by J. Edward Anderson, first ATRA President.
1983 – The Eighth Year.
ATRA began the year with a balance of $26,158.54, which was sufficient to begin planning a series of workshops, the purpose of which was to identify key issues whose lack of adequate attention and/or resolution had been blocking advanced transit development and deployment for a long time. It was clear from the discussions that the lack of more service-effective and more cost-effective options to meet the transportation needs of the huge low-density parts of most of the world’s metropolitan areas was a growing source of frustration for transit planners and people needing transportation. The lack of proven alternatives was causing many transportation needs to be left unmet or is leaving the field open to people compelled to back the start or expansion of heavy rail systems. The latter course is being taken in several metropolitan areas even though such systems are extremely costly, time-consuming and disruptive to build, expensive to operate, and cannot, by their nature and characteristics, be deployed widely to meet the daily trip needs of most of the people of these metropolitan areas. Moreover, such systems, if pressed, would place great financial demands upon their communities for many decades ahead and preempt available resources that might have been used to try other ideas. Their installation also discouraged innovation in another way: Heavy rail systems involved the creation of huge capital investments and often bonded indebtedness for stations, guideways, and equipment that could not be lightly written off in favor of new and more effective methods of transit.
As if to emphasize ATRA concern, Miami proceeded to build its hugely expensive Downtown Component of its Metrorail system (DCM), shown below, with ground breaking ceremonies on August 31. It was the first application of an automated rubber-tired system in a downtown environment in the nation, and was the first such system to interface with a more traditional rapid transit system. The DCM was to transport 3000 passengers per hour on each loop of the 1.9-mile double-loop system. The entire system is above ground. The vehicles have a maximum capacity of 155 passengers and operate at a maximum speed of 30 mph.
A World Conference on Transportation Research was held in Hamburg, Germany on April 25-29 under the theme “Research for Transportation Policies in a Changing World.”
A French designed accelerating moving walkway (TRAX) was undegoing pre-site assembly at the licensee factory in Nantes, France. TRAX was the only system chosen for the third phase of the U. S. Accelerating Moving Walkway System Program. This phase consisted of full-scale testing to determine its acceptability for all passengers, including children, aged and handicapped.
In June of 1983, with the assistance of the Dean of the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology and the Assistant Vice President for Technology Transfer, a company we called “Automated Transportation Systems, Inc.” was established to commercialize the PRT system I was developing. The founding Board of Directors is shown here. Dick Gehring was elected President and CEO. The four members other than me each invested $40,000, which enabled me, with my two graduate students, to work on the project for the following year. In September the investment firm Dain Bosworth agreed to manage our offering in discussions with potential investors. Before the end of that month we held investment meetings with several possible individual investors as well as with companies we thought would be interested. We also contacted state agencies and the Governor’s office, as well as members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation.