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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.