Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hilarious Opinion Piece By Personal Rapid Transit Promoter Hugh Miller

Comment on a recent Winona Daily News article about PRT:

Not saying this is or isn't a good use of federal stimulus money. But note that the private sector businessman pitching this is the guy that's been running those full page, star spangled ads about how the country is bankrupt and headed to hell in a handbasket.

The comment is referring to this long-winded opinion piece:

Rekindling the American Dream (11/29/2009)

by Hugh Miller
President and CEO, RTP Co.

Our country is in very serious financial trouble, mortal financial danger, and unless and until we turn it around, quickly, the American Dream will die. But upon reflection it's even worse than that, for while the death of the American Dream would be tragic enough, the end of America being a safe, stable and good place to live would be cataclysmic.

It''s that serious, and as an impassioned American citizen, very worried about his country, there is an obligation to speak out, as forcefully as possible. Here's how I see it.

The national debt we are accumulating is both debilitating and unsustainable, and by most standards we are already bankrupt. What this means, in practical terms, is shortly we will not be able to control our own destiny --others will control it for us. It also means our children, and their children, will not have the same opportunities we had, and in fact will be lucky to find a real job. Further, it means our standard of living declines, rapidly, bringing about extreme and likely violent social unrest. Let me try and explain.

The numbers are staggering and confusing, so I will try and state it in terms we can better understand.

Imagine you, Mr. or Mrs. Public, have take-home pay of $27,000 per year. During the year, however, you spend $47,000, $20,000 more than you take home. How can this happen? You charge things you cannot afford and your creditors look the other way. Anyway, you now have a debt of $20,000 you‚will have to pay back over time. You have a real problem, solvable, but unless you get at it, soon, you'll end up in serious trouble.

Now let‚s imagine you suddenly realize you have a second debt of $120,000. That‚ on top of the $20,000, so the total you now owe is $140,000. That''s a very big number, more than five times your take-home pay. With a really dedicated approach, and cooperative creditors, your debt is still manageable, but only with extreme discipline and understanding bankers.

Believe it or not it gets worse. Now let‚s imagine you‚ have just discovered you have a third debt and will owe another $480,000 in just a few years. That's on top of the $20,000 and the $120,000 for a total of $620,000. That''s more than 22 times your take-home pay, so even if you paid all your take-home pay for 22 straight years you‚'d still be in debt.

You are beyond out of control; you''re a fiscal catastrophe.

Fortunately most of us don't live this way, as we live within our means. Unfortunately, however, our favorite uncle does not. No, our Uncle Sam has spent too much in the past, is spending too much now, and will spend too much in the future.

Mr. or Mrs. Public in this example is actually the U.S. government, not with take-home pay and spending in the thousands, which we can all understand, but with take-home pay and spending in the trillions, which most of us cannot understand.

Instead of taking home $27,000, the U.S. government takes home $2.7 trillion dollars. Instead of accumulating debt of $20,000 over the next year, the U.S. government will accumulate debt of $2 trillion dollars over the same period. Instead of having a second actual debt of $120,000, the U.S. government today has an actual debt of $12 trillion dollars. And instead of discovering you have a third debt of $480,000, the U.S. government has unfunded liabilities, due shortly, of $48 trillion dollars and growing. This would include future payments for Social Security, Medicare, pensions, and other obligations.

How can any person live like Mr. or Mrs. Public? The answer is they can't. How can any government live the same way? The answer is they can‚'t either. Most Mr. or Mrs. Publics know better and would never put themselves in such a terrible position. Sadly, and certainly shortsightedly, and arguably stupidly, the U.S. government has put our country, and all Americans, in extreme financial peril. Worse, they don't seem to care.

If we are to solve our problems, we must first understand them, and so we need to step back and realize just how much we have already borrowed from our future and future generations.

We are a nation of about 300 million people, and we now have a total debt and unfunded liabilities of about $62 trillion. That''s $200,000 a piece! That's truly a startling figure, but that's reality, and that's the burden we've already placed on ourselves. Irresponsible doesn't begin to describe this travesty.

What should we do? Here is what I would do.

1) First we must immediately come to grips with and try to comprehend the dire financial position we're in, today. And we must explain that ugly truth to our people, also today.

2) Second, we must stop things from getting any worse. We simply must start living within our means, within our take-home pay, whether it's $27,000 or $2.7 trillion dollars. In that regard I‚'d be in favor of an amendment requiring our government balance its budget, every year, except in times of war. Until that happens, I'd balance the budget anyway.

3) We don't take in too little, we spend too much -- much too much. Since 1999 to the present the U.S. government has taken in, on average, 4% more per year. Unfortunately, during that same timeframe, they have spent, on average, 9.2% more each year.

Simply put we must cut spending, drastically, tough and unpopular as that may be. The alternative is worse, much worse. Taxing businesses or other job creators is not the answer and will make the deficit worse while increasing unemployment.

Sacrifice will be required by all of us, and it must be done fairly, and that‚''s as it should be. But whatever policies emerge must not be done at the expense of growth, for that would be counterproductive. After World War II we also had a huge debt, but strong economic growth made it much easier to handle that debt. And the reverse is true, the lower the growth the harder it is to pay back debt.

4) Any new spending programs should be shelved until we have a real plan for fiscal solvency. It’s like redecorating your living room while a fire is blazing in your basement. Put the fire out first, completely, before you even begin to think about redecorating.

Our first order of business, by far, is to put out the fire in our basement. Unless and until we fully extinguish that fire we won't have a house to live in anyway.

5) Both the second debts, $120,000 for Mr. and Mrs. Public and $12 trillion dollars for the U.S., and the third debts, $480,000 for Mr. and Mrs. Public and $48 trillion dollars for the U.S., must be dealt with, now. Aggressive repayment and other appropriate procedures, in a bipartisan way, must be implemented immediately. We either solve these problems, together, or we die, financially at least, together. We have no choice, it must be done.

6) Lastly, but certainly not least, we must start rekindling the American spirit, which once was so great, and inspired our ancestors to come here in the first place.

That same spirit turned this country into a great world power, largely by way of American manufacturing, American education, and American entrepreneurialism.

Today that would seem far less likely, as that American spirit is missing. We live in a highly competitive global society, and, sadly, America not only has a fiscal nightmare it has also lost its competitive edge in manufacturing, in K-12 education, particularly math and science, and in entrepreneurialism.

While our first order of business is digging ourselves out of our self-inflicted financial hole, simultaneously we must also start solving our manufacturing, educational, and entrepreneurial problems. By doing that we make ourselves globally competitive and give ourselves a chance to win.

By not doing so we lose.

Those six things are keys to solving our problems and laying the foundation for a successful future. It will be difficult and painful, but it can be done and it must be done.

I often think of my grandfather, who like many others came here with little more than the shirt on his back. But those brave souls also brought with them a dream, a dream of making a better life for themselves in their new country, America --the American Dream. And they did. I've little doubt my grandfather never heard of, let alone understood, the term entrepreneur. But nevertheless he was one, and mainly by hard work and sheer determination established a business, made life better for his family and his community, and created opportunities for others along the way. He lived the American Dream.

