This is a round up of the latest news related Personal Rapid Tramsport and Advanced Transport. If you would like to submit a news item please email

    Award for Outstanding Contributions to Advanced Transit

    December 15th, 2017


    ATRA has instituted the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Advanced Transit. The first award was given in 2016 to Prof. em. Jerry Schneider for creating the Innovative Transportation Technologies website.


    The next award will be presented in May of 2018 at the APM-ATS conference in Tampa Florida. Nominations are welcome to through December 31. Nominations should include a half page presentation and motivation. The award consists of eternal recognition, a plaque and a symbolic US$500.


    The History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year (9)

    December 15th, 2017


    by J. Edward Anderson, first ATRA President.

    1984 – The Ninth Year.


    I am not aware of any newsletter issued this year. The activity of note was planning for a series of issue conferences and in carrying out the first one. Dr. Jerry Kieffer, as ATRA Board Chairman, obtained favorable expressions of interest in these conferences from the staffs of the Transportation Research Board, the National Leagues of Cities, the International City Managers Association, and the public administration group in Northern Virginia. Dr. Kieffer pointed out that neither the U. S. House of Representatives nor the U. S. Senate subcommittees concerned with urban transportation had given a priority to advanced transit concepts. However, staff members of these committees wished to be involved in the ATRA Conferences. The TRB staff offered the conference facilities of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington for the location of the first conference. The Board agreed that the whole spirit of the conferences was to emphasize positive lines of thinking and action needed to expand the number of cost- and service-effective advanced-transit options.


    A subcommittee was appointed to plan the first conference.   Its first meeting was held at O’Hare Airport in July. It had been decided by the Board that ATRA would hire a consultant as presenter. He would prepare an issue paper to be made available in advance of the first conference. The objective of the conference subcommittee was to define the range of issues that the presenter was to develop in his issue paper. In advance of that first meeting, Dr. Kieffer prepared a list of advanced-transit issues including cost effectiveness, service effectiveness, user acceptance, failure management, construction feasibility, environmental effects, community social and economic gain, and financial requirements. At that first meeting, the subcommittee developed in more detail the charge to the presenter. Moreover, after considerable deliberation and consideration of six individuals, the ATRA Executive Committee selected Morrison Renfrew, Executive Director of the Canadian Institute of Guided Ground Transport, to be the conference presenter. A contract was drawn up for his consultant service for a fee of $1500 plus expenses.

    Here is one paragraph from Renfrew’s paper. The “one U. S. company” he mentions was founded at the University of Minnesota.

    The date of the conference was set for November 15-16, 1984, and invitations were sent out to 100 potential attendees from a wide variety of public and private sector interests. Mr. Renfrew submitted an 18-page paper entitled “Metropolitan Area Transit – The Missing Options.” He first discusses 31 observations about the transit situation, of which the 26th is given above, and then discusses five major areas of problems, issues, and ideas about the future of transit. The paper is as applicable to conditions today as it was in 1984. If any reader of these words wishes, I will scan the paper into my computer and make it available for all. It is a useful read.


    During the year 1984, work on my new PRT system was advancing significantly.


    1. Via its president, Bob Perry, Davy McKee Engineering Corporation became interested to the point that they pledged $1,000,000 of engineering work and paid my salary and expenses to work full time out of their Chicago office for 14 months. We advanced the design in significant ways, developed specifications, found suppliers, and engaged in proposal preparation for several specific applications. Davy McKee was a systems-engineering company that designed and constructed whole plants for a wide variety of applications from energy production to diapers.


    1. A change in leadership was necessary. We elected Dr. Roger W. Staehle, former Dean of the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota, as our new President and CEO. He had many contacts in high levels of the corporate and financial world. He established his office close to the University of Minnesota where he had a secretary and my two graduate students, while I continued to work out of the Chicago Office of Davy McKee.


    1. That summer, Roger requested permission from University President C. Peter Magrath for approval for us to use land owned by the University in Rosemont, Minnesota for our test site. In President Magrath’s approval letter he said


    “I am particularly pleased to support the development of the PRT technology since it was conceived and developed at the University of Minnesota. Moreover, I understand that the potential for job creation and economic benefit that might accrue from this technology could have an important impact on the State’s economy, on the University of Minnesota, and on transportation problems worldwide. We are all very excited about the PRT technology and we hope that the Rosemont site will ultimately become the leading international center for this technology.”


