican colleague on the transportation committee, Minnetrista Sen. Gen Olson, also said she'd back funding for PRT testing.

Previous attempts to develop PRT have failed or created huge cost overruns, like in Rosemount, Ill., where officials discontinued a PRT project in 1999. But cities worldwide are revisiting the technology: London is building a system at Heathrow Airport slated to operate in 2010, and San Jose, Calif., also is exploring PRT.

MnDOT commissioner Tom Sorel created a post last week to oversee the technology and appointed Mukhtar Thakur as MnDOT's director of PRT development. Thakur said computer technology has improved since the PRT failures of years past. Thakur also said PRT doesn't need to compete with light rail, but could provide "last-mile" transport to complement other transit modes.

Murphy said a PRT test lab could position Minnesota as a global leader in transit technology.

"The face of transportation technology is changing," Murphy said. "We need to get in front of that curve."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pawlenty's MnDOT to Waste Taxpayers' $$$ on a PRT Symposium?

MNDOT press release:

Mn/DOT to explore personal rapid transit in symposiumdev

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The potential use of personal rapid transit (PRT) in Minnesota is the topic of a symposium to be hosted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation on Nov. 17 in Rochester, Minn. PRT is a public transportation concept that offers on-demand, non-stop transportation using small independent vehicles on a network of specially built guideways.

“PRT systems are being developed around the world,” Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel said. “We need to explore innovative strategies that are efficient and cost-effective and can improve motorists’ commutes. Because transportation is a multimodal endeavor, we need to consider transit options for the traveling public.”

The symposium, which will take place at the Rochester Civic Center, will bring together community leaders and stakeholders, transportation officials and industry experts in PRT. It will look at the benefits of introducing PRT in the transportation network and will provide updates on recent advances in the system development.

Following the symposium, Mn/DOT will solicit letters of interest from Minnesota cities desiring more involvement with PRT.

"Industry experts".... like Bill James?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jake Roberts at the Podcar COP 15 Confab

Jake Roberts is on the list of speakers.

Jake Roberts, former festival director heads a group called "Connect Ithaca" to bring pods to Ithaca.

There is little enthusiasm for the pods among Ithacans. A letter to the Ithaca Times: explain why:

Connect Ithaca, a for-profit company which is paying itself to do this study (it is in their grant application), is proposing an extremely expensive, resource intensive infrastructure layer for the city of Ithaca that has the primary function of shuttling college students to Wegman's and then to their cars, which will be parked in huge parking lot/heat islands on the edge of town.

Even in the highly unlikely case that their wild assertions about travel times, emissions, and cost were true, Connect Ithaca's proposal would still be disastrous for our city because of its offensive aesthetics and devastating social implications. To wit: despite their claims to the contrary, if the proposed layout for the elevated PRT were to be constructed the city/state would indeed have to either widen and re-grade roads to accommodate a middle ground for the centerline placed tracks and/ or remove trees and sidewalks to allow the elevated track to travel along the side of the road because closing every street in their scheme to all but emergency vehicles is nearly impossible and impractical, both politically and economically - but even if it weren't, the sections of the "circulator" that run along NY State Route 96 and NY State Route 79, for many reasons, cannot be closed to daily motor vehicle traffic, so major road widening will have to happen. Just as important, the physical appearance of this concept is reminiscent of the elevated Eisenhower era super highways that destroyed the beauty and livability of many American cities - today we are dealing with the costly results of these poorly designed monoliths in projects such as Boston's Big Dig.

If the previous weren't reasons enough to reject this project outright, know this: well trained urban designers and progressive city planners (like Jane Jacobs) know that a transit system in a city like Ithaca must be integrated into the streetscape, not only because such a system is meant to serve short, local trips where station access time is more important than travel time but also because such a system activates street life, enhances vigilance and security, and necessarily engages riders with each other. A city is about engagement with the other, not secluded 5-minute dashes from ivory towers to shopping areas, that, my friends, is a suburb and there are plenty of those to go around.

So, if we cannot have a monorail to solve all our problems, what is the answer?

If Connect Ithaca, were really interested in enhancing public transportation, giving the streets back to pedestrians, bikers, and skaters and reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMTs) for local trips, as they claim, why aren't they paying themselves to pursue the most obvious, least expensive, most sustainable, and most suitable solution for Ithaca, what is known as the Woonerf or the Living Street: reduce the speed limit on many city streets to 10 miles an hour and make those streets fully shared pedestrian-bike-skateboard-motor vehicle spaces. If a handful of streets remain at the 30 mph limit - and if the lights get timed to enhance traffic flow as they should be--most car trips will be on those routes because the 10 mile an hour shared roads are just too frustrating and many short trips will be on foot (or bike or board) for the same reason--this, of course should all be done with public transit routes in mind. It can be done here and, though it lacks the flash of pod cars and will probably take 20 years to be fully realized, it will work and it will cost very little while reducing VMTs and drastically improving the quality of life for Ithacans - nearly half of whom live under the poverty line and the overwhelming majority of whom will not be well served by the addition of a PRT circulator.

Peggy Tully
Ithaca, NY

A while back, the media in Ithaca made a big deal about Swedish PRT guys bringing pods to Ithaca:

As mentioned in an earlier post a Swedish environmental group came out against the pods in Uppsala:

Upsala Nya Tidning.

Quotes using Google translator:

PRT is not public transport

Nothing is gained by giving Uppsala, a ceiling of track cars. Capacity is too low. Tram is the solution of Uppsala, writes Naturskyddsföreningens Marianne Kahn and Mats Andersson.


But the track cars Uppsala to bet money on has nothing to do with public transport, because the capacity is too low.


The solution for Uppsala are trams. In European countries is growing and tram networks in Sweden becomes increasingly concrete plans in many cities. Today's low-floor trams are comfortable, quiet and efficient. A tramway from the outer regions toward the center helps to reduce car use and improving the urban environment.

This is what the Swedish Wiki-pod-people want to do to the urban environment...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Will San José Pimp Their Own Pods?

