Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shareholder: Taxi 2000 Corporation is "Moribund"

Fridley Patch - "Is Fridley Company the Future of Transit or 'Moribund'?"

Michael Andregg, a geneticist who teaches at the University of St. Thomas, was an early investor in Taxi 2000.

“I didn’t put money into it as an investment,” he said. “I put money into it as an investment into a visionary company.”

Andregg is still hopeful about the future of PRT, but since Taxi 2000’s founder, J. Edward Anderson, left in 2005 and the company’s new leadership sued him for retaining proprietary information, Andregg said he has seen minimal efforts on the part of the company to reach out to shareholders and he considers the company’s promise to be lost.

“They exist but they’re kind of moribund in Fridley,” he said. “I don’t pay any attention to Taxi 2000.”

This "moribund" company tried to get local, state and federal money for a testing facility in 2010 in Winona.

The PRT-promoting Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) has a newly revamped website that does not list Taxi 2000 as a vendor

Taxi 2000 does appear in a lesser category "testing" on another page.

Other recent posts about Taxi 2000:

Taxi 2000 Corporation Spent Nearly $80K Since 2004 Lobbying in Minnesota

Bachmann's Pal Pod Lobbyist Edwin Cain Lobbied for Shady Veterans Charity

3 Proposed PRT Projects, 6 PRT Companies and 2 PRT Lobbyists in Minnesota

Monday, December 19, 2011

Timid, CYA Response by the Personal Rapid Transit "Industry" to Dubious PRT Systems and Companies Seeking Public and Private $$$

When an entire "industry" is based in whole or part on misrepresentation of facts as would-be PRT vendors have done for decades, how can they possibly rein in PRT companies that are at best questionable. The attempt by some PRT aficionados to differentiate reality from fantasy in the marketing of PRT seems to be at the heart of the recent dispute on their forum.

Nathan "Making the world safe for Personal Rapid Transit" Koren, formerly an ULTra employee who who worked on the Amritsar pod project that recently sparked protests by shopkeepers, has drawn a timid line in the sand:

...In my view, it's perfectly appropriate for PRT developers to make PowerPoint-based pitches to venture capital /
institutional investors, for the purposes of securing additional R&D funding -- but if you're going to pitch to campuses or (especially) governments, then you need to have already demonstrated that you can build and operate the hardware that you say you can.

This line Koren is drawing in the sand would likely put ULTra, Vectus and 2GetThere, with small demonstration podcar projects (not truly PRT) on one side of the line and and scores of fantasy PRT systems without much more than a model or computer-created visuals and videos on the other side of the line. But how will the PRT "industry" enforce this wimpy edict? Without robust vetting and due diligence, just one fraudulent PRT company could ruin the chances for the other companies.

The PRT-promoting Advanced Transit Association has revamped their website (with the mushiest definition of PRT ever). On the "Vendors" page there are only three vendors listed. Taxi 2000, Skytran, Jpods, PRT International, Maglev Movers and more are not listed. This is what ATRA says:

When considering advanced transit systems it should be clear what capabilities have been proven today and what potential a system has towards the (long term) future. ATRA represents both: providing a platform for all who share its vision towards the future, while uniting corporate members with proven experience and applications in the industry.

The corporate members of ATRA are parties active in the various disciplines within the field of advanced transit. The vendors that are corporate members are listed below ( ULTra, Vectus, 2getthere).

On the "History" page Taxi 2000 is mentioned only once and does not have a link to its website. ULTra, Vectus, 2getthere have links. Skytran is not mentioned, nor is Jpods. J. Edward Anderson is mentioned only once and his company PRT International gets no link or mention. On the "Systems" page Taxi 2000. Jpods and Skytran are relegated to lesser categories ("Conceptual", "Testing") and do not have links to their websites. It will be interesting to see how these new distinctions will effect efforts to shovel more taxpayers' dollars to PRT consultants and vendors who are NOT on ATRA's preferred vendor list.

Also, some advice to PRT promoters; posting a bunch of tweets when you suspect something fishy is going on is not due diligence, at best it's CYA.

UPDATE: More about Maglev Movers via Seattle PRT promoter David Gow:

Cockroft has unsavory incidents in his background. He had a business run-in with the law in Cyprus, which deported him in 2001. In 2003 the deportation was upheld by the Cyprus Supreme Court:

I think David Gow has enough there for ATRA and other's in the PRT "industry" to notify the authorities, will they? Or will they just continue to CYA?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Interesting New Personal Rapid Transit Vendor - Maglev Movers

I always say that Personal Rapid Transit promoters are either crackpots, con men or crooks. It will be interesting to see which category Maglev Movers falls into.

On another website, the Maglev Movers describe an interesting finance package utilizing a "nonrecourse loan":

A loan in which the lender cannot claim more than the collateral as repayment in the event that payments on the loan are stopped. Thus, a group of investors may purchase an asset with a down payment and the proceeds from a nonrecourse loan. In the event that the investment turns sour, the investors are not apt to lose more than the down payment and payments already made on the loan. The unpaid balance on the loan will be absorbed by the lender.

non-recourse loan is secured by some form of collateral, your securities. If there is a default, the borrower keeps the loan proceeds and the lender only claims the collateral. The borrower’s liability is limited to the collateral pledged for the loan. In fact, the borrower has the right to walk away from the loan, can you really call this debt?

With a non-recourse asset based loan, the individual or business entity is not held liable so there is never any effect on your credit record.

Take a look at their contract.

The genius behind Maglev Movers is CEO and prolific tweeter Graham Cockroft. Graham Cockroft also has a Facebook page

A link from his FB page:

Graham CockroftSwingers UK

Hi from sunny Portugal. The owner of the local hotel has engaged me to make it work for the next six months. Its got 30 rooms and is steeped in history. So, I put some feelers out and got myself a company that can supply 30 girls to look after the people who book the rooms. It`ll be a no holds barred and anything goes long weekend, Fri-Mon. If you have an interest and fancy getting away from it all and having your own private concubine-geisha girl and lotsa golf, walks on the beach, good country music and anything goes........we`ll have to talk.

There's an enormous number of Maglev Mover videos, adding to the already enormous amount of PRT videos on You Tube.
Here's one:

UPDATE: Is the guy behind Twitter handle @Cymply also Cymply333?

Update: And he has a partner, y'know, this guy:

UPDATE: Mr. Cockroft emailed me this message:

Kindly remove this statement as this man has no relationship with our company.

Along with that message, is a company address in London - for fun, Google that address. Also on that email was a phone number - I Googled that too and it led, among other interesting places a hilarious editorial opinion piece in the Algarve Daily News that is the typical boilerplate, snake-oil pitch of Personal Rapid Transit hucksters everywhere, One part of it:

A system built with borrowed money may cost around €10 million for every mile BUT after ten miles it pays for itself as people ride it.

Lets look further €500,000 a month x 12 months = €6,000.000 p.a. x 10 years' payments = €60,000,000 x 2 = €120 million in 20 years' time. That's the first ten miles paid for, the rest looks after itself!