    Roger plunged quickly into the task of raising investment capital. Two months later he had finished a document almost an inch thick that he used with potential investors, and he decided to name our PRT system “Alpha.” We had been discussing applications of Alpha at the 3-M Research site in St. Paul; in Oahu, where a company there stated firmly that it was the only solution to Oahu transportation problems; in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver, Madison, and Virginia.

    On the technical side, I completed many of the analyses needed to answer a variety of questions about how the design should evolve. We had many meetings with people and organizations interested in participating with us, the most important of which was General Electric. The GE Plastics Group wanted to supply our vehicles and they raised the possibility of placing Alpha at their campus in Pittsfield, Mass. Bob Perry, Davy McKee President, sent me to England to check out linear induction motors, because that was the place where the best LIM work had been done. There were two LIM companies in England: Linear Motor, Ltd., a company owned by the Davy Corporation and formed by Imperial College Professor Eric R. Laithwaite, who had begun experimenting with LIMs shortly after World War II, and Force Engineering, a company that had split off from Linear Motor for reasons that often happen with start-up companies. The picture shows me at the right with two engineers from Linear Motor, Ltd. inspecting their test work.

    My paper “Optimation of Transit-System Characteristics” was published in the Spring 1984 edition of the Journal of Advanced Transportation. I distributed the 100 copies I received to people who were interested. This paper was a landmark in the sense that for the first time a comprenensive and rigerous proof was provided that shows that minimization of the capital and operating cost of a public-transportation system leads to a form of PRT, both because of the high ridership PRT will attract and because within the concept of PRT all costs can be minimized in a way not possible with conventional transit.

    Shortly after I arrived at Davy McKee I found an IBM personal computer on my desk. All of the Davy McKee engineers used such computers for all calculations except those that required a large main-frame computer. This was during the age of transition between use of all mainframe computers and PCs. When the price of an HP 19 went below $100 I bought one and it made much of my work easier. When I started my PRT project in September 1981 I was still using the HP 19, but the price of an HP 41 hand-held computer became sufficiently low that I bought one. I was still using it when I joined Davy McKee and even did my first structural analysis of a truss guideway on it. I purchased the first so-called compact PC available, one made by Compaq. This computer had a 9-inch screen and only 10 kilobytes of internal memory with no hard drive, but it served me for almost three years. It was far superior to my HP 41 and I plunged into many analyses much easier. If I had started my PRT design project even a few years earlier, I would have been severely handicapped because I couldn’t afford mainframe-computer time, which went at around $500 per hour. Every year at that time, better hardware and software became available, and I upgraded as I could afford to do so. My computer power on the IBM PCs was sufficient that I could begin developing a PRT vehicle control system. Once I got the vehicle controller working, I developed a simulation of vehicles moving in and out of a station – a program that we used for demonstration of station operations for maany years.

    The Third Martin Lowson Paper Award

    November 30th, 2017

    The Third Martin Lowson Paper Award
    presented at
    The 2017 Podcar City Conference, Las Vegas, USA

    The Martin Lowson Award, donated by the Lowson Family, encourages young researchers to perform high-quality research in the field of Automated Transit Systems (ATN). This (third) year the award was presented to Dr. Tatiana Babicheva. The 500$ award was presented by ATRA member Joerg Schweizer during the PodCar City conference this November in Las Vegas, USA. Her presentation entitled “Empty Vehicle Redistribution and fleet size in autonomous taxi systems” captured the interest of the audience. The many congratulations and vivid discussions after the presentation testified to the quality and relevance of her research. Hopefully the networking experience and warm reception will encourage her to continue working in the field of ATNs.

    Tatiana Babicheva is researcher at VEDECOM, a French research institute with the mission to further individual, carbon-free and sustainable mobility. She received her PhD in 2016 at the Institute of Applied Mathematics named Keldysh in Moscow, Russia, in the field of mathematical modelling, numerical methods and program complexities. Her PhD theses has been dedicated to mathematical modelling of transportation systems. Dr. Babicheva is also head of the mathematical department at the Olympiad school, based in the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.