ABC KGO has a report on pod plans for PRT in San José :

allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"

(If player doesn't work, go to the website)

ULTra is featured zooming around in computer-generated videos... no mention that the launch of ULTra at Heathrow 5 has been postponed twice.

Laura Stuchinsky, Sustainability Officer, San José Department of Transportation appears and gives a rave review for PRT (also on the ATS ULTra PRT vendor website here).

Bill James is also in the video, the JPODs guy:

Bill James also tried to sell Jpods in Minnesota... here's a video featuring Bill James... watch for Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson sitting in the Jpod with the "Support the Troops" ribbon:

Here's Barbara Johnson's pod-praising letter to Bill James from the Jpod website (click to make larger):

Personal Rapid Transit Hucksters to Offer Non-Solutions During Cop 15

The PRT guys are having a podcar conference to coincide with the December United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP 15).

From their newsletter (PDF):

So, while COP:15 is taking place in Copenhagen, those who are interested in learning more about sustainable forms of transportation are invited to gather at PCCC3 across the bridge in Malmö, Sweden, and not miss the unique opportunity to learn about viable, climate friendly, transit options, such as PRT / PodCars, as well as to discuss other healthy ways in which to organize city life.

The quick answer to any questions about podcars (Personal Rapid Transit) is that they are a non-solution. For example, look at what is featured on the the front page:

That's right, Skytran (Unimodal).

Skytran was first proposed towards the end of the last century. The supposed inventor of Skytran, Douglas Malewicki gave up on his concept years ago and stated his reasons for why he quit working to build Skytran on his website:

Aaaarrrrgghh! Ain't no such animal - yet. It is still just a concept that makes a lot of theoretical sense. It needs money to tear into it properly - a lot.

"Why it hasn't happened yet is mostly my fault. I detest paperwork and details. I can't see myself applying for any government energy or innovation grants because of all the bureaucratic crap that I would be stuck with. If they supplied paperwork bozos along with the grants to take care of their required paperwork, it might be more appealing. I guess I also don't want to deal with all their other silly rules either. If I want to hire all black engineers (and I know a bunch of dam good practical ones), to the exclusion of Hispanics, Women, Polaks, etc. the government won't let me. I start reading the grant application forms and rules and never finish - because I toss it all in the garbage first in disgust. Basically, I'm selfish. I prefer to think and create. I have plenty of other non-hassle projects I can be involved in to feed my brain endorphins or whatever. I am definitely not the right kind of personality to carry this project to fruition in the real world!"

That statement and other information was recently removed from the Skytran website, but is still archived at the Internet Archive:

Skytran's promoters claim that it is much cheaper to build than conventional transit modes because it can be built with a guideway extruding robot:

How can SkyTran per-mile costs be so low?

Because of the minuscule vehicle weight, an elevated guideway can be built with minimum materials for less than $1 million per mile and still exceed all static, dynamic and seismic structural criteria. This is much less than the cost of any paved road, rail transit or monorail system simply because the structure is highly specialized to carry 600 pound People Pod vehicles and does not have to safely support the 80,000 pound trucks that share the roads with all automobiles. The light weight per foot of the track design also allows the use of a semi-automated track forming manufacturing robot (much simpler than the Robosaurus machine) that enables a two shift crew to deploy one mile of two way track per day. This can be compared with proposed monorail trains (weighing 100,000 pounds) which require guideways costing well over $40 million per mile and many years to build.


A Phoenix New Times article from March 09, 2000 implies that Skytran is merely a stalking horse used by opponents of mass transit to distract voters and policy makers:

Opponents of a proposed Phoenix mass transit system would like you to picture their own pie-in-the-sky people-mover -- an overhead sky-rail system, where a computerized chauffeur zips you along at 100 mph in your private SkyTran vehicle.

No unnecessary stops. No congested freeways or brown cloud of air pollution. And no sharing a ride with total strangers, some of whom might give you the creeps.

The fare would be about 10 cents a mile.

And the taxpayers' cost to build this futuristic system over the streets of Phoenix?

Absolutely nothing, thanks to private investors whom SkyTran backers say will pay for the whole thing.

One problem. SkyTran is the brain child of an inventor whose biggest accomplishments are a fire-breathing giant robot and a flying beverage can cooler.

That hasn't stopped transit opponents from boosting the project in the hope of derailing the Transit 2000 proposal that will go before voters next week. In recent weeks, on talk shows, in local debates, in letters to the editors of various newspapers and even in the official voters pamphlet, SkyTran is being touted as the ideal alternative to the Valley's planned light rail system.

At this point, however, compared to the painstakingly crafted Transit 2000 plan, SkyTran simply won't fly. The company, based in Southern California, has never built such a complex transportation system. The company, not to mention other firms trying to develop similar personal rapid transit vehicles, has no demonstration projects and no prototypes to showcase. In fact, all it has is a Web site with sci-fi illustrations of how such a system could work. Two-person pods, which resemble the front of an airplane, zoom along elevated monorail tracks, with passengers entering and exiting every half-mile at portals.

Douglas Malewicki is SkyTran's inventor and chief proponent. He has proposed a 1,500-mile system of overhead freeways that would span not only the Valley but the state. And he says he could build it for $1.7 billion. But first, he wants to build a quarter-mile prototype track in Phoenix. He promises to accelerate a SkyTran pod to 130 mph on that short stretch of track.

Malewicki says a Valley company, which he won't name, is exploring using the system to transport its employees to the airport. That project will prove that SkyTran is not some wild idea, but is based on existing technology, combining electricity and magnetic levitation, he says.
"We're not real, yet," Malewicki admits.

Although his Web site first identifies Malewicki as a "mildly sane" creature from outer space (complete with an illustration depicting this), his résumé reveals more serious educational and professional qualifications, including a master's degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Stanford University. Malewicki concedes he has no experience in civil engineering or public transportation. But he points to other of his inventions as proof he can deliver the SkyTran system for Phoenix.

