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

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mr. Puffy has a great fall

He taketh my screen-name in vain

Nedken Ovendoor the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist has been a busy boy lately, what with the need to pull together all the threads of the Big Scary PRT Conspiracy.

News stories about PRT are more and more frequent (he dismisses them as "puff pieces"), the most recent in the New York Times and on CNN.com. Guess this means the Times supports Mark Olson, and Time Warner is a road warrior.

The PRT - Right Wing connection must be cemented too, and on that front he is vigilantly on the lookout for bias on Slappy Olson's page on Wikipedia. Avidor has even gone so far as to file a Conflict of Interest complaint (a "COI")-- 'cause, ya know, PRT = Mark Olson, therefore Biased Mark Olson Article = Biased PRT Article.

Humpty Puffy even brings me into it. He writes:

I will stop editing the page if persons with genuine COI issues like PRT promoter Mr_Grant (David Gow) and Republicans like Swanny and the guy from the AEI stop editing the page. Source

The thing is, Undiedrawer wouldn't recognize Objectivity if it walked up to him on the street and cried, "Ken, dontcha know me? It's me. Objectivity. When was the last time I saw you -- elementary school? So I hear you went to art college-"

And what does ol' "liberal-biased" Wikipedia think? If Slappy is a right winger, Slappy = PRT, and therefore PRT = right wing, then surely Wikipedia will side with Avidor? Um, NOPE:
Swanny123s edits were well within WP:BLP guidelines. On the other hand, Avidor has chosen not to abide by the request to stop editing the article. If Avidor wants to add the other names to this report (per the guidelines), feel free to. However, if Avidor continues to ignore this, and edits against policy (BLP, COI, disruption), he may be blocked from editing.

I have reviewed the edits of Swanny123,
Avidor, Mr Grank [sic], and the "AEI" guy to the Olson article. Swanny123, Mr Grant and AEI guy's edits do not violate NPOV nor do their edits show a COI results [sic]. Source

Avidor's problem is he thinks that having a point of view means you can't possibly write neutrally about something. In his book, journalists must be worse than lawyers.

You know, if Puffy the Magic Propagandist has a problem with Wikipedia, he ought to head over to Conservapedia. He'll fit "right" in with all the other nice people digging into the truth on subjects such as Hillary Clinton and Evolution.

Help Humpty Puffy!"Durrr -- got any superglue?"

Archive: On a rail, no doubt (12/13)

Also today:
Say, if PRT is a scam to stop light rail, then why is Norman Foster's "Masdar city" planning to have both (video)?

There is NO
Ken Avidor easter egg for this post

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mr. Accuracy's Greatest Misses

Remember this old howler from Ken Avidor, the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist?

"...there is no PRT project at London's Heathrow airport..." Source

I can't help but be reminded of it, what with the latest progress report by ATS about its PRT project at London's Heathrow Airport:
Construction of the T5 end of the track started in January 2007 and there are now 22 foundations completed for the overhead section near T5. [Emphases added] Source

And this from the airport's owner, BAA:
Work has begun on the test track for the world's first Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system, which will run between the N3 car park near Longford village and Terminal 5, and will benefit local residents as well as Heathrow passengers.

The PRT consists of small cars with rubber tyres that travel along a guideway.

The system has a number of great advantages. Being battery powered, it is extremely quiet – no louder than a normal conversation at 10 metres.
What is more, it will reduce local congestion and air pollution. The PRT will replace the buses used to move passengers from the car park to the terminal, removing an estimated nine buses an hour from local roads.

The interior of each small electric 'pod' is similar to a London taxi, has full disabled access, and will be able to accommodate up to four passengers and their luggage...

Not bad for a project that doesn't exist.

Non-existent ULTra's non-existent guideway footings can be seen
underneath the elevated roadway.

December 2008: Another photo of ULTra not existing at Heathrow

Archives: See How Nothing he Writes Can Be Trusted
Light Rail Segment Obliterated - Heroic Editor Sounds Alarm

There is no Ken Avidor project at London's Heathrow Airport

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hello old friend

Weiner Watch is back, and in top form!

Avidor / Avidee / Aviday / Avi a ha ha ha ha ha ha
Avidor / Avidee / a knapsack on my back

More 'Advocacy Is Not a Policy Decision' (or, Evidence I was probably right) - UPDATE 1

"Kinda Over" the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist loves rebuttal almost as much as cherrypicking facts. But the latter continues to undermine the former.

Remember my guess from the other day about the true story behind the failure of Minneapolis LRT in the 1970s?