    Dedicated Roadways Can Benefit Even Level 5 Automated Transit Vehicles

    November 24th, 2017


    by Robert Johnson

    Automated passenger vehicles such as people movers at airports currently operate on exclusive guideways. In some systems, the guideway mechanically constrains the vehicles, while in others it is simply an ordinary road set aside for the exclusive use of the vehicles. Examples of the latter type include the Ultra system at London’s Heathrow airport and the 2getthere system at Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.

    Because of recent advances in software and hardware, automated vehicles (AVs) will soon be able to operate in mixed traffic along with conventionally driven cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. At that point, costly infrastructure will be unnecessary and automated taxis and buses could use existing streets. However, even if an AV were capable of SAE Level 5 operation (automated operation in every situation a human driver could manage), there can still be significant benefits to providing it with an exclusive roadway. In many cases, it will be more cost effective to increase the capacity of a freeway or arterial by adding exclusive lanes for an AV system, rather than conventional lanes open to all vehicles.

    The benefits include:

    • Exclusive lanes for an AV system can be much narrower than conventional lanes. Less side clearance is needed because AVs can steer precisely, and if the vehicles were part of a fleet they could be uniformly narrow. For example, the Ultra vehicle needs a lane only 160 cm (5.3 ft) wide.

    • Less than half as much vertical clearance is needed as for a conventional lane. Only about 2 meters of clearance (6.6 ft) should be adequate for vehicles with all seated passengers. This allows grade separation at greatly reduced cost. In areas of moderate density with a limited number of cross streets, the AV road could be mostly at grade and pass under cross streets in a structure similar to a pedestrian underpass. Pedestrians and cyclists could cross the AV road at points between cross streets by using small bridges. The AV road could drop to about 1 meter (3.3 ft) below grade under the bridge, thus allowing the bridge surface to be slightly more than 1 meter above grade.

    • The support structure for elevated sections of an AV road would be much lighter and less expensive than for an equivalent length of conventional roadway, since the latter must be able to carry heavy trucks.

    • Accidents caused by manually driven vehicles would be eliminated, greatly increasing safety and eliminating delays that even a minor accident can cause.

    • Because of much lower local environmental impact, AV roads could be routed through areas where a conventional road would be unacceptable. Public opposition to new freeways and even arterials is well known. In particular, nearby residents object to noise and pollution from internal combustion engines. If the roadway were part of an AV system, residents could be assured that all vehicles would be electric, and there would be no noise from revving engines, honking horns, squealing tires, or large trucks.

    Most of the benefits mentioned above are greatest for systems using narrow vehicles with all seated passengers. The same benefits are present, but to a lesser degree, for larger automated shuttles that accommodate standees, such as the 2getthere ParkShuttle and the EasyMile and Navya shuttles. These are higher and wider than Ultra vehicles, but can still use exclusive lanes that are narrower and have less vertical clearance than is required for conventional traffic.

    The History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year (8)

    November 8th, 2017


    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.




    History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year (7)

    September 29th, 2017


    History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year
    by J. Edward Anderson, first ATRA President.
    1982 – The Seventh Year.
    Dr. Jerry Kieffer, as ATRA Board Chairman, wrote to the Board of Directors as follows:year 7




    ATRA Co-Sponsored with the TRB New Systems Committee a Session at the January TRB conference. ATRA Board Member Catherine Burke chaired the session. She asked the speakers to address the following questions: (1) What are the advantages and who will benefit in the technology you present, (2) What are the technological, financial, or other barriers to implementation, and (3) Why do you believe this technology can succeed in being implemented?
    James Lawson of Garrett discussed flywheel energy storage in electric buses. Clarence Adriance of Boeing discussed magnetically levitated system. Carl Walters of Lawrence Livermore discussed use of inductive power. George Paster, having left UMTA and joined UTDC, discussed the UTDC intermediate capacity transit systems planned for Vancouver and Toronto. The novelty in this steel-wheel, steel-rail system was that it used linear induction motors for propulsion. John Fruin of the Port Authority of New York discussed accelerating walkways. Bob Dietz of Gannett Fleming addressed problems of cost control in advanced systems. Mike Powells of BAA discussed how new technogies can be attracted to operating properties.
    Under the new Reagan Administration, there was no work at UMTA on AGT, hence the Advanced Transit News reported on work on advanced transit-related concepts elsewhere.
    Construction of the first line of VAL, the metro system in Lille, France was near completion. For aesthetic reasons, most of the line was underground. When completed, the system was to be able to transport 15,000 passengers per hour in two-car trains. The trains were automatically controlled and ran on 2 rubber tires. Lille was the first city in the world to be equipped exclusively with new-technology equipment.