Might sound like a lot of money, but don’t we have 10 million people to support this? not 500,000 believe me, this will be paid for and covering the whole of Portugal in 5/10 years creating tons of jobs, cheap travel, millions in tourist tickets ( we will have made taxis obsolete and absorbed them in technology) and all in all bringing us back to prosperity.

Now, the government need to start building this now. it will cost them nothing as lenders will lend and whilst we are at it,, we can create some real wind power as well, another little freebie.............

Oh, and there's a different address for the company (phone and email redacted by me):

Graham Cockroft
Mister Mandate
Mob +351------
Tel. +351- -----

And what's with "Mister Mandate"? Hilarious!

UPDATE: Okay, I got to stop this... but one more link, a forum called Out and About. Here's Mr. "Cymply":

I was a motorhome owner `till last year when I retired and settled down in Portugal. There are 50,000 motorhomers arriving here every year and I can well understand why they come.

I lived for two years on the beach in mine and loved every minute of it. The fishermen at 4 a.m setting off to sea, the smell of the sea and wildlife, its unsurpassed here in Portugal, don`t be surprised if a stork comes to live you whilst your here. Take your bike off the rack and peddle 500 yds and there`ll be at a seafood restaurant, cheap as chips so to speak. So much to see and so little time.

Most motorhomers come to winter here, why? because we don`t have one !!

Its beautiful in winter, like a English spring and autumn all rolled into one.

But the natives have revolted, they want you off the cliff tops and into the campsites where they can charge you extortionate fees. They want you out of the municipal car parks and under control. They want your money as they class you as none paying guests.

This last month they declared war and decided to clamp you after seven o`clock if you are not on a camp site by that time, trouble is you`ll have a job finding something that you`ll like.

Personally, I never did like paying to park, my Hobby 750 set me back 55k with extras so I believe I have the same rights as a park where I like as long as its legal.

The Algarve is a paradise for us guys, we really ought to do something about need to even think of fighting the system, there isn`t one............anybody out there with ideas, your welcome.


One response to that post:

Hi Cymply - welcome.

I must admit though, that you, and others, appear to have brought this on yourselves - staying for TWO YEARS on the same beach is absolutely shameful in my view! How on earth would you feel if you were one of the residents ... it's people who outstay their welcome that have caused the horrendous problems that some areas are experiencing. Those of us who are at places for one or, at the very most, two nights, being careful where we park so as not to offend people, and act responsibly, are the ones who lose out because of the actions of people like you.

I'm sorry if that offends you, but it is my honest opinion.

There's more responses along those lines.

Business Traveller Tweets Complaints About ULTra Pods at Heathrow

As I've reported before, the so-called ULTra PRT (not a real PRT system) is using Twitter to evaluate it's fledgling demonstration project at Heathrow Airport. Most of the tweets re-tweeted at ULTra's page on Twitter have an uncanny similarity; effusive praise, many exclamation marks, references to science fiction movies, most reading very much like the usual pre-fabricatred PRT puffery we've come to expect over the years. For example:

On the Heathrow T5 pod from business parking. V 2001 Space Odyssey!

Sometimes, reality peeks through the clouds of hype:

business parking Rapid Transit system was a bit of a joke. Queues, slow and laughably advertised for 5. Seriously? I had to crouch on floor.

Used T5 business parking this morning. Seriously - a joke. The rapid pod system is anything but. Queues, slow and not designed for business!

@----- yep. Very disappointing. Too slow to get pods to stations. Q. Too small Windows. Two large escape hatches block view.

Used T5 business parking this morning. Seriously - a joke. The rapid pod system is anything but. Queues, slow and not designed for business!

ULTra is using the supposed "success" of the Heathrow pods to market their product in Minnesota and in India and elsewhere. Before they risk any further investment in PRT, public officials and investors should perform due diligence and insist on an independent evaluation of the Heathrow pods by a transit experts.

Read also:

"Article Predicts Personal Rapid Transit Will Take Business Away From Taxis and Rickshaws in Amritsar"

"Shopkeepers in India Are Fasting in Protest Against the Personal Rapid Transit Boondoggle"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Article Predicts Personal Rapid Transit Will Take Business Away From Taxis and Rickshaws in Amritsar

Tuesday, I posted "Shopkeepers in India Are Fasting in Protest Against the Personal Rapid Transit Boondoggle". It's not just shopkeepers who have to worry about losing their livelihoods to the elevated pods.

Projects Monitor:

In India, the ULTra system can be optimised by offering cheaper tickets on a seat-by-seat basis with ride sharing, and premium tickets which cover the cost of an entire vehicle. ULTra fares will be competitive with fares charged by taxis and autorickshaws, which are currently the main form of short-range urban transport. These different options allow the same ULTra infrastructure to simultaneously function as a lowcost, high-capacity people mover, and as a premium taxi service.

The article doesn't say what will happen to all the taxi drivers and rickshaw operators who will be put out of business. The article goes on to applaud the predicted "shift" in revenue from locally owned rickshaws and taxis to an automated system operated by a UK-based corporation:

There could also be a shift towards PRT from other road intensive transportation. Every day in Amritsar nearly one lakh pilgrims and tourists visit the Golden Temple, and they mostly depend on rickshaws or autorickshaws. Reduced congestion on the ground will even enable these transport systems to work more efficiently with enhanced revenues accruing to the operators.

"The Personal Rapid Transit system is a high-capacity system which is projected to make approximately 14 million passenger trips to the Golden Temple on a daily basis. The cost of the Amritsar project could be nearly 250 crore and is to be taken up in public-private partnership.

Operating as a "public-private partnership"? The citizens of Amritsar really need to read the fine print regarding that. Given that this project is projected to be the "World’s first and largest urban PRT system", Amritsar could be on the hook if this project collided with reality like PRT projects in the past.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shopkeepers in India Are Fasting in Protest Against the Personal Rapid Transit Boondoggle

Crossposted at Dump Bachmann

Yesterday, I posted about the pods of Fridley. Bachmann authored legislation for and promoted the Personal Rapid Transit back in 2004. As the pod hucksters have pissed off one city after another in Europe and America, the would-be vendors of pods are exporting their phony flim-flam to Asia. The following photo and article is from the India Tribune:

The traders fear that the 20-feet high track of magnetic pods will adversely affect their business. The traders sat on a dharna and raised slogans against the government’s decision, which they alleged is aimed at gaining cheap publicity.

Sukhbir Singh Badal denied any opposition to the project as the local authorities had invited views from all quarters before finalising the project. The traders resent that with the introduction of magnetic pods, their clientele will have direct access to the Golden Temple without halting at the market to shop. This will affect hundreds of shops in the area.

“The tourists are our main clientele. Now, they will move directly to the Golden Temple and will not get a chance to feel the true essence of the trade practices in city. This mode of transport will defy the basic character of the city,” said Nirmal Singh, a trader.



Sukhbir lays foundation stone of Pod system amidst protest

Amidst protest, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday laid the foundation stone of Rs 300 crore Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) Pod car transportation system in Amritsar, which once completed, would make the Holy City only the second in the world after London to have such transport facility.

