Conrad Lee (City of Bellevue)

I ran into Bellevue Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee Sunday morning and took the opportunity to ask him some crucial questions about East Link.  He was appointed to the position of Deputy Mayor just last week and replaces Claudia Balducci, who was recently appointed to the Sound Transit Board by Dow Constantine.  With the new balance of power in the city council favoring more conservative councilmembers, Bellevue’s preferred alternative is likely to change quite drastically from the alignment chosen last year.  Lee has supported PRT (personal rapid transit) and other issues that we’ve raised questions about in the past.

Below are some paraphrased quotes from notes I took of the interview.  I have a breakdown of Lee’s responses along with an outline of some arguments we’ve made in regards to his proposals.

More after the jump.

STB: Kevin Wallace’s “Vision Line” is a point of contention among the transit community, and many people I’ve talked to are concerned about the distance factor of the main station.  What are your opinions of his proposal?

Conrad Lee: I support Wallace’s alignment.  I understand your concerns and acknowledge that it’s pointless to build something if there will be no riders.  But we don’t really know exactly where the station will be.  What we need to do is build better connections [system] downtown.  It doesn’t matter where the station will be; you can get from Point A to Point B, but the question is how you will get people from the train to their destination.  I’m sure people are willing to walk, but we need to make these features pedestrian friendly.  Think about it.  Technology is unlimited these days.  You can use any kind of vision to move people.

STB: Are you referring to the concept of a moving sidewalk?

Lee: Sure, a moving sidewalk.  Anything really.  We could even build a river and shuttle people on gondolas through downtown. It it means building skybridges or digging tunnels to get people to their destinations, then we should consider anything that will help people move around downtown.  You’re not going to drive around downtown. It takes ten minutes to get from one end of the other, considering road conditions and traffic conditions.  Half your time will be spent trying to find parking.

STB: Considering the fact that the council is a little bit different than last year, will a new preferred alternative be selected soon?

Lee: Sound Transit has been pushing the council to move forward on East Link, so we’ll probably select one in the next few months.

STB: I had an email exchange with councilmember Jennifer Robertson, who was on the Bellevue Light Rail Best Practices Committee.  She said that in talking with the voters, most prefer a downtown tunnel. The Bellevue Reporter had a poll a few months ago, albeit unscientific, asking if voters would support a tax for a light rail tunnel.  The vast majority of respondents said yes.  You ran on a campaign heavily emphasizing limited taxation, but if voters were willing, would you consider a tax for a tunnel?

Lee: Of course.  Bellevue is a city that has a relatively higher income and is better off than most communities.  If residents are willing to pay more, then we’ll support that.  But why spend extra money for the sake of spending money?  We could be using it to better build these connections downtown.  I think we need something like a personal rapid transport system, something that will be reliable and dependable and can take you to your destination.

An at-grade alignment is unacceptable.  It would destroy downtown.  That’s why we wanted a tunnel.  But why spend money on a tunnel when you can get something as good for less the cost?  What can a tunnel give you that something like Wallace’s alignment can’t?  We should really be focused on building up a system to move people to and from the station.

Lee talked at great length about the idea of improving pedestrian connections to get people from a “Vision Line” station to their downtown destinations.  It was evident that things were high enough up in the air that it didn’t preclude ideas like a skybridge and pedestrian tunnel, in addition to PRT and a gondola river shuttle (which is probably more tongue-in-cheek than we like to think).  On a more serious note, Lee seemed genuinely adamant about making these connector modes pedestrian friendly.  While it’s certainly a principle warmly embraced here at STB and throughout the transit community, there are questions about the application.  It was interesting to hear him expound on a number of what sounded like very costly ideas while at the same time lauding the lower expenses of Wallace’s alignment.

Lee’s heavy emphasis on such a connector system almost makes it a red herring to propagate the Wallace alignment by side-stepping the real question of where light rail is going to go downtown.  Downtown Bellevue does need a better city center transport network, but Sound Transit’s goal of building a tunnel or at-grade through the core does not preclude building a secondary feeder transit system.  There’s plenty of time to plan and fight over something like that.

Contrary to what Lee said, it’s quite important that we consider the placement of a main station, as we have mentioned before. After all, this is what the entire East Link battle is all about in its current state.  If anything, a connector system would fare much better with a high-capacity light rail station in the downtown core.  Unlike the “vision” of Wallace’s proposal, the concept of a downtown transit network radiating from a station in the core has a more practical planning purpose, because you’re helping to maintain a walkshed in all directions.

Ultimately, it will come down to what Bellevue residents are willing to do to ensure the council is moving in a direction that best serves the city now, in 2050, and beyond.  Those who criticize major infrastructure projects against practical planning principles are often more likely to speak up and tend to crowd out pro-transit voices, creating a disproportionate and false representation of what constituents really want.

134 Replies to “A Brief Interview With Conrad Lee”

  1. Personal rapid transit? That would be a dramatically more expensive way to connect a poorly-placed station to downtown compared to a tunnel.

    1. Personal Rapid Transit has been a behind-the-scenes Kemper Freeman obsession over the years.

      Kemper’s lead transportation advisor (for decades) has been Bill Eager.

      The same Bill Eager who headed up the (disastrous) PRT program at Boeing in the early ’70s and who came close to replacing rail technology with PRT in Denver back then: http://www.princeton.edu/~ota/disk3/1976/7606/760605.PDF (see Pg. 11)

      The people-mover project ended up morphing into a baggage system at Denver’s Airport. One billion dollars later, it was scrapped – and remains one of the biggest “mega-project” boondoggles in US history.

      Moral of the story: don’t trust the freeway guys to come up with good transit ideas.

      Hopefully some of the fine folks in Bellevue will figure out their city council has gone off the deep end with their pathetic attempts to marginalize the effectiveness of light rail.

      1. He’s also the same guy who developed the “End Gidlock Now” proposal. I did some searching and found a Times article mentioning Bill Eager and Will Knedlik arguing against Metro’s Transit Now program and tax increase. Come 2007 and 08 with ST2 and they also were against it. These guys are truly anti-transit.

    2. Of course PRT advocates would respond to you by saying that their systems cost as little as $100k/mile… since there’s practically no precedent they can make it all up. We’ll see how the ULTra PRT works at Heathrow.

      1. Didn’t Microsoft at one time do a study of PRT for an Intra-campus people mover, before they started up their connecting buses?

      2. http://www.cities21.org/MS_Bellevue_PRT.pdf

        I think this quote says it all:

        “PRT combines concepts from monorail (Disneyland), automated people movers (SeaTac Airport), roller coasters, and automated highway systems (California Governor Schwarzenegger’s GM OnStar van drives itself in the science fiction movie The Sixth Day).”

        Disneyland, roller coasters, AND Arnold Schwarzenegger? Sign me up!

      3. For all its ludicrousness, this article does quote a price of $10m (low) to $40m (high) per mile, which actually sounds pretty reasonable.