    7 year 6


    AiResearch, a division of Garrett, was selected to manufacture a system of flywheel storage funded by UMTA.
    A variety of advanced battery systems were subject to strong R&D, but delivery of functioning hardware was at that time nil. General Motors was testing a nickel-zinc battery and a zinc-bromine battery. The hope was to develop a battery with sufficient energy density to be used in buses.
    Booz-Allen published a study on the use of hydraulic accumulator technology to regenerate braking energy in transit coaches.
    Based on funding from UMTA, Transport Canada, and SNV of West Germany, a Dictionary of Public Transportation was published by N. D. Lea and SNV.
    The Center for International Programs at Michigan State University sponsored a conference in London to offer American transportation managers an opportunity to study British modes of transport for people and goods.
    The City of Helsinki, Finland, was nearing completion of the first section of its rapid rail transit system. The decision to build was made in 1969 and construction started in 1970. The construction and design of the system was done entirely by Finish firms. Each car has a capacity of 200 people. Train operation was automatic with an attendant present to operate if necessary. Part of the system was elevated and part underground. The total length is 11.2 km.


    Helsinki Rapid Rail

    Helsinki Rapid Rail


    A 35-km rail line was being planned for Caracas. It would be steel wheel, steel rail, standard gauge, with 1500v DC third rail. They planned nine-car trains ultimately operating at 100 km/h and 4-minute headway. The trains could operate either manually or fully automatic.

    The European Conference of Ministers of Transport published the results of a series of studies entitled “The Future of the Use of the Car.” Factors affecting car use were discussed and the relationship between private car use and public transportation were reviewed.
    The text “Free Enterprise Urban Transportation” by Gabriel Roth and George Waynne discussed privately-operated, non-subsidized, and profitable public transportation modes operating around the world and analyzed their appliability to the U. S.
    The NCTRP released two reports of its activities since its creation in November 1980: “Cleaning Equipment and Procedures for Cleaning Buses” and “Priority Treatment for Buses on Urban Streets.”

    year7 3
    On January 13, 1982, an accident occurred on the metrorail rapid transit system of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. A six-car train derailed and collided with the center dividing wall between the main tracks while making an abnormal move at a crossover between stations. Three people were killed and 50 injured. An investigation showed that the cause was improper implementation of manual operating procedures.
    In June 1982, the University of Minnesota Patent Office gave me a grant of $100,000 that allowed me, with two graduate students, to spend a year full time developing my new PRT system. By this time five patents had been applied for, two on the switch system, two on the guideway, and one on a novel control concept. Indiana Representative Dick Doyle provided $5000 to build the model shown here. The person on the left in the picture is Doyle and to the right me inspecting the model.

    year 7 4

    Spartan Superway Speeds Ahead

    September 9th, 2017


    an ATRA Pulse Article by BJ Furman 2017-09-08

    Article below:

    ATRA Pulse Article – Superway Speeds Ahead Fall 2017

    The Driverless Taxi, Driverless Transit Nexus

    September 9th, 2017

    Peter J. Muller, P.E.

    Mercedes just announced they will start building driverless taxis in the 2020 – 2025 timeframe. These vehicles will cost far less than conventional taxis to operate and will likely provide an affordable means of transportation for many people who could then forego car ownership and save substantial money. Each driverless taxi will operate almost 24/7 and not that many will be needed before they dominate vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Some predict that they will be responsible for 90% of VMT by 2030.
    This potentially rapid switch to driverless taxis could have profound positive and negative impacts. Mobility and safety will improve for many. However, taxi drivers, auto dealers, rental car companies, parking facilities, etc. will go out of business and/or have to reinvent themselves. In addition, contrary to common hype, driverless cars will add to congestion for many years before they reduce it (if they ever do).

