Saturday, February 25, 2012

PRT Promoter Compares Politicians Skeptical of Personal Rapid Transit to Hitler

On the Transport Innovators forum, PRT advisor and CPRT board member Dick Gronning tried to make the case for using a scale model of a pod system to convince people PRT could be feasible:

It would have to look and act like a real PRT system. If it had features like a number of systems, we wouldn't be promoting just one system. Set up in a mall, it would certainly draw attention. Politicians couldn't say that it wouldn't work.

The ever-klassy Jack Slade, would-be PRT vendor responded with this comment:

Politicians couldn't say it won't work? Of course they will. Politicians will say anything stupid that serves their purpose. They learned a trick from "Mein Kampf".....namely, "if I tell a lie, tell it often and loud enough, eventually 85% of the people accept it as true". Not an exact quote, but close enough.

Keep it Klassy PRT dudes!

My favorite Jack Slade quote from the Transport Innovators forum:

I have always thought that Avodor was being paid by somebody to "prove" that PRT won't work, and now we know.

The very fact that he thinks Morgantown is PRT shows how little he actually knows, and that statements like "all PRT systems to date have been failures" shows that also. Here is a message from me to him:

Hey, Stupid, there have not been any PRT systems actually tried, so how can they be failures? The first is being tested now at Heathrow, and first reports indicate that it will be a success. Aren't you going to have a lot of Crow to eat when it begins to spread elsewhere? Who is going to pay you anything afterwards? Maybe you can get a job cleaning toilets somewhere.

Jack Slade

Here's Klassy Jack's PRT model:

Minneapolis Community Leader and Taxi 2000 Shareholder Still Promoting Personal Rapid Transit

Sarah Sponheim, President of the East Calhoun Community Organization, daughter of the late Taxi 2000 CEO A. Sheffer "Shef" Lang and scion of Theodore Hamm, founder of the Hamm’s Brewery has an interview in the Hill & Lake Press this month (PDF). Sponheim talks mostly about the many laudable environmental community-based projects she works on, but at the end of the interview, the specter of PRT rears its ugly head:

On another subject, what is Personal Rapid Transit and why are you an advocate for it?

I inherited an interest in a local Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) company called Taxi 2000 when my father died in 2003. I served on the board of Taxi 2000 for four years and maintain the conviction that this form of elevated public transit in small, automated vehicles could effectively replace automobile use in numerous applications. I believe PRT has global potential to slash transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

On her blog, Sponheim stated the following:

On a bigger front, I will promote Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) through a letter-writing campaign to business-people and legislators. It is high-time this inherently green transit technology got off the ground.

In the last few years, it seems there's been an effort by a few of the original shareholders in the Taxi 2000 Corporation to once again promote PRT in Minnesota. But, there's been a lot of water under the bridge since 2004 when a PRT bill managed to get attached to an omnibus bonding bill in the Minnesota House. PRT was later stripped from the bill in committee. Since then, the Taxi 200) Corporation has tried and tried again to get taxpayers to fund a testing facility, most recently in Winona and failed (more of the dismal history of Taxi 2000 here.).

In a recent article in the Fridley Patch, another more realistic shareholder had this to say about Taxi 2000:

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

Since 2004, the Hiawatha Light Rail that Sheffer Lang and other PRT advocates at the time vehemently opposed has proven to be a phenomenal success. LRT, streetcars and commuter rail projects like Northstar and other reality-based transit initiatives need the support of environmentalists and community activists like Sarah Sponheim. I encourage Sarah Sponheim to learn more by going to the Transit for Livable Communities website (TLC does not support public funding for PRT).

Perhaps, after Sarah Sponheim educates herself about reality-based transit she may look into the idea of restoring the route of the streetcar line that once existed in her neighborhood. It would connect Linden Hills to Uptown with the existing, legacy streetcar line.

And why would Sarah Sponheim want to be a part of the anti-LRT, pro-PRT bunch like this guy?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Will Cardiff, Wales Fall for Another Gadgetbahn Flim Flam?

Years ago, Personal Rapid Transit was supposed to debut in Cardiff, Wales.. but, they backed off when reality set in.

Seems they haven't learned their lesson:

An advanced railway could soon be whisking passengers from the centre of Cardiff to the Bay – over the heads of people walking below.

