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:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.