Like Robosaurus, a 40-foot-tall, 30-ton, car-eating robot that has entertained spectators at car shows and other events, including drag races at Firebird International Raceway off Interstate 10 south of Phoenix. The robot, which is operated by a human hiding in its head, lifts cars, crushes them between its metal jaws, then spits fire.

Or Canosoarus, a small cylinder that slips over a beverage can to keep it cool, then can be turned into a far-flying variation of a Frisbee later.
Some of the inventions that Malewicki had a hand in do involve vehicles, but most are for record-book contests or pure entertainment value, like the Kite Cycle that appeared on the TV show CHiPs and is scheduled to be on an upcoming I Dare You: Ultimate Challenge on UPN.

SkyTran's Web site ( refers to company "activity" in Arizona, Southern California and the National Park System. But those turn out to be simply proposals to bring the SkyTran system to those areas.

This is from a more recent, August 2nd, 2007 Arizona Republic article about Skytran:

Jerry Spellman thinks it's about time Mesa met the future.

"The future," as seen in generations of TV shows and comic books, is a time when people whisk around modernistic cities in modernistic conveyances without having to worry about traffic jams and bus or train schedules. The future is clean, energy-efficient and cheap. Spellman thinks the future should be now.

That's why the Mesa resident has spent the past decade serving without pay as the Arizona coordinator for Unimodal, a California company promoting a transit system called SkyTran.

"The technology is here. We're finally at the point where we can actually demonstrate it," Spellman said. He believes Mesa would be a great place for that because the city is not yet locked in to its long-range transit options.

Spellman is waiting for Mesa's official answer to a proposal SkyTran floated this spring to build a 25-mile line between the light-rail terminus on Main Street and Williams Gateway Airport in southeast Mesa.

The cost: $225 million.

SkyTran figured Mesa could kick in $150 million from its share of regional transportation funds, and SkyTran would dig up the rest from transit-oriented lines of credit. Spellman said the money is but a fraction of what it would cost to lay light rail along that same route.

But it doesn't look like Mesa is ready to shake hands.

Kyle Jones, chairman of the City Council's transportation and infrastructure committee, said the idea is more "pipe dream" than reality.

"We're always willing to take a look," Jones said. "But . . . we just can't expend money for something that's an unknown. They'll partner with us for a test deal? We just can't gamble with funds that way. People criticize us enough already."

What Spellman is advocating would look right at home either in Disneyland or on The Jetsons.

Bullet-shaped two-passenger vehicles would be suspended from overhead tracks. Instead of riding on wheels or bearings, they would be elevated and propelled by magnetic levitation at speeds up to 100 mph in city, and 150 mph between cities.

About every quarter-mile, there would be a station. Passengers would climb to the boarding platform, pay for their rides, punch in their destinations and jump into waiting cars.

A computer would guide the cars as they merge into the high-speed upper rail and then slow to a stop at the destinations.

Eventually, SkyTran advocates say, a city could be covered with a grid of lines, making it all but unnecessary to use cars for local trips.

"You don't wait like you would at a bus stop or a train station," Spellman said. "The vehicles are sitting there waiting for you. You just walk up and you get in and you go to wherever you want to go that's on the line."

There's nothing new about the concept, which some sources date to the 1930s. Companies have been tinkering with SkyTran-like ideas for years.

But although the company's literature speaks of SkyTran in the present tense, the idea has yet to get off the ground, literally.

Mike James, Mesa's senior transportation planner, said SkyTran "is an idea on the Internet, but that's about the only place it exists."

Only now, Spellman said, is the company building two prototype vehicles and some sections of rail. It hopes to put enough actual equipment together to erect a test loop of about 1,000 yards. Spellman said Williams Gateway would be an ideal location for the first test run.

James said that probably won't happen.

"We're really focusing in on what the federal government would call proven technologies," James said.

And as far as personal transportation, he said, "We as a city already have a good personal transportation system in our road network."

As Mike James says, Skytran is an idea that only exists only as a concept on the internet... and it is likely to stay that way. If you look carefully at the slick, computer-generated pictures of Skytran, you will notice that there is no accommodation for people with disabilities. The elevated guideway and the thousands of stations required for a regional system would create visual pollution that would face tremendous environmental opposition, particularly in historic neighborhoods and scenic areas. For those regulatory reasons and many others, Skytran has a nearly zero chance of being chosen as a preferred mode of public transport in any city.

And Skytran isn't the only over-hyped, bogus, PRT concept at the conference...check out the hilarious list of would-be podcar vendors.

Skytran is featured in this video titled "Phoenix light rail is Trash!"... keep it klassy PRT guys!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Campaign to Protect Rural England Opposes Personal Rapid Transit

From the CPRE's paper (PDF) "Eco-towns: living a greener future - CPRE's response" that can be downloaded HERE:

an integrated approach to transport, across a district as a whole, should be taken to maximise potential for journeys to and from eco-towns to be made in a sustainable fashion, rather than relying on unproven technologies such as Personal Rapid Transit

Good advice... PRT-pie-in-the-sky-imaginary-solutions go nowhere as Daventry recently discovered.

Professor Vukan Vuchic:

Society for Nature Conservation in Uppsala - "PRT is not public transport"

Opinion piece in Swedish from the Upsala Nya Tidning.

Quotes using Google translator:

PRT is not public transport

Nothing is gained by giving Uppsala, a ceiling of track cars. Capacity is too low. Tram is the solution of Uppsala, writes Naturskyddsföreningens Marianne Kahn and Mats Andersson.


But the track cars Uppsala to bet money on has nothing to do with public transport, because the capacity is too low.


The solution for Uppsala are trams. In European countries is growing and tram networks in Sweden becomes increasingly concrete plans in many cities. Today's low-floor trams are comfortable, quiet and efficient. A tramway from the outer regions toward the center helps to reduce car use and improving the urban environment.

This is what the Swedish Wiki-pod-people want to do to the urban environment...

$800,000 for 40-60 Feet of Personal Rapid Transit?