Plans for an elevated railway were discussed yesterday by representatives of Cardiff City Council and Monometro, a Blackwood-based company that has developed the state of the art system with the help of Saudi investors.

A little Googling came up with this:

Digging into MonoMetro finds a couple of things – it’s run by a bloke called Gareth Pearce, from Blackwood, Caerphilly, Wales. It’s, so far as I can tell, not been built anywhere yet, although there are stories of Saudi interest leading to a scheme in Mecca opening in 2012. There’s a lot of accusations that TfL and the Government have deliberatly ignored the scheme, including a comment...

The comment quoted in the blog:

The enire London MonoMetro project, painstakingly planned and meticulously designed through cooperation across a raft of private UK and US companies, it took ten years of effort. And while MonoMetro stands as a magnificant transport achievement it has been resisted since 2001 by the politburo style Transport for London, backed by the Stalinist Mayor Ken Livingstone.

The blog goes one with a look at the Wikipedia article on MonoMetro (go to the blog to follow the links):

Mr. Pearce, who I’m sure is a lovely fellow really, is mentioned in less than glowing terms here and here.

I then had a quick look at Wikipedia’s entry on the MonoMetro scheme, and the page reads like a mixture of advertising and complaints about the treatment of the scheme by the Government and ‘orrible old Ken, neither of which is exactly in keeping with Wikipedia’s neutral tone rules. In fact, comparing revisions here and here shows exactly what happened; a user from IP greatly enlarged the previously perfectly acceptable article on the 15th December 2007, in two editing sessions. The revised article subsequently got marked for style cleanup in June 2008, but nothing’s happened since apart from some minor edits, including one by London transport-and-other-stuff blogger D-Notice (at least, I presume it’s him), who, I note deliciously, has also been doing man’s work on Andrew Gilligan’s page.

Looking at IP, I see that he made one further edit immediately after his 15/12/2007 marathon, which was on the page for … Blackwood, Caerphilly, birthplace of Gareth Pearce. The edit added an unexplained link to, which, so far as I can see, doesn’t have a great deal of relevance to Blackwood, Caerphilly other than that the founder was born there. This was duly deleted as linkspam on 11/2/2008.

So, we have an apparent irascible Ken-hating architect with a new transport system to sell, who was told to stuff it by TfL and hasn’t been taking it lying down. He gets two favourable articles on LondonUnlocked, then *someone* rewrites the Wikipedia page on MonoMetro to render it a biased mess, adding a link to the system’s website to Pearce’s home town’s page to round it off.

The blog has some great observations about gadgetbahn, read the whole thing.

For more hilarious UK gadgetbahn flim-flammery read my post about Maglev Movers.

For laffs, read this bizarre screed from Gareth Pearce circa 2005 - here's a quote:

The Mayor of London and some GLA members have made statements that TfL carried out assessment of MonoMetro. Other GLA members have questioned the Mayor requesting a copy of TfL's alleged assessment. TfL in response further dismiss MonoMetro sLRT making no disclosure of any assessment material. In the national press TfL continue to make statements that MonoMetro sLRT is "an anorak's dream" with further statements of misinformation to the GLA that MonoMetro sLRT is unworkable, cannot be introduced into the urban environment and that MonoMetro Limited have no technical expertise. These statements have had a deeply damaging influence on the perception of MonoMetro from other regional authorities in the United Kingdom. Glasgow City Council terminated their assessment of MonoMetro for a city wide network because of adverse opinion publicised by TfL. A study requested by Thames Gateway was abandoned because of the biased opinion of TfL and while Portsmouth City Council commissioned MonoMetro to undertake a study for an urban network which was carried out and delivered they withdrew because of the adverse statements by TfL taken as authority. By contrast MonoMetro sLRT is the preferred technology for a 38 mile project in the United States and is being assessed by the French Government for urban implementation.

For more laffs, watch this video about the Monometro:

UPDATE: Jerry Schneider posted a hilarious letter from Gareth on the PRT-pod-loving Transport Innovators forum:

Jerry ,

We have made good progress with Cardiff City Council agreeing the most difficult part of the route. There are elections in May so the outline planning has to be held back till then but planning has agreed to work through all the necessay difficulties with us so that outline planning will be a foregone conclusion. The environmental assessment can also be submitted at outline planning stage. It's a two stage process outline first and full planning some time later maybe a year, in time to start construction on site.

