Sunday, April 12, 2009

Evaporating Dreams in the Desert

Transportation Enthusiast points to Masdar as the shining new city in the desert, a green, sustainable oasis in a land where temperatures reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade ... and there's no shade.

Here's an article: The dark side of Dubai that tells the real story of the UAE "miracle" in the desert.

If you throw enough fertilizer on it, you can grow posies in a pickup truck.

7 comments:

  1. A Transportation Enthusiast12:04 PM

    Allow me to correct you, Hayduke.

    Masdar is in Abu Dhabi, NOT Dubai, and Masdar itself is a completely independent effort that has little to do with Abu Dhabi OR Dubai.

    Bashing Masdar because it happens to be located 100 miles from Dubai is kind of like blaming Santa Cruz for Los Angeles's traffic!

    You should learn more about Masdar before hurling unwarranted criticism at it.

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  2. Pay attention students, for a lesson in geography and economics.

    Take a look at this map;

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    This is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Here is Dubai on the coast of the Persian Gulf. 100 miles south on the coast is Abu Dhabi. This patch of desert sand to the east of Abu Dhabi is the proposed site of Masdar, the ultra-green, super-sustainable city in the desert.

    The same desert as Dubai, in the same UAE, supported by the same limited oil resources that are rapidly declining. The same Dubai that uses slave labor to build a shining city in the desert. The same Dubai where construction has ground to a halt, in the same desert.

    Masdar is another engineering/investment scheme, just like PRT. If one is to build a "sustainable" city, how insane is it to propose to built it in the desert?

    Anyone who thinks this is a good idea has never lived in the desert, or has not read the article referenced in the above blog.

    Furthermore, this shiny city in the sand will be run by petty tyrants and authoritarian oligarchies, just like Dubai.

    I'm struggling to find a difference here. Tell me again: How is Masdar not like Dubai?

    Oh right, Dubai is real, Masdar is a figment of some engineers imagination and a gleam in some economist's eye.

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  3. A Transportation Enthusiast5:21 PM

    Look, I am certainly no fan of the oil industry in general, nor do I like much of what happens in the UAE, socially, politically, or topologically.

    BUT, I do like what this ONE PARTICULAR oil magnate is doing in this ONE PARTICULAR LOCATION within UAE. So while you try to taint the effort with guilt by association tactics, I will focus on the ambitious goals of the project, which is to turn that patch of land in the desert into the world's foremost proving ground on how to live sustainably.

    I really don't understand the hostility here. Here you are, talking about the need to have walkable cities which live harmoniously with nature, cities which don't thirst for oil and spew greenhouse gases... and when you become aware of an effort that aims to do exactly that, you respond with derision!

    What exactly is there not to like about Masdar? Is it bad because of where it is? Because of who is paying for it? Well, I don't see any of us in the supposedly more progressive western world taking on such an ambitious effort; on the contrary, we're dumping billions into saving GM, a company that fought fuel efficiency at every turn and paved the country with oil-guzzling SUVs.

    So maybe we should be thankful that *someone* is taking on this task. Even if their politics and culture may be repulsive to us, even if their fortunes were gained with dirty, destructive oil, at least now they're doing something potentially world changing (even possibly world-saving) with their billions.

    It's more than ANYONE in the supposedly more modern and progressive western world can say. So maybe you should open your mind a little and take a look at the fascinating events taking place on that little patch of land in middle east.

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  4. Jean Brocklebank7:34 PM

    I wonder why the Transportation Enthusiast (TE) will not identify himself.

    We know Michael Lewis's name. And I have signed my name (Jean Brocklebank) in my posts and readers know I live in Santa Cruz.

    What does TE have to hide by staying anonymous? TE appears to have his heart in the right place (a concern for the environment, energy efficiency, even a rude remark about the oil companies). However, skeptic that I am, I just cannot wrap my mind around the anonymity of TE. Something is screaming at me: this guy is a PRT Venture Capitalist Pimp...or the Venture Capitalist himself.

    TE, will you please tell us where you live and if you have any connection with PRT development or developers? And if not, why not?

    Thanks kindly,
    Jean

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  5. A Transportation Enthusiast8:14 PM

    Jean,

    I have no financial interest in PRT whatsoever. I just started reading about it a few years ago and after an initial skepticism, I did more research and I found the idea had significant merit.

    I have communicated with some of those connected with PRT ventures, and I've even participated in forum discussions with other proponents, but it was always in the interest of obtaining information about their designs and how they planned to approach certain problems. I have no loyalty to any particular system or effort, and in fact, there are probably 4 or 5 different systems that I like for different technical reasons.

    Four years ago, I created this moniker ("Transportation Enthusiast") when I saw some PRT misinformation being spread in forums and blogs. Using this name, I joined several PRT debates as they sprung up on the web.

    Once I started using the moniker, I was hesitant to reveal my true identity primarily because there is a certain element in the anti-PRT movement which uses really dirty tactics against PRT proponents, e.g., ad hominem attacks, rumor mongering, half-truthful insinuations, attacking proponents' employers, anything to embarass and/or discredit PRT proponents.

