Friday, April 03, 2009

Podcars surface again!

Pod Cars surface again! in Ithica, New York.

Jean Brocklebank offers this cogent response:

Alert!!! This is a terrible idea and one that the PRT LLC's of the world
are promoting big time. Think Segway. Something not needed and marketed
like it is THE solution...to a problem that does not exist.

"They" are trying to sell Podcar Development right here in Santa Cruz.

Podcars require an enormous infrastructure of raised railings (think
Disneyland) that clutter the airshed. That infrastructure will require a
lot of energy in its manufacture, installation and maintenance. A podcar
system is not instead of roadways and sidewalks and bike lanes that now
exist. It is in addition to. Furthermore, there must be Podcar stations,
with parking lots for people to park their cars to ride the rest of the way
in their "on demand" individual podcars.

Here is Santa Cruz, the Podcar Pimps are touting the system as a tourist
attraction and frightening the populace with "we should be the first city to
do this to get in on the tourist dollars!"

Morgantown, W.Va is always used as an example. Stupid example. That system
was built to take students to campus (after some incidents of student rapes
I think). Heathrow Airport is also building one...to take passengers from
their car parks to their airplanes.

The Podcar Pimps like to tout the privacy of the podcar...if one wants to
travel alone. Isn't this simply replacing the single passenger automobile
with the single passenger podcar? Same mentality at work.

In any community, with commuting needs, a simple bus system (which the
Podcar Pimps acknowledge must be a part of the system unless podcars rails
will be intruding into every neighborhood) is all that is needed for public
transportation beyond a two mile radius. Two miles is walkable and takes 20
- 30 minutes, depending on the vigor of the walker. Bicycles take even less
time. Buses, trolleys can use the existing roadway infrastructure.

Step outside your home and imagine the behemouth (and they are) podcar
railings, 10 - 20 feet in the air, filling your airshed. Then look at the
ground and see the huge pylon feet cluttering what may have once been a
sidewalk.

Jean@just.say.no.to.podcars

14 comments:

  1. That's too bad that you feel so negative about Personal Rapid Transportation.

    I'm not as familiar with your area and if a system like that would be beneficial. I certainly agree that it's not right for everyone or everywhere, but I think there are some places that would benefit greatly from such a system.

    If you've ever been stuck in miles of congested traffic or waited considerable amounts of time waiting for a train that was packed with people going different directions, you have to have asked yourself if there was not a better way of transportation.

    I have been following podcar news for some time and have heard of different plans presented in the Santa Cruz area. I am not familiar enough with the area to say if it is a right match or not, but I think the technology is promising and even in its infancy, it holds a lot more potential than traditional mass and personal transportation models.

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  2. A Transportation Enthusiast1:18 PM

    Clearly you have been misinformed about PRT.

    Elevated guideways would be very low profile, much smaller than a pedestrian walkway. And it would cost *less* to operate than a bus, while providing no-wait, 24 hour service.

    Think of it: a bus running at 15 minute intervals will lose money and require subsidy; a PRT system operating on demand will break even financially and might even return a small profit even after capital costs for construction are paid off. I can provide references to the multiple engineering studies that support this statement.

    So basically, these so called podcar "pimps" are selling you something that is better, safer, cheaper and more sustainable - and your reaction is mockery? Puzzling.

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  3. This last comment sounds very sure about something that doesn't exist anywhere on the planet. How would anyone know the economics of system that's never been built? How can anyone know that people will flock to its use in a town where I can ride a bike from one side to another in twenty minutes?

    PRT folks here in Santa Cruz are talking about elevated guideways over the streets and hanging from the sides of buildings, since there is no ground space available on which to put PRT tracks.

    I do not want my airshed cluttered up with concrete troughs and pylons hanging over my head. Nor do I care for the noise of constantly running podcars.

    More to the point, there is no available space for the number of stations it would take to access a PRT route with any kind of efficiency. Santa Cruz is a small town that is completely built out. There is no available undeveloped space along the proposed PRT route.

    Where will the stations be located? Where will people park to access the stations? How will people driving to a PRT station be any different from people driving to their destinations?

    PRT is a solution in search of a problem. We don't need PRT in Santa Cruz.

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  4. That's got to be one of the dumbest ideas I've ever seen. Thousands of pod cars jacked up on some sort of Jetson-like roller coaster track?

    When will humans realize the folly of over industrialization and get back to sensible modes of living? Why do we insist on looking to "advanced" technology for everything? Technology isn't going to solve the problems that technology helped create.

    What we need now is a solid dose of common sense.

    if this represents the "city of the future," count me out.

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  5. A Transportation Enthusiast12:40 PM

    Hayduke, have you researched PRT? Do you know that several groups who have done *extensive* research on PRT are actively working on the technology? Examples: respected engineering firms C2HM Hill and Arup, renowned architect Norman Foster, Heathrow airport (>$20M invested in their pilot), steel giant POSCO (heavily invested in Vectus PRT technology). And an oil baron in the UAE is spending $20 BILLION on Masdar City which absolutely relies 100% on PRT.

