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

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."

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