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Old June 20th, 2008, 10:13 PM   #121
urbanfan89
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Does rail operate without subsidy? Why not? Is rail's average energy usage per passenger lower than a Toyota Prius? Why not?
If the density supports it, then rail can definitely be profitable.

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Attaching stations to the side of a parking garage is "unlikely at best", even as Sound Transit acquires entire city blocks and evicts 130 tenants from their homes/businesses? I find it amusing that you continue to say these things without any hint of irony, Ben.
If PRT requires massive tunnelling to construct the pathways, then for sure we'll see entire city blocks demolished as well.

In fact the Seattle Light Rail functions a lot like a heavy rail line, since most of it is segregated from traffic. Its construction costs are therefore more comparable to a heavy metro. Because of the city's mountainous terrain (which would be obvious to anyone who's been there) much of the line will have to be tunnelled anyways. In fact if PRT were chosen then many more homes on MLK Way would have been demolished and the road would be scarred with an ugly elevated viaduct.

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$4B would get you roughly 235 linear miles of PRT at $17M/mi
If you're building in a highly mountainous city like Seattle (or San Francisco) then you will require a massive system of tunnels. The costs of building each mile of PRT won't be identical (and anyone who thinks so is just silly), and the same goes with LRT, or even highways. The cost per mile if PRT were built instead of the Link Light Rail would be higher, given that Link still has an on-street section and PRT can never be on street.

In fact we already have a better version of PRT. It's called the Taxi. You don't have to walk to and from stations, since it drives exactly to where you want. In many cases they can use HOV lanes. And in 20 years they will be automatic like in Total Recall.

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Old June 20th, 2008, 10:35 PM   #122
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Haha, I love the Total Recall reference.

Great points - I've been trying to get across that one can't compare elevated to tunneled and think you're going to have the same cost. They just don't want to accept that, because a real comparison would be more complex and wouldn't show PRT in as good of a light.
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Old June 20th, 2008, 11:44 PM   #123
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If the density supports it, then rail can definitely be profitable.
You didn't answer the question: does rail operate without subsidy?

I'll answer for you: no, at least not in this country. Density? How about Manhattan? Do they run without subsidy? Why not?

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If PRT requires massive tunnelling to construct the pathways, then for sure we'll see entire city blocks demolished as well.
IF PRT requires massive tunnelling... which it does not.


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In fact if PRT were chosen then many more homes on MLK Way would have been demolished and the road would be scarred with an ugly elevated viaduct.
No homes would be demolished for PRT. You clearly don't understand the concept.


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If you're building in a highly mountainous city like Seattle (or San Francisco) then you will require a massive system of tunnels.
No, PRT would not require tunnelling even in hilly terrain. Most PRT systems can climb as steep as regular roads, so if roads don't have to be tunnelled, neither do PRT guideways.


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In fact we already have a better version of PRT. It's called the Taxi. You don't have to walk to and from stations, since it drives exactly to where you want. In many cases they can use HOV lanes.
And they cost at least 10 times more to ride than PRT, meaning you are advocating a system that serves only the elite.

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And in 20 years they will be automatic like in Total Recall.
No, try 50 years. Automated road navigation is decades from being solved. You've been watching too much science fiction.


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Haha, I love the Total Recall reference.

Great points - I've been trying to get across that one can't compare elevated to tunneled and think you're going to have the same cost. They just don't want to accept that, because a real comparison would be more complex and wouldn't show PRT in as good of a light.
No, I gave you real hard numbers, you refuse to accept them. You are still clinging to your absurd "hundred billion dollars" claim!
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Old June 21st, 2008, 03:02 AM   #124
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Automatic taxis will be prt when they get built. 20 years ? Don't think so. Automatic flying is easier than street navigation. Who can predict the future...

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If the density supports it, then rail can definitely be profitable.