    Impact of Driverless Cars on Congestion Data source: ITS International

    Impact of Driverless Cars on Congestion
    Data source: ITS International

    Some of the reasons for this are:
    • Driverless taxis will add to VMT by driving empty to pick up the next fare
    • Urban sprawl may increase with less expensive transportation
    • HOV lanes that change direction for morning and evening peaks will no longer work
    o This is because empty taxis returning for the next fare will balance flows in each direction
    • Platooning, narrower lanes, etc. require most vehicles to be driverless and require infrastructure changes
    Thus, the improved mobility will be hampered by increased congestion.
    This is where driverless transit that has its own infrastructure fits in. Automated transit networks (ATN) are comprised of driverless small (car- sized) vehicles traveling on dedicated (usually elevated) guideways. Such systems have been in public service for decades and have higher capacity and average speed than light rail, while costing far less to build and operate. New generations of these systems are being developed that will provide quicker service than cars and have guideway capacity similar to seven freeway lanes.

    ATN Station

    ATN Station

    ATN systems can be deployed along and/or adjacent to freeway corridors. A typical arrangement could consist of many interconnected one-way loops forming a ladder-like layout. The legs of the ladder could be about a mile or two apart and could straddle the freeway alignment. The rungs
    would alternate in direction and provide access from one leg to the other. Offline stations could be located about half a mile apart on both legs and rungs. Thus, an area about two miles wide centered on the freeway would have a high-quality transit system within walking distance for most people. Many studies have shown that an ATN system will attract drivers from their cars and the freeway congestion would immediately start to diminish.

    Schematic ATN Layout

    Schematic ATN Layout

    But what about the people further away from the freeway? This is where driverless taxis could play a key role. These areas are likely to be less congested and the taxis and autonomous shuttles could very effectively bring people to the ATN stations thereby greatly increasing the transit service area and the ridership. Furthermore, an ATN system creates jobs for the initial construction as well as for operations and maintenance.

    Transit mode share with and without ATN Source: Studies in named cities

    Transit mode share with and without ATN
    Source: Studies in named cities

    The combination of driverless taxis and transit could be the best way to deal with the coming driverless revolution.
    Peter Muller is President of both PRT Consulting Inc. and the Advanced Transit Association. He can be reached at

    History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year (6)

    September 8th, 2017


    History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year
    by J. Edward Anderson, first ATRA President.

    1981 – The Sixth Year.

    This spring ATRA elected a new slate of officers. Dr. A. M. (Tony) Yen, president of Technology Research and Analysis Corp. of Arlington, VA, was elected President of ATRA. Dr. Catherine Burke, Associate Professor of Public Administration at the University of Southern California was elected Vice President; and Dr. Duncan MacKinnon, Chief of the UMTA Advanced Development Program, was elected Treasurer. At its July 11 meeting, the Board of Directors elected Dr. Jerry Kieffer Chairman.

    Dr Tony Yen

    Dr Tony Yen

    Barriers to Technology Development were discussed at an ATRA session at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting on January 14, 1981. Al Sobey of General Motors and formerly of TTI/Otis said that federal R&D by itself inhibits private development. When the federal government preempts private industry by doing the same work and making it available to everybody else, it discourages private initiatives. Moreover, experience has shown that UMTA is reluctant to accept new ideas from the outside; and has mandated designs that freeze technical concepts, inhibit the feedback from field experience, diffuse responsibility for designs, and discourage innovation. Dick Hacker of Boeing stated that the two primary barriers to technology deployment are 1) the lack of common understanding of the need or scope of transit technology that users, operators, industry or the nation will support, and 2) the lack of a long-term national commitment to urban transit technology that transcends short term political and funding cycles.

    UMTA’s Automatic Vehicle Monitoring (AVM) Program was aimed at improving schedule unreliability in large transit systems and on heavily traveled routes where buses often bunch together, creating long headways after the consecutive arrival of several buses at each stop. In an AVM system, elecronic and computer technology was used to automatically monitor the location and progress of the vehicles in a fleet.

