First of two web pages
Death took three very strong transit advocates during the past year - Wayne Hultgren, Stanley Hart, and Heinz Scheubler -- and MTS will sorely miss them.
Wayne Hultgren was among our early members. He lived in San Jose's Rose Garden area and worked downtown. He was an impressive person -- tall, good-looking, very well spoken, and dedicated to the precepts of MTS. When business necessitated his move to Sacramento, he began two movements there, on the one hand to form an MTS chapter and, on the other, to get a Light Rail program started. His dedication and ability to involve political figures brought him success in both activities, and Sacramento's highly-successful Light Rail operation, now projected for extensions, is an operating monument to Wayne.
Stan Hart lived in Altadena, close to Pasadena, and worked as a civil engineer. Stan was very active in the Sierra Club. He was the club's transit chairman, and he fought hard against freeway construction, free parking, and other auto-use stimulants. He read Al Spivak's book, "The Immoral Machine", and was inspired by it to get together with Al and put out an update. The two collaborated to write "The Elephant in the Bedroom", a critique of the automobile whose quality and tone benefited substantially from Stan's excellent language ability and perceptive power.
Heinz Scheubler lived in San Jose and was a supporter of transit and MTS in unique ways. A quiet person at meetings, he contributed significantly behind the scenes. He made sure that MTS kept abreast of transit developments in his native Germany, and supplied data on the Wuppertal monorail and other European transport accomplishments. In addition, he volunteered his tailoring skills for the refurbishment of San Jose's historic streetcars, handling the upholstery, window curtains, etc. He very rarely missed an MTS meeting, and was valued for his friendly and outgoing attitude.
PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) is sort of a horizontal elevator. The shaft and cars are provided. The differences are that the shaft is a slender 3 foot by 3 foot tube enclosing the track and "third rail", but the cars ride above it. Tracks and stations are supported by cylinders 16 feet high, 20 inches at the base and 10 inches at the top. The only reasonable objection to PRT is, "I don't like the looks of it," but who can account for taste?
The cars have a transverse seat like a taxi which can hold three average size adults. They are propelled by linear induction motors, which means that the rotor of the electric motor runs on the stator which is laid out along the line. This provides both motion and braking with breath-taking quickness, allowing cars to follow one another at intervals less than a second apart. (Traffic engineers advise motorists to follow at 2.2 second intervals.)
The cars access the stations by switching off the main line so the following cars go through without stopping. The switch is in the car, not the track, which is much faster switching and thus allows for much closer spacing of cars. The following cars proceed though you have stopped to disembark. This means every car has a non-stop trip - no transfers, red lights, cross traffic, or traffic congestion. Pick out your destination, and PRT gets your there. You can relax and enjoy the scenery. There's no bad or drunk drivers to worry about, it's automated.
The stations could be located in the lobby of your office building, hotel, stadium, or hospital. If stand-alone, they have elevators for the disabled and stairs for the rest.
Expensive? Not on your life. Because the cars are small and light weight, their infrastructure costs less than a third of light rail. Without drivers, their operating costs are minuscule. They are Zero Emission Vehicles that would also free up land now wasted for parking lots. A ticket for one trip carries 1 - 3 persons. A party of six takes two cars and arrives 2 seconds apart. On a bus they would pay six fares but only two on PRT.
It was a vision like this that formed MTS. Let's get a PRT line from the San Jose Airport to the LRT and Caltrain stations and the hotels, and then spread out to industry and eventually, neighborhoods. It would even get our workers to the office in less time than the automobile clogged by traffic.
Also see other types of Automated Guideway Transit (AGT).
The City of San Jose has basically accepted the concept of AGT (Automated Guideway Transit) for the airport and connecting to LRT, partly thanks to MTS. AGT is a general term and PRT (takes up to 3 passengers) is a type of AGT (number of passengers not specified).
Is PRT feasible? As an engineer who designs motion control, I can say that the technology for PRT already exists. PRT is the ideal replacement for suburban buses which are the most expensive form of transit to operate, per passenger, and come too infrequently to be effective. For longer commute distances or high capacity, traditional rail would be faster, probably cheaper, than PRT. We need both. In the next issue of GUIDEWAY: an evaluation of the market niche for PRT, commuter rail, rapid transit and light rail.