If PRT requires massive tunnelling to construct the pathways, then for sure we'll see entire city blocks demolished as well.
Entire city blocks demolished? A block is a whole street. Have seen entire streets dug up and filled later on but entire city blocks permanently destroyed? And tunneling can also be done underground.

A train every 2 minutes? Ok , that's nice and common but then what about the connection following that? It could also be 2 min. But even in big cities if it's not rush hour or the route goes to exotic places not in the center of the city. Whats the typical connections A bus every 20 minutes after a few times changing rail... Big cities have got sort of feeder buses that go like from the sw corner to the nw corner of the city. But then they go seldom. These are the cases where cars really show their advantages in cities.

I think prt could be the perfect solution where current public transit fails.
It's another thing if Tokyo replaced it's transit system with small prt cabs and building a prt in a closed enviroment like Heathrow airport. The time advantage of not stopping at every stop is of course fascinating. It's good when modern prt gets tested in real life. One step above that come the scenarios where people advocate light rail. I think prt has here it's advantages. I thought of prt when waiting alone waiting for a connection coming in 15 minutes. Of course someone else had thought about it decades before that. The whole discussion is about prt vs heavy rail but maybe the advantages are prt vs light rail. The most likely prt someone will envision and get really built next will of course for light scenarios than some mega city building tunnels elevated guideways and sinking metro cars in the ocean.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 04:20 AM   #125
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I can't believe that Seattle's light rail system is the benchmark that anyone would want to use for comparison.

Light rail is being built in a cost-effective manner in several cities around the United States. Seattle is not one of them. The cost per mile of light rail construction in Seattle is similar to the cost per mile of the most recent extension of the heavy rail metro in Washington, DC and is far higher than the cost per mile of light rail in just about any other city. In other cities, light rail is being built predominantly in abandoned rail corridors or along the medians of highways and wide city streets. In Seattle, much of the route blazes a new trail using tunnels and viaducts. Given that most of the initial segment is grade separated and all the proposed extensions are grade separated, the line should have been built as a heavy rail metro.

The size of the stations in Seattle is another issue. The stations are being sized to accommodate trains composed of four articulated light rail vehicles. The length of the trains is about 380 feet. The stations are quite possibly the longest light rail stations in the United States. In most other cities in the United States, such long light rail stations would not be possible because they would not fit between cross-streets. If a fully-automated system similar to Vancouver Skytrain were built, the peak headways could be reduced from 2.4 minutes to about 1.5 minutes with the result that the length of the trains could be reduced from 380 feet to about 240 feet for the same system passenger capacity. Actually, the trains could probably be even shorter because space would not be lost to drivers cabs.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 06:56 PM   #126
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I can't believe that Seattle's light rail system is the benchmark that anyone would want to use for comparison.
Greg, I only used Link for comparison because that's the system that UrbanBen brought up.

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Light rail is being built in a cost-effective manner in several cities around the United States. Seattle is not one of them. The cost per mile of light rail construction in Seattle is similar to the cost per mile of the most recent extension of the heavy rail metro in Washington, DC and is far higher than the cost per mile of light rail in just about any other city. In other cities, light rail is being built predominantly in abandoned rail corridors or along the medians of highways and wide city streets. In Seattle, much of the route blazes a new trail using tunnels and viaducts. Given that most of the initial segment is grade separated and all the proposed extensions are grade separated, the line should have been built as a heavy rail metro.
But wouldn't systems along rail corridors and highway medians more accurately be considered "commuter rail"? Here is my understanding of the different types of rail systems in use in cities, roughly in order of increasing capacity:

1. Streetcar - low speed rail at street level, many stops, low capacity. Aesthetically pleasing circulators.
2. Street level light rail - moderate speed, moderate capacity, moderate number of stops. Higher speed and capacity than streetcar, can be thought of as an elegant version of a city bus for main routes.
3. Mixed light rail - some located at street level, some grade separated. Grade separated sections run at higher speed, but overall capacity is limited due to the link to the street level.
4. Fully grade-separated light rail - higher speed, higher capacity, moderate number of stops.
5. Heavy rail (metro) - similar speed/stops to grade-separated light rail; possibly higher capacity due to longer trains.
6. Commuter rail - located mostly at-grade in existing segregated ROW (old rail corridors, highway medians). High speed, high capacity, few stops. Used mainly as connectors to neighboring cities or suburbs.

