by J. Edward Anderson, first ATRA President.
1986 – The Eleventh Year.
In 1986, ATRA reestablished a newsletter. It was described as a forum where members can speak to other members about
… the features that advanced transit should incorporate;
… the service and cost goals that advanced transit should seek to achieve;
… what’s preventing advanced transit from coming into being; and
… exciting work being done by various individuals and organizations to move advanced transit onto the main agendas of local and national governments.
The new membership leaflet presented an organization dedicated to helping focus public attention on critical unmet needs in urban transit and in the way in which advanced transit can help satisfy them. It was stressed that advanced transit systems should be complementary to and supportive of existing systems. The newsletter said that “ATRA is the only public interest organization committed to helping bring advanced transit into being.”
They then commented that cities were promoting a modernized streetcar, about which streetcar promoter Vukan Vuchic declared the “ugly duckling becomes a swan.” The newsletter writer commented that certainly it is more economical than heavy rail and is “better” only because the new advanced transit systems are not ready to be purchased. “In the R&D world the goal is to get more for less.” “True advanced transit, unlike the modernized LRT, will offer a significantly higher level of performance than LRT, and for a lower cost.”
The newsletter announced that “Taxi 2000 Corporation was established.” It was the new name for Automated Transportation Systems, Inc., which had been formed in 1983 by Dr. Ed Anderson and officials of the University of Minnesota. The new Chairman of the Board was Stuart H. Watson and the new President was Judd Berlin. More will be said about this later.
The newsletter announced that at the annual elections, Thomas H. Floyd, Jr. was elected the new President of ATRA, and Dr. Byron Johnson, former Colorado Congressman, was elected Chairman.
At the January 14, 1986 Board Meeting, Dr. Johnson reported on the “Issues Conference” held in Denver the previous November. He said that the participants agreed that “this type of essentially regional conference has real value as a means for drawing local policymakers and others into discussions about how advanced transit concepts could lead to the development of more cost-effective and service-effective options for meeting public transit requirements.” He recommended that ATRA should find the resources needed to develop a compendium of the main conference papers plus a summary of the ideas presented.
Tom Floyd followed by noting that ATRA must encourage policymakers, urban planners, and hardware developers to press for the development and validation of new transit options that can be more effective in meeting these needs and at considerably more manageable costs. He added that no level of government and no private entity performs the function of validating what transit innovators claim for their products or concepts. Therefore, policymakers and service providers are reluctant to try innovative ideas, and innovative work is impeded by the lack of liability coverage for new products, and all concerned lack ready means for resolving liability issues.
At its 14 January ATRA Board Meeting, an ad hoc committee was created to examine the description of goals in the document used to solicit members. The feeling was that the goals needed to be more “action oriented” so that they served better to attract new members as well as to influence the future agenda of work by ATRA – and they needed a different focus. The committee felt that they should “put to bed the notion that ATRA is ‘anti’ any transit, but that its main business should be to help bring advanced transit into being, and we should leave to others the primary responsibility for improving conventional systems.” The revision reflected the strong emphasis the drafters thought should be placed on specific actions by ATRA to help overcome the barriers to advanced transit. The drafters sought to strike a balance between an organization that is not a lobbying group and an organization that wants to effect change.
To clarify the issues Dr. Jarold Kieffer wrote a paper “A Sharper Focus for Advanced Transit,” that appeared in the Winter 1986 issue of the Journal of Advanced Transportation.
In April, it was announced that “The Papers and proceedings of the November 15-16, 1985 conference had been published and available for purchase.
In December 1986 ATRA President, Tom Floyd, commented to the Board of Directors: “. . . only advanced transit is capable of reversing the continued downward spiral of transit service in most urban areas.” ATRA Officers proposed that ATRA concentrate on stimulating the development and deployment of new transit technology based on:
- Networking or grid concepts that can serve the “spread city”,
- Compact auto-sized vehicles on light and low-cost guideways,
- Non-stop service from origin station to destination station,
- A charge for vehicle use rather than for a ride,
- A capability to carry freight as well as passengers, and
- A cost-revenue ratio that allows the prospect of profitable or low cost ownership and operation.
These words were followed by a five-page document entitled “A Sharper Focus for ATRA.” It will be made available to any interested reader.
1986 was a year of big change for my PRT project. In early 1986, Stuart Watson and Judd Berlin took over our company, now called Taxi 2000 Corporation. Here is a picture of four of us: Stuart, 29 years old at the time, is standing to the left straight and tall in a brown suit coat, Judd a bit shorter is standing next to him, Roger Staehle is standing to the right, and I am sitting in a linear-induction-motor propelled vehicle (actually a motorcycle side car). This was taken at the company Unico in Racine, Wisconsin, as we were preparing to have Unico be our propulsion supplier.
I worked full time for the company during the Spring Quarter, working to line up suppliers of all of the components. I took a trip to Seattle to visit the Boeing AGRT project. They were in the process of shutting down as their contract with UMTA was ending. They were delighted to give me a stack of their reports more than a foot high, glad that someone was continuing to work on an AGRT-like system. I found those documents extremely useful in helping me develop our control system. While technology has greatly improved, their basic control concepts are still valid. For example, the dual-duplex concept they showed me, illustrated to the right, is used extensively by Boeing, Honeywell, and other military contractors. It enormously increases the mean time to unsafe failures, wherever it is used. The numbers I calculated are more than 1020 years, which is virtually infinity.
In June 1986, Stuart and Judd planned to form a new company that would do a deal with Taxi 2000 Corporation, and Stuart’s lawyers advised him that he could not be in the leadership positon in both Taxi 2000 and the new company. As a result, Stuart and Judd resigned from Taxi 2000, following which I was elected CEO by the remaining members of the Board of Directors. The University of Minnesota, owner of our patents, was represented by Assistant Vice President for Technology Transfer Tony Potami. In July, Tony and I flew to Milwaukee to meet with Judd Berlin, heads of Unico and a Milwaukee steel company, a representative of Davy McKee, and a Vice President of a financial firm that was considering funding the new company. The Milwaukee group proposed that they give the University of Minnesota and Taxi 2000 8% of the new company while they would keep 92%. We said thanks and left. On the flight home Potami said that there was no way he would agree that we would get so little, and we began considering options.
Through a chain of events that I have not mentioned, I knew Dr. John Sliver, the President of Boston University, and I knew that he had been interested in gaining an interest in Taxi 2000 as a way to increase the endowment of Boston Univeresity. I called Dr. Silver and proposed that if he were to give me an appointment as a visiting professor, I would move to Boston to work out a deal with him. Within a week I had an appointment as a regular Full Professor and moved to Boston in late August with a deal that would require me to teach one course and spend the rest of my time working on Taxi 2000. For 18 months in 1975-6, I had worked as a consultant to a Transportation Group in the Raytheon Missile Systems Division. I has been recruited for that position by Richard F. Daly, then Manager of Government Marketing for Raytheon Company. I had been in regular touch with Dick Daly, now Marketing Manager of the Raytheon Equipment Division, and invited him to become a member of the Taxi 2000 Board of Directors. He immediately agreed, and we worked together for the eight years I remained in Boston.
During fall 1986 I negotiated with a Boston University Senior Vice President and in early December he presented a proposal, which was enormously favorable to Boston University. Fortunately I had Dick Daly working with me. As a Diretor of Markting, he was a contract negotator. Additionally, in mid December he met with Dr. George Sarney, a new Senior Vice President of Raytheon, who immediately saw that Taxi 2000 should be of interest to Raytheon. He oversaw Raytheon Engineering and Construction Company, and gave us offices there for several years.