Actually, the pod system is at an airport since September and with only two stops and no elevated stations, it can hardly called a working PRT system. No PRT system has successfully operated in revenue service anywhere. The battery-powered, glorified golf carts have not been tested in an extremely hot or cold climate and yet it's been proposed for India and Minnesota,

Shopkeepers apprehend that the system would adversely hit their business.

The foundation stone was laid outside the Hall Gate where shopkeepers raised anti-government slogans and staged dharnas.

A dharna is "a fast held at the door of an offender in India as an appeal for justice."

Not the first time, pRT has provoked a mass protest, read; "Pod Off! Residents oppose Daventry PRT scheme".

This pod project will, no doubt fail to materialize like scores of other doomed pod projects. If it did, it would be a hideous visual scar on the historic city:


Monday, December 5, 2011

Personal Rapid Transit Developer Declares Skytran a "Sham"

UPDATE: PRT gets a swift kick in the pants at the Gondola Project blog:

The fundamental logic behind PRT is quite simply flawed with most advocates of the technology blind to the economic and technological limitations of it. But that doesn’t prevent it from being continually trotted out as transportation messiah.

Read on...

Last week I reported on the pod promoters circular firing squad, now another pod promoter has entered the fray.

Katie Fehrenbacher reports on the latest PRT boondoggle to go belly-up. What's different about this gadgetbahn debacle is it was killed on the drawing board by its own inventor:

The founder of, Aaron Patzer, has been researching alternative urban transportation under a company called Swift over the past six months, but he has determined that the personal maglev system he had been envisioning is economically not viable for a company to produce. Patzer described all of his findings and development in a blog post (hat tip to Tech Crunch), including the high economics of such a transportation network.

In the end Patzer concludes what Vukan Vuchic, Michael Setty and I have said for years - it's just not feasible.

Patzer says he has abandoned building the project as a company. He calls the failure “fast” and “worthwhile fun” and will be looking for his next venture. He also splits his time as VP of Product Innovation at Intuit, which bought Mint two years ago for $170 million, points out Tech Crunch.

With that kind of dough, Patzer can afford to waste his time on pie-in-the-sky fantasy transport concepts, but not federal, state and local governments. MnDOT commissioner Tom Sorel is rumored to be considering wasting $1.6 million on a PRT study. Sorel should just read Patzer's analysis why PRT is a waste of time.

Not content to deep-six his own flawed concept Patzer goes on to trash Skytran In the comments:

I’ve met with the SkyTran people. In my opinion it’s a sham that’s gone no where in the 15 years they’ve been advocating for it. If you look at their website, they claim things like runs on the power of two hairdryers (let’s say 3kW). Obviously they’ve never done even the basic energy calculations – you burn far more than that in aerodynamic drag at even automobile (100km/hr) speeds, even if you have a perfect drag coefficient (0.06 for a streamlined body), and a cross sectional area of less than 1m^2. They also claim capacities equivalent to 3 lanes of highway. Ridiculous to anyone who’s built a true physics based simulator (as I did with Swift).

For more about Skytran, read:

Meet Jerry Sanders - Personal Rapid Transit & Gynecology Gadget Entrepreneur

Wacky Skytran Pod People Invade Detroit, Australia and Canada

Skytran is featured in this video titled "Phoenix light rail is Trash!":

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pod People Fight Over the Definition of Personal Rapid Transit

I have always said PRT is a faith-based transportation concept. Since it doesn't exist in the real world, the very nature of PRT is a subject for endless discussion for the few acolytes left in the pod cult.

Once again, another impassioned debate about the definition has flared up on the pod people's "Transport Innovators" forum. The florid fracas over how many seats should be allowed in a PRT pod reads like the fabled arguments of medieval scholars debating how many angels could sit on the head of a pin.

Some of the pod people challenged PRT huckster Steve Raney's assertion that the new definition of PRT was approved by The Advanced Transit Association (ATRA). The former Chairman of ATRA Dennis Manning fired off this curt admonishment:


Did ATRA have anything to do with writing or posting this paper? If not you should not have used their name in the title. It's deceptive no matter what the merits of the paper might be.


To which Raney replied:


There were a couple of e-mails today between "ATRA EU" / "ATRA Industry Group" and ATRA members today. There were some ruffled feathers. There was concern about the review process, but it wasn't something that resulted in an escalation to the point of leveling a charge of "deception." I know that ATRA has been following details of the formation of ATRA EU. There's no ATRA EU web site or anything explanatory yet, but I believe something will arise at some point. I, myself, am not an expert on the details of ATRA EU (I'm an expert on the "first use" of the document). And we're in summer, so there shouldn't be an expectation of immediate gratification to the questions raised. I expect there's a mutually beneficial way

How's that for yet another non-answer?

- Steve

Raney's "non-answer" snark was not well received by Manning:


Well you dance around but I think it's fair to say ATRA as an organization didn't underwrite your paper. No deception???


How's that for a direct answer? My take is that you unsportsmanly used ATRA to promote your own product.


... and added another disapproving missive for good measure:


This is getting way too deep. Until this paper popped up I'd never heard of the ATRA Industry Group. Who the hell is the ATRA Industry Group? When did they get the blessing of ATRA? You've got a lot of explaining to do to justify connecting ATRA to this
paper which is clearly written to promote the interest of the Big 3. I'm not even arguing that overall this isn't a good move for PRT. But as past Chairman of ATRA I know first hand how much ATRA strived to be PRT system neutral. The ATRA I knew would never endorse this paper.


Anupam Vibhuti puts in his two cents:

All this is 'perhaps' a good method for 'crafting' oligopoly. I also see this as the first overt 'deceptive' step if all this has been attempted without express approval of ATRA or majority of PRT proponents in a transparent manner...

And so does Dick Gronning:

This is interesting...

I KNOW that Dr. J Edward Anderson is a member of ATRA. So is Joe Lampe. So, PRT Intl, PRT MN, were consulted on this advertizing paper? OR, were these entities excluded from PRT Industry Group and, possibly, PRT EU? Again, what is the relationship between ATRA, ATRA EU, and PRT Industry Group? Who are the officials? (We already know about ATRA)


The argument goes on and on... and these people want the taxpayers to spend millions of dollars on something even they cannot define?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Personal Rapid Transit is Just a Very Old Idea Dressed Up as "Innovation"

Jarrett Walker at Human Transit:

Yesterday, twice in one day, I encountered major news articles in media I generally trust (the New York Times and the Atlantic) which described very old ideas as though they were innovations.

Walker goes on to criticize the two reports for not doing proper research which would have revealed that the "new" concepts were really old. But, does it matter?

So my question for discussion is: Should we care? Should it matter if someone claims to have invented an idea, if that helps a good idea spread? Am I just being a curmudgeon or killjoy to point these things out? Is there anything wrong with letting people have the idea that the great ideas were theirs?

In the comments:

Good point. False claims of innovation prevent us from looking at what past experience can tell us.