From J. Edward Anderson's "Evolution of PRT" (PDF available here):

State Fair. Interest from another city, Cincinnati, was sufficient to enable Taxi 2000 Corporation, when I was its CEO, to raise about $800,000 to design, build and demonstrate one auto-mated, linear-induction-motor propelled, three-passenger vehicle that operated on a 60-ft length of guideway. It ran flawlessly for thousands of rides during the 2003 Minnesota State Fair. Citizens for PRT assisted in more ways than I know by providing displays and people to manage the crowds and answer questions. A reporter asked me: ―What was the most surprising thing about it? After a moment of thought, knowing that it worked technically exactly as designed, I said that the most surprising thing to me was the thrill people got out of riding only 40 feet. I could only imagine the reaction to riding around the loop of the first pilot system and subsequent applications. Seeing a comprehensive display of what it would be like to live in a city served by PRT and appreciating the way concerns about PRT would be treated produced an overwhelmingly positive reaction.

What happened to us after that, though, was awful. A clash of interests caused three board members including me to resign from Taxi 2000 Corporation in January 2005 and to go on to form PRT International, LLC....

2005... terrible year for PRT in Minnesota... there was that lawsuit... and... and... and...

Let's forget all that and try to recapture the "thrill" by watching former Representative Mark Olson traveling down 40 feet of guide-way in a pod:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dave Bicking - Pod Person?

From the Mpls Issues forum:

In the recent past, the 6th ward has dealt with a Council Member that ineffectively pursued another Quixotic transit fantasy (Pod cars on elevated guideways) and I think that folks would do well to remember how that experience ended up while they evaluate their ballot.

As I stated in my previous post, our incumbents in wards 6, 8, and 9 have not been perfect (and they should not be expected to be perfect). I appreciate and value the roles of their challengers to put themselves out there in hopes of doing better and/or pushing our incumbents to do better. I just see things a little differently than they do: in wards 6, 8, and 9 we have excellent CMs that are doing an excellent job whereas the challengers would likely have us pursuing Pod Cars on elevated guideways.

According to his son Ian, Dave Bicking is your garden-variety PRT-promoting politician:

Well, I can't really speak for him as a candidate, but Dave has followed PRT for some time and he knows quite a few of the people involved in CPRT. Dean Zimmerman, who is a Green City Council member in Minneapolis (neighboring ward) has been a strong proponent of PRT during his time in office (and like all the councilmembers, he's also up for reelection).

I get the impression there's conflict in the Green Party over this, as some see PRT as a dig on traditional mass transit like Light Rail. I'm personally very excited about PRT, as mass transit just doesn't work well.

More HERE.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Columnist: Naperville, Illinois Needs a PRT Boondoggle

Last week, Bill Mego of the Naperville Sun wrote a column titled; "Public transportation is going away in U.S.".

It will have to be safe and private. Naperville people don't want to travel in groups or mingle with the lower classes or the homeless.

So, to be successful, public transportation will have to be less than a fifth as expensive as light rail, not need a right of way, and run on a very small amount of electricity. Its cars will have to be safe and private, have essentially no moving parts that require maintenance, and not need a driver. So is there such a system? Yes, fortunately there is, but the "experts" aren't considering it.

I'll explain next week what it is.

Right.. the old, you don't want to ride with scary (fill in the blank) people, anti-transit canard.

This week Bill Mego lets us know what the "system" that excludes lower classes and homeless people is... and you guessed it:

The real genius of this system, called Personal Rapid Transit, is the computer system that controls the space between cars, called headway, their speed, their route though branches in the guideway system, and the distribution of unoccupied cars throughout the system. There are no schedules. A car is usually waiting at a station whenever you wish to ride. You pay by the ride, or by the day, with a credit card, an RFID device like an I-Pass transponder, or some kind of ticket.

A main spine from far south to far north Naperville might cost less than a high school. Because the guideways are easily installed and moved, loops and branches can easily be added as the system develops.

Because of low labor, fuel, insurance and maintenance costs, PRT can be financially self-supporting through tickets and dynamic, location-related advertising telling, for example, what is available at the stores and restaurants you are approaching. The more it is used, the less each ride costs.

The first step for us might be to plan a PRT line from a remote parking lot to the downtown Metra station, perhaps powered by our Green Fuels Depot. Given the negative and contentious political climate today, I think it would be foolish to proceed further without a super-majority referendum. I believe PRT is, however, the only form of public transportation we could ever implement. Fortunately, it's also the best.

Just what Illinois needs, another PRT boondoggle like the Raytheon,/Rosemount PRT project:

Fast-forward to the middle to late 1990s. J. Edward Anderson, the USA's leading PRT guru, managed to convince Raytheon, a major military hardware contractor, to buy into his PRT technology (a scheme developed in 1981), which he licensed to Raytheon in 1993. Raytheon then poured R&D money into the concept, bringing forth PRT 2000, a proprietary Personal Rapid Transit product. One way or another, PRT promoters had managed to attract the interest of the Northeastern illinois Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in the concept, and a study concluded in 1992 that a suburban PRT system appeared feasible.

Lured by Raytheon's promise of a 1.3% commission on any additional sales of the PRT 2000 technology, RTA bought heavily into the venture, investing tens of millions of dollars in a proposed PRT system in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, illinois, where a conference center and hotel complex near the Chicago O'Hare airport were planned. A 3.5-mile (5.6-km) triple-looping layout with about 8 stations and 40 cars, operating 20 hours a day, was intended to feed passengers to the RTA's Blue Line rail transit station (actually, not a bad test application for PRT). The system was projected to attract about 2 million rider-trips a year, at a cost of $1.00 a trip.


An article in Mechanical Engineering Design (2004) relates that "after eight years and $40 million, the system proved to be unworkable." (Actually, according to another report in the Advanced Transit Association Newsletter (Spring 2000), total public and private investment in the project came to $67 million, virtually all of it wasted.)