I think, Greg, your complaint is that Seattle built #4 but should have built #5. I'm a little gray on the difference between the two, but I think it has to do with heavy rail using (ironically) lighter weight vehicles arrainged in longer trains; therefore being more efficient and higher capacity.

Personally, I think that PRT works best in the domain of 1, 2 and 3, where capacities are typically no more than 1500-3000 pphpd. But I've shown here that PRT can compete even with #4, a higher capacity segregated rail. PRT can compete in this area because of the high cost differential of constructing elevation/tunnels to achieve grade separation necessary for 10k-20k pphpd capacity. That cost differential means more PRT can be built to close the capacity gap.

PRT would have no short term role in the domains of 5 or 6, which are really directed at the highest densities and capacities, but PRT could serve as circulators for both.

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The size of the stations in Seattle is another issue. The stations are being sized to accommodate trains composed of four articulated light rail vehicles. The length of the trains is about 380 feet. The stations are quite possibly the longest light rail stations in the United States. In most other cities in the United States, such long light rail stations would not be possible because they would not fit between cross-streets. If a fully-automated system similar to Vancouver Skytrain were built, the peak headways could be reduced from 2.4 minutes to about 1.5 minutes with the result that the length of the trains could be reduced from 380 feet to about 240 feet for the same system passenger capacity. Actually, the trains could probably be even shorter because space would not be lost to drivers cabs.
I am fairly certain that Skytrain needs to be fully segregated to achieve automation, so it would still require the costs of tunneling and/or elevation.

I tend to agree that they would have been better off with a full-fledged metro system if they were going to spend that much on grade separated light rail, though I'm still a little hazy on the difference between the two.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 08:12 PM   #127
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Since when is cost per mile more important than cost per rider?

Oh, yes, when it's greg_christine tilting against windmills.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 09:05 PM   #128
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Since when is cost per mile more important than cost per rider?

Oh, yes, when it's greg_christine tilting against windmills.
Ben, do you attack everyone who disagrees with you?
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Old June 22nd, 2008, 07:04 AM   #129
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Since when is cost per mile more important than cost per rider?
...
Because the largest part of the cost of a rail transit system is the cost of the guideway, which is only indirectly related to ridership due to the impact of guideway design on the speed of the system. Also, one of the primary factors in determining ridership is the density of development along a transit line, which varies significantly from one city to another.

The Federal Transit Administration does make funding decisions based on cost per rider. Their process does not have any check to verify that the most cost effective technology is chosen for a given line; however, this does get factored into their funding decisions indirectly since cities are in competition for federal funding. Lately, bus rapid transit lines seem to have been getting all the federal money for new starts.

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Old June 22nd, 2008, 08:24 AM   #130
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Ben, do you attack everyone who disagrees with you?
TransportEnthusiast, it's not that I disagree with you and greg_christine, it's that basically every transport and urban planning professional does. When someone like me takes the time to come and point out flaws that really do matter and you try to explain them away, adding value to the discussion, you simply tell us why we're wrong.

The fact is, we're the ones actually building transit. We're the ones who compete for federal grants and win them. If your system can be modeled to show competitive ridership, let's see you win an FTA grant. If your system can be profitable, let's see a business plan that gets investors.

Until then, if all you can bring are ad hominem attacks and dismissive hand-waving, I'm going to treat you like a troll.
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Old June 22nd, 2008, 08:30 AM   #131
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Because the largest part of the cost of a rail transit system is the cost of the guideway, which is only indirectly related to ridership due to the impact of guideway design on the speed of the system. Also, one of the primary factors in determining ridership is the density of development along a transit line, which varies significantly from one city to another.