We have two potential investors wanting to buy the entire £122mm Private Debenture shares with a 5% stock option. Its a bit of a frenzied fight.

I think its very important we complete the development of MonoMetro, the world needs it now. Its a simple railway and no technology to worry about. New system old technology. Metal to metal wheel rail interface proven in bearings applications, rolled rail section where the rolling "patch" contact geometry renders such an effectively low rolling point load that threshold of excitation leading to Hysterisis is never breached thus eliminating wear significantly over conventional rail.

We also have the high speed test track route in early stage of planning negotiations. We presented the route and we are waiting to hear from the County Council planning department. Mech Engineering informs me their design criteria for the bogies will be 140km/h. So with both high speed and urban test track routes in place we can tender for a wide spectrum of projects. Easy as she goes.

Best regards,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Personal Rapid Transit Has Always Been a Bogus Excuse to Defund Rail Transit

The PRT promoters are attacking reality-based transit again:

Opinion: Forget light rail, bring in the personal pods


WHY is there so much recent focus on an extension of light rail into Bergen County? It is not state-of-the-art transportation. It is not an inexpensive system to build, and there is no funding for it.

Wherever such a system is operational, it merely adds to the existing traffic congestion on the ground, to say nothing of the potential liability from intersection with vehicular traffic.


Years ago, when I started exposing the anti-transit, pro-PRT antics of Michele Bachmann, Mark Olson and Dean Zimmermann, it was common to hear PRT promoters call reality-based transit and particularly Light Rail Transit (LRT) "old fashioned", "19th Century", even "antebellum":

Mayor Greg Nickels' South Lake Union streetcar proposal is the most ludicrous transportation nonsolution I have heard in quite some time. The streetcar record in city after city is clear: high construction costs, high subsidies and no significant effect on congestion. How can streetcars be part of an intelligently designed new biotech district, when streetcars guarantee its streets will be congested?

I find it hard to believe that the best our civic leaders can offer us is this antebellum transit technology. Why is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) not on the table for exploration? PRT is a "horizontal elevator" system that offers automated, on-demand, mass transit service.

For the same amount Seattle is planning to invest in trains, a grid of lightweight, unobtrusive, elevated PRT rail can be built covering the entire city.

PRT could even be deployed in South Lake Union, serving both as an efficient local circulator and to feed people to and from future train stations. And it could be done at a fraction of the cost of a streetcar line.

So why aren't Seattle's leaders looking at PRT?

Is it because the transit consultants giving them advice make an excellent living going around the country recommending trains?

David Gow, Seattle

Problem is PRT isn't new. For at least half a century, PRT has flopped over and over again wasting millions of dollars- how many chances do these losers get? I recently found an old book in a county library with pictures of extinct PRT projects I've only read brief descriptions in other old books or J.Edward Anderson's history of PRT.

From a website history (no direct link) of Rosemount Inc., a Minnesota company:

Uniflo was a computer controlled, air pressure levitated and propelled personal rapid transit (PRT) system. A Honeywell researcher, who had worked on and then purchased the rights for the project, interested Frank Werner in pursuing its development. Rosemount had hoped to fund the project with public financing or equity participation by another firm, but even with renewed federal interest in public transportation Rosemount had trouble funding Uniflo. A joint effort with Northrup Corp. to win a Department of Transportation (DOT) contract for a demonstration mass transit system at Dulles International Airport failed. The DOT passed over the Uniflo project for more conventional mass transit systems. Uniflo later received two other federal research grants but made no sales. The project, which was abandoned in 1973, cost Rosemount about $1 million.

This was the pitch, sound familiar?

A personal rapid transit system has been developed, capable of providing urban areas with public transportation service that is competitive with the automobile in speed, availability, accessibility, and comfort. The system contributes no pollution in terms of air, noise, or vibration; it is relatively small in size; and it can be installed elevated, on grade, or below grade. These qualities make it an acceptable addition to a community. Because this personal rapid transit system is highly automated, a significant reduction in the amount of labor required to provide transportation service is anticipated. This could mean that it would again be possible to make money moving people.