For example, we have innovators telling us that the sustainable communities of the future can be based upon, instead of everybody riding transit, everybody being able to have their own personal little pod that takes them directly between their origin and destination, that requires the building of a whole lot of new infrastructure on which it can operate.

That's never been done before, right?

Yes, for nearly a century, we've had a personal transport system called AUTOMOBILES. For nearly half that time, "innovators" have been wasting our time (and $$$) on PRT - essentially the same thing as automobiles except on monorails and magically automated. To get an idea how ancient PRT and other, similar "gadgetbahn" ideas are, go to UC Berkeley's Transportation Futuristics PRT gallery.

Yet, as this blog documents time and again, the deeply flawed PRT concept is revived and reported as "new" and innovative. The much-hyped ULTra PRT in a carpark at Heathrow Airport is, with a few added tweeks, nearly identical to an automated vehicle system that debuted in another airport carpark in the 1990's.

Read about PRT in this forty-year-old Popular Science puff piece.

And here we go again; another would-be PRT vendor Maglev Movers with a yet another "innovative" variation - this time festooned with logos:

... and of course, the Maglev Movers have a Facebook page. The Maglev Movers website also make all the usual bogus claims and anti-transit talking points - "Will be built and operated without Public Subsidies" and "will be an attraction for tourists". But adds a few new ones including this hilarious claim:

Frost and Sullivan, a reputable market research company anticipate a growth of some $7trillion over the next 3 years in the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems market.

Part of the innovation in Maglev Movers' updated iteration of PRT is they can put your face on their pods, just like a coffee mug - check out Peter "PRT Guru" Muller's mug on this pod:

Friday, November 11, 2011

People Who Live in Glass Pods....

Today, Internet & computer aficionado Michael Fraase tweeted an objection to City Pages editor Kevin Hoffman about a City Pages article not being properly sourced:

Is @citypages' @panopticon13 helping with the WCCO duck/dog story when it uses a single anonymous source?

I thought that was hilarious since Michael Fraase penned a poorly sourced puff piece for the Utne Reader back in 2003.

Fraase was not amused and tweeted he stood "fully behind the article" and there were "plenty of facts in the article" Fraase also said I was "willfully disingenuous." Fraase also directed me to an unedited version of his pod article.

Fraase challenged me to fact-check his article, so here goes:

The first graf claims:

"The future of sustainable motorized transportation is an enclosed driverless golf-cart-on-a-stick [PRT]"

Well, it's nearly nine years since that article and the only "driverless golf-cart-on-a-stick" transport is a few pathetic demonstration models at Heathrow Airport and a basement in the United Arab Emirates - hardly the transportation revolution Frasse and other pod promoters at the time were anticipating.

In his article, Fraase uses the present tense when he describes what PRT can do even though a working, urban PRT system did not exist at the time. For instance, Frasse makes the unproven and bizarrre claim that "PRT moves people the same way the Internet moves data.".

Fraase goes on to claim something that was merely a concept could be less expensive than reality-based transit modes:

Because the cars are simply constructed and lightweight, the guideways can be small, cheap, and cause minimal construction disruption; guideways can be built at an exceptionally low cost of between US$5 million and US$10 million per mile.

Since that article, the only system to go into service has been the ULTra PRT system. Lacking the real-world urban setting that adds complex right-of-way expenses and other costs to transit planning and construction, any comparison is flawed. Transit consultant Michael Setty took look at the rosy cost estimates for PRT in his 2009 white paper (PDF):

ATS Limited has estimated that its particular PRT design would cost between $7 million and $15 million per one-way guideway mile including infrastructure, stations, control systems and vehicles20. Applying the higher ATS figure to a hypothetical, nearly 100% elevated system in Winona results in an estimate of at least $330 million21. This estimate is probably conservative, since the history of new or unproven transportation technologies shows that outspoken proponents often underestimate likely construction costs.

Frasse makes other claims about the efficiency and convenience of PRT that are completely speculative, not factual such as:

A single PRT guideway’s capacity is roughly the same as that of a four-lane highway.


PRT will likely require no operational subsidy.... A commercial endeavor should be able to operate its PRT system in most metropolitan areas without any sort of operational subsidy while generating a fair profit for its owners

Fraase offers no objective, reality-based evidence for this claim or any of the "facts" such as operating costs. Instead, Frasse links to several pro-PRT websites, the Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit, The PRT-promoting Advanced Transit Association and the moribund Taxi 2000 Corporation. Frasse links to "Personal Rapid Transit at the University of Washington", but that link is to Jerry Schneider's gadgetbahn pages on the website. Schneider is one of the anti-LRT monkey-wrenching gang out in the Seattle area (comment on Seattle Transit Blog):

PRT & the Denver Airport boondoggle show us proprietary “alternative” plans to replace the proven technology of light rail run much larger risks of failure. But, to the benefit of Emory Bundy, Richard Harkness, John Niles, Jim MacIsaac, Jerry Schneider, Bill Eager, Jim Horn….and the rest of Kemper Freeman’s gang, it is very rare that fringe transport ideas ever make it off the drawing board. When they do, things get ugly.

But again, light rail always becomes the punching bag.

I tweeted to Frasse that his article lacked any credible sources for his facts. I mentioned two leading transit advocacy organizations in MInnesota - The Sierra Club and Transit for Livable Communities.

Fraase tweeted the folowing:

Cost comparison sources were an NYU economist and someone from U Wash, I believe. TLC would have been great source; space limits.

Fraase's citation of vague sources at universities can best be described as a fallacious appeal to authority.

As for the failure to include TLC as a source because of "space limits"... space limits on a blog?

For the record, TLC and the Sierra Club have resolutions opposing public funding of PRT projects in Minnesota.

Fraase has another post on his blog (illustrated with a pod) whining that buses don't operate often enough for him. In another blog post he makes this snide observation:

Traffic gridlock isn’t yet a problem up here on the far edge, but it’s coming and we regularly need unseen yet heard guidance to get from here to there. And getting from here to there up here almost always means an automobile, one Minneapolis city council member’s grand personal rapid transit (PRT) dream notwithstanding.

The link to the passage referring to a Minneapolis Councilman is broken. The link used to go to the CPRT website's page devoted to Dean Zimmermann's PRT plan for Minneapolis.... this Dean Zimmermann. So much for Mr. Fraase's reliable sources.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Faith-Based Pie-in-the-Sky Boondoggle Cybertran Partner's Right-Wing, Anti-Abortion Tweets

Good article by Alexis Kenyon about Cybertran in Richmond Confidential. Read the whole thing.

The best part is at the end when Cybertran's Chief Technical Officer Eugene Nishinaga talks about God & gadgetbahn:

And so Nishinaga got a job at Boeing and seven years later moved to BART. In many ways, he said he felt he had missed his calling to join the ministry and redeem souls. Until 2008, outside the Richmond field station, when God spoke to him again.

Nishinaga said: “He said, ‘Look at how you have been raised throughout your career … All of these things are the necessary pieces to put this system together. I opened the door for you once, you did not walk through. I will open the door for you again.’”