  2. What jumps out to me from Lee’s comments as well as some of Wallace’s past comments is they talk about a way to move people, whether by walking, moving sidewalk or however, from the Vision alignment station to Downtown Bellevue in effect acknowledging that their preferred alignment DOES NOT serve where people ultimately want to wind up.

    So my question would be, If you are trying to figure out how to circulate people in between the downtown core and the transit connection, why not bring the transit connection directly to the downtown core?

  3. I think we can find a compromise here. Build the line downtown and replace part of the wide roadways with gondola rivers.

    1. Yeah! Remember, transit isn’t just about getting there quickly, it’s about the *experience*. And what could be a better experience than a gondola ride? ;)

    2. The “Gondola Rivers” idea must have come from too many trips to Vegas.

      Downtown Bellevue is starting to look a little too much like Vegas, as of late.

      Or, maybe Councilman Lee took a trip to Oaklahoma City during that whole Sonics debacle. They got themselves one of those “Gondola Rivers.” http://www.bricktownwatertaxi.com/gallery

    3. Can we have gondola rivers in downtown seattle? Take away half of 2nd and 4th avenues. Maybe a log ride down pine from Broadway? That would be so cool.

      1. Actually this wouldn’t be a terrible idea in the ship canal. Who wants to walk all the way to the Fremont bridge to get across? Just hail a traghetto.

    4. I remember seeing an article in the Times years ago where people were pitching funny and cool ideas for downtown Bellevue Transportation, and they included canals for kayaks and gondolas.

  4. An at grade alignment would destroy downtown? How so? Is there something radically different about the downtown core in Bellevue versus the downtown core of say, Portland, that has the MAX running through the middle of it that makes him think that?

  5. “An at-grade alignment is unacceptable. It would destroy downtown.”

    Baseless, emotional, illogical. Construction might disrupt the usual flow of comings and goings in part of downtown for a portion of the construction period. But a surface option would provide absolutely the best access and highest ridership in downtown. Dare I say it? Go look at Portland. And Cindy, you can keep your gun holstered because I’ll never agree with you that downtown Bellevue is in any way fundamentally different.

    1. “An at-grade alignment is unacceptable. It would destroy downtown.”

      And apparently a large river basin would work out just fine.

      I am wondering if some of these politicians think before they speak.

      Too much daydreaming during boring council meetings, perchance??

    2. And here I thought all those pictures from post WWII Europe showed effects of Allied bombing. Turns out Berlin was really leveled by its own streetcar system!

      Stranger still is that Oslo and Helsinki and Gothenburg are still standing despite being under ongoing streetcar attacks. Especially Gothenburg where streetcars are especially huge and agressive and fast.

      Destruction of Portland and San Francisco is beyond description! Ah the Humanity!

      Of course- maybe to some life-forms a city habitable by Earthlings is truly a fate worse than death. Hopefully the Galactic Council will find the funds to restore their home world so this nightmare will finally end for them!

      Mark Dublin

  6. “Lee talked at great length about the idea of improving pedestrian connections to get people from a “Vision Line” station to their downtown destinations.”

    Yeah, maybe, like running it into downtown like they do in “real” cities.

    1. Which is why – apparently – they can afford to build a river right through downtown.

      “An at-grade alignment is unacceptable. It would destroy downtown.”

      No more than the existing gridlocked super-blocks eventually will.

      And no more than the existing gridlocked & constricted at-grade arterial system will.

  7. Lee is talking like a looney but has a very firm grasp of a few essentials- that, for example, Bellevue is well able to pay on their own and build a people-mover, like the ones at SeaTac, to move people from western-most Bellevue Square to an eastern Link stop.

    And why not let them do that, if that’s what they want? You’re never going to get a substantial ridership from Clyde Hill and points west- they’re a few blocks from the 520 and can afford to use it. The real ridership gains will come from multi-unit development near the stations and points east, like the Lake Hills plateau.

    I suspect Lee is an expert at the art of “talk much, say little” but in this very short interview he managed to express a thought that makes a lot of sense.

    1. I think we should limit what we think is reasonable to what we see in other functioning cities. We do not see moving sidewalks above ground. The risk is that we’d have a plan that relies on these elements, but they’d be cut well before construction, so we just end up with a station that doesn’t do its job.

      1. I wish Seattle would think about that in two or more of the steepest segments from the waterfront to say 5th or 6th. Hell, maybe even all the way up to First Hill.

      2. Hong Kong is dense enough that they moved their entire airport to an artificial island. Whenever you start to bring in comparisons you have to eliminate cities like Hong Kong and New York or it’s meaningless to Seattle. It might be equally argued that comparisons to Seattle and Bellevue are meaningless. Seattle is barely a city and Bellevue is just shortly removed from being a blueberry farm.

    2. One problem, serial catowner: the final cost of a stand-alone people mover might very well be more expensive as the Link train it displaced. Which means it would probably never get built.

      And you also lose ridership because of the transfer.

      SeaTac’s people mover was overhauled in 1999, at a cost of $84 million per mile. On existing, dedicated right of way.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_Transit_System

    3. I agree with you, if they do end up choosing the Vision Line (which they shouldn’t, but if they do) it would be great to have a people mover connecting all the corners of DT Bellevue. It could go to the station, the TC, the library, the Bellevue Collection, and Main in a loop. Even if they do choose a better alignment, this would be good.

      1. Just looking at the DT area west of 405 Bellevue is about 1 square mile. That would require at least two miles of track. It would be very cool to have all of DT linked by a Seatac style people mover but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Really the only practical alternative for now is to start with a rubber tired circulator. Shorter segments could be built underground or elevated if an overall plan existed. Heck, an underground station would already exist if an East Link tunnel was planned and funded.

        One thing that seems to be lost in the SEATTLE Transit Blog debate is that it’s equally important that East Link serve connections to Bellevue from the east and that it serve Overlake and Redmond. The North King sub-area is dominated by Seattle. The East King sub-area is not dominated by Bellevue.

      2. Well I saw looking through some city documents and I remember they wanted to make a streetcar line… I believe in the “old bellevue” area on main street but don’t quote me on the location

    4. Catowner,

      I agree: a PRT loop would be perfect for Bellevue. It’s modernistic and the “wow” factor is off the charts. Most importantly to the Kemperites, they could restrict access to residents of Bellevue and people who get a “day pass” issued by an Bellevue employer, good on the PRT from 7 AM to 6 PM. You’d have to put your city-issued card in the slot to enter or exit the car.

      Those icky transit riders who thought they wanted to shop at Bel-Square will have their delusions of grandeur promptly deflated. And if you have to work late, take a hike.

    5. The combined population of Medina and Clyde Hill is about 6,000 and it’s not going up. No sh!t ridership numbers aren’t coming from west of Bellevue. Very true Bellevue is able pay on their own and if (hopefully) building more streets is abandon then so much the better. But the East Link routing has very little to do with DT Bellevue mobility. Short term it can make traffic congestion worse. Long term it can hopefully serve access points where some sort eastside public transit is workable. The current ST plans as preferred by the board are long on congestion and short on workable transit alternatives.