Would he be able to do so today? He certainly was strong and determined and his wife even more so, but I‚'m not so sure, in fact I doubt it --there simply are too many roadblocks. Would he even want to come here today? I'm not so sure of that either, and that, to me at least, is really sad.'

Minus that entrepreneurial spirit our economy won't grow, jobs won’t be created, and we'll start to experience an increasingly rapid decline in our standard of living. If we are to recover, it's entrepreneurs who will lead that recovery. Accordingly they must be encouraged, not discouraged.

This looming catastrophe hasn't happened overnight, but clearly it has accelerated rapidly this past year. We‚Äôve trusted our politicians to do the right things, and clearly they‚Äôve betrayed that trust. You might give them the benefit of the doubt by saying they don''t understand the problems, but if that‚'s the case they should find another line of work.

Rather than playing the blame game, however, and God knows there's plenty of blame to spread around going back many years, let’s take the positive approach and just start solving the problems.

Quite frankly we have a mess, actually messes, almost beyond description, and they become increasingly unsolvable the longer we wait. We must start attacking them today. But it's going to take a unified, bipartisan approach, starting right now.

From a personal perspective I would greatly prefer not to be the one highlighting these extremely unpleasant issues. However as an American citizen, very worried about his country, and very worried about the future of his children, and someday their children, and all other people it's children, there is no choice --it must be done. There is, in fact, an obligation.

We can rekindle the American Dream, and we must, but we must get going. Our grandfathers and fathers would want it that way. Our children and grandchildren will be forever thankful.

All that talk about fiscal responsibility and Mr. Miller wants to waste millions of taxpayers' $$$ on a pod pork project.

A screenshot with a quote from Mr. Miller from a brochure (PDF) promoting PRT in Winona.... BTW, who paid for that brochure?

Friday, January 29, 2010

PRT "Consultant" Advises Public Officials to Manipulate Public Process

PRT "consultant" Peter Muller, who was at the MnDOT Rochester PRT symposium recently posted this advice to public officials on his website:

Any proposed PRT system that could suffer from adverse public comment, should have a well thought-out public outreach program. Public education and input should commence before there is any chance of members of the public learning about the project and becoming upset, because there are aspects of it they do not understand or that get misrepresented in the press. There are many instances of good public projects being stopped in their tracks by a vociferous minority.

Muller then goes on to describe a sham public process - the sort of manipulative process described by Sherry Arnstein in The Ladder of Citizen Participation:

In the name of citizen participation, people are placed on rubberstamp advisory committees or advisory boards for the express purpose of "educating" them or engineering their support. Instead of genuine citizen participation, the bottom rung of the ladder signifies the distortion of participation into a public relations vehicle by powerholders.

The PRT guys have always avoided a genuine public process... what are they afraid of?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ULtra PRT is Testing... Testing... Testing....

A recent BBC article titled "Futuristic transport for Cardiff still on hold" asked the question:

Is this the future of public transport in south east Wales? Will it ever transfer from a test track in Cardiff Bay to the city's streets?

The answer is no.

A decision by the Welsh Assembly in January 2003 to withdraw £8m of financial backing for the scheme effectively shelved the project to the dismay of Cardiff council.

But seven years later a report by the Assembly's Enterprise and Learning committee in January 2010 has called for the fresh consideration of light rail systems in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport to tackle road congestion.

However, the report makes no reference to the system the Assembly had previously supported.

Why? Here's a clue - two screenshots from the ATS ULTra website that explain the problem:



The 2006 ATS ULTra website said this:

All of the key aspects of the technology of the ULTra system have now been demonstrated.

So why are they still testing... four years later?

How may chances do the PRT guys get?

Monday, January 25, 2010

JPODS 12 Year Plan to Save America

The Jpods Plan:

Intent: Repeat the successful 12 year re-tooling of communications infrastructure (analog to digital to wireless) in urban transportation infrastructure displacing 70% of oil-powered transport with JPods Networks that are 10 times more efficient per unit of economic work. Reduce US oil needs to within domestic production capacity.

Objective: By 2022 JPods, allies and competitors profitably displace 70% of urban oil-powered transport with networks 10 times more efficient, creating 5 million jobs, increasing disposable income by $5,000 per family, building economic lifeboats in the communities we serve.

Has the Winona City Council looked into Jpods?

Jpod Supports the Troops

Taxi 2000 Pledges Millions for Winona Pod "Test Lab"

Winona Post:

Firm pledges millions to Winona pod car test lab (01/24/2010)

By Sarah Elmquist

A private company that has developed a futuristic pod car transit system has pledged millions to Winona’s bid for a test lab to be the first to prove such a transportation system works.

Taxi 2000, based in Fridley, Minn., has offered to cover the required 20 percent match to a $24.9 million federal grant Winona will apply for. City leaders are backing the proposal, which would bring Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) to be studied in Winona, aiming to bring jobs and business to the first success of a transit vision first dreamed of in the 1950s.

Taxi 2000 has millions of $$$ to give away?

City Manager Eric Sorensen said that the possible grant money would cover the construction of the tracks, cars and study lab at SE Tech, as well as the maintenance for four years. He said that after that point, a possible nonprofit could be formed to take ownership of the infrastructure.

Supporters of the proposal, which include all City Council members except Deb Salyards, say that the test lab would generate jobs and business in Winona. Sorensen said that he envisions Winona producing much of the necessary components, from the cars themselves to the electronic boards that help run the system, and that there is a major potential for collaboration with the city’s three higher education institutions: Saint Mary’s University’s geospatial services department could take the lead on mapping assessments and graphic depictions of the operations. Winona State University, along with its composite engineering programs unique to the nation, could help develop and study the system and infrastructure, and SE Tech could assist in research and development of electronic systems, network administration, mechanical drafting and maintenance.

While the majority of the council seemed excited about the possibility, Salyards seemed skeptical, and voted against applying for the federal grant. She asked why, if this was such great technology, has the private sector not invested in a functioning system?

Mike Lester of Taxi 2000 said that every municipality around the world he’d talked to about PRT had been interested in being the second to employ it, but didn’t want to be the first. Cities around the world, he said, are waiting for the technology to be proven, a feat that could happen right here in Winona.

“We’ve got municipalities all around the world saying, ‘Show me,’” he said.

Council member Gerry Krage asked whether the city would be on the hook for maintenance costs after the grant expires, and who would pay to tear down the system if it fails in the future. Sorensen told the council that he envisioned a 501(c)3 being formed to take ownership of the system, and the cost of any potential decommissioning would be worked into the grant or taken care of by a future nonprofit.

Salyards was not convinced. “If this is the wave of the future, private investors should be paying,” she said, adding that spending taxpayer money frivolously is a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away, with no one willing to pull in the reins. “[Taxpayer grant money] is all like free money from heaven,” she said.

City leaders also viewed a map showing a potential “long-term” plan to add 11 more miles of track to the system, running tracks down Sarnia Street and Highway 61, down Huff Street and down Highway 14 to Saint Mary’s University.

