Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Another Failing Grade for Personal Rapid Transit

A memo from Los Angeles County compared PRT to other modes (PDF). The conclusion:
With the technical data currently available, PRT (as a lower capacity, on-demand version of APM) has limited applicability for connecting the regional transit system and LAX, the primary market under study for the Airport Metro Connector.
This is in addition to the memo from a San Jose city official that stated the conclusion of a $1.8 million study that Automated Transit Network (AKA podcars, PRT) was infeasible. In another post I reported that the Minnesota Department of Transportation was not going to go ahead on a $1.4 million PRT study recommended by the University of Minnesota's Center For Transportation Studies.

Although the PRT concept has been around for half a century, the PRT vendors are still not ready for prime time. No doubt the pod people will cry foul and claim the process was rigged. But, as I have noted before, would-be PRT vendors sabotage their own chances of selling their systems by not providing necessary info:
The amount of data available to support rigorous transit planning efforts, as is required for developing a regional transit connection to LAX,is still very limited. Key factors for evaluation are capital and operating costs, vehicle and guideway specifications, operating characteristics, maintenance facility requirements, and capacity and operating speeds. In June 2011, we met with ULTra, the company that developed the Heathrow PRT system, to gather information and to discuss what data were available to support evaluation during the AA. We were able to obtain some information from the Heathrow project given that it began operation later that year in September, but much of the data on modern systems are still preliminary with some information proprietary.
The reason is PRT vendors don't try harder is that PRT is more useful to promoters as an wedge issue to delay or stop funding for conventional transit.

For many years, Personal Rapid Transit promoters have claimed that PRT was faster, better, cheaper than conventional transit. They also claimed the PRT "technology" was available now for implementation in urban areas. They were lying - what they really had to offer was small-scale demonstration projects that could hardly scale up to a city-wide system. Their much-hyped PRT "success" story, the battery-powered podcars at Heathrow and Masdar have failed to be considered for far more simple applications as airport connectors.

How many more studies do we need to restate the obvious? - PRT is an infeasible boondoggle. Here's an ancient, hilarious PRT promotional video with pod hucksters attacking conventional transit modes as "old fashioned":


 Where is the Taxi 2000 Corporation today? It's still in Fridley, MN and it's "moribund".

Saturday, May 5, 2012

No MnDOT Study of Personal Rapid Transit

In the previous post, I posted a link to a memo from a San Jose city official that stated the conclusion of a $1.8 million study that Automated Transit Network (AKA podcars, PRT) was infeasible. A while back, the University of Minnesota's Center For Transportation Studies wanted MnDOT to waste $1.4 million on PRT study, but an MnDOT spokesperson has said they won't do it.

In other Minnesota pod news, the Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit (CPRT) were a no-show at the Living Green Expo.

Also, fugitive U.S. Navy Vets scamster Bobby Thompson was apprehended in Oregon.Interesting to see if he can explain why he hired pod lobbyist Ed Cain to be his lobbyist in Virginia. Here's the mugshot:


Friday, May 4, 2012

City of San Jose Memo: Personal Rapid Transit is Not Technically Feasible

As is always the case with PRT projects - they begin with a lot of hype and hoopla and end with a whimper. A memo from Hans Larsen, the Director of Transportation for the City of San Jose about a proposed Automated Transit Network (AKA podcars, PRT) at the San Jose Mineta International Airport titled ATN FEASIBILITY STUDY STATUS REPORT (PDF) has the following conclusions:
• The complexity and service requirements ofthe Airport ATN project exceed the technical capacity of the ATN systems currently available. 
• There is no established regulatory process to support the construction of an ATN in the United States. This complicates efforts to accurately estimate the cost of building and operating an ATN system. 
• The estimated cost of building the Airport ATN is less than building the APM preferred alignment, plus the ATN offers a higher level o f service and greater coverage. 
• The estimated cost of operating the Airport ATN is comparable to the existing expenses of the Airport and VTA to operate shuttle buses on the Airport and between the Airport and the transit stations
The memo affirms what experts have been saying for years. Here's a Vukan Vuchic quote from Michael Setty's white paper on PRT in Winona (PDF):
The main reason for such absence of any progress in implementing PRT is simple: the basic concept of PRT is inherently unsound. It combines small vehicles, ideal for low density travel, with complicated, electronically controlled guideways that are feasible only for heavily traveled routes. Consequently, in suburban areas where carrying two to six persons would be optimal, construction of guideways is economically infeasible; on major arterials, where large passenger volumes might justify the construction of guideways, small vehicles are highly inefficient and cannot provide the required capacity. Consequently, the combination of the two features–small vehicle and complicated guideway– is paradoxical and makes the PRT mode impractical under all conditions. 
How is it possible that this concept should attract so much interest and even government support for development in several countries? The explanation lies in the fact that the positive features of PRT are often exaggerated while the negative ones are overlooked. Thus, although it is true that PRT resembles the positive characteristics of the automobile more than any other transit mode, it is also true that due to this similarity PRT has the severe limitations of auto use in urban areas: low capacity, very high cost and energy consumption per space-km, and extremely large space requirements for stations, guideway interchanges, and vehicle storage areas. Aerial guideways and stations, in urban streets would be highly objectionable, not even considering the legal requirement for accessibility by the disabled.
These basic problems with the PRT concept were also part of the verdict of the $625,000 2001 OKI Central Loop study. And now after San Jose wasted an additional $1.8 million to study the PRT, they've concluded the PRT concept is too complex and expensive even for an airport (the Heathrow pod shuttle, a loop with only two stations neither of them stand-alone and elevated is not a true PRT). Already, the PRTistas at the Transport Innovators forum are howling with indignation. A quote from Would-be PRT inventor Jack Slade:
"What a lot of bullshit!! You have to build a "Regulatory System" before you can build anything? Are you really talking about the Land of the Free? People who think like this should be deported before they contaminate the rest of the population. I could pick other holes in their "Conclusions"....most of them are wrong....but it isn't worth it.
The ultra-Republican PRT consultant and Fountain Valley Patch contributor Roy Reynolds chimes in, blaming the librul Democrats (of course):
What else should we have expected from a broke and broken Democrat city government /steeped/ in liberal bureaucracy and dedicated to the green technology that Obama thinks is going to save our economy? *Green *was one of their original goals for this project and I'll bet was unmentioned in this memo because, like Solyndra, they couldn't force it to succeed. Needing to have a "Regulatory System" says, in two *perfectly *chosen words, what these people are all about -- that is, regulation, allegiance to AlGore and his climate chicanery, and more government. They couldn't decide (and couldn't afford it anyway since the public employee unions have taken all their money) after spending millions on consultants who couldn't spell PRT before bidding on this project, so they defer it to the Feds. The public and the market seemed to have been completely cut out of this process...
The PRTists begin waxing nostalgic over the halcyon Richard Nixon era and the Morgantown boondoggle. The Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit's Dick Gronning has this observation:
While this shows some of the good side of Republican thinking (there's more), the bad side of the picture was that the Nixon administration threw scads of money at the project without any supervision. Nixon did the same thing with Affirmative Action. His administration REMOVED all of the constraints and supervision for Affirmative Action and threw even MORE $$$ into it. The policy seems to convey the message that human-kind is basically good. It doesn't work for me. Worse yet, there's the assumption that only a certain group have ethics.
Uh, okaaaaay.... speaking of angry, bitter, old, people, the CPRT does not appear on the list of transportation exhibitors at the Living Green Expo this year. Here's a video of their dyspeptic style from a few years back: