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 $$$.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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