Friday, January 15, 2010

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!
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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!

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