Attendee Reports and Presentations from the New Visions in Transportation Conference: Accelerating Emerging Technologies and Innovative Designs
October 18-20, 2000
For details on the program and speakers, see the conference website. Post-conference information will be posted there in the near future.
Reports from attendees and e-copies of conference presentations are given below, listed by the author's name. Click on an author's name to jump directly to their report or presentation.
Palle Jensen || Dennis Manning || Tad Winiecki || Eric Fosgard || Vicki P. McConnell ||
Francis D. Reynolds || J. Richard Guadagno || Richard Arthur ||
Palle R Jensen, RUF International, Denmark
Why did I attend the conference?
It is a long way from Denmark to Aspen, Colorado, so what made me decide to participate? Several factors were important.
Personally I find it very satisfying to meet with the people I know from the Internet. I had hoped that Jerry Schneider would be there but I was happy to meet Kathy Mueller, Bill Flanigan, Dennis Manning, Ed Anderson, Martin and Joff Lowson plus all the system designers whom I had never seen, but knew from all the discussions.
It was also important to renew my contact to Amory Lovins. I met him at an OECD conference in Vancouver some years ago. In my view his HyperCar concept plus my RUF concept is a very strong combination.
Another contact I would like to keep warm was with Mike Gage of Calstart/Weststart. I have been visiting him several times in Los Angeles because he might play an important role when RUF system production in LA starts. Please note that our strategy at RUF International is, to develop and standardize in Denmark, but to offer licence to local producers.
The presence of Rob Stevens from THINK mobility (FORD) was also a strong attractor. I managed to get contact and introduce RUF to him. High level people from car manufacturers seems to have a Teflon surface, so I have no idea what came out of my contact.
What were the results of my participation?
I think my 30 minutes were used efficiently. Luckily I didnt rely on powerpoint but on an overhead projector. Some other presenters were troubled with weird problems during powerpoint presentations. I got a lot of positive feedback just after my presentation and also after my return to Denmark.
I had brought my portable videoplayer (Sony MiniDV) so that I could show some animations of the RUF concept. I didnt expect the video projector to be able to show European PAL system, but to my surprise it was so advanced that it could show anything. I got permission to show RUF animations in a coffee break and of course I used it whenever it was relevant.
One of the important moments was when I got in close encounter with Mr. Waddleton from FTA. Before me, Richard Arthur from Cybertran had made him understand that the PRT thinking was now a very mature science. He was asked directly if the fact that the Morgantown system now has been operating for 25 years could be taken as an indication that PRT was now proven technology. He seemed to agree with that statement.
Shortly after I informed him about RUF and showed him a short animation of a typical RUF trip and he became very interested.
I also made him understand, that at present it seemed that Europe was in front with the development, now that Raytheon has closed down. The ULTRA system in Bristol is making remarkable progress (Cardiff is a candidate for a PRT system). I teased him with the vision that USA might have to import PRT from Europe!
I think his attitude was moved in a positive direction, but I have no idea how much influence he has.
An editor from Scientific American Newsletters got excited about RUF and the result seems to be two articles plus introduction to the real Scientific American.
Tom Turrentine, anthropologist from UC Davis had noted my picture showing how an elevated system would not be a barrier for the wildlife. He seem to think this argument could be very important. I had made that picture especially for the Rocky Mountains, so I was pleased that it was appreciated.
It was a pleasure to notice how dualmode was in focus. Francis D. Reynolds made a final speech exclusively about dualmode but without focus on his HiLoMag system. He was asked to sum up the whole conference and I must confess, I think he neglected the PRT presentations. On the other hand I must agree with him about the importance of dualmode.
Cabin Taxi people from US told that they had been following the RUF development closely. They recommended me strongly to continue the development in Denmark and not move any activities to the US.
On my way home I read in a newspaper from Denver that approximately half of the persons trying to be elected pointed at traffic problems as the biggest problem of the Denver area. Many also mentioned the need for alternative solutions.
Many more details could be mentioned, but overall I was very satisfied. Dennis, Bill and Kathy made the event a very pleasant one, the weather was excellent and the surroundings were breathtakingly beautiful.
Thanks to Dennis, Bill and Kathy and all others for an unforgettable conference.
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Dennis Manning, President of ATRA
To all ATRA Members:
Conferences are like the blind man feeling the elephant. Each participant
gets a different view. Here is some of what I observed.
