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Response to Is ‘PRT a Joke?’

Dear Editor,

Hello,

I am a non-resident who came upon the Alameda discussions via a web search. I have an academic interest in PRT and I often participate in discussions as “A Transportation Enthusiast”.

The letter you received was not from an Alameda resident – it was from Ken Avidor from Minneapolis, MN. He is known throughout the PRT world as “The Minnesota Anti-PRT Activist”, or more directly, “The Minnesota Anti-PRT *Propagandist*” because his material has the feel of a slick political attack ad.

Ken Avidor has spent every waking moment of the last 5 years campaigning against PRT. He seeks out discussions of PRT and posts links to his inflammatory propaganda which paints PRT in a very bad light. His entire campaign is a smear and has been debunked multiple times. I have no idea what his motives are for objecting to PRT so strongly, but there may be a clue in his long association with light rail transit corporate lobbyists:

http://www.lightrailnow.org/features/f_prt_2005-01.htm

Here is a web page from a PRT proponent which debunks all of Avidor’s claims point by point:

http://kinetic.seattle.wa.us/nxtlevel/prt/seehow.html

Here is a satirical blog by that same PRT proponent which mocks Avidor’s tactics:

http://innovative-transit.blogspot.com/

Now I’m not asking you to believe me at face value – after all, you have no idea who I am. But I do ask that you examine Avidor’s claims closely because he has no credibility when it comes to PRT. He certainly has less credibility than someone like Peter Calthorpe, or Norman Foster (who world-renowned architectural firm is building the PRT-only Masdar City). And then there are the researchers from the wide-ranging EDICT project in Europe, who studied PRT for 5 years in multiple cities across Europe:

http://ec.europa.eu/research/environment/newsanddoc/article_2650_en.htm

Not to mention BAA (owners of Heathrow) which has thoroughly evaluated PRT and is investing $millions of capital into developing it. Not to mention Korean POSCO, which is doing the same thing.

As for Ken Avidor’s claims that ULTra is not as far along as Calthorpe claims, that is utter nonsense. The schedule slip that Avidor alludes to had nothing to do with ATS (the makers of ULTra) – it was BAA that delayed it. ULTra was ready to go. In fact, ULTra HAS been ready for years -they’ve been running a fully-functioning PRT system on their Cardiff test loop without incident for several years now. There is no indication whatsoever it will be a “flop” – that’s just a smear.

Here are some news stories about ULTra and PRT:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7148731.stm
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2007/06/01/100050977/
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2007-10-07-check-in_N.htm
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/05/27/HOGP1J16S31.DTL&hw=Raney&sn=001&sc=1000

As for Ken’s claims that PRT is some scam perpetrated by developers – that is also nonsense. Ask him for one piece of evidence of that. Those kinds of vague, non-specific smears are a trademark of Avidor’s campaign. As “proof”, he will often present an out-of-context sound clip of a PRT promoter saying PRT is better than light rail – he believes *any* criticism of rail is part of some anti-transit conspiracy, even if that criticism is in the context of proposing alternative transit solutions. It’s a very narrow-minded view.

So take everything he says with a grain of salt – chances are his words are half-truths or even outright lies. His goal in life seems to be doing whatever he can to make sure that PRT fails.

(BTW, in the interest of disclosure, I also maintain a blog which documents Avidor’s disinformation at “weinerwatch.blogspot.com” – the name is derived from the fact that “Ken Weiner” is one of Avidor’s aliases.)

— “A Transporation Enthusiast”, not from Alameda.

Editor note – the author of this letter provided their identity to me but asked to withhold it. As I discussed by email exchange with the author, the technical feasibility of PRT is secondary to questions of crossing the estuary, getting the City of Oakland to support an elevated PRT guideway through downtown to a BART station, where PRT guideways would land on either side of the estuary, whether or not it should be built before approval is granted for 4000, 6000 or 8000 homes, who will pay for all of this, and whether or not SunCal will actually deliver on a mass transit solution or just build 6,000 homes and then leave.

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