Council member Deb Salyards is asking the right questions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winona City Council Votes 5-1 to Request $25 Million for Pods

Winona Daily News:

The City Council took an initial step Tuesday toward building a test lab for the controversial transit technology Personal Rapid Transit.

Council members voted 5-to-1 to submit an application seeking nearly $25 million in federal funding for PRT, which uses small, pod-like vehicles on guideways to shuttle passengers to their destinations. Winona will not put local tax dollars toward the project, and city officials have said they won't seek state funding.

City leaders have lauded the potential economic benefits of the Winona Personal Rapid Transit Lab and Partnership Center, which would include a 1.3-mile elevated guideway. The grant would also pay to build a testing laboratory on the main campus of Minnesota State College - Southeast Technical in Winona and fund it for four years.

Typical PRTista shenanigans:

While there was little discussion of PRT during the meeting, the vote came after council members examined the system during a pre-council informational session that lasted more than one hour.

Money quote:

"This is not a transportation mode for Winona ever," council member Gerry Krage said. "Right now, we're looking at $24 million for a showroom to bring people here."

One voice of reason:

Council member Deb Salyards spoke dubiously of the project, asking why the technology had not been implemented anywhere else and questioning if any government money should go toward such a project.

"I still wonder, why?," she said. "If this is the wave of the future, a private individual should develop this."

Salyards cast the lone vote against submitting the application.

What happens next?

After the council's approval, city staff must now prepare and submit the funding application by Feb. 8. Winona will learn if it landed the award this summer, and if the money is awarded, construction would have to begin within 18 months.

ULTra PRT's Headway Hokum

The ULtra website makes this claim:

"ULTra has a passenger-carrying capacity as great as LRT at 4800 seats per hour one-way at a 3 second headway.”

From a presentation at a January 12, 2008 ATRA conference:

Note: Slide #10 of the presentation mentions a shuttle application with a "5 second minimum headway". This only refers to the headway along the guideway. The small end-of-line stations shown in the shuttle graphic on slide #11 could not operate with headways below about 15 seconds. This is because all vehicles have to reverse direction at a single point within the station, and furthermore the limited number of berths would not give time to deboard and board passengers A larger station with more berths and multiple turn-around locations would be needed to process a vehicle every five seconds.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Who are the "Possible Private Donors" for the Winona PRT Project?

The Winona Post has an article on the pods of Winona:

Supporters for a futuristic transportation test system for Winona have thrown their cards on the table, with the city poised to apply for $25 million in federal funds for a first phase test lab.
Preliminary work on the possible project shows that Southeast Technical College could connect with the hospital and East End retailers through a series of pod-like cars which ride along elevated tracks.

Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is a transportation system developed in the 1950s, and has had its share of failures and criticism for a system which carries three to five passengers to destination stations along the elevated tracks. But supporters of the technology say it’s green, convenient, affordable and the wave of the future, with some studies suggesting such transit will become a $44 billion industry by 2020.

$44 billion? in ten years?

If PRT does explode as the new transportation system of the future, Winona city leaders would like a cut of the job creation that would flower alongside its development. They’ve come up with a plan, one that could result in a $175 million to $200 million system connecting locations in Winona, while fueling composite industry jobs and higher education collaboration.

That's $200 million of taxpayers dollars, folks.

Within a document prepared by the city to promote Winona as the site for a PRT test site, support was pegged from all three higher education institutions, and Winona-based RTP Company and related composite industries in Winona were named as private businesses which could help develop the actual pod cars and related infrastructure. That, city leaders say, could help create jobs that would continue to grow as PRT takes off elsewhere.

The City Council will learn more about the proposal on Tuesday, when it will vote on whether to pursue the $25 million in federal funding for the first phase project. That money would come with an 80/20 split, and would require matching dollars. City leaders have suggested that there’s plenty of interest from possible private donors for the project, and they likely won’t seek state bonding money for the potential PRT test bed.

"Possible private donors"..... where have I heard that before....

I wrote about a similar pitch for a PRT resolution back in December 23, 2005:

How the Personal Rapid Transit Scam Works

The PRT scam artists tried to sneak a resolution onto the Saint Paul City Councilmeeting agenda Wednesday.

Pioneer Press 12/20/05:

"St. Paul City Council: Regular meeting, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd. The council will discuss the city's Emergency Operations Plan and a potential feasibility study on a personal rapid transit system...."

What happened?

I heard the councilman yanked the PRT resolution. I've also heard from a reliable source that the PRTers claimed they had an "angel" willing to invest in a PRT "demonstration project" in Falcon Heights... a monorail between the Midway stadium and the State Fair.

Apparently, the angel didn't exist (maybe the angel was raptured).

The PRTers have pulled variations of this scam in Duluth, Minneapolis, and Rochester. They convince some well-meaning councilmembers to vote for a resolution saying they are "considering" or "studying" a PRT project for their city.

The anti-LRT/anti-Northstar bunch (Bachmann and Mark Olson are prominent Northstar haters and PRT boosters) in the legislature use the resolutions to convince DFLers to vote for their anti-transit PRT bills because a PRT project in their district smells like pork. That's the Democratic Party for you, the Dems will eagerly hang themselves if the rope is made of pork. Last session the PRT demonstration project was supposed to be in Duluth and they got Senator Prettner Solon to co-author a PRT bill.

Some suckers have actually bought stock based on these bogus resolutions and bogus bills.

Which City Council in Minnesota will be the next target of the PRT scam artists?

It only took 4 years. Now Winona is poised to be the next victim of the PRT con artists.

The question now is will the City Council of Winona perform due diligence and ask who the "possible private donors" are before they sign on to this current iteration of Ye Olde Pod Scam.

PRT "Consultant" Tweets Dangerous Doomsday Urban Legend

PRT "consultant" Peter Muller, self-styled "PRT Guru" (or "Podcar Guru") and and attendee at the November 17, 2009 MNDOT Rochester PRT symposium tweeted the following Saturday:

The Large Hadron Collider could cause the end of the world! Alarming Business Week article

Telegraph UK:

Scientists working on the world's biggest machine are being besieged by phone calls and emails from people who fear the world will end next Wednesday, when the gigantic atom smasher starts up.


A girl in India has committed suicide after watching TV reports that a physics experiment could bring about the end of the world, her family says.

Sixteen-year-old Chaya poisoned herself at her home in the central city of Indore, her father, Bihari Lal, said.
He said Chaya had been worried the "world would end" when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was switched on.

Keep it klassy and scientific, PRT Guru!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is The Raytheon Personal Rapid Transit Boondoggle Testing Facility Gone Forever?

The $45 million dollar PRT test facility as it looked on Google maps in 2007:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This is what Google maps shows now:

Nearly a decade ago....

Raytheon pulls out of rapid transit plan

By Ross Kerber, Globe Staff, 3/29/2000

It may take a bit longer to catch Taxi 2000.