In any case, work on PRT 2000 was discontinued by Raytheon and the RTA in 1999 ("Raytheon's PRT 2000", innovative Transportation Technologies website, 18 August 2002). An interview with Raytheon's project manager (ITS international, November/December 1999) notes that the company gave up after realizing that they could not build the system for less than $50 million per mile – and that for single-direction guideway loops.

Some people never learn...


Monday, October 19, 2009

End of the Road for "A Transportation Enthusiast"?

People still ask me if PRT is for real... here's an answer from Live From the Third Rail Blog:

Like gold standard crazies, intelligent design ideologues and cold-fusion enthusiasts, Personal Rapid Transit nuts see something the rest of the world doesn't see and think they are visionaries as a result."

How nutty are the PRT fanatics?

I first encountered the PRT fanatic "A Transportation Enthusiast" on the Seattle Post Intelligencer forum way back... I think it was 2006. A.T.E. was angry that none of the other folks on the forum took him seriously... so, he began a non-stop rant, in bold caps that got him banned and his rants erased. David Gow, a Seattle-based PRT promoter gathered up A.T.E.'s rantings and proudly displayed them on his blog. A sample:


THOU SHALT NOT DEBATE! {thunderclap}








"Transportation Enthusiast" stomped over to the Pharyngula blog comment section to defend his new cause, one he was not sure of at that time:

I am new to PRT, so I'm not really a critic or a proponent, but I can tell you this: I am an engineer and I've looked at the math, and to this point I've seen no evidence that it has been proven infeasible.
I'm still quite skeptical, and I still lean towards proven technologies (i.e. LRT), but PRT is not "joke" that some would have you believe. The mathematics and theory seem quite reasonable to me. I've read the lightrailnow critique, and while it makes a few good points, there are some significant flaws, especially when it comes to headways. Yes, I've done the analysis myself, and I invite you to do so as well.

Certainly, PRT still has a lot to prove, and it may yet turn out to be infeasible in real world scenarios. I would still lean towards proven modes, but I have an open mind about it. I'm waiting to see how the current PRT projects in Europe and elsewhere turn out.

Do not be swayed by activists, on one side or the other. There are some people who have an almost religious zeal in their views on the topic, so be sure not to be swayed by the vocal minority (one way or the other).

It wasn't long before A.T.E. became a zealous defender of PRT even as the number of true believers dwindled.

Here's another example of Transportation Enthusiast's unique way of winning friends and influencing people:

"So now you're bowing out ,eh? You went in and empowered that f*cking idiot and now you're dropping it on the floor. You are as much a moron as he is."

A.T. E. continued being my personal troll for many years, maintaining a blog about me that accused me and friends of all sorts of nasty things. such as this:

Lesson: Do not trust political hack blogs like DumpBachmann, and, more generally, never trust any forum moderated by propagandists like Eva Young and Ken Avidor, especially in cases like this where they have a possible financial conflict of interest.

Recently, I noticed a critic on the Transport Innovators with a similar style of invective with the screen name Mike C. Here's a sample:

Michael Setty is an ignorant blowhard. He is one of the "three stooges" of anti-PRT activism, with Ken Avidor and Vukan Vuchic.

Mike C. also posted on another forum where his real name popped up on a couple posts.

A.T.E later changed his Wiki User name to Atren. On Daily Kos, he calls himself Transeth:

I am known as "A Transportation Enthusiast", "transenth", "Mike C", and "Mwillong" on various forums, as well as "ATren" on Wikipedia. I joined here to comment on some misleading threads regarding Personal Rapid Transit (PRT).

A.T.E. had a good run of anonymous trolling, but he slipped up when he posted his workplace IP number on Wikipedia... and now we know who he is.:

"About the Author -"Michael Carrato received his MS degree in computer engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has nine years of professional experience in design and development in C/C++, Java, and Smalltalk. He currently works as a software engineer at Cymfony, Inc., in Williamsville, NY....."

UPDATE: Michael Carrato confirms the facts in this post are correct.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Austin's Personal Rapid Transit Enthusiast

This is hilarious:

Mike Conwell's "Thoughts on the Sierra Club":

I’ve got to tell you, the most amazing opposition I’ve encountered since becoming a PRT advocate, has been that coming from the Sierra Club. It began with a 45 minute one way conversation from the then President of Austin’s Sierra Club blaming me and the big three from Detroit for the narrow defeat of the 2000 Austin Light Rail Initiative.** I continue to encounter opposition from the Sierra Club and a minority of other greens as we present PRT as a better solution for our communities.

Anyway, this puzzling stand by the Sierra Club, literally keeps me up at night, or at the very least, wakes me up obscenely early on a Sunday.

But all of the recent press for “Who Killed the Electric Car” and the Sierra Club’s trumpeting of that movie and pushing for hybrid vehicles, including getting behind Ford’s Hybrid SUV, got me thinking. If the Sierra Club can endorse a hybrid or all-electric vehicle, isn’t PRT just an even more efficient, safer EV on stilts? Maybe an alternative that includes a little walking?

So I gathered up for y’all some quotes and references found on their site and included below my signature. I’d also encourage y’all to share any more endorsements or calls to action that the Sierra Club and other green organizations are making, that PRT can easily fit into.

I’m not sure that I want to get into the relevance of the Sierra Club, and any inaccuracies that they might espouse (Endorsing Hybrids over Plugin Hybrids?) Like them or not, they are often the first people that ordinary citizens turn to when they want to get involved in the helping the environment. And I believe that they should be considered in our pitch, and would be a great asset when they become less of an obstacle to the implementation of a PRT solution.l

–Mike Conwell Austin, TX
AND AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND NEIGHBORHOOD ACTIVIST!!!! (for those who suspect my motives))

** The big three from Detroit will still not return my calls :-) Sure could use the money.

This is even more hilarious... from November 16th, 2005 - "PRT is a Joke":

An effort in search engine optimization. Road Kill Bill (Ken Avidor) is an unfortunately effective (if ill-informed) opponent of personal rapid transit. But he’s showing up as the third entry on Google when someone searches for Personal Rapid Transit. So… the question is, what do we do about it? I think there’s a case for libel, but I don’t have the money to pursue it. But I do have one idea… stay tuned. If you really want to learn more, contact me at the phone number on my main web page.

