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    History of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA) Year by Year (10)

    January 3rd, 2018


    by J. Edward Anderson, first ATRA President.

    1985 – The Tenth Year.

    The ATRA Board of Directors met on January 15th in Washington, D. C. Dr. Jarold Kief-fer, ATRA Chairman led a discussion of the Issues Conference held the previous November. He stressed that its purpose had been to help develop the key issues that have impeded the timely creation and deployment of advanced transit systems that could be highly cost- and service-effective in meeting the underserved public transportation needs in medium and low density parts of cities. There were just under 50 attendees that included, in addition to ATRA members, persons from transportation agencies, public and private urban planning organizations, economic development firms, consultants and university faculty members. Dr. Kieffer observed that the “discussions appeared inhibited by the fact that the participants had widely varying knowledge about advanced transit concepts.” About half of them were not aware of the advantages and dis-advantages of advanced transit for meeting needs and thus had no basis for judging the utility of these alternatives to heavy and light rail, buses, or autos for effective service. This caused Dr. Kieffer to conclude that if ATRA were to host future conferences on advanced transit issues that it should provide means for familiarizing participants with the technical, service, and cost char-acteristics of advanced transit concepts. It was felt that the work on the conference and the many contacts made helped identify ATRA as an organization exercising leadership in this important challenge area.

    The Board authorized ATRA leadership to plan another advance-transit-issues confer-ence in 1985 in a major western metropolitan area. All Board members were encouraged to submit ideas for the next conference.

    Dr. Catherine Burke was elected President for the coming year, Dr. Byron Johnson was elected Vice President, and Thomas H. Floyd, Jr. was elected Chairman. Dr. Kieffer agreed to continue to serve as Secretary of the Board.

    In a February letter to former members of ATRA, Tom Floyd commented that advanced transit was a target of doubters. Customers and manufacturers willing or able to take risks were relatively few, R&D money was short and uncertain, long-term commitments to serious R&D were hard to find, and critics unfairly attacked ATRA members for allegedly wanting to abandon all heavy and light rail or bus technology. Yet, Floyd gave former members reason to join AT-RA again.

    Drs. Burke and Johnson teamed to initiated planning for the next conference, which was to be held in Denver in fall 1985. Tom Floyd clarified ATRA objectives in terms of its mission definition, identification of it supporters, membership promotion, conferences, and its publica-tions. He resolved that ATRA would renew its newsletter in the coming year. The Denver Conference Program is given on the following pages:

    Denver Program

    During the first half of 1985 my company, Automated Transportation Systems, Inc., was busy developing specifications; finding companies that might team with us; finding suppliers for all of the components; two visits to the General Electric Plastics Division in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; visits in Madison, Wisconsin; a visit to the General Motors Research Center in Warren, Michigan; visits to Waynesboro, Virginia, and Scottsdale, Arizona, to meet with people interested in promoting applications; and even a visit by our CEO, Roger Staehle and me to Mitsubishi engineers in Tokyo. A structural design and construction firm, Peerless Welders, Inc. built the section of guideway shown here. In June, we were invited to give a presentation before many leaders in the Madison community, and it looked very much like we would be locating there. We had an endorsement letter from Madison Gas & Electric Company indicating their support. urban3

    The remainder of the year was mainly devoted to raising the money we would need. In December, it appeared that Roger had hit pay dirt. He visited Stuart Watson, grandson of IBM founder Thomas Watson, and his close friend Judd Berlin at Stuart’s summer home in Stowe, Vermont. Stuart, then 29 years old, wanted to do something that matched his grandfather’s com-pany, and felt that ATS, Inc. could be it. He set out a schedule of investments in ATS in a board meeting in Minneapolis at the end of December, in which he told us that he didn’t like our name. He argued that a new name must be 1) easy to identify with a means for moving people, 2) easy to recognize in any language, and 3) it must project an image of the future. The name he select-ed was Taxi 2000 Corporation. Here is the new logo showing a picture of our system, which had been drawn in 1983. urban4