Some transit planners still swoon over the design, an ambitious monorail-like system that would send three-seat cars zipping around urban areas at up to 80 miles an hour on elevated tracks. In 1993, Raytheon Co. said it would invest $20 million to build a test track in Marlborough, in a partnership with the Taxi 2000 engineering firm. At the time, defense contractor Raytheon touted the deal as part of its effort to diversify. But the firm has renewed its military focus since then, and yesterday said it has exited what it calls the ''personal rapid transit'' business.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Raytheon also said it has taken a $6 million charge to ''dispose of'' the test track, a one-third-mile outdoor loop built near a company parking lot. A spokeswoman couldn't be more specific about the track's fate, though she said it was part of a number of cost-cutting steps Raytheon took after a series of financial warnings and slowing sales. Executives were not immediately available to discuss the move, she said.

The end of Raytheon's support might be seen as a setback to Taxi 2000 president J. Edward Anderson, a retired mechanical engineering professor who taught at Boston University and the University of Minnesota.

But Anderson, reached at home near Minneapolis, says he's glad for the 
chance to seek new partners and is in discussions with another company, which he declined to name.

... How many chances do these PRT dudes get? ...

The electric-powered, computer-controlled system Anderson proposes would be cheaper than light rail and environmentally cleaner than building more freeways and automobiles, he said.

Anderson estimates Raytheon spent nearly $45 million developing and 
marketing the project since 1993.

... 45 million freekin' dollars!!! ...

He said the three test cars it built, at 5,000 pounds apiece, were far too heavy. ''We lost eight years'' working with Raytheon, he said. ''But we're going to recover.''

One supporter is Ed Porter, a member of the Santa Cruz, Calif., planning commission who says he will urge that a personal rapid-transit system such as Taxi 2000 be included in a mass-transit study the city is now preparing.

Some oppose the idea because it would involve building elevated tracks 
down city streets, but Porter is unfazed: ''As much as you could improve bus or rail service, it doesn't look like they're going to get the job done alone,'' he said.

Now Porter worries Raytheon's move could harm his case.

''I was hoping to come visit,'' he said.

Don't worry, Ed. You may get your wish when Winona builds a similar, and equally doomed PRT boondoggle test track!

Who Will Clean and Maintain the Winona PRT?

Another good comment from yesterday's Winona Daily News article:

easy said on: January 16, 2010, 3:58 am

What's the Point and RiverView think it should connect the bars and campuses and the jail -- it would also need a stop at the drive-thru at Hardees!

The question is who would be responsible for maintaining the pods, taking out the litter, cleaning up the graffiti and the vomit -- and you know everyone will want to have sex in the things.

If the pod's a rockin, don't....oh well.


Hold on to Your Wallets, Taxpayers - PRT in Winona Will Cost a Lot of $$$

With the release yesterday of a proposed route for the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) project in Winona, questions should be asked about the process by which the cost of the project was determined and who will pay for the project.

According to City Manager Eric Sorensen in yesterday's Winona Daily News article, the PRT project is a big one:

"The intent is for this to be a major project," said City Manager Eric Sorensen

Major projects have major costs.

It is unclear whether the anonymous designer of that route engaged citizens, businesses and public officials in a public discussion as required by law (NEPA), particularly when it comes to cost and who will pay.

The city won't put local tax dollars toward the [PRT] center and is unlikely to seek state funding, city officials said...

There is an established process for determining the cost of transportation projects like the PRT project proposed for Winona.

That process is outlined in this Federal Highway Administration document - (MAJOR PROJECT PROGRAM COST ESTIMATING GUIDANCE PDF):

1. Estimate is escalated to year of expenditure dollars for each element of the project.

2. Process includes risk-based assessments of unknown and all uncertain costs.

3. Estimate is well documented.

4. Estimate has been independently validated.

5. Estimate is consistent with project scope.

6. Estimate includes all initial preliminary engineering costs and final design costs.

7. Estimate includes all right-of-way and administrative costs.

8. Estimate includes all third party (e.g. utility, railroad) costs.

9. Estimate includes all TDM/TSM costs.

10. Estimate includes all construction costs.

11. Estimate includes construction contingencies.

12. Estimate includes construction administration.

13. Estimate includes public outreach cost.

14. Estimate includes a management reserve.

15. For planning or conceptual estimates, consideration was given to expressing the
estimate as a range.

16. For projects under design, estimates include a design contingency at each stage of


The team must be familiar with the project scope. The team will review all aspects of the cost estimate for accuracy and reasonableness and identify major cost items and estimate issues. At a minimum this would include structures, roadway elements, right-of-way, utilities, environmental mitigation, preliminary engineering, construction engineering, contract administration, contingencies, and inflation rates.

Was all that done? If it wasn't done, it will be done and the taxpayers will pay for it.

And if the PRT guys say it won't cost taxpayers anything, they are deliberately misinforming citizens and public officials about a major project that could cost many millions of dollars.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Proposed Route for Personal Rapid Transit in Winona

Click to make larger:

What was the level of citizen participation for this plan?

PRT Guys Want an Earmark for Winona Pods

Winona Daily News:

The proposed route for Personal Rapid Transit in Winona would include stops at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical and Winona Health, according to the latest city proposal.

City leaders say the 1.3-mile route would serve as a showcase for PRT, a controversial transit system that uses small, pod-like vehicles on guideways to shuttle passengers to their destinations. The elevated guideway would loop through the East End near Hwy. 61, with planned stops at Southeast Tech and Winona Health and near Target and Fleet Farm.

... stop right there. Why would anyone take a pod that doesn't even have a trunk to Target and Fleet farm?

The city won't put local tax dollars toward the center and is unlikely to seek state funding, city officials said, meaning the project hinges on federal funding.

... the PRT guys can't face hearings at the legislature, so they are going for an earmark.

Winona City Council members will hear a presentation Tuesday on PRT before considering a resolution supporting a grant application seeking nearly $25 million for the project.

... another PRT dog and pony show like the one they show in city after city to ask for taxpayers' money for a project the PRT guys claim won't cost the taxpayers any money. For a preview, watch the PRT presentation in Alameda in 2008.

"The intent is for this to be a major project," said City Manager Eric Sorensen, citing the potential economic benefits of the proposal. "This would be a huge thing for us. It's a moneymaker."

City leaders envision Winona's businesses manufacturing components for the system and guideway. If the set-up serves as a prototype for PRT elsewhere, local universities and industries could be in the driver's seat to develop an emerging technology, Sorensen said.

So, it's not a transportation project, it's an economic development project (read; pork). How did PRT work out as economic development for Daventry? Not so good.

The technology will come before the Council for the first time Tuesday, with a presentation from Mike Lester of Taxi 2000, a Fridley, Minn., firm the city has been working with on the proposal.

"There's a lot of interest in this ... but everybody says, ‘We don't want to be the first one,'" he said, referring to other municipalities in the U.S. and abroad. "By being the first, it could equal a lot of jobs in Winona, a lot of jobs in Minnesota."

I hope someone makes a video of Mike Lester's presentation.

The proposal is already garnering support from the private sector. Winona's application will be accompanied by letters of support from Southeast Tech, Winona Health and Rivers Hotel Group, Sorensen said.

If submitted, Winona will learn if its funding application is approved this summer, Sorensen said. Under the terms of the grant, construction would have to begin within 18 months.

... stop right there... BIG QUESTION - How can construction "begin within 18 months" without ANY input from the citizens of Winona? Let's have a look at the law: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA):

Public involvement and a systematic interdisciplinary approach are essential parts of the development process for proposed actions.