    A lot of respected people are investing their own time and money in this so-called "unproven" technology. These are intelligent people who have studied PRT down to the minutest detail and are so confident it will work that they are putting up a fortune of their own money to develop it.

    Now, to address your specific concerns:

    - noise: every mature design I've seen is whisper quiet. Electric cars with rubber wheels don't make much noise. Have you ever heard a Prius drive by? PRT would be quieter than that.

    - "concrete troughs and pylons over my head" - well, people have to move from A to B, so either the concrete will be overhead or on the ground. Which is worse, a little visual intrusion or 6-lane streets packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic?

    Roads will still be there of course, but PRT could siphon off enough capacity that neighborhood-destroying road-widening and/or highway construction would not be needed. In other words, a well built-out PRT system would give the streets back to pedestrians and bicyclists, because high-capacity through-traffic is whisked by silently above.

    - space for stations - every design I've seen has the ability for elevated stations, as well as stations *within* *buildings*. The stations themselves are tiny (maybe 40ft x 60ft - the equivalent of half a dozen parking spaces). I can point you to some illustrations of lightweight station designs if you doubt this.

    Your worries about space for stations are unwarranted.

    - "Where will people park to access the stations?" - In Masdar City (the zero-carbon city being built in UAE), stations are spaced such that no location in the entire city is more than 100m from a station. PRT can be as dense as you need it to be. Even with 500m density, many people will be able to walk or ride their bicycles to the stations. Parking is only needed for widely spaced transit options like buses - buses have to be widely spaced because it would be too costly to operate a bus on every street.

    Do you have any other specific concerns?

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  6. PRT is an attempt to continue the mindset of individual automobiles into the future of declining energy availability. PRT-think accepts the premise that we must live , work and shop in different places, to which we must be transported by mechanical devices, rather than living in communities where work, home and shops are within easy walking and bicycling distance, requiring no external transportation infrastructure.

    I vote for livable, walkable communities.

    The fact that PRT has been studied by engineers does not add to my equanimity. Many terrible ideas have been studied by engineers and proven to be abject failures when used in the real world. The SST, Exxon Valdez and Bhopal leap immediately to mind. The fact that people invest in such "opportunities" is no recommendation for their unquestioning release into the world of finite resources, living beings and human peculiarities.

    Santa Cruz is not Masdar City. Santa Cruz is a small town, both in population and geography. The average population density is much less than a major city in the US, let alone an artificial city in the desert.

    People having to move from A to B does not equate with said moving taking place above my head, blocking my view of sky, clouds and birds. I will not tolerate an aerial transportation infrastructure in my neighborhood. I refuse to live beneath a freeway interchange.

    We have no neighborhood destroying road widening going on in Santa Cruz, no six lane streets to empty out, which of course , PRT would never do anyway. One must, by some means, get from the house to the PRT, and back again, arms full of packages, in rain and wind and fog. People don't do it now for buses. Why would they walk a half mile to the PRT station? What is so wondrous about this proposed infrastructure that it will change observed human behavior?

    One thousand times "whisper quiet" equals a constant, steady rumble. More is noisier than less.

    Santa Cruz cannot sustain a PRT infrastructure with stations even every 500 m. The thought is absurd! This is a town of largely separate single family homes. There is insufficient population density to support a PRT system. The town is divided by river drainages and green belts, through which a PRT will not be built, limiting routes to major existing thoroughfares.

    PRT will never replace automobile traffic on roads. It will be in addition to existing transportation, not instead of. We have no room and no need for another transportation infrastructure to be imposed on top of the existing transportation infrastructure.

    PRT is a solution to a problem that does not exist in Santa Cruz. It is an investment opportunity looking for sheep to fleece.

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  7. A Transportation Enthusiast7:19 AM

    You obviously will not be swayed, and that's fine.

    But consider this: buses have been around for nearly a century, and they have not stopped the explosive growth of the automobile, because people want to go from A to B, not "wait 15 minutes at point A, which takes me to point C, where I can wait another 15 minutes for the transfer to finally take me to B 40 minutes later than the equivalent automobile trip". The public demands personalized transit, and the only personal transit mode available today (cars) is dirty, dangerous, and unsustainable.

    So what's wrong with making a *personalized* transit system that is also more efficient than any other transit system ever conceived, not to mention safer, greener, more convenient, more accessible to the disabled, more available (24x7) and cheaper to operate?

    And you mention that ever elusive goal: walkability. Let me as you this: how many pedestrians are killed by cars in your "walkable" city? You say you want walkable, but when someone proposes the ultimate walkable transit mode - the vehicles are completely segregated from pedestrians and bicycles - you complain about sightlines. So I guess the question is: how many dead pedestrians are worth that tiny slice of the sky that a PRT guideway would block?

    You mention the term "freeway interchange" - perhaps you are unaware that PRT guideway would be a *tiny* fraction of the visual impact of a freeway. Here are some illustrations from a Swedish PRT study. Each of those guideways can move about as many people as a freeway lane, with the street-level impact of lampposts. Tell me that city isn't walkable.

    And frankly, if you think we can magically transform back to a day when people lived without convenient transportation, you're fooling yourself. The reason people didn't need personalized transportation 100 years ago is because they didn't *have* personalized transport, so they made due.

    Personalized transport in the form of automobiles changed the world, and there's no way back to the world that existed before. Consider even the logistics of "live where you work" in today's world: 100 years ago, every household was a single earner who likely worked the same job his whole life; today, most families have *two* people working, so how would that work? What are the chances they would *both* work in the same area? At least one would have to travel a longer distance to work.

    The world has changed in the last century. Walkability in 1900 was achievable with streetcars and buses, but today's world requires something else - something that preserves the streets for pedestrians but also provides convenient, personal transportation for those who need to go further than 1 mile. PRT provides that.

    I will never understand why there is such strong resistance to PRT from people who profess a desire for walkable streets.

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  8. Jean Brocklebank12:44 PM

    Why would any rational person suggest that what "an oil baron in the UAE is doing" is pertinent to a supposedly subsidy-free PRT system in any American city, small or large?

    Why would any rational person suggest that the major overhead infrastructure for a PRT system in an existing city is better than the existing concrete roadways that already accommodate public transportation, including bicyclists and pedestrians? Neighborhood streets in my city are not 6 lanes. And why would anyone call the raised and substantial PRT system infrastructure "a little visual intrusion?"

    What are the energy costs of building PRT infrastructure? Concrete production is very energy intensive. So is steel.

    Show me the data that proves "a PRT system operating on demand will break even financially and might even return a small profit even after capital costs for construction are paid off." Data please.

    Please explain - exactly - how PRT is "better, safer, cheaper and more sustainable" and compared to what is it so? Data please.

    A Transportation Enthusiast says: "In other words, a well built-out PRT system would give the streets back to pedestrians and bicyclists, because high-capacity through-traffic is whisked by silently above." I'll respond by saying first that as a pedestrian the streets have not been taken from me so I don't need them back. I walk everywhere. Second: I do not want to have anything other than the sky over my head as I walk.

    Why would any rational person suggest that 40' x 60' is tiny? This is the size of my home's lot, including parking, workshop, gardens and fruit trees. Placing these "tiny" stations, plus their parking lots all over the city would be a major impact. How much energy to build all these "tiny" stations? Data please.

    Hayduke said: "One must, by some means, get from the house to the PRT, and back again, arms full of packages, in rain and wind and fog. People don't do it now for buses. Why would they walk a half mile to the PRT station?" Spot on!

    Why would a rational person suggest that the anything could have stopped the "explosive growth of the automobile," which has received every imaginable subsidy for the last 100 years?

    So now we're going to push PRT by paying the "disabled" card, are we? And how are those "disabled" folks going to get from their home to the PRT station and better yet, how are they going to get to their destination after leaving their PRT cars? And how will the public, who has no patience to wait for a bus going to feel about waiting for the poor disabled person to get into and out of a pod car?

    Why would a rational person ask such an irrational question as "how many dead pedestrians are worth that tiny slice of the sky that a PRT guideway would block?" Do we always have to scare people in order to get development projects on the table?

    Why would an informed, rational person suggest that the future can be based on 150 years of the Age of Fossil Fuels? And what does two wage earners per household have to do with the future? There are two wage earners in my home - my husband and myself. He bicycles to work; I walk to work. And yes, my walk is half the distance of his bike ride. So what's the point?

    Finally, a Transportation Enthusiast (TE) said: "I will never understand why there is such strong resistance to PRT from people who profess a desire for walkable streets." Obviously, TE is not a pedestrian.

    Jean

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  9. A Transportation Enthusiast11:30 PM

    Jean,

    You demand a lot of information, and I am more than willing to provide *everything* you ask for. But it will take some time, and tomorrow is Easter, so it may take a few days.

    - the UAE project: the point I was making was that they are building a sustainable city in the desert, investing $20B in this effort, and have gambled on PRT as the foundation of the entire city. And those actually building it are highly respected consultants and engineers (C2HM Hill, MIT, Foster & Partners).

    Do you know anything about Masdar? It's intended as a prototype of a future sustainable city, and one of its stated goals is to advance the state of the art in sustainable city development so that future cities may benefit from the lessons learned there. Certainly, Santa Cruz will never be a Masdar, but perhaps the technologies perfected at Masdar could benefit Santa Cruz and other cities. That's the "pertinence" to cities.

    - "Why would any rational person suggest that the major overhead infrastructure for a PRT system in an existing city is better than the existing concrete roadways that already accommodate public transportation, including bicyclists and pedestrians?" - because most people don't ride bikes or walk - they take their cars, and cars don't coexist well with pedestrians and bikes.

    If 30% of automobile users ride PRT, that's 30% less congestion on roads, giving more space to pedestrians and bicycles. Do you not agree with this? How can 30% fewer cars on the road *not* have a beneficial effect on walkability?

    And I'll ask you the same question I asked Hayduke: how many pedestrians are killed by cars every year, and how many lives could be saved if a significant portion of that dangerous traffic were moved away from pedestrians? Is that little bit of visual intrusion worth the lives that are lost to traffic accidents, accidents that would be reduced if a significant portion of the traffic was moved away from the streets?

    (And yes, there are extensive studies that show PRT would draw many people from their cars, anywhere from 10%-30% or more. Even critics concede this).

    - "Neighborhood streets in my city are not 6 lanes. And why would anyone call the raised and substantial PRT system infrastructure 'a little visual intrusion?' " - and what about highway 1, the 4-lane highway which appears to slice right through your city? Tell me, what would be better for Santa Cruz: an elevated PRT over streets or highway 1 slicing that neighborhood in half.

    See, the flaw in your logic is that you see an elevated guideway in isolation, without considering what that guideway could *prevent*. Visual intrusion of PRT might not look so good to some, until the alternative - neighborhood-decimating highways - are considered.

    "What are the energy costs of building PRT infrastructure? Concrete production is very energy intensive. So is steel." - The amount of infrastructure per mile is a *tiny* fraction of the infrastructure for any other mode. The amount of concrete is probably no more than the concrete in a sidewalk - are you similarly concerned with the energy costs of sidewalk construction?

    - "Show me the data that proves 'a PRT system operating on demand will break even financially and might even return a small profit even after capital costs for construction are paid off.' Data please" - Have you read the Daventry, UK engineering study for city-wide PRT? That extremely detailed report calculated costs all the way down to replacement light bulbs in the stations, and the conclusion was that, depending on the fare charged, PRT would would range from requiring a small subsidy to making a small profit, even accounting for construction costs. It also indicated that profits would be more likely as the system grew, because fixed operational costs would be amortized over a larger revenue base.

    The study was done by Arup, a large global consultancy which has worked on hundreds of infrastructure projects, including transit. They have no prior association with PRT.

    I will locate a link to the Daventry study and post it here.

    Masdar City hasn't published their studies, but they are also working with heavy hitters in engineering and consulting, and one of their stated goals is for the entire venture to be *profitable*. They realize that environmental sustainability would be a tough sell if it was not also financially sustainable, so their vision is to explore ways to have both. And PRT has been selected to fit into that vision.

    If you want a real world data point, Morgantown PRT (which is less efficient than a true PRT but which exhibits many of the beneficial characteristics) covers half its operating costs with $0.50 fares, so presumably they could break even at a little more than $1.00 per ride. By the way, they've been running for nearly 40 years without incident, and they are now looking to expand.

    - "Please explain - exactly - how PRT is 'better, safer, cheaper and more sustainable' and compared to what is it so? Data please."

    OK, I'll take one at a time:

    "Better" - PRT is on demand, non-stop travel without transfer. Wait times during low demand times would be ZERO; during higher demand times, less than 5 minutes typically. PRT would be fully accessible to all: disabled, elderly, bicyclists (bring your bicycle aboard to avoid riding in a surprise downpour!), children. Are you arguing that these characteristics would not be "better" than buses, which have stops, transfers, long wait times, clumsy accessibility, and longer travel times?

    If you are arguing that buses would be better, then I would love to understand your reasoning.

    "Safer" - By far, the largest factor in fatal transportation accidents is human error. Drunk drivers, sleepy drivers, distracted cell phone drivers, or just plain BAD drivers - these cause the vast majority of accidents involving not only automobile riders themselves, but pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders (even a city bus is susceptible to a bad truck driver who decides to run a red light and plow into the bus).

    PRT eliminates this human factor. There are no other vehicles or pedestrians on the guideway, so the human unpredictability of streets is eliminated. In effect, ALL operation on the guideway would be under automated control, and the control systems are built to aircraft-level reliability, so accidents would be almost non-existent. This is borne out by several facts:

    1. Monorail trains have been running for 100 years in Europe and Asia, and the rate of fatal incidence on monorails is near zero. I believe the only serious accident in the history of monorails was on a 100-year-old system running in Germany. Monorails are so safe because they are separated from unpredictable traffic. This validates the safety benefit of exclusive use right-of-way.

    2. The Morgantown "PRT" (actually GRT, but contains most of the vital features of PRT) has never had a single serious injury or death in 35 years of continuous service. This validates the benefit of fully automated control on a dedicated guideway with vehicle switching.

    3. The Cabintaxi system was a fully functioning PRT prototype built in Germany in the mid-1970s. That fully functioning system was was under continuous testing for two years, and actually operated for more than a year *without* *interruption*. During all that testing, there was never a safety incident and the system it was fully approved for public use by the German regulatory authorities.

    4. Vectus PRT (Sweden) and ULTra PRT (UK) have both received full regulatory approval to carry passengers - this after *extensive* analysis of the engineering and safety profile. As public transit systems, the safety requirements for both systems were very strict, and the approval process was long and thorough.

    The safety argument is quite compelling.