Hey, Mike... PRT was a joke in 2005 and it's still a joke in 2009.

What Happened to Astronaut's Planned Launch of Personal Rapid Transit in Austin?

Excited tweet from pod promoter and astronaut Richard Garriott:

Meeting today with Austin and London PRT teams. Over the next few days we will be pitching to Austin and regional leaders! Wish us luck!

5:32 PM Sep 21st from Tweetie

There's a mention of Richard Garriott's pod plan for Austin in this interview in May:

The segment with Richard “Lord British” Garriott is my favorite as he envisions an over head tram network of personal pods to shuffle people around Austin. He’s even considering putting money behind the idea!

No news about the September 21st meeting on the Austin PRT website or the Austin Citizens for PRT website.

Must have fizzled on the launch pad.


"Pods Off" - The Real Story of PRT in Daventry

Almost a year ago, Chris Millar leader of the Daventry District Council told the Daventry Express, “The eyes of the world are on Daventry with this project." The project he was talking about was a plan to install a futuristic "Personal Rapid Transit" (PRT, Podcars) system in the quiet market town of Daventry, England, population 22,36.

Now, it appears the plan to bring the much-hyped "revolution in sustainable public transport" to Daventry has been called off... what happened?

Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is an infeasible, futuristic transportation concept with over thirty years of controversy and failure... so why does PRT keep getting proposed in city after city recently in San Francisco and Phoenix and San Jose and Boston?

Part of the answer is people, Americans in particular are suckers for futuristic monorail flim-flams.. a weakness spoofed in the Simpsons episode "Marge and the Monorail". But there is another reason, the Legacy Media as well as the New Media fail to follow-up on the well-hyped launch of PRT projects and fail to report on the inevitable crash months or years later.

Such is the case with the proposal to bring PRT to Daventry.

In September 2007, the Daventry Express, known to locals as "The Gusher" had an article about a PRT conference held in Daventry.

Daventry District Councilor channeled Lyle Langly with this quote:

"Daventry is very much at the forefront of this. Across Europe, Daventry is at the cutting edge.

“This is a state-of-the-art new form of public transport which has a lot of benefits. This is very exciting and very positive.

“If it works in Daventry, everyone else will want it.”

Fast forward to the April, 2009 when The Gusher published an article titled "Pod Off! Residents oppose Daventry PRT scheme"

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.

Why were the citizens upset?

Several people spoke angrily about the lack of consultation from DDC on the pods, and others said not enough information had been made public by the district council.

Rosemary Cooper said: "Many people are very angry about the pods and we still feel there's been a lack of information and a lack of consultation with the public."

Another said: "I feel as if I'm almost helpless and don't know how to change things that are happening."

The Daventry Town Council (a separate governing body than the DDC) agreed, saying:

"Daventry people have not been apprised of the full extent of the infrastructure required to operate the proposed PRT system. This lack of information clearly denies them the opportunity to make reasoned judgement and comment. "

In a meeting in April, after listening to a report by a councilor who had visited Heathrow 5 and saw the transportation revolution first-hand, the Daventry Town Council voted to reject the pods:

RESOLVED: That Daventry Town Council reject Daventry District Council’s proposals for a PRT system and/or pilot scheme in the town, on the basis that it is inappropriate for and unacceptable to the people of Daventry.

According to this PRT website, Chris Millar is blaming the global recession for the demise of his pod venture.

The London Times still reports that Daventry is getting PRT:

"Bath and Daventry councils are considering joining Terminal 5 in this putative revolution"

And what did this fling with futuristic pods cost?. Here's a June 4th letter to the Leamington Courier from a Daventry Town Councillor titled "Shock at cost of pod scheme"

I RECENTLY requested some information from Daventry District Council (DDC) regarding expenditure on the PRT system proposed for Daventry.

I was more than shocked by the result and thought it incumbent on me to share the information with your readership. See quoted response below.

"The total expenditure on Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), including consideration of alternative transport modes, in the period of February 12 2007 to April 1 2009 was £485,936.43. This figure includes commissioned studies and all associated expenses.

"It is not a simple process to extract purely PRT costs, however for the period set out in this response PRT was coded separately within our internal finance processes.

"Please note that the council received grant funding from Northamptonshire Enterprise Limited of £200,000 (in 2007) as support for our studies.

"Hence the net Council expenditure for PRT in the period stated above was £285,936.43." (Northamptonshire Enterprise Limited (NEL) is a Government funded body)

With nearly half a million pounds being spent on PRT I also asked how much money had been spent on the alternative transport systems and the answer appears to be nothing.

This begs the question what are the alternative transport systems being considered and how serious has the consideration of them been?

Another councilor's letter mentions a similar figure:

I am a Daventry resident and a member of the DDC PRT Implementation: Public Advisory Panel – a people's panel that was set up to look at different types of transport and give its verdict on the right type of technology for Daventry.

There are 30 members of the panel who do not all live in Daventry so a public meeting would give the town's residents an input before we spend another £497,000.

£497,000 ... that's a whole lotta mono-doh!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

WVU Students Lampoon Morgantown PRT

There's been a lot of hype about the Morgantown PRT, like this segment from the bizarre Discovery Channel show (see yesterday's post):

A relic of misguided 1960's futuristic thinking, the so-called Personal Rapid Tranist (PRT) at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia now is in bad need of an overhaul and taxpayers may be asked to spend upwards of $90 million to fix it.

Here are two videos that lampoon the over-hyped people mover:

The futuristic Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) in Morgantown, West Virginia was designed to be an innovative "personal" mode of transportation... but it was jinxed from the start:

The Nixon administration rushed to have this trophy running before the '72 election, even as it was still being designed, driving up a budget that had (in the way of first efforts) been ludicrously underestimated. It was a great scare, and maybe karma, when at the launch a car took off prematurely with Tricia Nixon aboard. Congressmen and Reader's Digest railed against this "boondoggle," and the stigma has taken decades to shake.

The WVU PRT was supposed to prove the feasibility of the PRT concept, but that's not how it turned out:

... the PRT demonstration at West Virginia University at Morgantown, viewed at the time (mid to late 1970s) as the "proof of the pudding" of Personal Rapid Transit, in the words of the Metropolitan magazine article already cited. Originally estimated at $14 million by Prof. Samy E. G. Elias, an engineering professor at WVU and a major advocate of PRT technology, in the end the WVU system, 3.6 miles end-to-end with 8.7 total miles of guideway and 5 stations, cost over $126 million (as of 1979) – about $319 million in 2004 dollars.

While that amounts to only about $89 million per route-mile in 2004 dollars (not too bad for a mostly elevated transit system), it is far more than the bargain-basement prices typically promised by PRT promoters – and it does not include costs (such as real estate acquisition, public environmental mitigation, traffic control, etc.) which would be encountered by rapid transit planners trying to install a system in an urban area rather than a university campus. Moreover, the WVU experience engendered skepticism that such a PRT system with small van-like vehicles and small stations would really provide any sizable capacity in a more demanding environment to justify the relatively heavy investment that seemed to be indicated by the demonstration project. in effect, Morgantown was an ice-water bath for federal enthusiasm for PRT.

The Morgantown PRT would be more accurately described as a Group Rapid Transit (GRT) system similar to the people-movers in airports.

The Morgantown PRT is hardly "green" The concrete guideways have to heated with embedded pipes filled with anti-freeze to melt snow and ice. And the WVU PRT fries squirrels... lots of them:

It runs on electric rails above ground so when it rains or if a squirrel is unlucky enough to touch the rails then it breaks down. Nothing better than to look out the PRT window and see dozens of fried squirrels.

.. and according to WVU student blogs like this one, the PRT is extremely unreliable:

At least 15,000 students rely on the PRT's little yellow cars to get them where they need to go every day. To class, to the Rec Center, to the store. It will take you just about anywhere, when its working. First of all, it closes at 5 on Saturdays and isn't open at all on Sundays. Yeah, if you live downtown and want to work out during one of the few times you don't have class, too bad. Live up on Evansdale and want to do anything but work out? Oh well. Wanna go to church on Sunday? I hope your Methodist, or like hiking, cause those are really your only options.

A recent opinion piece in the The Daily Athenaeum gives more details about the WVU PRT's decrepitude and unreliability:

Part of the problem with the image of the PRT is that it breaks down without warning and without reason.

Students bemoan the fact that they are often late for classes or miss them altogether because of it.

It’s not a rare occurrence; it seems like there are always cars stuck on the rails above Beechurst Avenue.

In 2006, the PRT was down a total of 259 times for a total down time of 65 hours and 42 minutes, according to a 2007 Daily Athenaeum story.

According to a 2007 series of stories on the PRT, Bob Hendershot, assistant director of public safety and transportation for West Virginia University, said that one of the reasons for the recurring breakdowns stems the outdated power-collector arm – the sharp prong-like object on the individual cars.

Another issue is that the on-board computer system is severely outdated, according to one article.

... the vehicles are poorly designed and badly maintained:

The windows leak, the cars bump and jolt all across the tracks and half the time the heating is still on.

It’s not that I am expecting a first-class experience of some cross-national train journey, but the PRT ride, though brief, shouldn’t be completely miserable.

One of the biggest complaints of being stuck on a PRT is the experience inside the car.

When it rains, most cars lose two seats at the front and sometimes, if it’s a really bad storm, lose all four seats due to broken window seals that fail to keep the water out.

Another big issue is the heating and cooling system on board. It’s nice that the system even has those climate control devices, but when it’s the beginning of summer and the PRT is blowing out heat, it’s not a good combination.

Nor is it when the car breaks down and you’re trapped with a huddled mass of sweaty, angry people.

An article in The Dominion Post says officials at WVU are seeking to "modernize" the "antique" system and it will cost upwards of $90 Million. The university has hired a team of consultants to come up with a an exact figure. The cost of the consulting work is $565,183 for a ten-month study.

Time to pull the plug on the WVU PRT boondoggle.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Discovery's Insane Video About Personal Rapid Transit

The Discovery Company's How Stuff Works series has a segment about Personal Rapid Transit that is more bizarre than the usual PRT puff pieces that appear regularly in the media like this lame article in the Boston Globe.

Here's two stills from the video showing elevated pod guide-ways desecrating historic buildings and public places in Washington DC. Does any sane person think this could ever happen?



This still shows a skull-like PRT pod in front of the nation's Capitol... yikes!


If you have any notion that PRT is a legitimate transportation concept watch the folowing segments of the video from You Tube.

The narrator on this clip explains that a pod plan for Washington DC would require highways "two to three times wider":

Chris Perkins of the wacky would-be PRT vendor Unimodal/Skytran shows up in this video:

This segment is all about the threat of terrorism to an automated pod system and how it would be prevented by... what else... adding more automated, complex gadgets:

This segment is about the ULTra PRT project at Heathrow 5. The narrator says "For personal pod advocates nothing less than the future of transportation is at stake, with the outcome of the ULTra experiment." Chris Perkins says, "The success of the ULTra system at Heathrow is an important event in the podcar industry, and I think the future of podcars, at least in this era depends on its success."

The narrator says the ULTra pod is run by "a laptop"... which may be another reason why the launch of ULTRA has been postponed a second time since it was announced in 2005. The ULTra was supposed to be ready to take on passengers in 2008.

The UK ULTra website has not posted a reason why the debut for their "revolution in sustainable public transport" has been delayed. The U.S. ULTra website mentions the delay, but does not give a reason for the delay... they do take time to complain about "anti-PRT bloggers".

In 2008, this PRT guy said the first delay was "bad news for the whole industry":

Yet, the hype for PRT goes on and on and on....

