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    The History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA)

    April 7th, 2017


    Chapter One by Dr J. Edward Anderson

    The Formation of ATRA

    An AGT Society.  A major outcome of the 1975 International Conference on Personal Rapid Transit was a decision to form what we called an AGT (Automated Guideway Transit) Society. In the words of Dr. Larry Goldmuntz, who introduced the idea:
    “Therefore, we need a continuing AGT society to educate technicians, planners, and politicians to the possibilities of AGT and to the various disciplines which can be developed within AGT. We need to alert the AGT community to legislative and policy issues that may have an impact on the future of automated guideway transit. We need to establish a peer review process for various analyses that have been produced in the name of the AGT community, and we need to set up some mechanism to referee papers in the field and insure that the general level of technical contributions is improved.

    An AGT society would be able to educate Congress, and could try to influence national and state departments of transportation, regional and local transportation authorities, and urban planners. It would serve as a forum to establish definitions and performance standards. Safety and performance requirements can be met more easily if they are clearly defined. An AGT society could also formulate a definition of needs. It could study alternatives for new systems deployments and capital grants, and explore the possibility of obtaining pluralism in research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) outside the federal mechanism. Certain cities might use some capital grant money for demonstrations after an effort in research and development that they consider germane to their area. The American nation has adopted pluralism in the majority of its institutions as a protection against the mistakes of a singular government. Pluralism sometimes wastes energy and tine, but it may often be safer, as in the case of RD&D. We have therefore asked the Chairman of this conference, Dr. J. Edward Anderson, to solicit some help from the AGT community to suggest the form, composition, and affiliations of a continuing AGT organization. This organization should involve technical personnel and representatives from industry, but also economists, city planners, urban designers, and politicians. In other words, it should involve all those people who are interested in solving our urban transportation problems, rather than people who are discipline oriented.”

    With this mandate, I began working on formation of a permanent AGT society. On December 8, 1975 I gathered all of the members of the conference committee I could, as well as several engineering managers in the U. S. Department of Transportation who favored our cause, in a meeting in Washington, D. C. We decided on the name Advanced Transit Association, with the acronym ATRA, to distinguish us from the already established ATA. ATRA was founded on May 19, 1976 with 25 people prominent in transportation in governments, universities, and consulting firms elected to the Board of Directors. I was elected President and Barton Aschman Vice President Michael A. Powells, Jr., was elected Chairman. An Executive Committee was elected that included in addition Charles Elms, then just leaving NASA Huntsville to form Lea Elliott, Inc.; Dr. William L. Garrard, University of Minnesota; Dr. Lawrence Goldmuntz, who had left the Executive Office of the President to form his own consulting firm; George Krambles, an official with the Chicago Transit Authority; William Merritt, who as an UMTA Associate Administrator in 1968 had written the report “Tomorrow’s Transportation” that discussed 17 studies of new technology applied to urban transportation; Morse Wade, a senior engineer with IBM; and Dr. Richard Willow, aid to Congressman Bill Frenzel. Only 12 of the 25 ATRA Board Members had been members of the 1975 International Conference on PRT Conference Committee, thus the leadership involved in forming ATRA reached well beyond the people I had selected for the Conference Committee, which was great.

    We stated that “the need for a new association arose because membership in present transit associations and engineering societies is limited to either organizations, rather than individuals, or to members of specific professions,” and we stated our purposes to be:

    • To improve the quality of urban life through the judicious application of advanced technology and planning concepts to transit service;

    • To disseminate information on advanced transit to members, to the interested professions, to the public, and to representatives of all levels of government; and

    • To improve the quality of transit-system analysis, planning, design, and implementation.

    J. E. Anderson

    Dr J. Edward Anderson

    Dr J. Edward Anderson