  8. Perhaps the “Vision Line” station placement can be used and then a light-rail line can be built to get the people from the station to downtown?

  9. Chiming in as a Bellevue resident:

    The biggest problem I have with the vision line is how wheelchair-accessible a connection to Bellevue Transit Center would be.

    Sure, construction in Downtown Bellevue is going to disrupt things be it an at-grade line or in a tunnel. Once construction is over, it will be so much better.

    With that in mind: count this Bellevue resident as a yes vote for a tunnel with direct (elevator) connections to Bellevue Transit Center and a yes vote for a tax increase to pay for it

    1. You’d be, actually, a perfect person to go to the Bellevue City Council meeting about this. Probably February or early March.

    2. Sure, construction in Downtown Bellevue is going to disrupt things be it an at-grade line or in a tunnel. Once construction is over, it will be so much better.

      I doubt it. Car traffic will continue to be the dominant mode of getting to and from downtown. Even the most optimistic transit projections confirm that. Most Bellevue DT traffic is east/west to/from I-405. The train crosses the major arterials north/south. That’s a lose lose scenario.

      Conrad is right in that there is no plan for East Link which places stations such that a circulator system isn’t required. The Bravern and it’s next two large towers are going in next to the freeway. There’s no way to serve that market and Bellevue Place, Bellevue Square, etc. The northern route preferred by the ST board misses the Hospital and all of the development slated for “auto row”. It also seriously impacts traffic (and traffic will impact Link) by crossing NE 8th at grade and screwing up the Bel-Red road access.

      I’d like to see a surface alignment that would work. Seriously. I think the new 110th at grade has a lot of possibility but I think it’s ST’s job to show how exactly that’s going to look at a pedestrian level and include plans for the “people mover” in what ever form will work with that plan.

      It’s easy to throw stones at the “Vision Plan” but until there’s a detailed proposal of how 110th at grade will work to serve all of downtown it’s not any better. Making traffic worse and having a train stuck in that traffic certainly isn’t.

      1. “Most Bellevue DT traffic is east/west to/from I-405. The train crosses the major arterials north/south. That’s a lose lose scenario.”

        The lights already change to allow auto traffic to cross NE 4th and NE 8th a lot more frequently than the shortest headway we’re likely to see on East Link. Why is it such a big deal to let a train cross at the same time? If they make 108th and 110th a one-way couplet they could actually improve traffic flow on NE 4th and NE 8th by eliminating some left turning traffic and simplifying the signal sequences at those intersections.

      2. First off, the the north south trains don’t cross NE 4th and NE 8th at the same time. And they have to cross both those streets. So if the existing light cycles remain in force at least 25% of the trains are going to see 3min plus delays. Then you add on the fact that the bunching effect is cumulative and you start to see the magnitude of the problem. Signal priority sounds great in theory but it’s not even working very well on MLK where the train traffic is parallel to the automobile traffic. Then add in that by the time East Link is built NE 2nd will be a major arterial with a freeway interchange equal to the NE 10th opening and it’s pretty obvious that N/S at grade through all of DT Bellevue is simply a loser for both cars and transit.

      3. Bernie,

        That’s because the business on MLK is not signal priority. It’s intelligent times signals. When a train arrives in a station a countdown clock starts and fifteen or twenty seconds later the transit leaving signal starts to flash. The signals between the station from which the train is departing and the next station are then set to turn green a few seconds ahead of the train. You can see that the transit light starts flashing at the same time that the cross-traffic yellow comes on.

        If it were real signal pre-emption, the signals would be retarded or accelerated according to the progress of the train(s). You would never have the circumstance that a train slightly delayed departing from the station would have the transit light go horizontal yellow in front of the train. Instead the green for MLK and the white transit light would simply stay on a few seconds longer.

        The only cross-street for which there should not be genuine pre-emption is Henderson. None of the others fill the queue deeply enough to be seriously disrupted by delaying the cycle a few seconds.

        Just so you don’t think I’m an idiot, I realize that even with “true” preemption there are times that the train is so off the cycle that it’s going to have to stop once between stations. But it should never be more often than that.

      4. The point is that in Bellevue the train priority is completely opposite of the traffic flow (at least on MLK they should be working toward a common goal). Car traffic is going to be 80% of the passenger volume. Link doesn’t serve either the 405 corridor or the demand from the east. An at grade alignment is going to be like competing against traffic trying to get from 405 to Bell Square for a Christmas concert every day of the year. ST can push through an alignment but Bellevue will continue to control the traffic signals. Do you really think trains are going to get priority over cars exiting at NE 2nd, NE 4th, NE 8th and NE 10th? Remember, those trains are going “through” Bellevue, not “to” Bellevue.

      5. Given all of the other alignments that have been proposed I doubt the ST board is going to continue to push the C4A alignment along 108th and 110th from Main to NE 12th.

        My guess is the 110th alignment with a turn at NE 6th is much more likely. This means the only E/W arterials Link will be crossing at grade are Main, NE 2nd, and NE 4th. While those streets can have some traffic on them it is nothing compared to the volume of NE 8th.

      6. Well, I would ride Link to the Bellevue Transit Center wherever it is and take a bus east to my mom’s house. The location of Bellevue Square doesn’t matter to me or to many people who work on the Eastside. Or to Bellevue residents who aren’t going to the Square, or people going to the hospitals, etc. If I need to go to a mall, I’m perfectly happy going to Northgate.

        I do think a rail system should serve all downtown centers and shopping malls. But we mustn’t make the mistake of serving Bel Square to the detriment of most Eastside riders who aren’t going there.

  10. No compromise.

    If I understand it correctly, Bellevue basically has a choice of surface or tunnel, they have no power to stop it at this point, only the power to delay it.

    Let’em.

    What are a few months, even a year or more when compared to the life cycle of the system? Better to wait and it right than get stuck with a subpar system for all the above mention decades.

    No accommodation or consideration should be given to any VisionLine type proposal, it will only embolden the anti-transit camp. Instead it should be made very clear that if the people of Bellevue don’t want the surface option then their politians need to start work on how to pay for the tunnel, b/c those are the only two options.

  11. Has anybody ever seen a “personal rapid transit” system, however you define it, actually carry passengers under conditions anything like what’s needed for Downtown Bellevue?