    So I decided to keep anonymous and simply spread the word as an anonymous entity. If I'm anonymous, ad hominems are impossible and the debate can focus on the issues. So I've kept the moniker, and I always try to back my claims up with solid data and sources, so that even if people don't trust an anonymous reporter like me, they can always go to the sources and check for themselves.

    I live in Buffalo, NY, I'm 40 years old, I work as a software engineer in a field completely unrelated to transit, I have 3 kids (one of them moderately disabled, so that contributes to my desire for a disabled-friendly system, but even without that factor I'd be a strong supporter).

    I'm not a venture capitalist. In truth, I have no capital to vent. ;-). If I did have money to invest, I might contribute to a PRT venture, not because I wish to make a profit (though that certainly would be nice :-)), but because I *believe* in PRT and I would like to do what I can to see it come to fruition. Maybe that explains my efforts on the web to spread the word: if I can't help financially, at least I can dispel myths and counter some of the misinformation that's out there.

    Anyway, I won't reveal my name here, but if you would like to discuss my identity and associations, feel free to email me at transenth@hotmail.com. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have, and if I feel I can trust you to keep it secret, I might even reveal my identity to you. But be prepared to be disappointed... I'm really a nobody from nowhere with non-existent associaions...

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  6. Jean Brocklebank9:01 PM

    Hello TE ~

    Thank you for taking the time to respond with more information than I anticipated. While it is interesting to learn your background and where you live, I am content to leave it at that. My gut tells me you are sincere.

    Your interest (and participation in forum discussions) reminds me of an engineer here in Santa Cruz who also attends the local PRT Group meetings. You said that you *believe* in PRT. This explains to me why your responses to my comments about alternatives to PRT will always be pro-PRT to the exclusion of any other mobility alternatives.

    Being a scientist by training, I do not do "beliefs." I look at data and evidence. So it is difficult for me to accept everything you provide, as it is all conjecture, studies, plans, and visions. While Morgantown and Heathrow stand as real examples of PRT technology, they are not the technology incorporated into my neighborhood, Santa Cruz or any village in the UK.

    It is too bad that there does seem to be "certain elements" on both sides who stoop to snide remarks and personal innuendoes (I have been at the receiving end of some such remarks also during debate on PRT in my city). Like you , I prefer to discuss issues, not personalities. I think, so far, with all of those who have posted to this blog that we have had successful communication. No attacks of individuals in these here parts, as Hayduke would say.

    I hope you have an opportunity to re-read some of what has been written (and I'll finish responding to your other posts in a day or so). You'll not change my mind, though, no matter how many computer simulations and links you proffer. I have been studying PRT for over two years and nothing has caused me to see it in any new light. Quite the contrary, the more I see, the more I consider PRT an industry requiring great subsidy from cities, great energy investment to build, but mostly something that has to be sold. If it is so dang great, why does it meet skepticism every place it is introduced?

    Regards,
    Jean

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  7. A Transportation Enthusiast9:41 PM

    Jean,

    I agree, there is a certain element of the PRT movement which is perhaps too aggressive and arrogant. I think what's happened is that both sides have been attacking each other so long that every discussion, even among rationals, degrades into mudslinging.

    I am not against other modes of transport, not at all. In fact, I believe the various modes are complimentary. Buses alone are inefficient, but they could be made much more efficient as part of a multi-modal solution.

    Consider a bus/PRT multimodal approach along the same routes. Buses can move large crowds in a hurry but are terribly inefficient in low demand; PRT is less efficient at moving big crowds but is extremely efficient at providing off-peak service. So a combined bus/PRT solution covering the same area could optimize *both* service and efficiency. During the peak, buses augment the PRT and disperse crowds, providing a capacity boost when needed. During the off-peak, buses don't run at all and PRT handles all of the load efficiently. Bus average occupancy would rise to the 20s or 30s at least, since all those inefficient hours of operation will be eliminated. So buses run more efficiently, PRT provides ubiquitous service, and everyone is happy.

    But the purists on both sides would balk at such a hybrid system, and that's unfortunate.

    By the way, don't misinterpret my use of the word "believe". I am first and foremost a scientist. As I indicated, I was skeptical 4 years ago when I first encountered this technology. I've studied it *exhaustively* since then, and I've never found any major issues with proponents' claims. I've read all the research, I've read all the skepticism, I've studied the physics and engineering, I've done *all* the math, I even done some low level simulation myself to convince myself that what the proponents were saying was viable. And in all that time, I found no "gotcha" that disqualified the technology. In contrast, I found *many* gotchas that disqualified the *skepticism* - see my earlier comment about the Light Rail Now piece and it's misinformation about inter-vehicle distances.

    So when I say "believe", rest assured that my belief is based on exhaustive research and analysis. I am a classic INTP, I NEVER take things on faith. ;-)

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