    "cheaper" - The basic cost argument for PRT comes down to several factors:

    1. PRT has no drivers, which cuts a significant expense.

    2. PRT trips are nonstop, which saves energy as compared to the frequent stops and starts of a bus.

    3. PRT vehicles are very lightweight, so the amount of energy required to move them is minimized.

    4. The most important factor: PRT vehicles ONLY MOVE IN RESPONSE TO DEMAND.

    The last point deserves further explanation. Buses have a high capacity (40-70 passengers per vehicle) so when they are full, they are very efficient, even slightly more efficient than a PRT vehicle despite the much heavier vehicle.

    BUT - and this is the critical point - buses are NOT often full. In fact, they often have only a handful of passengers. The reason is this: buses must run during low demand times in order to provide service, but because demand is low, a lot of energy and cost is wasted on very few passengers.

    According to the DOE transportation energy data book (table 2.12) transit buses in the US carry an overall average of only 8.8 passenges at any given time. So, e.g., for every hour carrying 50 passengers, there are 7 hours with only 3 passengers (weighted average: (7*3 + 1*50)/8 = 8.875 passengers per hour).

    Now consider the cost of moving those average 8.8 passengers. The same DOE table has the average energy usage per passenger mile for all buses in the US - 4235 BTU/passenger*mi. Compare this to personal trucks at 3944 - buses, on average, are less energy efficient per passenger mile than SUVs!

    This may sound crazy, but it's all there. Look at the numbers.

    An argument is often made that we "just need to get more people onto buses", but that really doesn't work because the problem is not how many people are riding, but rather the inherent *variations* in the number of people riding throughout the day. Even if more people ride during the rush, it's not going to improve the situation at night, when nobody is riding. At the same time, you can't cut those low-demand routes, because that would reduce service and impact overall ridership - people won't ride if the schedules are too limited.

    Do you see the issue here? The efficiency gained in the rush is not enough to overcome the inefficiency of moving big huge buses at low demand times, and the overall effect is net negative, even when compared to an inefficient SUV.

    (This is not a plug for SUVs - they are a menace to both highway safety and carbon footprint - but I only bring it up to underline the inherent inefficiency of buses per passenger).

    None of this even considers driver costs, which push bus costs even further but don't apply to PRT.

    For comparison purposes, ULTra PRT has measured its per-passenger energy usage based on extensive testing at its test track: 839 BTU per passenger mile. This incorporates all vehicle movement (including empty vehicles) and a reasonable vehicle load factor of 1.4 passengers per vehicle. 839 BTU per passenger mile is less than one quarter the energy usage of buses.

    PRT does have some fixed costs, such as the control center, which must be staffed 24 hours a day. But this cost is fixed regardless of how big the system is. As the system grows, the impact of this fixed cost is minimized. Contrast this with buses, which must hire new drivers for every new route.

    Feel free to ask for clarification if any of this doesn't make sense to you. The numbers are solid but I sometimes have a difficult time explaining their meaning. :-)

    "more sustainable" - as I have illustrated, PRT is much more energy efficient per passenger than other forms of transit. In the US, no other transit type is less than 2000 BTU/passenger*mi, whereas ULTra is less than *1000*.

    PRT also runs on grid power, either directly or through grid-charged batteries. Therefore, as the electrical grid becomes more sustainable with alternative power generation, PRT directly benefits from it. Most buses require internal combustion, though they may be slowly converting to cleaner technologies. Even so, the investment to upgrade to clean buses would be significant, and in the end, you still have a less efficient mode than PRT.

    Some PRT systems also propose to put solar panels on the top of the guideways, to further decrease carbon footprint.

    So, in summary, PRT vehicles are small and light, move only in response to demand, and operate nonstop, all of which make it the most energy efficient motorized transport mechanism in existence today.

    I will address your other points later this week.

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  10. A Transportation Enthusiast8:43 AM

    Continuing my response to Jeans remarks:

    - "as a pedestrian the streets have not been taken from me so I don't need them back. I walk everywhere. Second: I do not want to have anything other than the sky over my head as I walk." - You never have to battle traffic on your walks? You've never had to jump out of the way because a bad driver ignored a crosswalk? Well, then, you're one of the lucky ones. Maybe you're just used to the constant battle with the automobile, so you don't even notice all the inconveniences and dangers that today's pedestrian faces.

    Once again, you complain about a tiny obstruction to sigh lines, even as you walk in a city with two-story buildings, elevated highways, street lights, in some cases power lines, traffic signals. Why do you not object to any of this? Are you railing against traffic signals the way you are railing against PRT?

    You walk among noisy, smelly, dangerous vehicles which require endless signage and elevated signals, and you complain about a thin elevated track which would be safer, cleaner, more efficient, and quieter than the cars you take for granted.

    The basic problem here is: cars are the evil we know. We've grown up with the havoc of automobile travel, so we take it for granted. But we have no experience with PRT, so it scares us. We fret over stuff like sight lines even though those slight obstructions could bring enormous benefit to our overall experience by removing a large portion of those neighborhood-destroying cars from the streets.

    PRT requires us to think outside of our experience, and that elicits a knee-jerk skepticism, which is understandable. But we must move beyond that first impression and evaluate it on its own merits (as I did - I was not always a fan myself) and only then can you understand the benefits it can bring.

    - "One must, by some means, get from the house to the PRT, and back again, arms full of packages, in rain and wind and fog. People don't do it now for buses. Why would they walk a half mile to the PRT station?" - and yet, paradoxically, you argue for a city that relies more exclusively on walking everywhere! How does your aversion to a quarter-mile walk to the PRT station coexist with your belief that walking should be the predominent mode of transit? Unless I'm misunderstanding you, it's an incosistent position.

    And the whole point is, PRT *permits* walkability by (a) de-cluttering the streets to make them more available to pedestrians, and (b) making more destinations "walkable" - walk to the station, ride a bit, walk to your destination. Think about all those trips that are beyond the threshold of a walk - what do people do today? They get in their cars and drive. But PRT make many of those longer trips "walkable" by providing a convenient shuttle for the middle of the trip. People don't do it with buses because buses are *difficult* - you need to know schedules, stops, transfers, etc, and you have to wait repeatedly. With PRT, you walk up, ride, debark, and walk to your destination. People will be *much* more apt to take advantage of that.

    PRT enhances walkability.

    More later.

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  11. Jean Brocklebank12:36 PM

    " - the UAE project: the point I was making was that they are building a sustainable city in the desert..."

    Oopsie. A "sustainable" city in the desert? There's an oxymoron.

    " Do you know anything about Masdar? It's intended as a prototype of a future sustainable city..."

    Yes, I have been reading about it. Costly bit of development. I'll ask you if you know how much energy it takes to build such a city? How many of earth's resources consumed in materials used? How much waste generated in the production? How much land, air and water pollution created? How many species destroyed in the mining and production of all the materials to create this futuristic city? I suppose humans can do anything they can dream: after all, it is OUR planet.

    "If 30% of automobile users ride PRT, that's 30% less congestion on roads, giving more space to pedestrians and bicycles."

    If PRT infrastructure takes over the existing roadways and sidewalks, which it would in my city, there will be less space for pedestrians and bicyclists. Besides, PRT will be in addition to, not instead of auto use. Has anyone considered that those not now driving may see less congestion on roads and decide to drive after all?! What happens when a lane is added to a freeway? Surprise, in a matter of months, congestion returns.

    "How can 30% fewer cars on the road *not* have a beneficial effect on walkability?"

    I agree that 30% fewer cars on the road would have a beneficial effect on my walking experience! Walkability is not improved though; I have the ability to walk everywhere now, without PRT. Of course, we could reduce cars on the roadways with any of the following means: smaller & more frequent buses, trolleys, carpooling, local markets (something done with zoning ordinances), a raise in gasoline taxes. None of these options would require plastering PRT infrastructure all over a city.

    "... how many lives could be saved if a significant portion of that dangerous traffic were moved away from pedestrians?"

    Moving traffic from pedestrians is easily done with standard traffic calming: widen sidewalks, plant trees, add some curves to arrow straight roads. These things were done on the streets on which I walk to work. Very pleasant for this pedestrian.

    "(And yes, there are extensive studies that show PRT would draw many people from their cars, anywhere from 10%-30% or more. Even critics concede this)."

    Critics concede what? That there are "studies" or that PRT would draw 10% - 30% or more from their cars? Looking forward to some links that show me exactly what critics concede.

    "... and what about highway 1, the 4-lane highway which appears to slice right through your city? Tell me, what would be better for Santa Cruz: an elevated PRT over streets or highway 1 slicing that neighborhood in half."

    Glad you asked! Highway 1 was added in 1959. And slice is a good word for it, except that most of the area was not built out until after the highway was constructed. Everything that one sees from a current aerial photo was mostly farmland, with scattered villages. Besides PRT is not going to make Highway 1 go away. That highway is currently used by 30,000 commuters who drive "over the hill" to jobs in San Jose and Santa Clara. It is a major north-south coastal route, available to 35 million Californians (who drive).

    "Visual intrusion of PRT might not look so good to some, until the alternative - neighborhood-decimating highways - are considered."

    There are no highways planned for Santa Cruz County. Decimation of neighborhoods would only come with PRT infrastructure.

    " The amount of infrastructure per mile is a *tiny* fraction of the infrastructure for any other mode."

    There is no need to build "any other mode." We already have all the infrastructure needed for any kind of public transportation.

    " Have you read the Daventry, UK engineering study for city-wide PRT?"

    Oh yes. Apparently the townsfolk aren't as enamoured as the PRT Pimps and the town council, which has accepted the "let's build it here first!" campaign pitch. Sounds just like what is being pimped in Santa Cruz. Take a look at the anger of Daventry residents: http://www.daventrytoday.co.uk/news/Pod-Off-Residents-oppose-Daventry.5158002.jp

    " Are you arguing that these characteristics would not be "better" than buses, which have stops, transfers, long wait times, clumsy accessibility, and longer travel times?"