UPDATE: The Pod People have applied for millions of Federal dollars:

In September, Unimodal applied to receive the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant to build the first functional public system.

Currently, the only line is a short test track at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Unimodal applied for the grant with several partners in St. Tammany Parish, La. which is where the first fully.

According to information distributed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the grant is part of the federal stimulus money, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is designed to provide funds for transportation-related capital investments that significantly impact the city where they are built.

Up to $1.5 billion have been allotted to the program and will be distributed among the applicants as the Secretary of Transportation sees fit.

Unimodal has requested $75 million to build the demo track.

Seattle Transportation "Expert" Attempts to Explain Bachmann's Support for Pod Boondoggle

Expect a lot of revising of history as we get closer to the 2010 election. A promoter of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) tried to downplay Bachmann's attempt to monkey-wrench transit with PRT when she was in the Minnesota State Senate.

David Gow is the "Seattle Transportation Examiner" at Gow also claims to be an "internationally recognized commentator on Personal Rapid Transit from his site Get On Board! PRT"

On a recent post called "PODCARS - Misunderstanding PRT" Gow states the following:

• Only right wing extremists want PRT. This claims Bachmann proposed a "PRT boondoggle." In reality Bachmann proposed adding the words "personal rapid transit" to Minnesota's lengthy list of types of public projects eligible to be funded by bonds. That was in 2004, and she hasn't said a word since about PRT, or introduced federal legislation about it -- nor did any other Republican in all the years they controlled Congress after the 1994 midterm elections.

Well, that leaves out Bachmann's grandstanding in the media. This is what Minnesota Public radio reported in 2004:

Supporters range from Minneapolis City Council member Dean Zimmerman, a Green Party member, to Republican Sen. Michelle Bachmann of Stillwater. Bachmann says personal rapid transit, like many political issues, creates strange bedfellows.

"People on the right, people on the left, we have the common goal of moving people with transit, but doing it in the most cost-effective manner, in fact, in a manner that may end up costing no government subsidy, it may end up paying for itself," she says.

Was Bachmann really interested in "moving people with transit"?

This is what Bachmann said about transit on her old website:

"As your District 52 State Senator, I will work hard to add capacity to Minnesota highways.... This is my personal commitment to you." "Michele believes a successful transportation policy must put an end to the diversion of scarce funds to impractical and expensive rail transit programs that will have no direct benefit for area residents and will cost millions of dollars in the future for operating subsidies. She has called for dedicating 100 percent of the sales tax on vehicles to road construction."

Why would Bachmann promote a phony transit system? For the same reason Bachmann hallucinates about "sex clinics" and "death panels"... Bachmann is a liar who will use bogus junk to monkey wrench the "liberal agenda".

PRT was promoted heavily in 2004 by Mark Olson (ejected from the House GOP Caucus after he was convicted for domestic abuse and voted out of office) and former Minneapolis Councilman Dean Zimmermann (convicted in 2006 for bribery). Like Michele Bachmann, Mark Olson and Dean Zimmermann were opposed to rail transit.

Minnesota House Speaker (and DFL candidate for Governor) Margaret Kelliher said in 2004 that PRT had "junk bond status"... she was right then and she is still right. PRT is a boondoggle that has wasted tons of money.

PRT has always been used a a stalking horse to attack reality-based transit. Here's a letter David Gow wrote to the Seattle Times in 2003:

Antebellum technology

Mayor Greg Nickels' South Lake Union streetcar proposal is the most ludicrous transportation nonsolution I have heard in quite some time. The streetcar record in city after city is clear: high construction costs, high subsidies and no significant effect on congestion. How can streetcars be part of an intelligently designed new biotech district, when streetcars guarantee its streets will be congested?

I find it hard to believe that the best our civic leaders can offer us is this antebellum transit technology. Why is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) not on the table for exploration? PRT is a "horizontal elevator" system that offers automated, on-demand, mass transit service.

For the same amount Seattle is planning to invest in trains, a grid of lightweight, unobtrusive, elevated PRT rail can be built covering the entire city.

PRT could even be deployed in South Lake Union, serving both as an efficient local circulator and to feed people to and from future train stations. And it could be done at a fraction of the cost of a streetcar line.

So why aren't Seattle's leaders looking at PRT?

Is it because the transit consultants giving them advice make an excellent living going around the country recommending trains?

David Gow, Seattle

In other PRT Pod People news...

The much hyped ULTra PRT project at Heathrow Airport has been postponed a second time.

The much-hyped PRT project in Masdar will be a 8 or so automated pods running around a basement.

What happened to this astronaut's PRT plans for Austin, Texas? It's a good guess it never got off the launch pad.

There was a PRT puff piece in the Boston Globe about PRT that mentioned that PRT was being considered as a people mover in San Jose.... I took a look at the list of RFI respondents and among the credible companies like Bombardier, there are some real howlers:

Alden DAVe Systems, d.b.a., East Falmouth, MA - Bill Alden is the octogenarian dabbler in gadgetbahn, would be inventor of the 1960's StaRRCar (See goofy picture of the StaRRCar here)

Beamways,Sweden, - A very silly pod concept similar to this creepy CGI animation on You Tube.

Cabintaxi Corporation, Detroit, MI, - Wacky 1970's concept - You Tube video with hilarious pre-disco era soundtrack.

CyberTran International, Emeryville, CA, Totally ridiculous.

MISTER Ltd., Poland , - Polish PRT?

Robert J Slade (Jack); Ontario, Canada - Who the heck is Jack Slade?

Taxi 2000 Corp, Fridley, MN, - This would-be PRT vendor hasn't sold a pod since it was founded over a decade ago.

Roane Inventions Incorporated , Georgetown, Texas - Is this TriTrack? The video with the woman in the tank top is a hoot.

Unimodal Systems, LLC ,Los Angeles, CA , - used to be known as Skytran... totally absurd.

VECTUS, Sweden and Korea, - A glorified roller coaster.

Jpods, Santa Clara, CA, - I hope San Jose picks Jpods, because people will be able to pimp their own pods: