Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Editorial - Morgantown PRT "Horror Story" & "Flawed Behemoth"

Editorial in the WVU The Daily Athenaeum:

It’s pretty safe to say anyone who has ridden West Virginia University’s PRT system has some kind of horror story.

Typically, it’s the same complaint – it breaks down or it’s is late getting to one station over another. However, recent incidents have proven to be more serious.

We’ve had multiple reports from riders about seeing a PRT car filled with smoke and a fire erupting in one of the cars Thursday.

Students in the car were then forced to walk the tracks as the system came to a complete stop – a safeguard for such incidents.

However, these incidents have been downplayed by the University.

The issues were attributed to "minor problems" and "arching electrical phases on track" that "caused a flash and cloud of smoke," according to Director of Transportation and Parking Hugh Kierig, by way of Becky Lofstead, assistant vice president for University Communications.

As reported in Monday’s edition of The Daily Athenaeum, University spokesman John Bolt said there had been several electrical problems but none were major.

The PRT is synonymous with its problems, despite continual reassurances from University-provided statistics of high reliability and constant uptime.

The system is a flawed behemoth. There isn’t enough money to completely overhaul the system, despite constant funding being poured into it for upgrades.

Most recently, the University closed the system for an entire summer, spending $2.5 million on track and system issues.
These upgrades weren’t designed to fix all issues, and they haven’t.

Read the entire editorial.

This is how Shay Maunz of the Daily Atheneaum reported the incident February 28th:

Two fires on PRT last week causes trouble for students

A passenger’s photo shows the damage as a result of recent problems.

Several West Virginia University students have reported an explosion on the tracks of the PRT Friday and a fire in a PRT car Thursday, but University officials are denying the incidents occurred.

University officials attributed the disruption in PRT service to minor problems.

"There are some rumors going around on Twitter and some misinformation," said Becky Lofstead, assistant vice president for University Communications. "But there was no explosion or fire or anything."

John Bolt, WVU spokesperson, said though there were several electrical problems with the PRT Friday, none were major.

"My last word was that it was taken care of," he said.

Calls to WVU’s Transportation and Parking Department were not returned by press time.

Sounds like a cover-up. The article continues:

Krista Whites, a freshman theater major, was on PRT car 50 Friday afternoon around 1:40 p.m. heading to the Student Recreation Center when the car stopped between the Beechurst and Engineering stations. There was an "explosion right behind the car that was like five feet in the air," she said.

After an operator’s voice came over the loud speaker, and the car attempted to move again, but "there was another explosion – a bigger one – it left a pretty big hole in the track," Whites said.

The students in the car were then fetched by a PRT employee and walked to the station.

Paige Carver, a sophomore television journalism major, entered the Beechurst PRT station around 1 p.m. Thursday. When she entered the station, she said, a PRT car was waiting at one gate with smoke pouring out of its door.

Carver saw flames inside the car, she said, but could not determine where they originated from because the smoke blocked her view.

She waited for several moments before calling PRT assistance on her cell phone and explaining the situation to the operator.
He took down the information, she said "but there was no shutting it down, no maintenance guy came, for the whole 15 minutes."

The car then left the station and another one came in its place.

For the past several years, the PRT guys have been praising the WVI PRT to the heavens.

Recently, on the City Pages Blotter, Peter "PRT Guru" Muller showed up in the comments to say this about the WVU PRT:

For those who follow the link to Minnesota 20/20 I offer a correction here because Mr. Avidor is careful not to allow comments to his postings directly.The assertion that "The Morgantown PRT has been plagued by glitches and breakdowns ever since" is simply wrong. Morgantown has now completed over 140 million injury-free passenger miles (regular transit would have injured over a hundred). It has done this at transit level of service A - as good as it gets. Yes, it had teething problems but the New York Times recently called it a "white elephant turned into a transit workhorse".

WVU students have made not one, but TWO You Tube Hitler-parodies of the WVU PRT.

More on this blog about the Morgantown PRT.

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