    Do I understand correctly that speed is the basis of your definition of better? Personally I enjoyed a slower pace. I am a biologist and I tend to look at Homo sapiens as a critter that did not evolve to rush about, everywhere, all the time, on demand in individual pods.

    "By far, the largest factor in fatal transportation accidents is human error. Drunk drivers, sleepy drivers, distracted cell phone drivers, or just plain BAD drivers..." Agreed. Absolutely! Couldn't have said it better myself!

    "PRT eliminates this human factor."

    The only way the "human factor can be eliminated is to have a system that is not programmed by, maintained by humans, nor used by humans.

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  12. A Transportation Enthusiast6:38 PM

    More responses to Jean:

    -- "I'll ask you if you know how much energy it takes to build such a city?"

    Answer: if you really read about Masdar, you should know that their goal is to be sustainable all the way from construction forward. That's why they've started with a solar array to power all initial construction activities.

    So your concerns about construction energy at Masdar are largely unwarranted.

    But really, even if there *was* energy expended during construction, are we going to nitpick about the construction energy for this tiny little city, when the lessons learned and technplogies developed there could revolutionize sustainable energy for the entire world? This would be penny-wise pound-foolish, don't you think?

    If you want to rail against construction energy, there are thousands of projects in the world that are not at all sustainable, why are you concerned with Masdar?

    But again, Masdar aims to be fully sustainable even during construction, so the question is moot anyway.

    -- "If PRT infrastructure takes over the existing roadways and sidewalks, which it would in my city, there will be less space for pedestrians and bicyclists."

    You really don't know anything about PRT, do you? Please look at the illustrations on this page, and then tell me again how PRT takes space from sidewalks and roadways.

    Your argument on this point holds no merit, and really, not much more needs to be said. A picture is worth a thousand words. :-)

    -- "Critics concede what? That there are "studies" or that PRT would draw 10% - 30% or more from their cars? Looking forward to some links that show me exactly what critics concede."

    The critics I am referring to are the engineers who rejected the Skyloop PRT proposal in Cincinatti. Anti-PRT activists often cite that report as one of the key pieces of evidence in their campaign against PRT, because the study ultimately rejected PRT. But even in that critical document, the critics themselves conceded that PRT would draw up to 11.7 times more new transit trips than the next best transit option (a shuttle bus), which amounted to 28,000 new transit trips per day on the PRT. That's something like 25,000 cars removed from the roads.

    And this was from an overwhelmingly critical study which actually rejected PRT (and for which there were many rebuttals from PRT proponents, but that's another story).

    So even critical appraisals acknowledge that PRT would draw tens of thousands of people out of their cars.

    Here (PDF) is a link to the table from that critical report, with the relevant numbers circled.

    -- "Has anyone considered that those not now driving may see less congestion on roads and decide to drive after all?! What happens when a lane is added to a freeway? Surprise, in a matter of months, congestion returns."

    You miss the entire point: PRT would alleviate the need for that new freeway lane! Every PRT guideway has the capacity of a freeway lane and the street-level footprint of streetlights. So, as capacity needs increase, add another unobtrusive guideway 2 blocks over and the need for a highway is negated.

    -- "There are no highways planned for Santa Cruz County. Decimation of neighborhoods would only come with PRT infrastructure."

    Again, your words ring completely hollow. Do streetlights decimate neighborhoods? Then why would PRT? You *obviously* have not even looked at what the designs look like, so how can you comment on something you clearly know very little about?

    PRT would not decimate neighborhoods in the slightest. Look at the illustrations.

    -- "There is no need to build "any other mode." We already have all the infrastructure needed for any kind of public transportation."

    So, you are saying that automobiles are all that is needed, even though they are polluting, noisy and dangerous?

    -- "Take a look at the anger of Daventry residents: [[link]]

    OF COURSE the residents are concerned! Fear of the unknown! Most people are conservative, they fear anything they don't have experience with! Why do you think it's been so diffiult for a PRT system to get built all these years? Nobody wants to be first.

    Of course, the fear problem is exacerbated by *fear-mongering* - those who have interest (financial, political, or otherwise) in seeing PRT fail will amplify residents' natural fears. It's been happening for 30 years, and it's happening right here on this thread.

    Fear-mongering is a very powerful propaganda tool (see "War in Iraq") and PRT detractors have been using it for decades to keep PRT from being built. Fortunately, anyone involved in PRT today understands the tactics of the detractors, and can deal with it proactively. We'll see how they deal with it in Daventry, but the big difference today is that systems are actually being BUILT (Masdar, Heathrow) so much of the fear-mongering rings hollow.

    -- "Do I understand correctly that speed is the basis of your definition of better? Personally I enjoyed a slower pace."

    OK, then you are the exception to the rule. Most people would prefer to a 15min direct ride to a 1hr 20min ride with multiple waits and transfers.

    But, hey, if you want to move slow, PRT accomodates that as well. Here's what you can do: walk up to a PRT station and stand there for 15-20 minutes. Then, punch in a random destination and board your pod. When you reach that random destination, debark and wait another 15 minutes, then punch your true destination, board your pod, and arrrive a few minutes later. Voila! You've successfully replicated a 1.25 hour bus ride on the PRT! :-)

    Now that's all a bit tongue-in-cheek, but really, do you truly wish to argue that a shorter transit ride is not better? Come on.