23CFR § 771.105(c)

FHWA's Public Involvement Requirements

Each State must have procedures approved by the FHWA to carry out a public involvement/public hearing program pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 128 and 40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508.

State public involvement/public hearing procedures must provide for:

Coordination of public involvement activities and public hearings with the entire NEPA process.

Early and continuing opportunities during project development for the public to be involved in the identification of social, economic, and environmental impacts, as well as impacts associated with relocation of individuals, groups, or institutions.
One or more public hearings or the opportunity for hearing(s) to be held by the State highway agency at a convenient time and place for any Federal-aid project which requires significant amounts of right-of-way, substantially changes the layout or functions of connecting roadways or of the facility being improved, has a substantial adverse impact on abutting property, otherwise has a significant social, economic, environmental or other effect, or for which the FHWA determines that a public hearing is in the public interest.

Reasonable notice to the public of either a public hearing or the opportunity for a public hearing. Such notice will indicate the availability of explanatory information. The notice shall also provide information required to comply with public involvement requirements of other laws, Executive Orders, and regulations.

Let's take a look at the comments to the article to get an idea what the citizens of Winona think of the pod project:


easy said on: January 15, 2010, 10:04 am
I agree with those who think it is a wasteful use of funds. And with the grant being 80/20, it looks like 'private sources' will have to come up with around six million. Who exactly will be contributing?

But if we just have to, must, spend the money, why that poor route? We want Winona to be a tourist destination, revitalize the downtown, and better utilize the riverfront....this WOULD bring people into town.


What's the Point? said on: January 15, 2010, 10:00 am
I think this thing should go from each of the campuses to all of the bars in town and have a last stop at the jail!
Report Abuse Admin


xfs said on: January 15, 2010, 9:24 am
We will compete with Disney World's monorail! Wow! I can't wait to drive my car, find a parking space, walk to a pod, and go someplace that I don't need to go. What is wrong with buses and cars and taxis? And is fed money still not coming right out of my pocket? This brilliant city council needs to come back to earth and just fix the roads we already have.


ssugarplum said on: January 15, 2010, 9:14 am
So do I have this right? If I've driven to the clinic and want to take a trip to the school for... (????), I can whiz on over in the pod? Then I whiz back? Or I'm a student and like soo many I must go to the clinic during the day I again whiz on over? Is it just me or is this picture not making sense!


Troller said on: January 15, 2010, 8:27 am
It's not local money, it's federal money???? It'll create jobs until after construction is complete, then it's paid for by ???? So to ride to the clinic I can find parking at WSU or SETC, or do I park at the clinic and ride to WSU or SETC. A train from nowhere to nowhere. Perhaps this is just one more political misdirection project. Use the money to fix the current transportation system, not build another one to be ignored.


CaptnTony said on: January 15, 2010, 8:17 am
We ALREADY HAVE *personal* rapid transit! Spend the money fixing/expanding the roadways! Just another stupid reason to spend my money.

giverson said on: January 15, 2010, 7:53 am
What a waste of Chinese money! I have a better idea, how about using busses? Taxpayers: don't let these criminals get away with this. Save your grandchildren.


Captain Norb said on: January 15, 2010, 4:25 am
Not saying this is or isn't a good use of federal stimulus money. But note that the private sector businessman pitching this is the guy that's been running those full page, star spangled ads about how the country is bankrupt and headed to hell in a handbasket.

What a fiasco!

MN Senate 31 Candidate Paul Ibisch Op Ed on Personal Rapid Transit in Winona

Paul Ibisch in the Winona Daily News:

The Winona Daily News editorial about the proposed Personal Rapid Transit brought to light many of its flaws
(Dec. 20).

In spite of the article, a candidate for public office endorsed the project as long as it is "not at the taxpayer's expense."
This statement is either naïve or disingenuous.

Taxpayers would carry much of the burden for the cost. If it were merely funded by private investors or academic centers, there would be little need to sell us on the idea.

Beware of slick promotions. Almost all projects of this kind have seen huge cost overruns and questionable ethics.

The system of 8.65 miles of track used in Morgantown W.Va., a city of about 20,000, cost $130 million in 1979. The initial trial of the SkyWeb Express by the University of Minnesota required $1 million donations by 68 individual investors in 2003.

More recent experiments such as those in Daventry, England, have proved very costly for the local government. The proposed costs for PRT seem suspect.

Winona has the manufacturing ability and the academic resources to take a leading role in "green" technology. There are new developments in many fields, and any one of them may provide the breakthrough which will transform transportation needs. Some environmentally friendly solutions are appealing but not practical, cost-efficient or wise. The implementation of PRT on a large scale is questionable because of the required new infrastructure.

The federal fund created with taxpayers' dollars for "job creation or retention" will likely be expended to promote election year causes. Ongoing federal or state funding will be limited by debt service for current and continued deficit spending. The only common-sense solution is to cut unnecessary programs and shrink state and federal programs.

Removing unnecessary mandates to business will improve broad-based and long-term employment prospects. Community investment at a time of economic downturn needs to focus on immediate infrastructure and support of current programs.
Ibisch is a candidate for the Minnesota Senate.

In a statement to this blog, the other GOP SD 31 candidate Jeremy Miller said this:

The State of Minnesota is facing a $1.203 billion dollar deficit for the current biennium and $5-6 billion for FY 2012-2013. Early estimates on the 2010 bonding bill are already upwards of $1 billion; this is before the 2010 session has even begun. The State of Minnesota has a serious crisis on our hands, and it must be dealt with in a fiscally responsible manner.

The PRT project is an innovative idea that could potentially work in Winona; however not at the taxpayer’s expense. I heard there are a few private investors interested in moving forward with the project, even if public funding falls through. I would support this endeavor. I am a strong advocate of private sector development/ investment, and I support tax incentives for private funding on any project that encourages investment and creates private jobs in Minnesota.

My stance on federal funding is the same.

I have also asked Senator Sharon Erickson Ropes for her position on the Winona Pod project.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

PRT Promoter David Gow Insists on Misrepresenting Congressional Candidate's Position on PRT

As I reported in this post, David Gow, who manages several PRT websites, PRT blogs etc. continues to claim that Congressional candidate Marcy Winograd supports PRT.

I have re-checked by email with the candidate and I can affirm again that Marcy Winograd does not support PRT.

Dear Ken,

I removed all references or recommendations for the PRT from my blog posts after learning more about the PRT as a boondoggle that wasted taxpayer money. Initially, I was excited about it as evidence that aerospace can move beyond weapons manufacturing into rapid transit, but after realizing that the PRT was an inefficient investment and waste of taxpayer money, I deleted all references to it from my postings.

Thank you,

Marcy Winograd

PRT promoters are misrepresenting the facts in support of a project that would cost taxpayers many millions of dollars... and that is a very serious matter.

Taxpayers League Refuses to Take a Position on Public Funding of Pawlenty's Pod Boondoggle

Statement from the Taxpayers League:

I spoke with Phil and the Taxpayers League does not have a position on PRT at this time. Please feel free to check back later in the session or when developments on the project arise to see if there has been a change.