    Mark Dublin

    1. It’s a pretty far out their idea in my opinion, I know a lot of people will link to “SkyTran” on youtube

  12. how about those hillclimb escalators in Hong Kong?….:)

    As much as it pains me to admit it, two parts of the vision alignment make sense to me:
    1) proximity to growth areas east of 405
    2) potentially faster route along 405 than through a downtown surface alignment. That’s one factor about the Portland system that bothers me- the amount of time need to get from the Lloyd district over past PGE where it speeds up again. Those (2?) miles take along 20 minutes

    1. Chris, I’ll have a follow-up soon addressing your first point. Consider it a sequel to John’s earlier editorial.

      1. proximity to growth areas east of 405

        That is already addressed by the “Hospital” station near Whole Foods, this station is present in several other proposed alignments including what I suspect are the two most likely surface and tunnel alignments to become the final alignment. Just because people want a station in the area East of 405 for various reasons there is no reason to accept a poor station placement on the West side of 405.

        potentially faster route along 405 than through a downtown surface alignment. That’s one factor about the Portland system that bothers me- the amount of time need to get from the Lloyd district over past PGE where it speeds up again. Those (2?) miles take along 20 minutes

        Both surface alignments I’ve seen proposed for downtown Bellevue (108th/110th couplet between Main and 12th, and 110th between Main and 6th) are fairly short and have few grade crossings (7 for the first and 3 for the second). The only real potential issue is an at-grade crossing of NE 8th for the 108th/110th couplet. The 110th to NE 6th alignment avoids that. Even so at worst a surface alignment is expected to add only a couple of minutes to the travel time even in the worst of traffic conditions.

      2. The ST board preferred option ignored the need for the hospital station on the east side of 405 and ignored most of the City Councils concerns in general; in particular the crossing of NE 8th and the equally important impact on the new NE 10th interchange. They would have done better to have rallied behind the City preferred alternative when they still had a majority support on the council. I can’t help but think that arrogance helped propel the current council members to victory.

        The surface alignment adds a couple of minutes per trip through DT. Start to add up the cumulative effect and it’s basically gridlock for trains during peak commute. Sort of like adding lanes to 405, more places to park. More Link cars at grade will provide more places to sit and wait; you can’t get any more trains through.

      3. The ST board preferred option ignored the need for the hospital station on the east side of 405 and ignored most of the City Councils concerns in general; in particular the crossing of NE 8th and the equally important impact on the new NE 10th interchange. They would have done better to have rallied behind the City preferred alternative when they still had a majority support on the council. I can’t help but think that arrogance helped propel the current council members to victory.

        Unfortunately this is the reality of the political sausage machine. It tends to look a bit ugly and messy when observed closely.

        Would it have been better had the at-grade and tunnel options for 110th/6th with a hospital station near whole foods been the two preferred alignments selected by the ST board? Yes, but those weren’t on the table at the time.

        While it was far less contentious, it took the Roosevelt Neighborhood a lot of work to convince Sound Transit to switch from an elevated alignment along 8th Ave NE next to the freeway to a tunnel alignment with a station at 12th Ave and 65th. If I remember the timeline correctly Roosevelt lost the fight in the original EIS but was able to get the alignment changed for the SEIS.

        The surface alignment adds a couple of minutes per trip through DT. Start to add up the cumulative effect and it’s basically gridlock for trains during peak commute. Sort of like adding lanes to 405, more places to park. More Link cars at grade will provide more places to sit and wait; you can’t get any more trains through.

        With properly done signal priority this likely won’t be as big a problem as you make it out to be, particularly if the 110th/6th alignment is chosen.

    2. Chris,

      Yes, Max needs a tunnel for the red and blue lines. It should portal on the east just east of the freeway, have a station under the Rose Garden lawn, turn north under Interstate Avenue to about the first grain elevator, underpass the river then go south under Northwest Ninth to a station a block south of Lovejoy, diagonal under the Post Office Annex to the north Park Blocks and a station under Burnside between Couch and Broadway, down Broadway to another station diagonal across Pioneer Place and under buildings to Fourth and Salmon then down fourth to a station under the Main Park, diagonal again to a station at Park and Mill then under Mill and I-405 to a station and portal just east of the Robinson portal.

      Since PSU and the south end of downtown will be much better served by the trunk line, the Green line (which — and you heard it here first — should henceforth be called the “ClackaMax”) could take the old route to Bellevue TC to provide some through service east and west for the river front and PGE Park area. Streetcars turning in the loop at Goose Hollow could also follow the original Max line.

  13. Denver was considering a moving walkway at Union Station for $2million (217 ft long). anyone have better sense for cost and O&M cost?

  14. PRT in Bellevue level of service will soon be running at Heathrow.

    http://www.ultraprt.com/cms/index.php?page=rocket-scientist-founder

    Conrad is right though, no matter where the transit station is located, it won’t be close enough for some group of people. And with one stop for the city core, a PRT system that circles the city and goes by the transit station will become necessary. So why not locate the transit station somewhere convenient for transit and not necessarily for the city core.

    And Sound Transit could build it, same why they can choose to fund street cars up first hill.

    1. I consider PRT essentially snake oil. Maybe once it really proves itself, but until then it is nothing but a gadgetbahn used as a way of diverting attention from real transit solutions.

      Furthermore if Bellevue needs a circulator of some sort to serve the wider city core then a transit station with a good walk shed is still better than one on the edge of town with a circulator connection.

    2. “PRT in Bellevue level of service will soon be running at Heathrow.”

      That’s 21 golf cart sized cars connecting the airport to a parking lot.

      A partially filled light rail would overwhelm the puny capacity of PRT in downtown Bellevue within the first month of operation.

      Another reason why PRT has been in a “proposed” stage for 60 years.

    3. “And Sound Transit could build it, same why they can choose to fund street cars up first hill.”

      ST funded the study of a PRT system for SeaTac (and Tukwila, I believe) back in the late 90’s.

      The result of that study: it was a waste of money to study PRT.

  15. I found the Vision Line proposal by Councilman Wallace interesting enough to burn some midnight oil on it. What emerged was credible enough to warrant serious consideration as a viable alternative – maybe not the preferred, but worth spending some time and money on. Bellevue is growing east, towards auto row.
    It struck me that the Vision Line is $160 mil. less expensive than the current surface route if the cost estimates at http://www./thevisionline.org are correct. Airport type belted walkways cost about $2-4 mil for each 500’ segment, and move at 90fps. That puts the vision station much closer to BTC, time wise, than the current airport to ticket counter walk at SeaTac, which most everyone here says is “no big deal”.
    The Vision Line is a more direct route from Redmond to Seattle, with higher average speeds than a surface route. Less time equates to more riders using the system as a whole.
    But most important, look at the wonderful painting by our own J. Craig Thorpe in a recent posting here. That’s a DMU in the background heading south. Imagine boarding a DMU in Woodinville, getting off at Hospital Station, and catching the next Link train to Redmond? Or how about Renton to Seattle, with a platform transfer at Wilburton R/R? Pipe Dreams you say? Maybe here, but this idea has legs, and needs to be seriously dealt with. Sharing tracks with LRT and DMU is rare, but not unheard off. The typical DMU is wider and taller than our Kinkisharyo cars, but were only talking about 10 special built cars.
    So I took the next step, and using ST/PB/PSRC cost and ridership estimates prepared last Dec for Commuter Rail on the BNSF corridor, and shared trackage and stations with Sound Transit between I-90 and NE15th/BNSF, I came up with a total cost for a DMU line of $306mil. I specifically excluded the bike/trail component of that study, but the rest is their data, scaled for route length and non LRT stations. That’s for 30 min headways, 16 hours a day from S. Woodinville to Colton Park generating 5000+ extra riders per day. Think it through – a N/S line merging with an E/W line at 3 stops in Bellevue, and no rebuild of Wilburton Trestle or the missing link over I-405.
    I’m sure Woodinville, Redmond, Newcastle, and Renton taxpayers would love to get plugged into the ‘spine’ they’ve been paying for. Here’s a way, by using the $160 savings + $50 in ST2 for that purpose, and now were only $96 mil short. Chump Change, in the big picture.