It is not surprising to find faith-based jargon among supporters of Personal Rapid Transit. PRT is essentially a faith-based concept - check out Higherway PRT brought to you by the inventor of the Savior Cycle.

Meanwhile, Cybertran's partner and right-winger Allen Payton has been tweeting his opposition to abortion here and here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

U of M's Center For Transportation Studies Wants MnDOT to Waste $1.4 million on PRT Study

The Humphrey School's Ferrol Robinson is calling it ART, but it's the same old PRT. You can download the silly report at the CTS website.

Bottom line:

The budget to complete a feasibility study and related outreach and education efforts is estimated at $1.4 million, and the anticipated study duration is two years.

This would be a total waste of money.

Other states have wasted money on feasibility studies for PRT. MnDOT can just look up these reports:

New York State (PDF) 2011

New Jersey (PDF) 2007.

OKI Central Loop project - 2001

Here's the conclusion of the OKI report on PRT (PDF):

Personal Rapid Transit

Due to the uncertainty of the technology and costs, Personal Rapid Transit (Taxi 2000) is not recommended as preferred technology for the loop circulator. The Committee encourages Taxi 2000 to continue to develop the design and construct a full-scale test track to address critical questions regarding engineering design, operational feasibility and cost.

Of course, all the "critical questions" remain unanswered because they cannot be answered without a true PRT system in revenue service. But many of the critical questions could be answered by a peer-reviewed study - this study should not be done by MnDOT, but by experts in the urban studies, transportation and engineering fields.

UPDATE: There's also this 2010 study for PRT in Ithaca, NY.

Friday, October 7, 2011

California Democrats Push For Gadgetbahn Project to be Marketed by Conservative Republican

The above photo and description of Allen Patton is from the San Ramon Exchange Club site.

The company eTranzUSA is a partner with Cybertran (PDF here)

ETU will partner with CyberTran International, Inc. (CTI), the owner of the transit system and help fund the final round of testing to prove the automated, integrated CyberTran system, the only rail system in the world using the ADTS technology. · A joint venture, to be known as CyberTran California, will be formed with 50% ownership by each ETU and CTI, which will own, build, operate and/or license all the systems within the state of California, as well as the TOD’s.

For more about Allen Payton, eTranzUSA and Cybertran see this post.

Do the various politicos, Democrats and self-styled "progressives" (see letters below) who gave their support to Cybertran know about Cybertran's partner eTranzUSA and Allen Patton?

Here are the remarks of a former president of Cybertran saying there was an additional, development-related purpose to a Cybertran project in New York State years ago (facilitating the building of a hotel)

"In fact, if a CyberTran system gets built in the proposed corridor, it will be for one reason only: that it will improve the likelihood that a hotel will be built in the district of the Senate Majority Leader."

Even more disturbing, he admits they were "disguising the project as an economic development project".

"Now I want to be clear here that the Senate Majority Leader, Joe Bruno, is a very smart fellow. He knows what he is doing in proposing a CyberTran application. He understands the risks and the implications of going with an "unproven" technology. He also realizes that there may be some major benefits for the state and the citizenry down the road. But he needs to explain it to his colleagues and constituents not all of whom share his vision and concern for the environment. So disguising the project as an economic development project just makes good political sense. At the same time, if I had been trying to sell some sort of esoteric, high tech gizmo, I would never have even gotten into his office to make my pitch."

Anytime someone talks about "disguising" a project to gain acceptance, that should be a red flag.

There needs to be some due diligence regarding this project. The sound investment maxim should apply here; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.

Here are letters, some using the economic development rationale for a public investment in Cybertran (click on letters to make them bigger):

California Assembly Member Nancy Skinner:

Pat Anderson, Mayor of Oakly, California

María Viramontes:

Congressman George Miller:

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia:

Senator Barbara Boxer:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cybertran's Strange Political Bedfellows

Self-described "progressive" members of the Richmond, California City Council voted to spend $20,000 to lobby for a federal transportation grant for Cybertran, a PRT concept.

However, Cybertran's supporters are not all progressives.

Allen Payton is CEO, and Vice Chairman of the Board of eTranzUSA , a partner (PDF) and promoter of Cybertran. On April 27, 2010, Payton showed a video to the City Council of Brentwood, California which voted in favor of a resolution "authorizing the Mayor or designee to send a letter to the Chairperson of the U.S. House of Representatives, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of a funding application for CyberTran International Inc. light rail transit system" ((PDF)). Allen Payton also left comments about Cybertran on an article about Skytran and an article about PRT in Mountain View, California and another article about PRT. More comments from Payton about Cybertran on this forum.

Besides, being an enthusiastic PRTista, Allen Payton is a staunch, right-wing Republican. Lisa Vorderbrueggen at the Political Blotter in this 2008 post, recounts briefly the colorful political career of Allen Payton. Some highlights:

Payton was the man behind an anonymous hit-piece on Freitas that arrived in Antioch mailboxes just prior to the mayor’s 2004 re-election. Some pointed the finger at Davis but Payton eventually admitted that he was the author.

Payton has political baggage, too.He served on a deeply dysfunctional City Council from 1994-1998 and barely survived a 1996 recall campaign. Payton abandoned plans in 2000 to run for mayor after he was arrested in an domestic dispute involving his wife.

But regardless of his political challenges, Payton faces an even steeper uphill climb as a write-in candidate. As the title suggests, a write-in candidate must persuade voters to physically write down his or her name on the ballot. That takes a lot of motivation.

The post includes a comment from Payton "correcting" the info about the anonymous hit-piece, saying he was not the author. Payton claimed he was the fall guy for the episode.

A September 16, 1998 San Francisco Chronicle article titled "Antioch Councilman Paying Fine / $72,000 penalty stems from false business ads" has more details about Payton:

The district attorneys of Marin and Sonoma counties filed suit earlier this year in Marin County Superior Court against Payton and his wife, Donna, accusing them of making unfounded claims in flyers and radio ads about the benefits of Fatbusters, a weight-loss program that includes herbal supplements. There was no scientific basis for saying that Fatbusters can "curb your appetite" or "literally shrink and melt away the fat," prosecutors alleged.

Payton complains that the decision to fine him for false advertising was an example of over-regulation. More details about Payton's klassy style in campaigning:

Payton faces another lawsuit for flyers he sent out during the 1996 City Council campaign.

Losing candidate Michael Clement's slander suit against Payton accuses him of saying falsely that Clement shirked his taxes and once greeted police who came to his property at gunpoint. Payton says his statements were within the bounds of free speech and has asked a judge to dismiss the case.

Payton, a Republican stumped for John McCain in Florida in 2008. Payton also donated a total of $2,000 to McCain in 2007. Robert Chew, Vice President of eTranzUSA contributed a total of $6,900 to McCain in 2008.

Payton was also part of Meg Whitman's failed effort to win the 2010 gubernatorial election in California.

Like a lot of Republicans, Payton likes to say nasty stuff about gay people - one of his tweets says:

"CA Democrats advance 'lesbians-as-role models' plan - while the state continues to face a $26 billion deficit. VETO!"

and this tweet:

The following photo below from the eTranz Facebook (link) Photo shows Allen Payton and Bob Chew sitting inside a silly Cybertran model.