The Federal Transit Administration does make funding decisions based on cost per rider. Their process does not have any check to verify that the most cost effective technology is chosen for a given line; however, this does get factored into their funding decisions indirectly since cities are in competition for federal funding. Lately, bus rapid transit lines seem to have been getting all the federal money for new starts.
Oh, the bus systems have been getting all the federal money? Let me correct you: The top three FTA rated projects in the US, by cost per rider are in order: 1) Central Subway, SF. 2) 2nd Avenue Subway, NYC. 3) University Link, Seattle. I believe those three alone currently count for more than half of FTA New Starts money.

When you use such a simplistic measuring stick as cost per mile, ignoring the fact that some of your stations will pick up twenty thousand passengers daily, you end up with a completely useless measure of cost. If we ignored projects that "cost more" without looking at the benefit of that cost, no one would ever buy a car or a house, because they're so much more expensive than bicycling or renting!

What's amazing is that you manage to convince yourself that your twisted logic is somehow valid. Your comments are colored by ideology, and it shows.
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Old June 22nd, 2008, 02:04 PM   #132
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Excuse me! I was referring to new New Starts for cities that don't already have rail transit. The last new New Start for light rail to receive federal funding was Norfolk. To the best of my knowledge, there are no new New Starts for light rail in the present funding cycle. The FTA is continuing to provide New Start funding for extensions of existing light rail systems and there are other new light rail projects that are foregoing federal money.

Returning to the original point, there is nothing in the FTA's process that would requires an evaluation of the best technology for a given line. It was too late to change technologies for the university extension of Central Link, but it might have been possible to save cost by decreasing the diameters of the tunnels had the system been built as heavy rail since third rail power results in a more compact cross-section than overhead wire. This is the fundamental problem with Central Link. The decision to build light rail was made by politicians, not engineers.

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Old June 22nd, 2008, 05:49 PM   #133
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TransportEnthusiast, it's not that I disagree with you and greg_christine, it's that basically every transport and urban planning professional does. When someone like me takes the time to come and point out flaws that really do matter and you try to explain them away, adding value to the discussion, you simply tell us why we're wrong.
Oh, I get it, so the transport and urban planning professionals are infallible. These are the same transport professionals who've stood watch as the automobile has taken control over our sprawling cities over the course of half a century.

Fifty years ago, their solution was "more rail". Today, their response is still "more rail" despite the fact even in places where rail is mature, the automobile has taken control. Yet whenever someone tries to suggest something new and novel to help address the problem, they mock them into oblivion - kind of like what you're trying to do here, Ben!

I've presented hard numbers thorughout this entire thread, and you've offhandedly dismissed every one of them without any rational counter-argument. Oh sure, you've presented arguments, but they've been demonstrably absurd:
  • Elevated PRT requires a berm - I have no idea where you got this, but it's completely false. Spend 15 minutes studing PRT designs and you'd know this.
  • PRT real estate and construction costs would cost as much as Link's - I presented hard examples of two Link stations, one under construction, one in land acquisition, which cost at least an order of magnitude more than PRT stations. I showed that even if you built PRT out to even out capacity differential, PRT is still competitive and quite likely cheaper than Link.
  • PRT would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to provide equivalent service - this has to be one of the silliest claims I've ever seen made about PRT. Hundreds of BILLIONS? That's pure hyperbole with the intent to squelch opposition. I responded with an analysis of how much "hundreds of billions" would buy: the entire Seattle/Tacoma metropolitan area (1200 sq mi) covered with PRT grid with a station no further than half a mile from any point. And that was even after padding PRT cost estimates by a factor of five.

And your response to my well-documented arguments?

Well, of course, it started with with argumentum ad hominem, calling PRT proponents "the crazies".

When that didn't work, you tried argument from ignorance, declaring that PRT couldn't work "because it hasn't been built in 50 years".