    While the newly elected Reagan administration announced that federal funding for DPM projects would be eliminated, funding for the Miami and Detroit DPM projects were sufficient for those projects to proceed. Money in the UMTA budget for innivative techniques and technology introduction was completely eliminated. Funding for AGRT was reduced to $8.6 million. UMTA intended to discoutinue the AGRT development program, but it managed to continue until 1986, and produced valuable information about control that was useful for PRT.


    UMTA’s Paratransit Vehicle Program continued. Its goal was to stimulate the auto-motive industry to manufacture vehicles that would meet the needs of paratransit service at an affordable cost. As shown here, these vehicles would be equipped with a wheelchair access ramp that is deployed by the driver. It was felt that a shift in policy at the Federal level could help spur the widespread introduction of innovative transit technologies for the elderly and handicapped. The new policy could lead many transit cities to opt for providing door-to-door specialized services such as shown here in an UMTA-funded program.

    The ATRA Board held a discussion of the following topics related to the current decline of federal funding for public transit:  1) Can new technologies still play a role?  2) Financial incentitives via deregulation.  3) Free marketplace economics for public transit, and  4) Can low- income citizens still be served by public transportation?

    In his opening message, ATRA President Tony Yen said: “We can fill an important gap left by the decline of federal guidance for transit R&D. Doing this has the advantage that it will help ATRA identify new institutional frameworks through which support for R&D in technology can be obtained.”

    The Regional Plan Association studied household auto use in New York State to help policy makers anticipate auto use under different curcumstances. A principal finding was that neighborhood population density has a greater effect on the number of miles a household drives than a variety of other variables such as the number, age, or fuel economy of cars owned.

    Thanks to a grant of $300,000 from the US DOT, the City of Las Vegas initiated a study of the feasibility of a high-speed (300 mph) passenger train connection to Los Angeles. This was the first study of this type to receive a federal grant.

    ATRA planned a session on New Transit Technologies and Issues to be held at the January 1982 TRB Meeting in Washington, D. C. The technologies to be considered were: 1) Composite Flywheel Energy Storage and Propulson for Bus Applications, 2) Magnetically Levitated Urban Transit, 3) New Transit Systems in Canada, 4) An Acelerating Walkway Application, 5) Future Trends in Technology Deployment, and 6) Methods for Cost Control in Implimentation of Advanced Systems.
    In May 1981 a two-year study of automated transit systems for the downtwon area of the City of Indianapolis was completed. The study found that an automated transit system could be feasible in Indianapolis subject to preliminary engineering studies. Consultants to the city included Barton-Aschman Associates, Inc. as prime contractor with Anderson/MacDonald, Inc. as one of the subcontractors. A range of elevated AGT systems with vehicles accommodating 60, 40, 20, 12, and 3-passengers were considered.


    The 3-passenger vehicle network for Indianapolis

    The 3-passenger vehicle network for Indianapolis

    The result of the Indianapolis study was that the smaller the vehicle the lower was the total cost per passenger-mile, due both to improved service and decreased guideway cost. For reasons of personal security, the League of Woman Voters in particular rejected the larger vehicles in favor of the 3-passenger vehicle in which one would ride only with chosen passengers or alone. They imagined rides in off-peak periods shared with unknown persons and said “No thanks”. At the time, the only 3-passenger vehicle available was the German Cabintaxi. Since that program was terminated in December 1980, attemps were made to find an American company willing to take it over, but no such company was found.

    On November 16, 1981 Jerry Kieffer, as ATRA Chairman, wrote to the ATRA Board Members with concerns of that time. In part, he said “Transportation policy makers have an urgent need to have more options for providing effective service and for developing capital and operating resources. ATRA can play a helpful role in stimulating fresh thinking and in widening the circle of awareness about such thinking. That was what ATRA was first set up to do, and clealy we should be greatly challenged by what needs doing now. In the weeks ahead, we will be asking the ATRA Board to advise on particular themes or ideas that could be adopted for association development and consideration, along with possible formats for presentation of such themes, or specific ideas within themes.”