How much will the Winona PRT project cost taxpayers?

The Winona PRT plan would couple $20 million in federal grant dollars with $2.5 million in private investment and another $2.5 million in state bonding money, City Manager Eric Sorensen said. The City Council might vote next month on whether to ask local lawmakers to sponsor a bill seeking the state funds, Sorensen added.

"We'd love to see $25 million spent in Winona on job creation," he said, "and hopefully underpin a huge success story for the whole community."

Before Krinkie, David Strom was the head of the Taxpayers League. This is what he said about PRT on the Taxpayer League's Radio Show 1/1/2005:

I'll give you my take on this (PRT) First, Personal Rapid Transit already exists and it's called the automobile. Now, with that said the argument for the PRT system that exists out there is, well this is a way to add capacity very rapidly without... since it's elevated you don't have the same problems with having to knock down houses and various other things, y'know, but if you start looking at the system, the problem is there is no system. It doesn't really I mean, part of their argument is about how it failed somewhere else, "well, it's not really what we got here" and I say, well look, let's build it in Dubai. Let's build it where they want to throw tons of money at it. If it's so great, then we'll see. If not, why should we be subsidizing it?... certainly not to the tune of 600 million bucks... that's a ton of money...uh, it just doesn't make any sense to me..


I'm not surprised that the Taxpayers League refuses to take a position... Phil Krinkie voted for former Rep. Mark Olson's PRT legislation when he was in the legislature.

If there is any question whether PRT is pork, give a listen to this video:

More info about the above video at Lloydletta.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PRT Promoter David Gow Spreads More Misinformation

PRT promoter David Gow claims Marcy Winograd supports PRT

Marcy Winograd does NOT support PRT... I have an email from Marcy Winograd that says so.

UPDATE: I have received another email from Marcy Winograd that affirms that she does not support PRT.

For the record - over thirty years, the Minnesota Legislature dinked around with PRT. In recent years, PRT lost the support of most DFLers, but support remains among a shrinking residue of anti-transit, right-wing extremists in the MN GOP.

Here's a list of representatives who voted for one of Rep. Mark Olson's PRT amendments voted down 26 to 107 on April 12, 2006:

Anderson, B.
Hosch (DFL)
Marquart (DFL)
Nelson, P.

Who supports PRT?


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Video: Tim Pawlenty & his PRT Pod Boondoggle

This 48 second video shows just how dumb Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is:

More info about MnDOT, Pawlenty and PRT:

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.

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.

Go to and download the white paper on pods in Winona, Minnesota (PDF).

Winona Daily News editorial about the pods.

Read notes from MnDOT invitation-only pod "seminar" in Rochester, Minnesota November 17, 2009.

MN 20/20: "Minnesota's Phantom Podcars"

The pod people have plans for Edina, St. Paul and Rochester too!

Who is former Rep. Mark Olson? Find out here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Night PRT Double Feature

I made this video in 2007:

This video answers the question "is PRT feasible?":

Emails From the PRT Guys

This is an email from Larry Fabian of The Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) responding to my post about would-be PRT vendor Jack Slade's suggestion that I should get a job cleaning toilets:

Yes, the PRT field is full of flakes and wannabes. I have no idea who Slade is. Let me know if you find out.

And the dude in Hartland WI. That's close to you.

Roane is a quirky one too.

I'm sorry Larry, I can't keep track of all the backyard inventors who claim to be PRT vendors. Geez, there's like a gazillion of them on Jerry Schneider's website.

This is an email from Michael Carrato of Buffalo, New York, responding to the previous post:


I just wanted to thank you for your recent posts mentioning my name. Maybe it's vanity, but I'm really happy I revealed myself to you and I get a little thrill every time you mention me. Maybe I'll even get my 15 minutes out of this! :-)

And BTW, now that I revealed myself, I'm still waiting for our debate to commence. Wasn't that the reason you listed for not debating me? So, are you ready to debate??

Also, what's going on with the whole Mark Knapp thing? Surely you realize that your association with him all those years is pretty damning, right? And aren't you supposed to be some sort of investigative reporter? How could an investigative reporter spend so much time collaborating with Knapp and NOT be aware of his illegal activities? Either you aren't a very good reporter... or you were in on it! I'll assume the latter, since I already know that's true. :-)

Oh yeah, and what about the 17-year-old named Chris? Who did you really think I was before I revealed it to you? I have to go dig up those comments where you were calling me Chris; they were hilarious for me then, and they can be hilarious for everyone now!

Happy blogging, and keep putting my name out there!

Mike Carrato aka Mike C aka ATren aka A Transportation Enthusiast


Actually, Mr. Carrato is the only person who thinks I knew about Mr. Knapp's alleged criminal activity before he was raided. Even people in Corvallis, Oregon were surprised:

Mary May, the office manager for the managing partner of apartments, said that the allegations against Knapp took her and others by surprise. "He paid his rent. He didn't cause problems," May said.

If Mr. Carrato has evidence that contradicts what I have told authorities looking for Mr. Knapp, Mr. Carrato should bring that evidence to the U.S Marshal immediately.

As I have said before, the continued association of PRT advocates and PRT vendors with people like Mr. Slade and Mr. Carrato does not look professional.

More advice for the pod promoters; If you are requesting many millions of dollars from taxpayers, it is not good public relations to attempt to intimidate critics.

UPDATE: Mr. Carrato continues to send me emails. I will not publish them. Mr. Caratto has admitted making a false and defamatory statement about me. I urge Mr. Carrato to retract that statement and apologize for that statement and others that he has made. He should do so publicly and stop sending me emails.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Are Personal Rapid Transit Promoters "Deceptive and Dishonest"?

Yonah Freemark had a post about PRT on the Transport Politic blog last month. Freemark said the following about the veracity of the PRT promoters:

Over the years, most attempts at implementing PRT have failed due to a lack of interest from investors — and as a result of deceptive, dishonest campaigns by “pod people” who simply promise too much.

That post generated 245 comments.

Many of the pro-PRT comments came from "Mike C" (Michael Carrato), formerly "A Transportation Enthusiast" , author of the Weinerwatch blog and other nasty stuff on the blogosphere and on Wikipedia. A sample of Carrato's klassy style on the Transport Innovators forum:

Michael Setty is a tired old blowhard. Nathan Koren has forgotten more than Setty ever knew.

Setty, Avidor and Vuchic: the three stooges of luddite transit.

Michael Setty has written a PRT smear piece that he's trying to pass as a legitimate study. Except his "analysis" is riddled with cites to Wikipedia -- yes, THAT Wikipedia which is mostly written by college kids and teenagers.

PRT promoters tolerate and even encourage Carrato's activities. The would-be ULTra PRT vendor ATS Ltd, even recommended Carrato (A.T.E.) as a reliable source of information. Here is an example of Carrato's work on Weinerwatch:

TreeHugger is yet another example of idiot journalism - a collection of untrained, unprofessional writers who take the words of those with an agenda, and present them as unaltered, unswerving fact. Did Lloyd Alter bother to investigate Avidor's claims? Of course not! If he had, he would have found responses from others which answer every single one of Avidor's talking points.

