Professor still touts personal transit idea - His big dream is to get a model working for all the doubters to see
Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities - Wednesday, March 22, 2000
Author: Doug Grow; Staff Writer
In our culture, when ideas that once were bold get old, people begin to view them negatively. Anderson, once a winner of federal grants and an expert in demand all over the world, frequently hears people say, "If your idea is so good, why hasn't it been developed yet?"
State Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Carol Flynn, DFL-Minneapolis, recently stung him with such a remark when he was at the state Capitol seeking support for PRT.
"She wondered why the state should support this when nothing's happened after so many years," Anderson said. "I tried to explain to her that there are many ways to do this thing wrong, but there are only few ways to do it right. It does take a long time."
Said Flynn: "Ed's a great person. The University of Minnesota has a patent on his work. He's persevered, and that should never be ignored.
"But my observation is that right now it's a crazy combination of right-wing Republicans and the guys who were hanging from trees on the Hwy. 55 project who are behind him. Both those groups want to kill [light rail]. If they can kill LRT with PRT they'd be happy. My point is, I'd rather invest in something that's possible than in something that's never been applied anywhere."
Indeed, Anderson's strongest political support now comes from conservative House members who oppose light rail. State Rep. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, wanted to put significant funding for PRT in the transportation bill. He was convinced to back off until next session - and has put forward a modest $500,000 proposal for PRT in this session.
"I don't think our transportation should be based on 150-year-old technology," said Vandeveer, speaking of LRT. "But my reason for pursuing [PRT] is I think we should get one working. That's the biggest setback to his idea now. There's not a working model. Let's get a look."
That's Anderson's dream. Get a model working for all the doubters to see. He hopes that a 2.5-mile system can be built for about $25 million to connect the hospitals at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. City and hospital officials have expressed some support.
The University of Minnesota still owns the PRT technology, known as Taxi 2000, and would collect royalties if Anderson's corporation and PRT took off. It is agonizingly close to taking off, Anderson says. All the technology is available. There are manufacturers in Minnesota who could build the guideways and the cars. But his corporation needs investors, and PRT needs political support - and Anderson isn't as hot as he used to be.
Two years later, another Strib article:
Will rapid transit get personal ? - An elevated system offering privacy still awaits first test
Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN) - Thursday, February 21, 2002
Author: Laurie Blake; Staff Writer
RSEC: Former University of Minnesota professor Ed Anderson has designed a futuristic automated transportation system, and he has a clear vision of how well it would work.
But selling Minnesota and the world on his personal rapid transit system, or PRT as it's nicknamed, has taken 30 years and counting.
At 74, after a 50-year career in the design of complex engineering systems, Anderson is still looking for the money and sponsorship necessary to build a PRT test track. Without that backing he won't be able to demonstrate what some think could be a transportation breakthrough on the order of the steam locomotive, the automobile or the airplane.
What he proposes is an electric-powered, automated system with small private cabs riding on an elevated track. The cabs would be roughly the size of a gondola car and would carry one, two or three people in quiet and privacy. The cars would travel at 20 to 40 miles per hour. Riders would get on at a station and take a non-stop ride to the station at their destination.
The elevated track might provide quick movement on a college campus, at a state fair, at a national park, in a commercial area or through a downtown, according to Anderson.
Raising the tracks above ground means that PRT cabs would not be held up by traffic, Anderson said. It also means that PRT would be an alternative that could reduce traffic congestion and environmental disruption, he said.
Because it's an untested vision, it's hard to imagine how it would work or that it could work at all.
That, says Anderson, has been one of the chief stumbling blocks to bringing his idea to life. People who like the idea want to see it before they invest in it. And manufacturers want to be sure they have a market for the system before they build it. And so it has gone since the late 1960s when he began developing PRT.
But Anderson perseveres. He and his firm, known as Taxi 2000, now have a place to build a test track on private land in Blaine. Accomplished engineers have signed on to support PRT's development. Two manufacturing firms in Minnesota have expressed an interest in building the tracks. And Anderson has hired Padilla Speer Beardsley, a lobbying and public relations firm, to build support for a demonstration.
Anderson said he needs about $10 million to get a test track up and running.
Several legislators are discussing how to get the state involved in Anderson's idea.
``I think it's something we should look at,'' said Sen. Mark Ourada, R-Buffalo. ``You can continue to go along with the old ways and say let's build light-rail transit because everyone else has or you can hop on the next generation of transit . We could be the leader here.''
The drawback to transit for most people is that they have to give up the privacy and convenience of their car, Ourada said. ``In this system you aren't hopping on a big rail car or a big bus. You've got some privacy.''
In the House, Rep. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo Township*, and Rep. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake, are the keepers of the PRT flame. Like Ourada, they like the idea that PRT promises to pay its own operating costs.
True - here's a 2001 press release from the House GOP Caucus:
(ST. PAUL) Representative Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo Township), Representative Mark Olson (R-Big Lake) and Senator Mark Ourada (R-Buffalo) will host a town hall meeting on Tuesday, March 20 to discuss transportation issues for Wright and Sherburne counties. The meeting will be held in the Big Lake High School Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. Informal questions will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Among those attending the meeting will be Dr. Lynn Woodward and Dr. J. Edward Anderson, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota from 1963 to 1986. Dr. Anderson will address the transportation option known as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT).
"We want to keep area residents informed as to the technological developments of transportation systems," said Rep. Olson. "The public should be made aware so that all options are considered. I hope many citizens will turn out for this important informational meeting."
Here's the money quote from that old Laurie Blake article:
Other cities and countries are studying prospects for PRT, which was developed by Anderson at the University of Minnesota. It would be a state embarrassment if it were built elsewhere while ``we put our heads in the sand,'' Olson
Yeah... an embarrassment.