Previous posts on Cybertran:

Cybertran Defined by Pod Promoters as Personal Rapid Transit

Tragic Waste of Taxpayers' Dollars on Gadgetbahn in Richmond, California

Cybertran Defined by Pod Promoters as Personal Rapid Transit

This is a follow-up of the Cybertran saga I first reported last week (see "Tragic Waste of Taxpayers' Dollars on Gadgetbahn in Richmond, California"). Cybertran is being promoted by Richmond's "progressive" Mayor and city council.

While Cybertran is not strictly a PRT concept, it borrows heavily on the PRT "innovation" jargon (see 2009 Terrain article) and is a co-participant at conferences - most recently at a panel discussion about the "Future Transit" with ULTra's Steve Raney (video here of Steve Raney at this event). Steve Raney himself has worked on Cybertran - this is from Raney's curriculum vitae (PDF): and also mentioned on his Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) bio.

Steve Raney is founder of, a nonprofit advanced transportation & smart growth think tank. .... He designed a version of Cybertran's Group Rapid Transit train control system.

There's an article in the Podcar City Conference Newsletter #2 - August 15, 2008 (PDF) titled "Investment converges on CYBER-TRAN automated rail system". in the November 18. 2009 newsletter (PDF) Cybertran is described as a "PRT producer"

Of course, let's not forget some of the PRT producers that are emerging - Taxi2000, Skytran, RUF, Beamways, Cybertran - as all are continually active and some are receiving additional funding and resources this year; a Congratulations is in order!

Cybertran is also part of an ATRA "Technology Evaluation" titled "Personal Automated Transportation: Status and Potential of Personal Rapid Transit" (PDF) The study includes this "warning" as to the confusing inclusion of a seemingly non-prt concept in the PRT category:

Cybertran is marketing their system as a GRT system. However, for the purposes of this report, we are making the assumption that it could operate in PRT mode, in which case the vehicle would pick up only one passenger (or a group wishing to travel together) and make a non-stop trip to his or her destination. Please keep this distinction in mind if you compare the results of this report with Cybertran literature. Cybertran is built for higher speeds than would be necessary for urban PRT.

If the experts on PRT at ATRA define Cybertran as PRT, who am I to argue with them? From now on, I will refer to Cybertran as a PRT concept.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

ULTra President Martin Lowson Revises History of PRT in Cardiff, Wales

In a recent article about the glorified golf carts of Heathrow written by Graham Henry in the South Wales Echo, Martin Lowson, president of ULTra, formerly Advanced Transport Systems Ltd, now called ULTra Global PRT gives a bizarre answer to the question about what happened when the company failed to created a PRT system for Cardiff back in 2003:

Martin Lowson, president of ULTra Global PRT, said the scheme had fallen in Cardiff because of EU competition laws.

He said: “What actually happened was that they got funding to put the system in the Cardiff Bay area, but couldn’t find a way to procure it because of rules from the EU which said we must have competition.

That is not what happened according to the BBC:

Cardiff County Council said it was taking legal advice on the Welsh administration's decision on Friday not to give £8.8m in the coming financial year to help develop the £45m Ultra scheme.

Ministers have told the authority that they are reluctant to support the scheme - which was due to begin next year - without clear agreements on private funding.

And there was opposition:

Friends of the Earth Cymru welcomed the assembly decision, saying Cardiff council had not thought the system through properly.

There's more detail from a Jan 31 2003 article by Rhodri Clark for the The Western Mail (no longer online):

FUNDING for a futurist new transport system has been frozen just a fortnight after it began trials.

Last year the National Assembly announced grants which could exceed £15m for the Ultra system of driverless passenger pods.

The system was to have started carrying passengers at Cardiff Bay in 2005, with the elevated track later being extended into the city centre. Yesterday, however, Transport Minister Sue Essex said the grant for Ultra was being withheld because of uncertainty over its finance.

Transport managers welcomed the decision, saying the priorities for the Assembly's limited budget were proven transport systems.

Unveiling a package of transport grants for Wales, Ms Essex admitted she was disappointed that most of the money announced last year for public transport was not spent.

She promised that the Assembly would continue with rail investments, including money for the Vale of Glamorgan line, despite suggestions from London that up to 35% of services may be cut.

Much of the new money announced yesterday will go on better bus services and facilities for walkers and cyclists. Construction will start on part of the Ammanford distributor road and on the Lly peninsula "Butlin's bypass".

Asked about funding for Ultra, Ms Essex said, "We've held off on the Ultra at the moment.

"There hasn't been a guaranteed private-sector partner coming in. At the moment there isn't a guarantee that that's going to go through."

The scheme is projected to cost £45m, about £30m of which needs to be financed privately. Its promoters say it will not need an operating subsidy.

Ms Essex said the Assembly was keen to support innovation and it was the financial rather than technical aspects which had caused the rethink.

Even the initial loop between the Assembly building and Cardiff County Council's headquarters has been shelved.

"We couldn't do the initial loop unless we had the guarantee that the second stage is going to be forthcoming to link in at the station [Cardiff Central]," said Ms Essex.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport Wales, which represents bus and coach operators, said Ultra had been allocated "a hell of a lot of money". Director John Pockett said, "There's only a limited amount of money going into transport, but this unproven scheme seemed to be taking priority over modes of transport which are proven to provide good solutions. We voiced our concerns about Ultra at our last meeting with the minister. We welcome the fact that she is rethinking the scheme.

Mr.Lowson doesn't explain why ULTra said it was prepared to build a PRT system in Cardiff back in 2003, but was unable to deliver a working model, albeit a stripped down version with no free-standing stations at Heathrow on until this summer. If they were ready to go in 2003, what was the reason for all the delays?

In other ULTra news, it appears ULTra is downplaying expectations on their much-hyped "pod revolution" in an Air Rail News interview with ULTra's John Hammersley. Here's his response to a question about the future of the pods at Heathrow:

The decision on that rests with BAA, they have always said that first they want to see the system in place before making any extensive plans for the future, and to see how the passengers will respond.... At the moment we’re in the process of going from the launch of the pilot through the assessment of it and then, hopefully, into extension further, if that is the decision taken by BAA.

And finally some honesty about whether ULTra's pods could be a feasible urban transit mode:

Originally the Ultra system was designed to meet the needs of the 21st century city as an urban transport mode. The pods can help free up the roads and congestion and is a good option for the so-called "last mile" journey. Having a PRT network in the city enables the increase of other forms of public transport. However cities are very complicated environments with many authorities and owners of the land, whilst airports or campus environment generally has one major stakeholder.

Exactly, a little something called "right of way" which the PRTistas treat with the same lack of reality they treat everything else having to do with transportation and urban design.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tragic Waste of Taxpayers' Dollars on Gadgetbahn in Richmond, California

The PRT hucksters claim their concepts are "faster, cheaper, better" than reality-based transit modes such as LRT, streetcars or buses. In these tough times, with less dollars in their budgets, cities are more vulnerable to that con-job.

