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:

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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!

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