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...

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