    For several years since 1976 I had been the U. S. Representative for Cabintaxi. Because of termination of that program, my colleague Ray MacDonald and I began thinking of a new design. Since I was to teach Senior Mechanical Engineering Design during the three quarters of the academic year 1981-82, I assigned to groups of about 15 senior mechanical engineering students each quarter successive aspects of the design of a new PRT system. This enabled me to spend at least half my time working on an improved PRT system. As indicated in the chapter on structures in my book Transit Systems Theory, I had found that the minimum-cost guideway was narrower than the vehicle. The Aerospace Corporation1 had reached the same conclusion and had placed a vertical chassis inside a U-shaped guideway. Cabintaxi had also reached the same conclusion about need for a narrow chassis, but placed chassis components outside a narrow vertically oriented box-beam guideway, which made the merge and diverge sections of the guideway complex and expensive. Thus, for my design classes, I specified a guideway design similar to that propose by The Aerospace Corporation, but to minimize cost my guideway would be a truss structure. The first version of my guideway is illustrated here.

    For reliable, all-weather, maximum throughput in vehicles per hour, both Aerospace and DEMAG+MBB (developers of Cabintaxi) used linear electric motors with system designs initiated in the early 1970s. A serious problem then was solved in the late 1970s by the variable frequency drive, which if used properly markedly increased the efficiency of a linear induction motor. Hence, with the advice and assistance of two Electrical Engineering Professors, I specified the LIM and VFD.

    My first vehicle design

    My first vehicle design


    [1] Available on

    History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year (5)

    August 8th, 2017


    History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year

    by J. Edward Anderson, first ATRA President.

    1980 – The Fifth Year.

    At the beginning of the fifth year, the ATRA Board voted new leadership. Dr. Larry Goldmuntz was elected Chairman, Bob Maxwell of the US DOT President, the one-man German UMTA Hermann Zemlin Vice President, Tony Yen Secretary, and Dr. Jarold Kieffer Treasurer.

    Dr. Goldmuntz w/ his wife and my wife.

    Dr. Goldmuntz w/ his wife and my wife.

    1980 was very much a year of soul searching for ATRA. Should we exist, what should be our objectives, etc.? We determined to continue to exist and we urged AGT development through the Advanced Group Rapid Transit program, notwithstnding that we knew its defects.

    In an Editorial, Bob Maxwell noted that “The lessons learned are that innovation and new technology applications are difficult to achieve and far more costly and time consuming that anyone would have imagined.” Maxwell mentioned that Dr. Kieffer had written a paper entitled “Guidelines for Public Transit . . .”, in which he said “What is needed are public transit technologies that offer real promise of breaking out of the severe service and cost limitations that make and keep conventional technologies so disadvantageous to so much of the public and to the planners.” Maxwell surged that ATRA’a goals were no better outlined than in Dr. Kieffer’s paper.

    Dr Kieffer

    Dr Kieffer

    At the January 25, 1980 Board Meeting, discussion centred on two points: 1) to better define ATRA’s role in advanced transit areas and to find a clear identity, and 2) to examine ATRA based on current interest and strength. The greatest number of potential ATRA members were in the technologies, and ATRA should focus on them for the membership drive.

    The world’s first accelerating walkway, in Paris, was anounced in Advanced Transit News, but we have not heard much about them since then.

    A planned DPM for Atlantic City was announced, but it did not proceed.

    A workshop was held at the Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass., with the objective to develop computer models for performing system operational analyses and to develop guideline standards and requirements for design and use of AGT Systems.

    The U. S. House of Representatives voted to continue funding for Advanced Group Rapid Transit (AGRT) development despite Administration attempts to defer the UMTA program. In their justification, they said:

    “Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) could with further development offer better service at less cost than current rail and trolley systems. Users and non-users alike are critical of the lack of amenities, infrequent service, unreliability, crowning, and inconvenience characteristic of transit services currently available in most cities. The AGRT program could help address these problems by making transit more attractive through improved trip time, convenience, comfort, flexibility, and frequency of service.”

    In ATRA’s Statement on the possibility of AGRT cancellation, they said:

    “ATRA deplores the fact that the United States has not been able, for a variety of reasons, to develop a healthy transit industry. This country needs a transit industry that can manufacture reliable, low-cost products. This country needs the most cost-effective approaches that tecnnology can provide to improve transit patronage and productivity.”

    Yoshio Tsukio, an ATRA member and Associate Professor at Nayoya University, gave a status report on Automated Guideway Transit in Japan. He listed nine AGT systems under development in Japan and said that seven of them had been deployed. He said that the Ministry of Construction plans to subsidize and strongly suport the deployment of about 200 km of GRT guideway by 1985, and 1000 km by the year 2000.