Wouldn't this be a much more common sense explanation: two Metro organizations in a figurative fight to the death to see which would dominate Twin Cities transit planning -- and neither succeeding? Source
Well Ken Avidor just had to respond today:
A book appeared in 2000 called "The Transportation Renaissance". It was written by a PRT fan called Edmund Rydell. He describes how Anderson and his pals got legislation passed in the early 1970's that prevented the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) from planning for rail transit:
"...Ed and others got legislation that took away from the [Metropolitan Transit] Commission its planning function. Over 20 years later, the Twin Cities still lacks an effective transit strategy."Source
There are even two pages from Rydell's (self-published) book. If only Avidor had read them. Rydell:
Anderson and Kieffer... managed to obtain a copy of the consultant's report to the MTC, and effectively used it against them. Source
If we are taking Rydell as gospel, as Avidor wants to treat it,1 then the report must have been very bad indeed. At the very least not defensible, because--
The report died from neglect. The Commission couldn't agree on what to do next. The executive director and several staff members quit. For a year the Commission stayed divided on the guidelines it should follow in recruiting a new director... Ed and others got legislative action that took away from the Commission its planning function. Source
AHA!!! These are not the signs of Ed Anderson bamboozling, as Avidor might say, the MTC with the promise of PRT. These are the hallmarks of an organization that had little or no idea how to accomplish its objectives, was wracked by internal divisions, and couldn't even hire a new chief. Such problems don't happen just because one guy talks to them about PRT. The seeds of discord existed long before Anderson came along. And who were the "others"?2

Remember, at that point Anderson was just one person advocating a particular technology. In such a process (a screening process) every technology -- light rail, heavy rail, buses -- has its advocates. It is up to the decisionmakers to evaluate all the options and select one. At that time PRT could not have been the #1 choice, because the most advanced design, at Morgantown, was not financially viable for a wide-scale application. Some other mode had to have been rated #1, and at most PRT would be identified as for-further-investigation -- as it has been for the last 30 years.

And yet, as noted last week, the government bodies that had purview clung to their own positions -- buses, or rail based on a 40-seat vehicle (streetcars?) -- and that was where things fell apart.

You still can't blame J. Edward Anderson.
Read Part I

1. I take Rydell at his word, but I normally don't quote from the book because it provides no references.
One also must wonder why the governor of Minnesota -- either Wendell Anderson or Rudy Perpich, both Democrats -- did not step in and relocate the transit planning function to another agency.

Update 2/10/2012: More empty alarmism from the Laffable Luddite.
Ken Avidor is still  claiming "Personal Rapid Transit has always been a bogus excuse to defund rail transit." But the document he references is another op-ed -- advocacy. It takes no money away from one type of transit to give to PRT.  Vandervalk's piece will go nowhere if it goes outside New Jersey's transit policy/planning/acquisition process. Five years later, and advocacy still does not equal a policy decision.

"I Ken Avidor in your general direction, silly English k-niggght!"

Friday, June 08, 2007

November 16, 2006

The last time the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist had one his "Specials" published in the Twin Cities Daily Planet -- where he's still listed as "Transportation Editor."

PRTista Update (6/20): Not any more!


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Advocacy Is Not a Policy Decision (or, Don't Blame J. Edward Anderson)

Poor Ed Anderson. A professor, engineer, innovator and actual rocket scientist who became an anti-nuclear missile activist in the 1980s -- and here's Ken Avidor the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist continually attacking the prof like he were some kind of Wizard of Oz behind the curtain of the alleged anti-transit conspiracy.

The latest attempt is really funny. Basically, in the headline Avidor blames Anderson for stopping rail (!) in the 1970s, then posts so much narrative that few people are going to take the time to read it! The few that do, though, will see that Avidor's reasoning is faulty (as usual), and that history reveals the process as having been quite muddy with many factors to blame (common when bureaucracy is involved).

Even the headline doesn't make sense -- how could Anderson have stopped rail in the 1970s, when that decade was when the modern "light rail revival" [1, 2] took place?

Question: if there is a PRT conspiracy against light rail -- at this point going back over 30 years -- how effective could it be if it allowed a
revival of light rail?

No, in the post it turns out Avidor just means rail in Minnesota. This is what Avidor emphasizes (without observing the convention to note "emphasis added"):

During the same period [1972], further consideration of a personal rapid transit (PRT) system was advocated by University of Minnesota professor Edward Anderson. Source
Hmmm. He "advocated." Yeah, how e-vil! But seriously: that's all he's got? Avidor expects us to believe that one advocate bamboozled a Metro Council, a Metro Transit Commission, an engineering consultant and a Legislature? One guy, whom the Propagandist keeps calling a nutty professor, did all that?

He didn't -- and he couldn't -- because advocacy is not a policy decision.