The fact that the PRT industry tolerates and encourages Carrato's activities should suggest that it is not an industry at all, but a deception... a distraction from the real-world transportation choices public officials and citizens face.

This is an excerpt from a comment by "Engineer Scotty" on the blog:

Some of the PRT ideas strike me as interesting, particularly as a way for improving transit outcomes in lower density areas that wish to remain that way. Of course, given the current expense of PRT (until several production systems have been built and there is an industrial track record, I won't trust anybody's cost estimate, and the figures given by some PRT advocates frankly don't pass the smell test--that said, I'm not sufficiently informed to rebut them), it may well be a nonstarter, or require local subsidy to install. But if it could be pulled off, it would integrate better with transit than huge park-and-rides, and result in better environmental and land-use outcomes.

That is a might big If.

That said, the PRT flacks and fanboys that have descended upon Yonah's blog like buzzards over a downer gazelle, are in large part peddling a line of argument is obnoxious in the extreme. Rather than making apples-to-apples comparisons, contrasting PRT with other commonly-used low-density mobility solutions--the personal car, taxis, carpools and rideshares, local bus service (including services enhanced via improved or reserved infrastructure)--instead PRT gets frequently compared to rail. And such comparisons are even made in the application rail excels at, moving lots of people quickly along a linear corridor. The basis of choosing PRT seems to be a) its cheaper, and b) no need to share a vehicle with the riffraff.

I can only think of one good reason for this apples-and-oranges line of argument--PRT vendors and their spokesfolks have made the political calculation that the best way to make money is to divert capital funding from capital-intensive, big ticket urban transit projects (in particular, rail), rather than from roadbuilding and other transportation dollars already going to suburbia. In some areas, their political calculus might well be correct, and some of the more obnoxious "mass transit is dirty and smelly and full of unpleasant and dangerous people" arguments, which are specious at best and outright racist at worst, might win support in some locales. This is most likely true in places where the dominant consensus (especially among the powerful) is opposed to urbanism, publicly funded transit, or the urban demographic itself.

Excellent point. The PRT guys are always bashing transit as these two videos show:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

PRT Media Puffery From the Past

Let's go way back... back to the last time the PRT hucksters attempted to fleece taxpayers and investors in Minnesota....

There's this MPR article from 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.

... and this article "The Future >> My Pod" is from The Rake (March 31, 2004):

...Anderson has been certain since the late 1960s that more buses, trains, and roads will not heal the daily transit aneurysm that American cities suffer. He is convinced that our transit needs more than a tweaking. Taking the “mass” out of transit and inserting the “personal” will allow transit to live up to its frequent billing in the “rapid” department.

Anderson’s thirty-five-year-old vision of a networked system of four-passenger vehicles on a small, dedicated guideway with non-stop service—and the capacity of a freeway—seemed impractical, somehow, to hard-headed urban transit managers. But today, with advances in plastics, software, and hardware, PRT is merely off-the-shelf rocket science.

A PRT system has been tested in Cardiff, Wales, and several European cities are lining up to install it. In the U.S., Taxi 2000’s SkyWeb product is leading the way; Minneapolis and Duluth are waiting on the passage of bonding bills to build test tracks.

Zimmerman says PRT would work with light rail and buses to reduce inner-city traffic, pollution—and haggling about where to build the next parking ramp. “If you catch a bus on Bloomington Avenue by Minnehaha Creek to head downtown, you’ll transfer twice. Chances are, each transfer will involve a wait. With PRT you’ll catch your bus to a PRT station in the core area and have a five-minute ride downtown. Transfers are virtually eliminated.”

Zimmerman is a confessed apostle of PRT. If you let him, he’ll read you fourteen reasons to agree with him. But since you’re busy, here are just a few: It produces zero emissions. It does not require a yearly subsidy from taxpayers. It makes it easier for more people to use existing forms of transit. There is no waiting; it runs twenty-four/seven.....

.... If that wasn't silly enough for you, read this selection from a Southwest Journal article called " "Is there a monorail in Minneapolis' future?" (January 22, 2004)

...City Councilmember Dean Zimmermann (6th Ward) is lobbying for a mass transit technology that may set a new standard for inner-city travel.

Taxi 2000, a Fridley-based company, developed Skyweb Express, a monorail system running 16 feet above ground. It features a fleet of automated Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) vehicles -- each seating three to six people -- that take passengers on a private, nonstop journey to any station in the network at a speed of about 30 miles per hour.

No city has adopted the technology, but Zimmermann thinks it makes sense for Minneapolis -- especially along the Midtown Greenway and neighborhoods between Lake Street and downtown.

"This is going to be the most significant innovation for cities since the introduction of the automobile," Zimmermann said. "It's an efficient way to move people around an urban area without the two scourges we now have--parking problems and road congestion. Plus, there is no pollution from it because it is electric."

(PRT itself wouldn't generate pollution where it runs, but pollution would be produced at the plant where the electricity is generated.)

According to Zimmermann, PRT is cheaper to operate than buses or light rail: 38 cents per passenger mile, versus 50 cents and $1.42 respectively. It's also cheaper to build than light rail.
If the lower costs are true, the Midtown Greenway could be PRT's perfect springboard.

The Greenway is a bike/pedestrian/transitway between 28th and 29th streets, eventually extending from the Chain of Lakes to the Mississippi River. So far, a multineighborhood transit group favors trolleys for the Greenway's mass transit, while Hennepin County holds out hope for light rail.

Zimmermann envisions a PRT system that could be built for less than light rail, yet extends deep into local neighborhoods.

"For $315 million, you get 4 miles of track and six stations in light rail," said Zimmermann. "The same investment will get you a 4-mile-by-2-mile [PRT] loop plus 42 stations."

Zimmermann -- a geographer and former truck driver -- has drawn up a tentative but detailed map of a 42-station system snaking 30 miles between Lake Street, downtown and the University of Minnesota.

In his vision, there are two large loops off the Midtown Greenway on either side of I-35W; the Southwest loop runs along Hennepin Avenue and I-94 and I-35W frontage roads, with spurs along Lyndale, Nicollet and Franklin avenues, and 26th and Lake streets. The loops connect through downtown to the U.

A station would be located at every area public housing high-rise and many major institutions such as the Convention Center, Target Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and local hospitals.

For Zimmermann's 6th Ward constituency -- many of whom live in Stevens Square and Whittier in Southwest, as well as the Phillips neighborhood -- PRT could be a boon because so many do not own cars. PRT could also alleviate traffic and congestion that plagues those neighborhoods.

One aesthetic downside is that in some areas, PRT's elevated rails may run next to the second-story windows of homes -- which Zimmermann acknowledges is a legitimate concern. His design worked to minimize traffic that goes down residential streets by using MNdot right-of-ways and the Midtown Greenway

"It's not like the 'El' in Chicago," Zimmermann said. "It's not loud or big, and it is almost totally silent because the cars are pulled along by a magnet."

The technology has been in the works for over 30 years. Professor Ed Anderson of the University of Minnesota (which owns the patent) developed it. A 60-foot prototype is located at Taxi 2000's Fridley lab.

