Fact-Checking the "PRT Boondoggle" Blog
A project of the PRT NewsCenter

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

See How He Ignores Context

Originally published ©2005 Get On Board! PRT

Transparently disinformative

"If those people want to pursue PRT with
their own money, that's okay with me."

—the Minnesota Anti-PRT Activist
(Seattle P-I, cached comment #356)

The Minnesota anti-PRT activist is at it again. This time he is claiming that the leading U.S. PRT company knows PRT is "too risky." Here's his latest distortion, aimed at discouraging private investment in PRT.
Taking out the context
What he's doing this time is regurgiating the following passage from a "Risk Factors document" (!) filed filed by Taxi 2000 with Commerce Department of Minnesota (!).
Taxi 2000 Document Reveals Safety Concerns Can Make PRT Systems "Unworkable".

...The following are excerpts that show that Taxi 2000 itself believes that PRT is a very risky investment.

"Federal and State safety regulation of automated transit systems can make PRT systems unworkable. Since there are no examples of our technology currently in operation, we cannot predict what sort of state or federal government safety regulation might apply. At this juncture, the Federal Transit Administration - which would exercise whatever regulation might apply at this level - has left the matter up to the states. Management believes the states will look foremost to the work of a committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which has developed a set of safety standards for "Automated People Movers" (APM's). We have been following that work and think at this point it will pose only one problem: eg., "brick wall stopping" requirements for the control system (borrowed from railroad signaling practice). The requirement is that if one vehicle stops instantaneously, the next vehicle must be able to stop before hitting the stopped one. That requirement would inhibit the sort of minimum vehicle headway used in our design, but it would not affect operation of the first, lower density systems. In the context of PRT, "headway" means the nose-to-nose time spacing between two sequential vehicles. Setting a minimum allowable headway determines the maximum carrying capacity of the guideway. We will work to have the headway requirement amended, since we believe it is inappropriate to PRT technology, but there is no guarantee we will be successful in that regard." Source
He makes no other comment, leaving the reader to think that PRT can be sunk if regulatory agencies and organizations don't change certain rules.

Context is so important, and this is a textbook case. The above paragraph is not some earth-shaking secret admission of a fatal flaw. In fact it is a fairly standard "safe harbor" statement, something all companies that offer stock are required to do, to apprise prospective investors of every conceivable risk, no matter how remote. In this safe harbor, Taxi 2000 is merely saying 'ASCE rules may not allow us to use as short headways as we are capable of, and we're going to seek a rule change because our technology overcomes the reason for the "brick wall" standard.'

Every public company has safe harbor statements in their prospectuses, annual reports and 10-K filings. So if everyone gave full, literal and equal weight to everything in safe harbors, no one would ever invest in anything.

That said, it is important to note that incompatibility with safety regulations is not the only thing theMinnesota anti-PRT activist has been claiming about the Risk Factors document. He has been portraying it as much more dire.

Watch him backpedal
For a long time the Minnesota anti-PRT activist provided no quotes from "Risk Factors," only his characterization of the contents. But recently, when pressured by this analyst to provide an actual quote from the document, suddenly his interpretation underwent a subtle revision:
June 30: "By popular request, I post an excerpt from the Taxi 2000's Risk Factors Document that acknowledges the Personal Rapid Transit headway problem is a major safety concern that would prevent a nose-to-nose PRT system from operating under current safety regulations." Source

That's not quite what the Minnesota anti-PRT activist used to say!
Late May 2005: "There is certainty that PRT is impossible and it's in Taxi 2000's Risk Factors document filed with the State of MInnesota [sic]. It says the headway problem[...] can only be solved by asking the ASCE for a change on their guidlines [sic] for APM's. ... something that's highly unlikely because professional engineers are unlikely to relax a safety recommendation that would surely result in crashes, injuries and deaths." Source

June 23, 2005: "I really doubt that this "project "will get more than a glance from Bill Gates. Like the rumored PRT project in Dubai, this stuff is meant to impress the suckers - investors and politicians. A savvy investor would ask to see the Taxi 2000 "Risk Factors" document filed with the State of MInnesota [sic]. The Risk Factors document clearly states that the headway problem is a problem that no technology can fix." Source

June 13, 2005: "If you want to know the real deal on PRT, read the Risk Factors document that the Taxi 2000 Corporation filed with the State of Minnesota. It says one of the risk factors is the headway problem (which cannot be solved by any sort of advanced technology). It instead suggests that Taxi 2000 would ask to have the guidlines [sic] for headways changed to allow pods to stop on a dime and subject passengers to gut-wrenching g-forces." Source
For the record, this is how PRT has really been designed to deccelerate:
"If all passengers are seated, simple experiments show that a 0.5g [a HALF g] deceleration will not throw a passenger out of the seat... requirements of PRT safety is that the vehicle be designed for all passengers seated."
Safe Design of Personal Rapid Transit Systems, Journal of Advanced Transportation, 28:1, 1994
So: just as when the Minnesota anti-PRT activist made the audacious claim that the Skyweb Express and ULTra PRTs don't have air conditioners, then nitpicked 'well, are there air conditioners installed in the vehicles in these photos?', he is backpedaling again. He's changing his earlier, sweeping claims that 'short headways are impossible, it can't be overcome by technology,' dropping the part about technology and just saying 'current regulations might not allow short headway'.

Hardly in the same class as Newton's First Law or the speed of light, as he had earlier led you to believe.
Distortion; uninformed speculation; fabrication. Now revisionism is in his bag of tricks! 

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