Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

Re: Mass transit comment 000

There are serious problems implementing PRT systems, both technically and politically. PRT or Personal Rapid Transit is a set of autonomous on demand vehicles on a track or guideway. No systems to transport people have been implemented in 40+ years. One large scale system was a complete failure, the Denver Airport Luggage Handling system, a PRT for suitcases, which was operated by United Airlines.

The system had hundreds of millions of public money, 20+ miles of track, thousands of autonomous vehicles, hundreds of destination points built to handle all luggage at Denver in a new airport. Never worked, only United Airlines used a small portion to move luggage from the counters to a human operated luggage area. United shut the luggage eater down last year due to high operating costs and as a final insult, the $186 million of PRT system debt was dumped on the public in December 2005 as United Airlines went bankrupt.

Civil engineers and state-county-city politicians are well aware of the fiasco. Indeed, many studies of this engineering cockup by MIT, etc were done, check google for references. The usual reply to this failure is that "it is not REAL PRT." Like, duh, suitcases are not people and computers are somehow "better" now. This argument is weak and now PRT is widely known as "faith based transit".

Another fallacy cited by PRT boosters is comparing it to "packet switching" networks as if a pod of people are a tcp/ip packet going through a router. This has some problem as "packet switching" has collision rates and methods to over come high collision rates of packets. I think the tolerance of the public for even low collision rates of pods would be nil so this packet switching analogy is not such a good description. Applying network theory and algorithms to human systems is interesting but easier with a "social network" rather than a transportation network.

Comment on Mass transit comment 000
by George Jetson


I left out a word above, it should be: " computer programmers are somehow better now. " Which they are not.

# George Jetson

"George Jetson" has been active recently in spreading the ridiculous "Denver baggage failed, therefore PRT will fail" propaganda message. He has posted elsewhere as "John Denver's Ghost", "Joe 8pack", "Joe 12pack".

He claims he is not Avidor, but his message is the same. No coherent arguments, just scare tactics.

He would have us believe that the Denver baggage system failure is proof that no automated system can work. It's a technophobic argument that doesn't acknowledge the fact that the Denver fiasco was just plain bad engineering -- something that can be corrected -- and not some fundamental technological limitation.

Besides, if we're talking about purely automated systems, Morgantown "PRT" has been operating for 30 years now, completely automated. Now, Morgantown is not true PRT (it's classified as "group rapid transit") but it is a fully automated human transport system. And as long as people are bringing up the Denver baggage system to bash PRT, well Morgantown is much closer to PRT than the Denver baggage system, and Morgantown WORKS.

# A Transportation Enthusiast

It also appears that Mr. Jetson is trying to insinuate that computer network "collisions" would directly translate into PRT "collisions". It's another blatant scare tactic.

Arguments like this might sound ridiculous to anyone with a technical background, but these tactics do have an effect on the general public -- people who don't know better might think that PRT designers are actually designing for collisions! That's why people like Avidor (and Jetson, if indeed he's a different person) must be answered wherever they appear. If their absurd message goes unchallenged, it has a better chance of being accepted by the masses.

# A Transportation Enthusiast

'widely known as "faith based transit" '?

Google this: "faith based transit" prt

There are 14 hits. Is this how you define "widely"?

# Skeptic skeptic

Not only that, all instances of the term lead back to the same one or two people. It's unclear if it actually is a couple people (like killbill and George Jetson), or just one person (Ken Avidor) under different names.

# Ian Bicking