The latest suckers to fall for the gadgetbahn flim-flam is Richmond, California:

The City Council will spend $20,000 to lobby for a federal transportation grant to help light-rail company CyberTran develop 13 ultralight rail stations throughout the city — a transit system, in the words of city leaders and CyberTran’s CEO, that would be clean, efficient, and create 20,000 jobs in the next decade.

And where is the $$$ going?

Ritterman went to Washington D.C. with CyberTran’s team this July to lobby for the federal transportation funding. The $20,000 approved by the city Tuesday will go to the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which will seek infrastructure funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Surface Transportation Program.

Cybertran is an infeasible "gadgetbahn" concept. I was interviewed about Cybertran back in 2007 when they attempted to flim-flam Alameda:

The driverless system, using ultra light rail cars would operate on regular routes, but also be capable of delivering passengers directly from their origin to their destination. Dubbed Personal Rapid Transit or PRT, critics say these systems require complicated computer controlled switching, extensive elevated stations and tracks that wildly raise costs and create visual blight.

Ken Avidor, a Minnesota transit advocate and critic of similarly proposed systems, called the project the latest iteration of "gadgetbahn," a play on "autobahn" the German word for freeway. Gadgetbahn refers to highly technological transport systems relying on untried innovations. "All of these gadgetbahn projects always rely on totally unrealistic cost estimates," he said. "A lot of the public officials today are baby boomers. They saw the Jetsons. And it has a lot of appeal," Avidor said. After rattling off a list of failed proposals, including one where proponents claimed to keep costs low by having elevated structures built by machine, Avidor accused PRT supporters of wowing people with technology to block realistic alternatives. "It's a stalking horse for people who don't want light rail," he said

While the Cybertran prototype doesn't look like the typical PRT pod, its promoters use the same PRT lingo:

CyberTran ultralight rail uses small cars carrying 20 passengers. (The same-sized cars could be configured to hold anywhere from six to 30 riders.) Small, light cars run on cheaper tracks. The total capital cost of a CyberTran urban system (including rail and guideways) is about a tenth or less the cost per passenger mile of conventional light rail[2]. That is important -- capital costs dominate rail expenses.

According to this web page on Professor Schneider's gadgetbahn site, Cybertran was used to wangle a chunk of taxpayers' $$$ in New York nearly ten years ago:

By providing a relatively high quality, high speed service, we should be able to attract a relatively large ridership which combined with our low costs will result in unprecedented cost recovery ratios and possibly significant profits.

And finally, I would like to take this opportunity to announce a significant breakthrough in the development of the CyberTran system. The State of New York has recently awarded CyberTran with a grant of $350,000 to perform a feasibility analysis for a demonstration system linking the seat of the NYS government - the Empire State Plaza with the Rensselaer AMTRAK station located approximately 1.25 miles away across the Hudson River. The feasibility study is projected to be followed by the allocation of $4M for a low speed test facility which in turn will be followed by the $30M demonstration project.

So, what happened to that N.Y. Cybertran study?

UPDATE: Found the following mention of it in this article and this article from 2002:

UPDATE 2: The fate of Cybertran in NY:

UPDATE 2: "The latest offering, a relatively affordable $30 million link between the Rensselaer train station and Empire State Plaza - known as CyberTran - died a quiet death in 2004 for want of federal funding."

But not before lobbyists got a chunk of the $$$.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

ULTra's Glorified Golf Carts at Heathrow Not "Faster, Better, Cheaper"

For many years, I've had to listen to the PRTistas claim Personal Rapid Transit was "faster, better cheaper" compared to conventional modes of transit. The so-called Heathrow PRT project was supposed to be the proof of those claims... and it has failed miserably.

After many years, delays and enormous piles of hype, the pods of Heathrow are now "officially unveiled"(Reuters):

Traveling at speeds up to 40 km/hour (25 mph), after an average wait of just 34 seconds, the system looks like something straight from a science fiction film.

25 mph? Not exactly "rapid". And the 34 second wait? That pretty much dooms their oft-repeated claim that you never have to wait for PRT. Also, a 34 second wait eliminates the possibility that PRT could operate at "nano-second headways" in order to match the capacity of conventional transit. With those pathetic stats, the ULTra pods cannot be seriously considered a viable transit mode for urban areas.

According to ULTra, the company behind the technology, the 30 million pound ($47 million) development could transport up to 500,000 passengers each year and replace 50,000 shuttle bus journeys.

First of all, ULTra is not the first company to debut a fleet of unmanned peoplemovers in an airport parking lot. That was first accomplished by FROG/2getthere at Schiphol Airport 3 years before the turn of the last century. Frog/2getthere provided platforms including the guidance technology to ATS in 2001.

ULTra is essentially FROG/2getthere with its dorky wheels covered up to give it a futuristic look:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And even with their awesome automated "CyberCabs" FROG/2getthere went bankrupt in 2007.

The cost of the Heathrow pod project proves that the infrastructure is expensive to build. There are no real-life figures on what it will cost to operate and maintain the pods of Heathrow for a year. There is a control room and presumably people who have to monitor the pods. How much that all costs - 3 or 4 million dollars a year for a simple two mile stretch, it's certainly not "cheaper" than taxis or jitneys. With deep pockets, BAA will likely continue to fund the pods until the flimsy fleet of battery-powered pods need to be replaced. It cannot be claimed as presidential candidate Michele Bachmann stated in 2004 that PRT could possibly "pay for itself".

It could be argued that the Heathrow pod "system" is not a true PRT system at all. It has a heavy "bi-directional guideway" that would not fit on the average city street. The Heathrow pod system do not have the elevated stations that are pictured in countless visuals on the web- for example, the enormous, hideous station festooned with advertisements on this webpage. The Heathrow pods have rubber tires and do not circulate like taxis, but instead must be berthed separately so they can charge their batteries. The pods must also back out of their berths - requiring plenty of room.

The glorified golf carts of Heathrow only prove that Professor Vukan Vuchic was right all along about PRT:

The PRT concept is imagined to capture the advantages of personal service by private car with the high efficiency of rapid transit. Actually, the PRT concept combines two mutually incompatible elements of these two systems: very small vehicles with complicated guideways and stations. Thus, in central cities, where heavy travel volumes could justify investment in guideways, vehicles would be far too small to meet the demand. In suburbs, where small vehicles would be ideal, the extensive infrastructure would be economically unfeasible and environmentally unacceptable.

The PRT concept is thus a totally unrealistic "Buck Rogers" concept for which there are no applications where it would be operated efficiently and economically.

Not "faster, not cheaper, not better"... just a lot of hype.

More About ULTra: ULTra President Martin Lowson Revises History of PRT in Cardiff, Wales.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Another FAIL for Personal Rapid Transit - SW Corridor LRT Approved by FTA

The Strib:

The Federal Transit Administration said Friday that it has approved preliminary engineering work on a new light-rail line that, if built, would become the third in the Twin Cities.

The 15-mile Southwest Corridor line would connect downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. If the project continues to clear FTA hurdles and wins federal funding, construction would begin in 2014, with an aim of making the rail line operational by 2017 or 2018.

