Fact-Checking the "PRT Boondoggle" Blog
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mock Journalist, Part VI

("Duck, duck, canard!")

Editor's note: We continue beta-testing the change to one of the oldest editorial policies of "PRT is a Joke" IS A JOKE. For a limited time, The Name of the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist will be shown -- although special formatting will be used.
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Recently, Ken Avidor lobbed the following bon mot at the MIST-ER personal rapid transit company:

"Polish PRT?"

Source (@Daily Kos)
PRTJJ coverage

Hopefully this ethnic slur was unintentional. 'Hopefully' because, so far, he has refused to explain himself.

So it's a kinda breathtaking example of chutzpah that he would almost simultaneously put forward the claim that PRT appeals to one of the worst human impulses. In the comment thread accompanying the same Daily Kos post, Ken manages to stir one reader's outrage:
Greendem: Pods are safer because you don't have to ride with scary brown people.
Pod people should just stay in their cars.

Avidor: That's what the [sic] used to say... [ellipsis in original]

Greendem: Exactly
It's "public transit" for racists.

Yeah, I know -- the brochure doesn't mention race. What was racist when only Whites could ride in the front of buses? The buses, or Jim Crow and its supporters?

This Tuesday Avidor went after Bill Mego, a columnist for the Naperville, Illinois, Sun. Mego's October 20 column advocated for PRT in Naperville. No public funds were spent because of it, but as regular "PRT Is a Joke" IS A JOKE! readers probably expect, Mego's mere advocacy for PRT was enough to send Ken searching Mego's archives for a gotcha.
Last week, Bill Mego of the Naperville Sun wrote a column titled; "Public transportation is going away in U.S.".
It will have to be safe and private. Naperville people don't want to travel in groups or mingle with the lower classes or the homeless.

So, to be successful, public transportation will have to be less than a fifth as expensive as light rail, not need a right of way, and run on a very small amount of electricity. Its cars will have to be safe and private, have essentially no moving parts that require maintenance, and not need a driver. So is there such a system? Yes, fortunately there is, but the "experts" aren't considering it.

I'll explain next week what it is.
Right.. [sic] the old, you don't want to ride with scary (fill in the blank) people, anti-transit canard.

Link that to this week's PRT column and -- "GOTCHA!" Chalk one up for Avidor's position, right?

Sorry, no. Because this is another example of Ken Avidor's tendency to not ask questions and rely on guesswork.

His mistake this time was to not seek out the local context.

The Local Context

What you need to know is that Naperville (pop. 145,000) is a suburb west of Chicago, and calls itself a--
"vibrant, thriving city consistently ranks as a top community in the nation in which to live, raise children and retire. The city is home to acclaimed public and parochial schools, the best public library system in the country, an array of healthcare options and an exceptionally low crime rate."

What is Naperville like? You be the judge. Thumbnail sketch: Naperville's median home price is $311,2005 (higher than Chicago and Bloomingdale). The average family income is $149,352, and 80.7% of residents are White (2005). Only 2.8% are below the poverty line.

There is also an ongoing controversy about an ordinance making it illegal to sleep on a "public way," directed at the homeless. One outspoken and mediagenic homeless man, Scott Huber, seems to be a particular target of the ordinance.1, 2, 3, 4

My opinion? Naperville seems like a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to be homeless there.

Which, it turns out, was the point of Bill Mego's Oct. 13 column. As Mego explained to me (Yes! I contact total strangers and ask questions like a real writer!), Naperville has trouble getting people to ride the bus.

Those routes only carry an average of 46, 38, 36, 34, and 12 riders, respectively, per day.

"We have been having problems getting enough riders on our buses," says Mego. "One of the reasons people give is that the Mexicans from a neighboring town, who travel through and who work in our downtown restaurants, make riding the buses dangerous."

That's part of the background. The law aimed at Huber, in Mego's words, "makes it illegal to sleep on a public way. Yes, it makes it against the law to nap in the park, fall asleep during a parade, and let your baby sleep it its buggy."

The Denouement

Pay attention now,
Ken! This is where I tell you, if you haven't guessed: Mego doesn't like the ordinance, saying about its backers: "They passed this foolish law because we have a homeless man who has been living alongside a parking garage for the last eight years, and people are now saying 'I didn't move to Naperville to see slovenly homeless people'."

Mego added: "The Sun is a local paper, and our readers know I've written often, defending the man [Huber]. They understood that that statement [about group travel and mingling with lower classes] referred specifically to that situation, and was a sarcastic comment on some of our citizens' intolerance."

* * *

I think Mego's motivation in suggesting PRT can be characterized as 'irritated realism.' Something like, you idiots, so you don't want to use transit? Well how about PRT, would you use that?

The implicit answer is 'No.' Mego's final point in the column was, and I quote, "the 'experts' aren't considering it."

The town that passed an ordinance against sleeping on the street isn't considering PRT. Some gotcha for Ken Avidor

The people of the Chicagoland area are going
to LOVE Avidor's "Polish PRT? " slur!
(that about wraps it up for Ken Avidor in Naperville!)

Read: Mock Journalist- The Series



A Transportation Enthusiast said...

Nice investigative work. And yet another example of shoddy reporting by Ken Avidor.

Mr_Grant said...

It could be a sketch on Saturday Night Live, like "Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute."

"Ken Avidor: Shoddy Reporter"

eflink said...

Has it really been almost a year since I last posted here?

Anyway, nice work on that one; because, without knowing Mr Mego's background, it would be easy to take his remarks out-of-context.

Something that I'm sure Mr Avatar knows very well.

Mr_Grant said...

Thanks eflink, and Hi again. I know, it's easy to forget about Klenn Beckidor when he doesn't post for a while.

But he's back, and PRTJJ is ready to rock.

eflink said...

Hi back Mr_Grant & congrats on your series on PRT that's been running in the SFExaminer (?), which I've seen posted on the net.

It's great to see developments moving ahead at Heathrow & Masdar, & interest getting higher in places like Santa Cruz & San Jose, etc.

Maybe we'll see some positive action in the next year or two.

Mr_Grant said...

Note to readers: my PODCARS series is on Examiner.com , not the San Francisco Examiner (although that paper did do a PRT story in August)!