Saturday, February 25, 2012

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?

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