I remember when the PRT hucksters proposed their idiotic pod concept for the SW Corridor - how many chances do these crackpots and con artists get?

Here's the page that used to be on a PDF available on the SW corridor website (click to make it bigger):

Read about recent Personal Rapid Transit flops and fiascos HERE.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

PRT Hucksters Crank Up the Hype on Heathrow Pods

After a loooong wait and several delayed launches, the glorified golf carts at Heathrow are getting evaluated by... Twitter?

We'll it's not exactly "pod fever". And not all tweets are happy tweets:

Heathrow's ULTra Pods apparently have a 5% Failure Rate.

After many attempts over the years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on studies, research and development, there are no true PRT systems in operation anywhere in the world. The pod project at Heathrow is supposed to be PRT, but it lacks the essential features of a true PRT system - multiple offline, elevated stations, lightweight pods and a slim, one-way guideway.

There really isn't much difference between the ULTra pod project at Heathrow and a nearly identical project in 1997 at Schiphol Airport. So what's the big deal?

Here's a 2002 video of automated pods in action:

Read about recent Personal Rapid Transit flops and fiascos HERE.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Talking Points Memo Falls for Personal Rapid Transit Hype

Sad to see a great website like Talking Points Memo publish a poorly-researched puff piece about the glorified golf carts of Heathrow. And Josh Marshall, usually a sensible, smart guy embarassed himself by tweeting:

Forget Michele Bachmann sponsored legislation for Personal Rapid Transit boondoggle.

Forget that the debut of the ULTra pods at Heathrow was delayed a bunch of times.

Forget that the crummy pod car design that ULTra is based on had an almost identical debut in 1997 at Schiphol Airport.

Forget that ULTra has all kinds of bogus stuff on their website like these goofy plans for PRT projects in Minnesota.

Forget that the Heathrow pods have a 5% failure rate.

Nevermind that Heathrow pod ride is so bouncy and shaky, you will get seasick watching this video:

There's another video of a bumpy pod ride on this blog.

Nope, Josh Marshall says the pods are awesome.

Many years ago, I put something on my website called "THE MEDIA PRT TECHNO-PUFFERY HALL OF SHAME". But I could not keep up with the constant flood of PRT hype. This is what I wrote seven years ago:

The PRT publicity mill grinds out happy stories about PRT and the news media publishes them with little or no fact checking. The media likes to publish "Gee whiz" techno-puffery and for the most part, stories about rocket jet-packs and personal hovercraft don't do a lot of harm. PRT cleverly sneaks under the radar as a "Gee Whiz" story...but, of course there's a serious side to PRT . When PRT is revealed to be something that can cost taxpayers and investors a lot of money, the media just stops reporting ...I suspect out of embarrassment. Nobody wants to admit they were snookered, especially editors and publishers. All those hyped stories about PRT also create a false impression of PRT...and of course this creates a closed loop of information leading to even more cyber-hype and media techno-puffery.

Remember the embarrassing puff piece Salon did in 2004? Here's a Mark Olson explaining why PRT never goes anywhere in Minnesota:

Olson, who has been heading a PRT public relations campaign in Minnesota to drum up support, says public skepticism about new technologies is a big hurdle, as are established government relationships with existing transit manufacturers. "You have 40-plus years of relationship between our legislators and bureaucracies, and a flow of money between them," he says. "We're basically recreating the battle between horse-and-buggy manufacturers and the creators of the automobile."

Mark Olson was voted out of office after he was arrested and convicted of spousal abuse and is now a lobbyist for a PRT vendor with a $100 million project for Coon Rapids.

The Salon article provoked a lot of emails like this one:

Your article about Personal Rapid Transit was lacking in both context and perspective. The data on rail passenger-mile efficiency are not "skewed" by the success of the New York City subway or by scheduling that takes into account ridership patterns.

Further, the quote from Rep. Mark Olson does not even mention the battle in Minnesota over the highly politicized new (electric) light-rail line in Minneapolis. PRT has long been offered as an alternative to light rail in the Twin Cities by out-state Republicans who are against rail and in favor of more highways. This may be because PRT is currently in use exactly nowhere, and Minnesota Republicans expect and hope the status quo will continue in that respect.

Finally, your writer was evidently unable to find anyone who disagrees with the businesspeople/cheerleaders quoted in this piece. It's hard to believe that nobody has a question about PRT. Transit is a vitally important issue, but one-sided articles serve only to hinder informed discussion.

Maybe TPM will follow-up their PRT puff-piece with some of the well-researched muckraking TPM does best.

Read about recent Personal Rapid Transit flops and fiascos HERE.

Personal Rapid Transit Flops and Fiascos

Recent pod news and info

Hilarious Personal Rapid Transit Presentation by ATRA & CPRT (Same Person)

Is MNDOT Scrubbing Personal Rapid Transit Off its Website?

Heathrow's ULTra Personal Rapid Transit Pods Have 5% Failure Rate and are apparently being evaluated by Twitter.

Would-Be PRT Vendor "Preparing a Citizen Suit" Against the State of Minnesota

Petulant PRT promoters acting up again.

Skytran in Detroit? Meet Skytran CEO.

Another Crackpot Personal Rapid Transit Proposal Bites the Dust (Almelo)

Strange Minnesota industry - 3 Proposed PRT Projects, 6 PRT Companies and 2 PRT Lobbyists.

Former Rep. Mark Olson Returns to Capitol as a lobbyist for would-be PRT vendor proposing $100 million pod project in Coon Rapids.

The CPRT table at U of M Jobs Fair. Convicted felon is spokesman for the CPRT.

Daventry citizens say "Pods Off" to PRT TWICE!

Duluth News Tribune article about Taxi 2000 trying to restart Duluth pod project - hilarious comments.

The Pawlenty administration wasted thousands of taxpayers' dollars promoting personal rapid transit .

Pod people invade Newport News ( the article quotes retired professor Vukan Vuchic)

Bizarre hearing for wacky Jpods proposal for Hull, Massachusetts. Video: Bill James Pitches Jpods Resolution to Hennepin County.

Taxi 2000 Corporation spent nearly $80K on lobbying in Minnesota in 5 years. Taxi 2000 lobbyist and Bachmann pal Ed Cain also lobbied for the phony U.S. Navy Veterans Association charity.

Federal Funding Nixed for Winona Personal Rapid Transit Project

The Swedish/Korean PRT prototype malfunctioned in front of the media.

The Masdar PRT (actually computer-guided golf carts that follow magnets imbedded in the roadway) has been scaled way back, This setback got a mention in the NY Times and confirmed in this Bloomberg article. New post-mortem: "Masdar City Abandons Transportation System of the Future".

The so-called Morgantown PRT (not a true PRT system) was the subject of a student newspaper editorial after a malfunction created a "fireball" and filled a vehicle with smoke. The cost of fixing the Morgantown boondoggle is $93 million. Twitter Reveals Morgantown WVU Personal Rapid Transit's Frequent Breakdowns.