Thursday, June 07, 2007

How J. Edward Anderson Used PRT to Stop Rail Transit in the 1970's

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The entire report in PDF form HERE.

The timeline summarizes how Anderson, with the help of his anti-transit buddies at the Citizens League and the University of Minnesota used PRT to confuse public officials about real transit choices:

1958- The Minnesota Highway Department initiated the area’s first metropolitan transportation planning effort, the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study.

1962- The Joint Program was established, consisting of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Minnesota Highway Department, and other planning and governmental bodies. It undertook a major transportation and land use study in the metropolitan area.

1967- In mid-1967, the Minnesota State Legislature established the Metropolitan Transit Commission. The Commission began in 1968 with a series of long-range planning studies. A few days later, the State legislature created a new regional governmental body, the Metropolitan Council. The Council set up a Transportation Planning Program to facilitate coordinated transportation planning.

1969- Upon completion of the long-range planning study done for the Transit Commission by Alan M. Voorhees, a joint Commission-Council staff report was prepared, setting forth the major components of a metropolitan transit planning program for 1970-71. The report recommended a “family of vehicles” concept that would use a variety of transportation modes, including fixed-guideway and bus service.

1970- Late in the year, the Metropolitan Council approved a Federal grant to the Transit Commission for preliminary engineering on a fixed-guideway system. The subsequent study proposed a fixed-guideway system utilizing a 40- passenger vehicle as the backbone of a regional system.

1971- The legislature further defined the role of the Transit Commission; it was to implement the development guide pre- pared by the Metropolitan Council.

1972- In the fall, the Metropolitan Council declined to review the Metropolitan Transit Commission’s transit plan on the grounds that the Council had exclusive authority to determine long- range transit plans. Meanwhile, the Council hired Barton Aschman, Inc., to study a bus approach to regional mass transit.

During the same period, further consideration of a personal rapid transit (PRT) system was advocated by University of Minnesota professor Edward Anderson.

1973- On November 15, the legislature’s Subcommittee on Mass Transit published a report called “The Metropolitan Mass Transit Need,” which favored elements of the Council’s bus proposal and the Commission’s fixed-guideway plan, as well as selective use of PRT.

1974- The legislature passed the Metropolitan Reorganization Act, directing the Transit Commission to complete by January 1, 1975, a plan for an automated small-vehicle fixed-guideway system within the metropolitan transit taxing district. The Council was to provide policy guidance.

Work began in August 1974 guided by a management committee composed equally of Commission and Council members. The consultant’s first report compared the Commission’s recommended 40-passenger vehicle
system with other alternatives.

The Commission and the Council drew conflicting findings from the study. The Commission recommended a fixed- guideway system other than a concentional[sic] rail transit, based on a n-seat vehicle. The Metropolitan Council opposed any fixed-guideway system and continued to support a regional bus system.

1975- No decision has been made on a long-range public transit plan. However, agreeement has been reached to concentrate on short-term improvements to the bus system.

PRT promoters did the same thing in Denver (PDF HERE) about the same time. In that case, a sales tax was levied to pay for the PRT:

Technically the issue before the voters at referendum was RTD’s request to levy the one-half cent sales tax. However, the tax was linked closely to a promotional campaign for the PRTs system. The RTD literature made direct reference to PRT, and a few weeks before the vote several firms displayed their PRT vehicles in Denver. In addition, the RTD board promised to consult the people again if the transit system finally selected was substantially different from PRT. The campaign strategy was successful, and on September 7, 1973, 57 percent of Denver region voters registered approval.

UMTA began backing away from its early enthusiasm for the Denver PRT proposal in 1974. Embarrassing cost overruns in the demonstration project in Morgantown, W. Va. had cast doubt on the financial and technical feasibility of a PRT system similar to the one proposed in Denver. In addition, the Airtrans System at the Dallas-FortWorth Airport—like Morgantown’s PRT, a technological predecessor of the proposed Denver system—was not performing up to specifications.

In the Twin Cities and Denver, PRT was so effective in the 1970's in blocking rail transit planning, J. Edward Anderson, Sheffer Lang, the anti-transit lobby, pro-highway legislators like Rep. Mark Olson and Michele Bachmann thought Anderson could do it again years later.

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Ken Avidor blogs about the history of Personal Rapid Transit and other gadgetbahn scams.

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