Taxi 2000 Director of Business Development Jeral Poskey said, "The technology has been proven a number of ways and a number of times. Everything has been well designed. We don't feel like we are in a discovery phase to find out whether or not it is going to work. It works."

According to Poskey, PRT is a technology that can pay for itself if put in heavy-traffic areas where people will use it. He hopes Minneapolis will build a half-mile loop with three PRT cars and a station for testing within two years.

Poskey said Hong Kong, Cincinnati and Duluth have also expressed interest in the project. (Duluth is trying to get $10 million in state support for a $24 million, 0.4-mile test track.)

Zimmermann said he plans to pitch the idea to every neighborhood group, business association and person who will listen....

... One person Zimmermann pitched PRT to was wired by the FBI. Zimmermann apparently tried to get $250,000 for PRT:

Masdar Postponed

The National:

Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government’s clean energy firm, has discarded a 2016 final completion date for its signature US$22 billion (Dh80.8bn) development as the challenge of building a carbon neutral, zero-waste city has proved greater than first expected.

Masdar officials emphasise that the first phase of Masdar City will be finished by the original 2013 deadline. The rest of the development at the edge of the capital will emerge gradually over the ensuing decade as the company experiments with new technology, officials said.

Masdar PRT launch delayed, Heathrow PRT launch delayed (twice).

Why would elected officials want to waste taxpayers' dollars on these guys?

Watch this video for the answer... (rhymes with fork):

SD 31 Candidate Paul Ibisch's Position on Winona Pod Plan

Paul Ibisch, candidate for State Senate in Minnesota's 31st District (campaign website):

My reaction to the slick advertising pamphlet about the Personal Rapid Transit project was one of concern for the people who attached their names to it. As a person who observed the People Mover’s development in Detroit, Michigan along with the cost overruns, government corruption and faulty workmanship, I am slow to embrace the claims of PRT. The people who without reservation promote this project are taking a tremendous risk. The system of 8.65 miles of track used in Morgantown WV, a city of about 20,000 cost $130 million dollars in 1979 (over 4 times the estimate). The initial trial of the SkyWeb Express by the University of Minnesota required $1 million donations by 68 individual investors in 2003. More recent experiments like those in Daventry, England and the costly results may further dampen enthusiasm.

Winona has the manufacturing ability and the academic resources to take a leading role in “green” technology. While environmentally friendly solutions are welcome additions, they are not always practical, cost efficient or wise. There is nothing wrong with exploring the claims of Personal Rapid Transit, but community investment during a time of very limited resources may not be prudent. We are on the edge of new technological developments in many fields and any one of them may provide the breakthrough which will transform transportation needs. With community investment in their “cutting edge” technology, PRT has the potential to make Winona and southeastern Minnesota a byword for “gullible.” Being the test example can gain acclaim for the enlightened leaders who promote it, but a safer course for a community is to allow some other community to get the “bugs worked out of the system.” If it truly is “the answer,” a federally subsidized working model will surely follow.

The advertising pamphlet that has been circulated by community leaders does not contain the most important information needed to make a decision regarding PRT. Costs, routes, practical integration of a PRT into currently existing means of transportation, private investors and the extent of their commitment need to be at the forefront of decisions. Perhaps the federal government with the “slush fund” created with taxpayers dollars for “job creation or retention” can completely cover the costs for the PRT experiment, and the clean up if it fails. There has to be more information before anyone can make an intelligent choice.

Paul Ibisch and Jeremy Miller are seeking the Republican endorsement. Jeremy Miller's position on the Winona pods is in the previous post.

I sent a request for a statement on the Winona Pod plan to State Senator Sharon Ropes and I will post that statement when I receive it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Candidate Jeremy Miller's Position on the Winona Pod Project

Jeremy Miller (campaign website) wants to represent Senate District 31 which includes Winona. Sharon Erickson Ropes is the current senator of SD 31. Here is Miller's position on the Winona pod project:

The State of Minnesota is facing a $1.203 billion dollar deficit for the current biennium and $5-6 billion for FY 2012-2013. Early estimates on the 2010 bonding bill are already upwards of $1 billion; this is before the 2010 session has even begun. The State of Minnesota has a serious crisis on our hands, and it must be dealt with in a fiscally responsible manner.

The PRT project is an innovative idea that could potentially work in Winona; however not at the taxpayer’s expense. I heard there are a few private investors interested in moving forward with the project, even if public funding falls through. I would support this endeavor. I am a strong advocate of private sector development/ investment, and I support tax incentives for private funding on any project that encourages investment and creates private jobs in Minnesota.

My stance on federal funding is the same.

I have also asked Senator Sharon Erickson Ropes and GOP candidate Paul Ibisch for their position on the Winona Pod project.

City Council Vote Soon on Winona Pods

Winona Daily News:

Planning for pods

City leaders are likely to continue a bid to bring a controversial transportation system to Winona.

Council members may vote as early as this month on whether to ask local lawmakers to sponsor a bill seeking state funds to support testing Personal Rapid Transit, a futuristic system of small vehicles moving on guideways that take passengers straight to their destination. City leaders have outlined a $25 million proposal using state, federal and private funds that would create a PRT test lab at the Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical campus.

But as with high-speed rail, Winona will likely have competition from other municipalities throughout the state, as the Minnesota Department of Transportation soon may solicit proposals for test sites elsewhere, a spokesman said last month.

Winona City Council member Debbie White gave me this comment about the pod plan:

As currently proposed, the PRT would be a test/pilot project which Winona would be ideal for. With the mix of private, federal, and state money, it has the potential to benefit a broad range of stakeholders, e.g. education, R & D, transportation efficiencies, industry/manufacturing, job creation, new business incubators, green infrastructure, and renewable energy initiatives. As well, the concept brings a wealth of opportunities for Minnesota.

I hope Debbie White has an opportunity, before the vote to perform some due diligence in regards to PRT... for instance, she could contact elected officials in Daventry, England who were also wooed with similar claims about the potential benefits of PRT and were left only with a bill for £485,936.43:

Shock at cost of pod scheme

Published Date: 04 June 2009

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?

Councillor Mark Wesley
Abbey South
Daventry Town Council

Good question... why is PRT (an imaginary mode of transport) the only mode being considered for Winona?

What was the process that resulted in PRT and only PRT being the preferred mode for this project in Winona?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Keep it Klassy, PRT Dudes!

From the Transport Innovators forum:

I have always thought that Avodor was being paid by somebody to "prove" that PRT won't work, and now we know.

The very fact that he thinks Morgantown is PRT shows how little he actually knows, and that statements like "all PRT systems to date have been failures" shows that also. Here is a message from me to him:

Hey, Stupid, there have not been any PRT systems actually tried, so how can they be failures? The first is being tested now at Heathrow, and first reports indicate that it will be a success. Aren't you going to have a lot of Crow to eat when it begins to spread elsewhere? Who is going to pay you anything afterwards? Maybe you can get a job cleaning toilets somewhere.

Jack Slade

I'm curious whether Mr. Slade is the would-be PRT vendor listed on the City of San Jose website.