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    A Eulogy to Dr. Jarold A. Kieffer (May 5, 1923 – March 22, 2017)

    February 5th, 2018



    I met Jerry in September 1969 in Minneapolis at the first meeting of a year-long Citizens League study that had been formed to investigate transit alternatives. The local Transit Commission staff had proposed a subway between Minneapolis and St. Paul – the most expensive of the alternatives analyzed by their consultant. About six months before, the University of Minnesota had received a grant from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration to establish a Research & Training Program on the application of new technology to urban transportation, and I was one of the grantees. This resulted because when UMTA was formed in 1964, Congress appropriated funds to study the application of new technology to urban transportation. Seventeen studies funded at $500,000 each had been completed in 1968 and were summarized by UMTA in a report called Tomorrow’s Transportation: New Systems for the Urban Future, May 1968. The July 1969 issue of Scientific American contained an article called “Systems Analysis of Urban Transportation,” which was a summary of the work under the grant given to the General Research Corporation of Santa Barbara. Several of the Citizens League committee members including Jerry and me had read the Scientific American article and were ready to debate transit alternatives. Several years earlier, while serving as assistant to Arthur Flemming, then President of the University of Oregon, Jerry had become engaged in a controversy over transit alternatives and while at a ski resort, the basic ideas of PRT flashed into his mind. He wrote up his ideas in an article that appeared in an Oregon publication. The previous spring, I had written a paper on PRT. We exchanged papers and found that we had been thinking along the same lines. That initiated a relationship that continue until he became too ill to communicate.


    In early 1969, I had taken on, under the above-mentioned UMTA grant, the coordination of a Task Force on New Concepts in Urban Transportation. We found that several members of the Transit Commission were totally opposed to their staff’s subway plan and Jerry and I met frequently with them to plan a strategy. Jerry’s background in political science, having been honed by years of work in high positions at the federal level, was invaluable as I had then no prior experience in any project involving a public agency. A Minnesota State Senator developed a bill that would give the University a grant of $50,000 to develop a proposal to demonstrate one of the new systems in Minnesota, and Jerry’s advice was a key factor in getting the bill approved – in May 1970. While Jerry was Deputy Director of the Agency for International Development he found time to write the lead article “The Success of the Auto should be a Lesson for Us” for our first PRT conference, held in November 1971.

    After he retired, Jerry became very active in the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA), and for many years as its Chairman, held ATRA together in difficult times. Every time I went to Washington I was a house guest with Jerry and his wife Fran, shown here, and for many years Jerry and I attended the annual ATRA meeting together. My wife Cindy and I miss Fran and Jerry very much. They were our very best friends. Fran died only 3 weeks after Jerry.