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Dueling Transit Enthusiasts Fight Over PRT

Since SunCal’s August 7th meeting to discuss their vision for Alameda Point, wherein Peter Calthorpe presented a scheme for 6,000 housing units served by Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), Alameda residents have been climbing a sharp and fast learning curve on PRT.

The local blogs have also been peppered with competing statements from two out-of-town self-described transit enthusiasts with a long-standing, deeply entrenched animosity towards each other.

An Easterner, who is pro-PRT, signs off as “A Transit Enthusiast” and insists on anonymity, (He has disclosed his identity to Action Alameda and requested his name not be published), asserts that PRT has the same or better capacity than light rail or a BART-like system, but with lower operating and construction costs. He asserts he has no financial interest in any PRT designer, builder or system.

Ken Avidor, in Minnesota, says that his opposition to PRT is rooted in his experience in 2004, watching the City of Minneapolis approve a study of a PRT system. He writes that “I feel I have an obligation to tell people what happened here in Minnesota with PRT and provide them with documents, photos and videos that show that the PRT is phony.” and that “PRT has a long history of monkey-wrenching transit for [the benefit of] the highway industry here in Minnesota and elsewhere. It’s wasted many millions of dollars that should have gone to reality-based transit.”

Mr. Avidor also raises the conviction for accepting bribes of former Minneapolis City Councilman Gary Dean Zimmerman, who was a proponent of the proposed PRT system for Minneapolis, which has not been built. In this video interview, a developer speaks about his interaction with the City of Minneapolis and Gary Dean Zimmerman. PRT is mentioned at the 7:40s mark on the video. (Editor note – PRT aside, the video should be watched by anyone who doesn’t think possible bribery, corruption and other shady dealings between developers and our city officials.) He points to, as another example, a proposed PRT project in Phoenix, promoted by Skytran in 2003, now Unimodal, that never got off the ground. As best as we can tell, there is no PRT system in Phoenix today. [Editor note – after publishing this article, we spoke with Unimodal who confirmed there is no Skytran system in Phoenix.]

Mr. Avidor advocates for “reality-based transit” solutions such as light-rail. “A Transit Enthusiast” points to an affiliation between Mr. Avidor and a website called Light Rail Now, which he claims is funded by light-rail builders and consultants.

Wikipedia lists no true, operating PRT systems today, but one must review the PRT entry with caution – both “A Transit Enthusiast” and Mr. Avidor accuse the other of introducing bias and personal point-of-view into Wikipedia articles to advance their cause.

Alameda residents, long-tired of blog bickering, will no doubt be thrilled to learn that the introduction here of the concept of PRT brings with it more online debate and animosity.

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