    CVS: The Japanese PRT System

    CVS: The Japanese PRT System

    ATRA Member Robert E. Johnson wrote an article in Advanced Transit News about the UMTA Automated Mixed Traffic Vehicle program that had been quietly progressing for several years. An AMTV uses inductive guidance and optical censors to operate safely at low speeds on existing rights-of-way shared in places with pedestrians. UMTA had a technology-development program at JPL to develop a breadboard vehicle. They were working on improvement of sensor and controller performance and a vehicle with features that will allow reliable and safe operation in an actual transit environment.

    The Office of Technology Assessment conducted a study on the AGRT program. They concluded: “Unless cities adopt forms of transportation that require less energy and space, they face a future of greatly increased traffic congestion and reduced mobility. A technology that could help meet cities future transit needs is AGT, driverless transit vehicles operating on their own fixed guideways. The technologies under development in the AGRT program could be applied to other forms of exclusive guideway transit ranging from large-vehicle urban rail systems to small-vehicle personal rapid transit systems.”

    In March 1980, UMTA invited several ATRA members to a two-day conference at the UMTA office in Washington, D. C. The purpose was to identify factors that may slow or stop PRT development. By the end of the conference it was seen from presentations given by UMTA and TSC engineers that PRT development should be encouraged beyond the AGRT program.

    In an editorial in the Advanced Transit News, Alain Kornhauser said there is “a realization that the automobile has reached an historical peak, and its perceived costs are rapidly becoming greater than its actual costs. The catastrophic rehabilitation needs of our urban and interurban highway system, manifested by inflation, a fixed revenue rate and a declining base (gasoline consumption), may well bring the automobile to it axles.”

    In cooperation with the Committee on New Systems and Technology of the Transportation Research Board, ATRA was to present a session on January 14, 1981 on “The Role of Technolgy in Urban Transportation Barriers to Technology Deployment.”

    Proposed system map

    A preliminary Environmental Impact Statement was completed on a proposed DPM for Downtown Detroit. A map of the route is shown here. The DPM would operate on a one-way loop guideway 2.96 miles long.   Travel speeds on the loop would range from 17 to 30 mph and the entire loop could be travelled in 14 minutes. Station locations are shown as black rectangles on the illustration shown here. Passenger volumes were predicted to be 71,000 per weekday in 1990 with 11,500 passengers in the noon peak hour.

    Vought Corporation released a report entitled “Passive Vehicle Automated Guideway Transit Documentation of Previous Work and Assessment of Impacts of New Technology on this Concept,” which was a small-vehicle AGT called LectraVia. It used passive vehicles operating on an active guideway and was propelled by linear induction motors mounted in the guideway. They concluded that passive vehicles would provide the system reliability neeeded to deploy AGT systems with many small vehicles (12-passenger or less) in applications where continuous high service levels would be wanted such as in business, governmental, medical and educational service areas.

    In the September 27, 1980 ATRA Board Meeting the following questions and ATRA’s role in relationship to them were discussed:

    What is needed, what is the acceptablility and viability of AGT systems?

    What are the views toward advanced systems by users, planners, builders and operators?

    Should we consider other forms of advanced transit besides AGT, such as advanced buses and new paratransit systems?

    The discussion concluded without definitive answers to resolve the questions.

    Henry Najeko, UMTA Associate Administrator for R&D and ATRA Member, explained the UMTA R&D Program. He said that the DOT had undertaken a major review of its R&D efforts. He said that DOT had been underfunding R&D by a factor of 2 or 3 or 4, and that there was more support for looking farther ahead instead of planning just to meet the immediate needs of financially strapped transit properties. He wondered how much R&D would occur in the private sector if the Federal government were to withdraw, and doubted if they would pick up the slack, but suggested that ATRA might want to explore this question. He favored UMTA doing testing of new or improved transit technology to qualify them for capital grant funding.

    In the summer of 1980, we were informed that the 12-passenger Cabintaxi project was approved for construction in Hamburg. In December 1980 we learned that a newly appointed Minister of R&D canceled that project. That was the last we heard of Cabintaxi in Germany.