      1. I was being generous and slowed it down, as many airports do for liability reasons (source: United Technologies-OTIS)

    1. Mike, I think you should have a more critical eye. The point of Link light rail to downtown Bellevue is to connect to downtown Bellevue, not serve Woodinville or Newcastle. Let’s not confuse the debate.

      Airport type belted walkways cost about $2-4 mil for each 500’ segment, and move at 90fps.

      …That’s unfunded.

      Less time equates to more riders using the system as a whole.

      How can you say that Wallace’s proposal has less ridership than the preferred alternative?

      But most important, look at the wonderful painting by our own J. Craig Thorpe in a recent posting here.

      Come on, it’s just a watercolor painting.

      That’s a DMU in the background heading south.

      …That’s unfunded.

      Imagine boarding a DMU in Woodinville, getting off at Hospital Station, and catching the next Link train to Redmond?

      “Imagine” is all we’ll be able to do since Wallace does not fund this. But we could run a DMU along BSNF tracks at meet at the Overlake hospital station without Wallace’s proposal.

      1. But we could run a DMU along BSNF tracks at meet at the Overlake hospital station without Wallace’s proposal.

        Why in the heck not spend the money to get Link to Redmond and make the DMU connection there? This is one of the major short comings with all of the East Link planning. It neglects showing how people are going to get to the stations. This is a huge issue, not just for ridership numbers but effects on surrounding neighborhoods due to cut through traffic, rezoning pressure, new road construction (East Link is the “excuse” for a new 15th/16th arterial through Bell-Red).

      2. Just getting past Overlake is way up in the air. Talking? yes. Planning, no. One stop in Bellevue, one stop in Overlake (zero stops in Muffler City) might get us to Marymoor. Downtown Redmond would be a short extension on county owned ROW. I’m betting DT Redmond plus Marymoor plus one stop at Overlake would come close to or exceed any three stops proposed for Bellevue (including South Bellevue P&R).

      3. Actually, I was talking about the proposal for DMU’s on the BNSF right of way, not Link. I think we all know that Link will get to downtown Redmond. Maybe not until 2025, but it will get there.

      4. Link to DT Bellevue by 2025 would be amazing. So far projections have ran about 50% longer than predicted. Remember the 2000 predictions that Central Link would open in 2006? Translate 2023 for East Link to 2030 and we might be close. Start funding and then fudging from there. Remember that we’ll be looking at the major expense of rail fully funding the cost of replacement ferrouscement barges across Lake Washington.

      5. Bernie,
        I think you have to separate the opening date predictions before Joni Earl became ST CEO and after. Since she’s been CEO the schedules have been much more realistic. As long as there are no delays due to lawsuits or foot-dragging by other government agencies I think ST will complete Link to Downtown Bellevue by 2020 as promised and to Overlake Transit Center by 2021.

        I don’t think that dropping 1 or 2 stations between downtown Bellevue and Overlake Transit Center is going to free up enough money to build all the way to Marymoor. The best bet there is get ST some additional tax authority and push ST to do the studies needed for ST3 as soon as possible so construction can start on the segment to Downtown Redmond as soon as the segment to Overlake Transit Center is complete.

      6. John:
        Unfunded Beltways? Vision Plan has $50 mil in it for those.
        Less time..? That’s easy, faster systems appeal to more riders. Fact!
        Oil v. Watercolor: come on, that’s just snarky!
        Unfunded DMU? I spent the last paragraph detailing how to pay for most of it.
        Imagine? Yes John, that’s exactly what I’m asking you to do. Think outside the box.

    2. Sorry, Mike, but you can’t compare the SeaTac walkway to one in Downtown Bellevue. The walk from Airport Station to the terminal is a singular source-destination pair. There’s nowhere else to go but to the terminal. Compare that with a huge swath of Bellevue CBD, about 5X5 superblocks large (the boundaries of which I’m not exact on). If I work at Expedia (which many commuters through the transit center do), the walk isn’t exactly comparable to SeaTac is it?

      1. Pedestrian sheds are about a 1/4mi for bus and 1/2mi for rail. Scrbe a 1/2mi arc around the Vision Stn. Now add the moving sidewalk extending east over I-405 in 20 years to all the new high-rise towers being built along auto row, and the TOD beyond. Bellevues future is east. Vision Station is a good fit now, and a better one in a generation.

      2. Because trains provide better mobility and a better riding experience than buses, so people are willing to walk farther to them.

      3. I usually agree with Bernie’s comments, but just watch the clip Wes posted above about moving sidewalks in Hong Kong. That’s some ‘serious’people moving.
        Jessica: Extending the sidewalk from Vision Station to the east to the BNSF ROW would give you a nearly level platform across I-405, through the Link/DMU station, onto BTC. Watch out for all the cyclists on the sharrow lane next betwee the belts!

      4. Why go to the expense of putting a pedestrian bridge from the station across I-405 when there will be a station on the BNSF ROW & NE 8th serving the hospital?

        If people feel Mid-Lakes (the area directly East of Downtown Bellevue across I-405) needs a station there are alignments other than Wallace’s “vision line” that provide a station in roughly the same area including the latest tunnel and surface alignments.

      5. Great Question Chris:
        Why trek up to Hospital station, and wait up to 15 minutes for the next E.Link train to Vision Stn, AND pay a fare, when I could just walk across the Ped/Bike bridge and be there in 3-4 minutes for free.
        I’m voting for shoe leather in this race.

    3. The biggest problem I have with the Vision Line is that it effectively abandons the traffic at South Bellevue P&R. I still don’t understand how this existing hub of multiple routes gets rearranged under a Vision line. Do they expect me to take the 222 into DT Bellevue so I can take rail into Seattle?

      1. The “biggest problem” I have with Vision Line opponents are the ones that seem to feel the need to relate it to the B segment alignment. Must spread FUD about a 114th DT alignment precluding a S. Bell. P&R station because… well, otherwise it makes sense :=

      2. Well Wallace himself is responsible for that as his “vision line” proposal includes the B7 alignment with the station shifted North to the Wilburton P&R.

        True the alignment through Downtown Bellevue is largely independent of the segment B alignment but the politics of it is those opposed to a surface alignment through Downtown Bellevue have made common cause with those who oppose the B3 modified alignment along Bellevue Way and SE 8th.