Consider the following. Avidor also excerpts this from another document:

UMTA began backing away from its early enthusiasm for the Denver PRT proposal in 1974 [due to] Embarrassing cost overruns in the demonstration project in Morgantown, W. Va. Source
The Urban Mass Transit Administration was "backing away." That's huge news. It's the federal government -- much bigger than Ed Anderson. You'd think the consultant would know about this. Maybe they did, because also in 1974 the Commission was recommending a 40 seat vehicle -- twice as big as Morgantown and clearly not PRT -- and the Council wanted buses. It's right there* in the material Avidor quotes, and probably thought you wouldn't bother to read.

Furthermore, with PRT out of the picture, why didn't the parties involved just go to light rail? You know -- the technology starting its "revival".

Wouldn't this be a much more common sense explanation: two Metro organizations in a figurative fight to the death to see which would dominate Twin Cities transit planning -- and neither succeeding?

Surrender, Avidorothy.

Oct. 2008: Dredging it up again on Minesota2020.

Update: Read Part II

Update 2 2/10/2012: More empty alarmism from the Laffable Luddite.
Ken Avidor is still  claiming "Personal Rapid Transit has always been a bogus excuse to defund rail transit." But the document he references is another op-ed -- advocacy. It takes no money away from one type of transit to give to PRT.  Vandervalk's piece will go nowhere if it goes outside New Jersey's transit policy/planning/acquisition process. Five years later, and advocacy still does not equal a policy decision.

Ken Avidor dor be dor dow down / breaking up is harrrd to do.
* "Work began in August 1974 guided by a management committee composed equally of Commission and Council members. The consultant’s first report compared the Commission’s recommended 40-passenger vehicle system with other alternatives.

The Commission and the Council drew conflicting findings from the study. The Commission recommended a fixed- guideway system other than a concentional[sic] rail transit, based on a n-seat vehicle. The Metropolitan Council opposed any fixed-guideway system and continued to support a regional bus system."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Do these pants make his assumption look fatuous?

Today Ben Labridor's propaganda is based on his claim that Vectus, the Swedish-Korean PRT system, uses a "fat guideway" (right; he got the stills from this video report). Based on this claim he then goes on to write that "g-forces" are why Vectus is mounted on short posts, and that Vectus is "just like Raytheon."

We already disposed of the big "fat" lie in April -- you can read that here. Vectus is superficially similar to Raytheon, but is much smaller (plus the guideway will wear vertical stripes which, as everyone knows, are slimming!). As for g-forces, maybe it didn't occur to Ovendoor that an elevated system under assembly and testing conditions is simply easier to work on if within reach of people on the ground.

And since when do flags = phony? Don't tell the United Nations.

Addendum -- the Duh Factor

(June 7) Examine this statement by the Propagandist:
notice that [the Vectus guideway is] mounted on slim posts close to the ground. Why? Because G-forces would require heavier posts if it were up higher. Source
This is so vague that it suggests conclusions that result in the casual reader being led astray. First assumption: the posts are short because they are skinny. But if easy ground access is desirable for the test personnel's work, then the posts are skinny because they are short, i.e. they are as skinny as the present application requires.

Second assumption: Vectus isn't telling you taller posts are bigger. This is where the Duh Factor comes in: OF COURSE taller posts are bigger than skinnier ones. But simply blurting "g-forces" is a gross simplification. Some engineering background: post characteristics are a function of "load" on the guideway-- guideway weight, loaded vehicles, resistance to crosswinds, centrifugal force on curves equal to about 1/4 of vehicle weight, and earthquake codes of the locale. Load factors mean that taller posts need to be larger in diameter at their base, and larger foundations. But this is intuitive -- DUH!

The actual Duh Factor

Third assumption:
bigger tall posts would be too big. Humidor again recycles his guideway-over-street composite photo (shown last year to be inaccurate), with the words "UGLY PRT." But really now, we've already shown the Vectus guideway pipe is about half the diameter of Raytheon's, and there is less structure mounted on top of the pipe -- therefore the formula continues to be: smaller vehicles, smaller guideway, less weight, smaller posts than Raytheon.

How many Ken Avidors does it take to screw in a light bulb? Trick question! Light bulbs are not needed because flaming torches are proven technology.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

More resistance to innovation

Back in the 1970s, there was a small group of people who thought they had an alternative to the status quo. These innovators believed they could do a certain job by building new infrastructure based on a wholly different concept.

Defenders of the conventional wisdom (the "experts") told the innovators it wouldn't work. They said the changes were stupid, irresponsible and unnecessary. They even said the users could get hurt in various ways.

Now, who were these crazy dreamers, and what were the proven, accepted methods they were trying to overthrow? Were they early gadgetbahners, proto-PRTistas attacking rail and bus systems? Was it Jerry Schneider and Emory Bundy? Nope. I refer to none other than the story of the creation of the modern world's first naturalistic zoo exhibit, the Western Lowland Gorilla habitat at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

Start listening to the report by NPR's Robert Krulwich at :03:20 -- and keep this in mind the next time the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist attacks innovation.

Ken Avidor In The Mist