    But then, travel time is not the only think that makes it better. 24 hour service, accessibility, convenience, lack of transfers - it's hard to argue that these features aren't "better". Unless, of course, you really DO prefer waiting an hour for a bus at midnight on a cool rainy night...

    ...but again, if that's your thing, then just stand in the rain for an hour outside the PRT station. :-)

    -- "The only way the "human factor can be eliminated is to have a system that is not programmed by, maintained by humans, nor used by humans."

    The safest modes of travel (monorails, underground metros, airliners) are those which are *physically* *separated* from cars. Do you deny this? Of course humans will always be involved in some capacity, but I'll place my bets on decades of human engineering over the judgement of an alcohol impaired driver who happens to cross in front of a bus and kills a dozen transit drivers.

    And, for what it's worth, modern airliners are filled with systems that are "programmed by, maintained bym and used by humans" yet they seem to be pretty safe on balance. If human engineering can make air travel, with all its complexities, the safest mode of travel, don't you think they can program a reliable system to follow a guideway and switch tracks every now and then?

    Actually, that question is not rhetorical - we already know they can. See Cabintaxi, ULTra PRT, and Vectus PRT - all safety approved for human travel.

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  13. Jean Brocklebank6:41 PM

    My "concerns about construction energy at Masdar are largely unwarranted," TE says, sounding a tad dismisive to me. I am still looking for definitive data that establishes the real energy cost of building this so-called "sustainable" human city in the desert.

    "Nitpicking" about the "construction energy for this tiny little city" (another dismisive word) illustrates the pro-development mindset that refuses to acknowledge the TOTAL energy costs of doing something.

    How can building PRT in a city in the desert "revolutionize sustainable energy for the entire world?"

    TE mentions that there are mant projects arounbd the workld and asks why I am "concerned with Masdar?" I am concerned because TE brought it up as the holy grail of sustainable cities.

    No such thing as a "moot question," unless one is attempting to stop debate about public decision-making.

    Continuing with dismiveness, TE says: "Your argument on this point holds no merit, and really, not much more needs to be said. A picture is worth a thousand words. :-)" Pardon me, I have seen no "pictures" yet; I have seen computer simulations.

    Wow, I didn't know about the "engineers who rejected the Skyloop PRT proposal in Cincinatti." I'll research that a bit more. Thanks.

    'Twill take some more writing to respond to all of TE's Lat post on this thread...meantime I will say that there is no"fear-mongering" going on with this PRT opponent. I don't do "fear" any more than I do "beliefs."

    Jean

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  14. Jean Brocklebank8:06 PM

    TE ~

    I simply cannot let a few things lie:

    1. "Do streetlights decimate neighborhoods? Then why would PRT?"

    Jean: do you really mean to equate the PRT infrastructure with street lights? And keep in mind that many people find the intrusion of streelights into the night sky to be just that...an intrusion.

    2. "So, you are saying that automobiles are all that is needed, even though they are polluting, noisy and dangerous?"

    Jean: I never said, nor implied that autos are all that is needed. I said that we have all the infrastructure we need for all modes of public transporation (pedestrian, bicycles, buses, handicab vans, etc.).

    3. "...those who have interest (financial, political, or otherwise) in seeing PRT fail will amplify residents' natural fears."

    Jean: Puh-lease, TE. No one has an interest in seeing PRT "fail." I do have an interest in a comunity making a fully informed decision about a development project that will alter the fabric of said community as well as probaly require said community's ultimate subsidy. The only thing that is "happening on this thread" is a debate.

    4. "But, hey, if you want to move slow, PRT accomodates that as well. Here's what you can do: walk up to a PRT station and stand there for 15-20 minutes."

    Jean: Another snide remark. Yes, I enjoy a slower pace. And because I do, I am not all bunched up about many things -- when we have a power outage, when we have rationing in a drought, when we have a recession and/or depression, when we have an earthquake. Living a slower pace may not seem sexy to many in an Age of Instant Everything and Everything On Demand, all the time.

    I simply plan my errands with, get this TE, some intelligence and capacity for scheduling a bit of extra time (that's because I never bought the marketing slogan that "time is money"). And, NO, a "shorter transit ride is not "better." Not if I want to finish a chapter in a good book or even a conversation with - yikes - another human being. And on a cool rainy night, we should all be in bed at midnight, young man :o] Alternatively, there is always an umbrella.

    5. "I'll place my bets on decades of human engineering over the judgement of an alcohol impaired driver who happens to cross in front of a bus and kills a dozen transit drivers."

    Jean: Whoopsie. Is TE fear-mongering? Let's get really creative then. How about a drunk, gun-toting, revenge-filled, religious fundamentalist estranged husband popping off rounds at Pod Cars as they pass by, trying for his wife and her lover? The mind boggles.

    As ever,
    Your PRT Opponent

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