      3. Leaving South Bellevue out of this, do you really believe a significant number of people are going to use a combination of vaporware magic sidewalks in combination with walking or biking to reach denser areas of Bellevue to the West? It’s not like shifting the light rail line 4-6 blocks to the east of the existing transit hub at BTC is going to magically make the east side of 405 more transit friendly.

    4. IF we’re about to spend from using the Vision Line in ST2, I’d rather see a(n electrified) spur line from Tukwila/International Blvd station to the 148th and 4th Ave South Transit Center in downtown Burien. Plenty of room in the ROW on the north side or center of SR518.

      1. There’s a separate ST3 proposal for a Burien-Renton line. I expect it will be one of the highest priorities in the package because it addresses the missing Southcenter station that Link foes have been complaining about. It would add Renton and Burien to the rail system so they won’t have to sniffle that a rail line goes near them but not close enough to use it. And any “+”-shaped configuration adds significantly more ridership than just a second line in isolation would, I think. Because people can go East-North or West-North (to Seattle), or East-South or West-South (to the airport), as well as just East and West (to Southcenter).

      2. I would like to see the 405 line extended through Bellevue and Kirkland to Lynnwood, where it can meet North Link. But I don’t think voters will be ready for Renton-Bellevue until ST4, and Bellevue-Lynnwood till ST5.

        Having North-South lines on both sides of the lake might relieve traffic on the bridges, and spur the Eastside to develop a full transit infrastructure. That could diminish the proposals for future bridge expansions.

      3. I think you’re spot on Mike. DMU service is a ‘foot in the door’, to establish an eastside rail link. Electrification and extension to meet N. Link, connect Tukwila, S. Center, and Burien are natural improvements down the road. I worry the line will get torn up and become sacred ground, as the Burke Gilman is now.

  16. If the City of Bellevue is so concerned about people getting to and through the downtown core now, why is it that a cross town car trip will usually get stopped at just about every intersection? Or if there is a concern about construction disruptions, why has so much construction happened simultaneously on so many separate roadways? This second one is especially noticeable riding a bike through Bellevue’s very bike unfriendly downtown.

    The other thing that gets me on the Vision Line logic is just how far that station would be from all the new high-rise apartments on the north side of the downtown core. As it is, to/fro Bellevue is already very difficult. Why build all these new apartments, and then offer no significant transportation amenities?

    1. What route are you trying to drive? Bellevue’s signal priority is pretty good. So much construction happened at the same time because we were in a boom. It’s called make hay when the sun shines. Bellevue isn’t filling in holes in the ground like Seattle and (much more modest) growth is scheduled to continue.

      I’m with you on Bellevue being bike unfriendly. Join me at the transportation commission meetings to make the point. East Link debates and “Seattle” transportation blogs don’t make it happen. It’s a street by street battle. Hard to separate on this blog but Rail and Bike Routes are a completely separate issue. The next battle (fortunately delayed by funding) is Northup.

      The Vision Line, or NE 112th or NE 110th all serve the north side equally well. Building a station on top of 405 at Bel-Red would be a huge mistake and far less valuable than a station near the front entrance to Overlake Medical (ironically called the Whole Foods station by the ST faithful).

      1. I live in Seattle and being a person who doesn’t like to arrive at work soaked, I’ll ride in weather permitting. That brings me up 108th, across town to the 1300 block of NE 112th. That route is sometimes good, but with the construction on 108th and 110th, it became a bit more of a dodgy ordeal.

        And yes, I get the “make hay,” but at the planning level I would think such simultaneous disruptions would be considered. Afterall, isn’t that an argument in this train discussion?

        As to the driving part of my comment, I find the phenom trying to get across town. Say 112th to NE 4th, heading to Safeway. I’ve done the trip many times and found my self stuck. at. every. light. all. the. way. to. or. from. my. office. Or north from NE8th up 112th, or biking through downtown on 108th or 110th.

        And I don’t agree that a train stop adjacent to 405 (i.e. Vision) is the equal of one at the transit center in terms of accessibility and/or desirability coming from the new cluster of downtown Bellevue highrise apartments. But that’s just my opinion driving around the area.

        .

  17. I have to disagree with everyone who is saying that there is nothing wrong with at-grade. Sure, there are lots of places that have at-grade, but in those places it goes very slowly, has a potential to get into accidents with cars at all grade-crossings (and to get into accidents with pedestrians everywhere), and has less capacity. Of course, ST can’t pay for a tunnel, but we should be working hard to get a ballot measure for Bellevue to get some money for a tunnel and to find other sources for some money. It will cost more, but at the same time get right in the middle of everything, always go very quickly, not get into any accidents, and have the capacity for very frequent service if it is interlined in the future. Plus, ST’s estimates show a tunnel station getting more ridership than at-grade. Let’s work for a tunnel.

  18. The problem with a circulator or PRT system is that it will be easily overwhelmed if most of the people using Link have to rely on it to get to their ultimate destination. As has been said before, Link will only be successful in Bellevue if the stations are placed such that the majority of users are within walking distance of their final destination or can easily transfer to local bus routes. It’s silly to build a high-capacity transit system if it is hamstrung by reliance on PRT or hover-gondolas or some such thing. We just need to suck it up and find the money to build a rational alignment through downtown with at least 2 well-placed stations.

    1. I don’t disagree, but the far bigger problem with a people-mover or PRT is that it will bring the costs in-line with a tunnel option. If we are dead set on using technology to drive up the cost of the line, why not make that technology a tunnel-boring machine?

      1. Because you can’t tunnel to every destination in DT Bellevue and there isn’t a central location where it’s an easy walk. The issue of moving people to and from the station remains regardless of how much you spend on a tunnel. Trains don’t cover the last mile. So it’s not tunnel or “people mover”; it would be tunnel and “people mover”.

      2. The Bellevue Transit Center is already at an ideal central node. A people mover is out of the question now; it has nothing to do with East Link, and trust me, it’s going to take a fight to get it off the ground. Without any feeder system, the station has to maintain a strong walkshed in all directions. We’re not going to build East Link based on the wild hopeful guesses that politicians have about a people mover.

      3. Fair enough, but 112th Elevated and 114th Elevated are the same station location. Neither is that far from the TC. Obviously 110th is closer to the existing transit center but the increased delay of at grade on 110th might be a wash with the increased distance. None of the proposals really address the time/effort involved in actually getting to the primary destinations. Add to that the initial studies didn’t include the recent denvelopment like the Bravern (or even City Hall). Any proposal must include an analysis of exactly how the proposed ridership is going to come and go from the Link Station.