For an example of a PRT company, see
For questions on PRT, contact one of these MTS members: David H. Walworth in Santa Cruz at 831-476-8225 [davndors@Xcruzio.com]; Bob Williams in Sunnyvale at 408-733-1102 [WilliamsRL@ Xatt.net but first delete the X, an anti-spam technique]
Props B (highway widening) and C (rail and other transit) were on the ballot in Sonoma Co. -and both lost because a 2/3 majority is required. But the rail measure got more votes and than the highway measure -even though the road builders spent close to a million dollars on publicity (billboards, mailings, phone calls, etc.) while the rail people spent almost nothing. Highly significant.
Several groups have recently formed or begun to promote transit in California or fight subsidies for transit's competitor, the automobile. Two of them are the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) and Environmental Defense (ED, formerly named Environmental Defense Fund). STPP was behind the federal ISTEA legislation that resulted in enabling transportation funds to be used for different transportation modes instead of highways only. STPP opened a San Francisco office two years ago and is active at the California State level, keeping track of bills, and initiated the Safe Routes to Schools bill that became law last fall.
Environmental Defense (ED) opened a new East Bay office dedicated to transportation for both the federal and State (especially California) levels. ED has fought for environmental protection nationally since 1967; for example, banning the pesticide DDT. ED has recently fought against sales taxes for highways, arguing that new lanes or roads should be paid for by direct users through non-stop toll collection. MTS has also promoted this concept ("Road fare is fair!") and fought sales taxes in counties where we have been active.
Pedestrian advocacy groups have also started in several locations. Walking is more dangerous (per mile) than taking a car. Yet pedestrian safety has often been given lowest priority by traffic engineering departments of cities and counties, and pedestrian safety funding has been given lowest priority at the State level. Walk San Jose, Walk San Francisco, Bay Area Pedestrians and others are successfully pushing for pedestrian safety.
These organizations are trumpeting the MTS message on several fronts: including transit funding, decrease (eventually, elimination) of subsidies to the automobile, and safety for walkers and bicyclists from the automobile. I encourage you to check out and join these groups. Each group also has a free emailed newsletter that you can start or discontinue at your convenience. To obtain more information or their free emailed newsletter: click on Links, then see under Advocacy.
These organizations are taking a load off MTS' limited advocacy time and money. For example, Walk San Jose efforts resulted in the City of San Jose holding hearings on traffic calming. Just a few years ago, one never heard the term "traffic calming" uttered by government. One of the goals of San Jose Walk is restoration of crosswalks that traffic engineering departments have eliminated - something that MTS has promoted for years.
Groups like STPP and ED complement efforts of the Modern Transit Society. Pedestrian groups also complement efforts of MTS, since walking is a necessary part of using transit. But there are issues that these groups no not cover, and that is where MTS' role is crucial.
MTS achievements have mostly been at the local level. Transit districts and agencies are local, and MTS was instrumental in bringing back light rail transit to Santa Clara and Sacramento Counties. It is essential that we have local transit advocacy, something that STPP and ED would be overextended in taking on. For example, MTS in the South Bay has been a prime promoter of PRT or AGT for the San Jose airport with connections to the LRT line - and this concept has now been accepted by the City. We are promoting extending this concept. (More of our current activities are on our web site; click on About MTS).
MTS has been the only organization promoting PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) in California. PRT should be part of the transit mix --it's not just for airports. It is especially suited for low and medium capacity local routes which are now done with buses which don't come often enough to attract riders. Since PRT was developed in the 1970s and 1980s, technology has significantly advanced to make such systems both cheaper and better.
Our most valuable asset here at MTS is our members who can volunteer their time for writing letters, going to public hearings, and even forming a chapter with a few like-minded acquaintances in their region. The past month, comments by MTS members made at a public hearing on the draft Regional Transportation Plan were written down and mailed out by MTC. I hope that you can participate in similar small but very important ways.