Next was just an outright smear, the "hundreds of billions of dollars claim" which is off by at least two orders of magnitude.

Sprinkled throughout is proof by assertion, your repeated claim that PRT real estate costs would be no different than Link's, despite abundant evidence to contradict that claim.

And now we've arrived at appeal to authority - the old "urban planners have done it this way for years, so it must be right" argument.

Well, take a look at Europe, where rail is a generation ahead of the US yet urban planners are taking a hard look at PRT. The UK, Sweden and Poland are actively pursuing PRT for use in cities.

But you ignore all that hard evidence and instead give us a grand tour of logical fallacies in action.

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Until then, if all you can bring are ad hominem attacks and dismissive hand-waving, I'm going to treat you like a troll.
Case in point. You called me a "crazy" after my very first post here, now you're calling me a troll, and I'm the one attacking you? Why don't you quit the games, Ben, and start addressing the points head on?

(And, BTW, my vision for transit in cities includes rail, but you wouldn't know that because you discounted my opinion outright as soon as I made mention of PRT).
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 10:19 PM   #134
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My first response to you blew apart the argument for PRT - no matter how you massage your headway numbers, you're still low capacity and expensive. You're using the common tactic of applying your own faults - being unable to solve the fundamental capacity and cost problems with such a spread out system - to me, claiming I "can't address" your arguments! It's pretty funny, but it must be frustrating for you.

Let me paraphrase, so you can spend some time writing out a lengthy "you're wrong" piece (wasting your time) to try to explain away the realities of trying to build PRT in an urban core:

1) You need more mileage of PRT guideway to serve the same number of people - a lot more. As a result, even if cost per mile of guideway is lower, cost per passenger mile traveled is much higher.

2) You need more real estate than light rail, and additional guideway for passing, for station stops. This results in higher station costs - your only argument against this has been to compare the construction staging area for a high capacity subway to the completed station square footage for at-grade or elevated PRT. Since in the same area, PRT would likely also have to be underground (for political as well as technical reasons), this is a false comparison. I have yet to see a substantive reason that a PRT station serving pods would somehow be cheaper for the same number of passengers as a light rail station serving 20,000pphpd.

3) Even with one second headways, at 1.5 people per vehicle, PRT's capacity maxes out at some 5500pphpd. With the same amount of real estate, light rail can scale upwards of 20,000pphpd. I'm sorry, but just because it's a little lighter, it doesn't get much cheaper - guideway cost is a function of real estate cost, labor cost, and materials cost, and reducing your materials cost doesn't do much to reduce your overall. Per passenger served, even with the same routing and station costs (and your PRT station footprints will be much higher per passenger), LRT is still going to be much higher capacity for similar cost.

You answer these things every time I post them. You do nothing to solve them.

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Old June 24th, 2008, 12:36 AM   #135
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More empty assertions from pro-train/anti-transit activist UrbanBen:

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1) You need more mileage of PRT guideway to serve the same number of people - a lot more. As a result, even if cost per mile of guideway is lower, cost per passenger mile traveled is much higher.
Proof by assertion. You've declared this 5 times, I've shown you hard numbers 5 times, you keep declaring the same things. Yes, more guideway is required, at much cheaper cost, and total cost evens out. It's simple eight grade math.

The fact that you don't ever address specifics is proof positive that you know the numbers are against you.

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2) You need more real estate than light rail, and additional guideway for passing, for station stops. This results in higher station costs - your only argument against this has been to compare the construction staging area for a high capacity subway to the completed station square footage for at-grade or elevated PRT. Since in the same area, PRT would likely also have to be underground (for political as well as technical reasons), this is a false comparison. I have yet to see a substantive reason that a PRT station serving pods would somehow be cheaper for the same number of passengers as a light rail station serving 20,000pphpd.
Bunk. Just more proof by assertion. PRT could be above ground, just like Link along MLK is above ground despite neighborhood objections. And PRT would have a tiny fraction of the above-ground footprint that Link has. Your arguments are bogus.