      4. @Jeremy

        “Who supports PRT?”
        http://kinetic.seattle.wa.us/~prt-q.html#prtsupp
        A number of pro-Transit organizations, agencies and individuals around the world support PRT efforts or are actively engaged in research of their own, such as:

        * the European Union’s “City of Tomorrow & Cultural Heritage” program

        * Masdar (see Technology/Transport)

        * The World Wildlife Fund

        * Planner Peter Calthorpe, a leader in the Smart Growth movement

        * Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)

        * Marcy Winograd, 2010 candidate for Congress (CA-36) and co-founder of Progressive Democrats of America – Los Angeles chapter

        * California Democratic Party (2004 platform)

        * Environmental Protection Agency

        * Hacienda Transit-oriented development in Pleasanton, CA

        * Debbie Cook (D), former mayor of Huntington Beach, CA

        * Gus Ayer (D), former councilman and mayor, Fountain Valley, CA

        * Mayor Carolyn Peterson (D) of Ithaca NY

        * Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who supports Masdar

        * Joan Bokaer, founder of TheocracyWatch

        * The Government of Sweden, including Banverket, the Swedish Rail Agency

        * The city of Suncheon, Republic of Korea

        * the Korean Railroad Research Institute: 1, 2

    2. Hover-gondolas, how very Blade Runner-esque… but we only have 9 years to get it done!

      Seriously though if we can get the light rail next to (or under) the existing transit center we will have made the critical connection. With that transportation hub in place circulators, whatever form they take will find their way to the hub. Whether it’s a fleet of GPS controlled Segways or an hourly Biblical flood they will find their way to the hub. Trust me when gas gets to $12 or 15 a gallon downtown employers will be all for public transportation because nobody who could afford to live within walking distance would (or could afford to) work at the wages on offer for the essential but low paying retail and service jobs.

      I also agree that we need to suck it up and find the money. If Seattle gets a ‘free’ tunnel why doesn’t Bellevue? The great thing about getting the 1st Eastlink Bellevue station underground is that future feeders and connectors will also be underground and be paid for by the people who use them in Bellevue. I believe that to be successful light rail has to avoid getting caught in downtown surface traffic and that logic applies in Bellevue as well as in Seattle.

      The truly sad thing is that my dad worked on the Forward Thrust rapid transit committee back in the ’70s and if it had been built back then downtown Bellevue would have grown up around surface light rail. To retrofit it now would be like putting an artificial heart in a baby; if the surgical trauma didn’t kill the patient straight away what quality of life could they look forward too?

  19. “Seattle has been a hotbed of PRT activity for years” – really? I’ve been watching and following transit here for a half a century and other than automobile parking lots and divided highways for automobiles I’ve sen/heard nothing. Hotbed? Methinks not!

  20. I didn’t say there were a lot of them. In fact, there are very few of them.

    You can see that the Seattle PRT guys have not been very active in recent years… in Seattle:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/seattleprt/

    However, the few PRTistas left do a heap of evangelizing on the web for the Pod Cult.

    David Gow keeps track of worldwide pod activity (including Minnesota) on his PRT websites:

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

    http://www.gettherefast.org/home.html

    http://sites.google.com/site/prtshtuffpage/

    Gow (Mr_Grant) has a bunch of blogs devoted to “debunking” me:

    http://www.blogger.com/profile/15110337375082902901

    Here’s an old LTE by Gow that explains how PRT is used to attack funding for reality-based transit:

    http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030116&slug=thulets16

    Antebellum technology

    Mayor Greg Nickels’ South Lake Union streetcar proposal is the most ludicrous transportation nonsolution I have heard in quite some time. The streetcar record in city after city is clear: high construction costs, high subsidies and no significant effect on congestion. How can streetcars be part of an intelligently designed new biotech district, when streetcars guarantee its streets will be congested?

    I find it hard to believe that the best our civic leaders can offer us is this antebellum transit technology. Why is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) not on the table for exploration? PRT is a “horizontal elevator” system that offers automated, on-demand, mass transit service.

    For the same amount Seattle is planning to invest in trains, a grid of lightweight, unobtrusive, elevated PRT rail can be built covering the entire city.

    PRT could even be deployed in South Lake Union, serving both as an efficient local circulator and to feed people to and from future train stations. And it could be done at a fraction of the cost of a streetcar line.

    So why aren’t Seattle’s leaders looking at PRT?

    Is it because the transit consultants giving them advice make an excellent living going around the country recommending trains?

    David Gow, Seattle

    1. What bellum are you talking about? The first electric streetcar didn’t run until the 1880s.
      The record in city after city is indeed clear: revitalization of neighborhoods, clustering of high-intensity sustainable development along the line, and increasing property values. As a result of all of this new development spurred by the streetcar, traffic does go up (it’s not that the fact that the streetcar is there creates congestion). But honestly, deal with it! The SLUT is a 1.3 mile line that is almost completely on streets that have two lanes in its direction so there’s plenty of room for traffic when it gets bad, but in return we get something that played a substantial role in developing a neighborhood of our city and is taking cars off the roads.
      PRT will never work on a large urban scale. It will simply cost too much. There is no evidence that it can be built cheaply as PRT advocates always claim. If you did make the huge investment needed and a large number of people moved from their cars to PRT, then you’d have PRT traffic jams and it would all be pointless.

  21. There is quite a bit of density around Old Main. Currently many of these folks are retired and don’t use transit but that demographic will eventually change.

    Let’s take the new 10 story condo project on Main St & 100th. It’s .3 miles to the 550 stop, and 1 mile to the transit center. .3 miles is doable, but one mile will discourage most from using it. Best case scenario is we get a more frequent route around DT Bellevue but even if we did it would probably be every half hour…

    In summary and in conclusion, for many of us the transit center is already a mile away, moving it any further east is good for the Bravern but not for me.

  22. @Lloyd

    There are only a few Pod People in Seattle. However, Seattle PRTistas put a lot of effort into worldwide evangelizing for the Pod Cult (Minnesota recently).

    David Gow (Mr_Grant) is a Seattle-based pod evangelist with a heap of pod-promoting websites, blogs and a forum:

    http://www.gettherefast.org/home.html

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

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/seattleprt/

    http://sites.google.com/site/prtshtuffpage/

    http://www.blogger.com/profile/15110337375082902901

    Gow also helps protect Wikipedia from being too informative about PRT.

    Here’s a 2003 LTE from Gow using the PRT stalking horse to bash reality-based transit:

    http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030116&slug=thulets16

    Antebellum technology

    Mayor Greg Nickels’ South Lake Union streetcar proposal is the most ludicrous transportation nonsolution I have heard in quite some time. The streetcar record in city after city is clear: high construction costs, high subsidies and no significant effect on congestion. How can streetcars be part of an intelligently designed new biotech district, when streetcars guarantee its streets will be congested?

    I find it hard to believe that the best our civic leaders can offer us is this antebellum transit technology. Why is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) not on the table for exploration? PRT is a “horizontal elevator” system that offers automated, on-demand, mass transit service.

    For the same amount Seattle is planning to invest in trains, a grid of lightweight, unobtrusive, elevated PRT rail can be built covering the entire city.

    PRT could even be deployed in South Lake Union, serving both as an efficient local circulator and to feed people to and from future train stations. And it could be done at a fraction of the cost of a streetcar line.

    So why aren’t Seattle’s leaders looking at PRT?