This is from a University of MInnesota News Service newsletter from 1965 (click on the text to make it bigger):

Here's what Uniflo PRT was supposed to look like - nothing looks more dated than futuristic design from the 1970's (click on the picture to make it bigger):

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nathan Koren Dismisses Meaningful Public Participation in Transportation Planning

Nathan Koren, according to his Twitter page is "Making the world safe for Personal Rapid Transit". On the "Transport Innovators" forum, Nathan Koren explains how he goes about seeking converts to the pod-transport cult:

I've actually found that educating the public is relatively easy: you tell them that PRT is like a robotic taxi on an overhead guideway, show them some videos of Heathrow etc., and they say "oh, cool!" and are thereafter more or less on board with the concept.

Wow, talk about condescending! Mr. Koren goes on to dismiss the importance of public involvement in decision-making:

But that honestly doesn't matter very much, because -- to put it bluntly -- the public is not involved in the decision-making or implementation process for PRT systems. Since "the public" doesn't buy, design, build, operate, or regulate PRT systems, what they think has virtually no bearing on what actually happens.

Mr. Koren, as is often the case with PRT promoters ignores the process by which, in the U.S. transportation planning is supposed to work. From the USDOT's "The Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues":

Public involvement is integral to good transportation planning. Without meaningful public participation, there is a risk of making poor decisions, or decisions that have unintended negative consequences. With it, it is possible to make a lasting contribution to an area's quality of life. Public involvement is more than an agency requirement and more than a means of fulfilling a statutory obligation. Meaningful public participation is central to good decisionmaking.

The fundamental objective of public involvement programs is to ensure that the concerns and issues of everyone with a stake in transportation decisions are identified and addressed in the development of the policies, programs, and projects being proposed in their communities.

By "meaningful public participation", the USDOT doesn't mean talking down to citizens and showing a few videos as Nathan Koren and his PRT evangelists often do. Mr. Koren goes on to say the real roadblock isn't citizens, but "professionals - developers, transport planners, land-use planners, regulatory bodies, etc." That is utterly bogus - all those professionals are working for the public and have to follow a process that includes meaningful public participation.

Nathan Koren isn't the only PRT promoter with a dismissive attitude toward the public - this is from a January 29, 2010 post titled "PRT "Consultant" Advises Public Officials to Manipulate Public Process":

PRT "consultant" Peter Muller, who was at the MnDOT Rochester PRT symposium recently posted this advice to public officials on his website:

Any proposed PRT system that could suffer from adverse public comment, should have a well thought-out public outreach program. Public education and input should commence before there is any chance of members of the public learning about the project and becoming upset, because there are aspects of it they do not understand or that get misrepresented in the press. There are many instances of good public projects being stopped in their tracks by a vociferous minority.

Muller then goes on to describe a sham public process - the sort of manipulative process described by Sherry Arnstein in The Ladder of Citizen Participation:

In the name of citizen participation, people are placed on rubberstamp advisory committees or advisory boards for the express purpose of "educating" them or engineering their support. Instead of genuine citizen participation, the bottom rung of the ladder signifies the distortion of participation into a public relations vehicle by powerholders.

The PRT guys have always avoided a genuine public process... what are they afraid of?

In a 2010 letter I wrote to the Winona Daily News, I wrote the following:

According to a Jan. 20 article in the Winona Daily News, a meeting where the public could have asked questions was for Winona City Council members only, “While there was little discussion of PRT during the meeting, the vote came after council members examined the system during a pre-council informational session that lasted more than one hour.”
I recall a similar PRT “informational session” for Minneapolis city officials only on March 26, 2005. When a proposal for a PRT project later came up for a vote in committee, the PRT promoters failed to show up and the matter was tabled. More recently, public officials in Daventry, England, complained that PRT promoters would not show up at public forums to answer questions. The Minnesota Department of Transportation held a “PRT workshop” Aug. 18, which cost $50 to attend and was not a public meeting. Why are PRT promoters avoiding the public?

When the city of Winona revisits the issue of PRT, as it has recently indicated it would, I would suggest they hold a free, public forum and invite critics as well as promoters. I would also suggest inviting experts in the field; transit engineers, transit advocacy groups and environmental groups. But most of all, I urge Winona city officials to invite the public.
Grassroots support for any big public project is essential. For it is the citizens who will end up paying for it— and if built, living with it.