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3) Even with one second headways, at 1.5 people per vehicle, PRT's capacity maxes out at some 5500pphpd. With the same amount of real estate, light rail can scale upwards of 20,000pphpd. I'm sorry, but just because it's a little lighter, it doesn't get much cheaper - guideway cost is a function of real estate cost, labor cost, and materials cost, and reducing your materials cost doesn't do much to reduce your overall. Per passenger served, even with the same routing and station costs (and your PRT station footprints will be much higher per passenger), LRT is still going to be much higher capacity for similar cost.
Bunk. I quoted cost estimates from a third party engineering firm, then multiplied them by five, and still came up with enough guideway to close the capacity gap.

The only numbers you provided are the absurd "hundreds of billions of dollars", which you apparently pulled out of a hat. Do you still stand by that claim? How about the "berms required" claim? Why would anyone believe your word on PRT after you've been dead wrong so many times?

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You answer these things every time I post them. You do nothing to solve them.
No, Ben, I've provided numbers and facts; you've given us at least 3 demonstrably false claims and peppered us with vague proclamations.

Go back to the hard numbers I've already provided: if your claims are correct, why don't you address the $93M Link station which would get 20 (twenty!) PRT stations even after multiplying the independent assessment of PRT station costs by five? And what about that entire city block required for construction of one Link station, which would be greater than the total land acquisition for dozens of PRT stations? You just gloss by my hard facts and keep repeating your talking points.

Why won't you address these facts? Is it because you know you're wrong?

And, I might ask, why are you still so aggressively against PRT now that Link is being built? You got your preference in your city; if you were truly pro-transit you would be encouraging the development of good transit options in other cities. Even if you don't like PRT, you could simply ignore it now that your city has made its choice.

Instead, you post smears and lies, even propping up the automobile when it serves your anti-PRT stance. Some transit advocate you are. No transit advocate would knowingly smear other transit options just to make his preferred mode look better.

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Old June 24th, 2008, 02:44 AM   #136
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Hooo-kay. I'm going to go back to building light rail, and you can keep having fun in your corner.
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Old June 24th, 2008, 04:08 AM   #137
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Hooo-kay. I'm going to go back to building light rail, and you can keep having fun in your corner.
As I suspected. When confronted with your misrepresentations, you turn and run.
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Old June 24th, 2008, 12:57 PM   #138
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Hi, Can anybody in this forum tell me which PRT system is going to be used in the Masdar development?
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Old June 24th, 2008, 07:54 PM   #139
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As I suspected. When confronted with your misrepresentations, you turn and run.
The fact that you think I'm misrepresenting anything explains everything.

You just seem to believe - and I stress that it's a belief - that others are out to destroy you. Maybe that's why you want to have something "new" and "different" in the first place - but it's also why you aren't succeeding, after 50 years of trying to get a transit agency to consider PRT. It's the fact that you sidestep every legitimate problem rather than trying to find a solution that makes you fail - and it's why professionals look at you and say "you're nuts" - you just pretend nobody else is there.

If you guys would spend half the time building a ridership model that you do building a 3D model, you'd actually get somewhere.
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Old June 24th, 2008, 09:34 PM   #140
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Originally Posted by UrbanBen View Post
The fact that you think I'm misrepresenting anything explains everything.
Do you stand by your "hundreds of billions of dollars" quote? If so, justify it with hard facts. It's as easy as that Ben. Stop hand waving and present facts. I've already presented my side multiple times, backed with hard data.

Quote:
If you guys would spend half the time building a ridership model that you do building a 3D model, you'd actually get somewhere.
Wrong again Ben. The studies have been done, and repeated many times. Here's one from independent transit consultant Parsons-Brinckerhoff which predicted PRT would draw an order of magnitude more new riders than the competing streetcar proposal.

Keep 'em coming Ben. These floating fastballs are easy to knock out.
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