    Is it because the transit consultants giving them advice make an excellent living going around the country recommending trains?

    David Gow, Seattle

  23. Sheesh, it’s like that horror movie where if you say his name three times he will come…I wonder if someday medical imaging will reveal why it is that PRT advocates are always so…intense.

    Suffice it to say that there are peoplemovers in America to study- Detroit, somewhere in West Virginia, Miami, SeaTac Airport. We’ve even got a few funiculars and hillclimbers still running. PRT, not so much.

    1. I used to think it was a joke, but I’ll be damned if every time I see PRT mentioned I don’t see the pod people crawl out of the woodwork. Another similar phenomena is to mention Ron Paul, all of a sudden your site is overrun with legions of his supporters.

  24. Deputy Mayor Lee has also suggested that Eastside communities have their own transit systems, since King County Metro’s Eastside share of their total is about 17%, but the Eastside’s contributions to Metro – via sales taxes – is about double that. He evidently doesn’t know how much this would entail nor how much it would cost for another set of administration.

  25. I talked about PRT in earlier post and got blasted. I’m a big fan of mass transit however, will be a fool to not see the huge potential of PRT. Mark my word PRT will happen and happen on a massive scale in the next ten years. Seattle needs to consider ways to implement and integrated this system with light rail while they can before it becomes a competitor. I had a chance to talk to the CEO of Unimodal Transportation a few months ago and ask him how far along SkyTran is in development. Just to make a long story short he informed me that NASA and Unimodal will roll out a test system this fall in Tampa Bay and is looking at New Orleans as the first roll out market in the US . Btw, just because PRT hasn’t been proven in the past doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Take a look at the SkyTran official pod car for yourself http://www.nasa.gov/topics/nasalife/features/unimodal.html . I can already see this sytem connecting Seatsc Airport to the new Consolidated Rental Car Facility.

  26. Unimodal and NASA has control over this technology now. I’m just stating the facts that was given to me two months ago by the CEO. Really don’t if the inventor is still involved with this project. I wouldn’t call it a joke since NASA recently agreed to provide technology for SkyTran. But I’m not here to debate what will be the right technology for PRT, just to say PRT is coming in the next 10yrs.

  27. Yeah, I looked into that NASA claim and it’s no big deal.

    The PRT guys are always claiming stuff that turn out to be bogus.

    We are always supposed to delay plans for reality-based transit and wait for the big PRT breakthrough that never arrives as promised.

    The ULTra PRT was supposed to be the proof of the pudding – first in Cardiff, Wales, then at Heathrow where it’s been delayed TWICE.

    The much-ballyhooed PRT launch in Dubai is also postponed – when it happens, it will only be a demonstration project with a small number of pods in a basement… big deal.

    The ULTra project in Daventry turned into a fiasco:

    http://prtboondoggle.blogspot.com/2009/10/pods-off-real-story-of-prt-in-daventry.html

    The PRT guys have been kicking this can down the road for 30+ years.

    How many chances do the PRT guys get?

  28. Sometimes things take a while to perfect. However, like I said before, like it or not PRT is coming and very soon. Transit planners needs to play close attention to this technology and finds ways to intergrate this with our mass transit system when it arrives before it becomes something uncontrollable.

    1. I’ll believe it when I see it. PRT has been “just around the corner” since the 50’s.

      Since PRT requires the construction of fixed infrastructure there is no way it will be “something uncontrollable” any more than a streetcar is.

  29. PRT guys always argue that PRT is better than conventional transit right now… When you ask to see what they got, they say “it’s not ready, yet”.

    The PRT guys say PRT doesn’t need public funding… then they hit up the taxpayers for millions of dollars in subsidies for PRT “research”.

    When the PRT guys do get their hands on public funding… well… here’s a letter to the Leamington Courier from a Daventry Town Councillor titled “Shock at cost of pod scheme”

    I RECENTLY requested some information from Daventry District Council (DDC) regarding expenditure on the PRT system proposed for Daventry.

    I was more than shocked by the result and thought it incumbent on me to share the information with your readership. See quoted response below.

    “The total expenditure on Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), including consideration of alternative transport modes, in the period of February 12 2007 to April 1 2009 was £485,936.43. This figure includes commissioned studies and all associated expenses.

    “It is not a simple process to extract purely PRT costs, however for the period set out in this response PRT was coded separately within our internal finance processes.

    “Please note that the council received grant funding from Northamptonshire Enterprise Limited of £200,000 (in 2007) as support for our studies.

    “Hence the net Council expenditure for PRT in the period stated above was £285,936.43.” (Northamptonshire Enterprise Limited (NEL) is a Government funded body)

    With nearly half a million pounds being spent on PRT I also asked how much money had been spent on the alternative transport systems and the answer appears to be nothing.

    This begs the question what are the alternative transport systems being considered and how serious has the consideration of them been?

  30. When I say uncontrollable, I mean sprawl. PRT is just like a car but on a guide way. PRT can be wonderful thing but if not plan correctly can go against the planning and theory of creating density and livable communities. Maybe its the reason why alot of you on here see it as anti transit. I don’t and will embrace this this new technology when it arrives and, I believe, if done correctly we can creates a true transit system where a car is rarely needed. Saying PRT wont happen is just like my friends back in the 90’s saying commercial space travel wont happen in our life time but only in the movies. Guys,stop being short sighted and start thinking out of the box.I got a funny feeling in a few years I’m going too post I told you so! just wait.

    1. I don’t think PRT encourages sprawl. The guideway and stations are fixed, just like a rail line. I’ve heard the PRT cells are 1 mile wide, so the grid is roughly the same as other transit would be.

      The problem with PRT is the unknowns. We can’t afford to be the first city to try PRT and build something else afterward if it isn’t effective. Plus, the electorate is much more suspicious of new ideas than we are. Light rail was approved because it and its predecessors have been running in cities for 150 years, so people know what they’re getting. Monorail has been proven in a few cities yet even in rail-friendly Seattle with a historic monorail, it could only achieve a 50-50 vote. The Eastside would have supported monorail even less, and PRT much less than that. Maybe China can install the first urban PRT system since they have lots of money to experiment with.

  31. Lots of information and disinformation about PRT is to be found in these comments. Visit http://www.prtconsulting.com for information, papers, pictures, videos and links to learn more about PRT.

    BAA, is planning to extend the initial 18 T-Pod system to a system of 30 miles and fifty station carrying 30M annual passengers. I have ridden the system and found it very impressive. It has now passed tests where multiple passengers at multiple stations simultaneously requested multiple destinations from multiple T-Pods. It will soon open to the public.

    Masdar is planning to expand their initial system (also scheduled to open to the public soon)to one of some 80 stations and 3,000 T-Pods.

    These are two serious owners planning significant transportation systems using PRT.

    I know Morgantown is not true PRT – in fact it is more complicated than true PRT. It has completed over 140M injury-free passenger miles at Transit level of service A. The NY Times characterized it as a white elephant (because of its teething problems) turned into a transit workhorse.

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