Overall I believe the conference was a success. I heard very positive
comments from others, and some talk of holding another one. Thirteen ATRA and CPRT
members attended. With 92 participants it was small enough to make some
contact with most of the attendees. Clearly the most positive aspect was the
diversity of participants. Colorado DOT officials, Ford Motor Company, FTA,
Hypercar, many PRT/GRT representatives, dual-mode systems,
environmentalists, Magnemotion, financial expert, and so on.
This cross-discipline exchange should serve to increase ATRA vision in ever
widening circles, and provide more contacts. It was encouraging to see the
younger set in attendance. As a group they were quite animated and vocal.
The general feeling I derived is that momentum for changes in transportation
across the various disciplines is accelerating. Positive notes - Likely
funding for CyberTran studies in New York, funding flowing to the Ultra
System in Bristol, funding increasing for MegaRail of Texas, Magnemotion has
contract for a goods moving network. Hypercar activity increasing. More tech
creeping into FTA visions, EV activity increasing with Ford's Th!nk Mobility
project, EV projects expanding, auto and utility companies expanding work on
sustainable and cleaner fuels. Taxi2000 pursuing major private capital.
Skyloop study progressing. RUF building prototype vehicle and equipment.
The quality of presentation graphics and video is getting noticeably better,
no doubt enhanced by greater graphic skills derived from Internet use. Palle
Jensen (RUF) in particular has developed some impressive computer animations,
as have Ed Anderson (Tax2000), Doug Malewicki (SkyTran), and Magnemotion had
a nifty network simulation at their exhibit.
The evening Roundtable discussion centered around implementation and
financing issues. It illuminated just how many avenues are being explored.
Since a full PRT system has yet to be deployed, the short take is that
nobody has learned how to do it, but if anyone at the Roundtable was looking
for expanded ideas and sources to explore they should not have been
A lunch meeting involved shaping policy between CPRT HQ and the chapters
that forming in other cities - first in Santa Cruz/San Jose with prospects
for San Antonio, Fresno, and San Francisco. Hard to tell how far this "grass
roots" effort can go, but they serve at the critical local level so
necessary for "warming up" local officials.
I met Joe Shapiro, a computer programmer interested in developing generic
network simulation software, so that anyone could draw up their own network
configuration, input operating variables, and then do runs to see
performance - an example of another possible new initiative generated from
A reporter from the NY Times was in attendance. It is hoped that some
coverage of the conference will make its way into the Times and other media.
Conference organizer Bill Flanigan is working on tying up loose ends and
should have post conference information and new direction possibilities on
the NVT2000 web site soon. There was no formal system set up to make
proceedings available, but Bill also hopes to make some proceedings available.
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Tad Winiecki, Inventor, Higher Way dualmode system
The following are personal remembrances and opinions; everyone else's will
Some PRT advocates may have convinced Federal Transit Administration
Regional Administrator Lee Waddleton that present PRT systems such as
Cabintaxi, ULTRA and Taxi 2000 are improvements on the well-proven
Morgantown PRT system which has been operating for 25 years, thus PRT
systems should not be disqualified from consideration for new transit
I won the drawing for the Rocky Mountain Electric Vehicles - Aspen cap.
The progress on RUF, ULTRA, and Megarail was impressive.
Some PRT companies - Cabintaxi, Taxi2000 and SkyTran are struggling to find
money. Cabintaxi is past the testing stage, Taxi2000 could start testing
soon if it had money, and Skytran has a long way to go.
There were several battery and hybrid vehicles there. I drove a Sparrow
around the block and helped load it in the rental truck to take it away.
I tried to get Ed Anderson to consider putting a Sparrow on a Taxi 2000
bogie to add palletized dual-mode capability to Taxi2000, but I didn't have
much opportunity to talk to him.
At the Thursday night discussion some people wanted to work on marketing
improvements but were side-tracked somewhat by numerous history lessons on
previous failures. Sten Staxler of SwedeTrack wanted to work on forming
alliances to cooperate but didn't appear to attract much support except for
me. We plan to cooperate on some technologies which are independent of
In one presentation on the construction of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon
John McCarty descibed how to camouflage a highway. They did it by using
more concrete walls and bridges and moving few trees and less dirt. They
resculpted the dirt and rocks they cut away to look more natural. They
used cantilevered overhangs on the walls to cause shadows to make them
appear to be smaller.
I hadn't realized it before but my new track design will do the same thing;
the utility duct on top will make a shadow on the part below so it will
appear to be less than its one-meter height in most lighting conditions.
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Eric Fosgard, Portland, Oregon
I am glad I attended the conference. It gave me a much better perspective on both the promise and the challenge of PRT. I was very disappointed in some of the designs. In general, I do not care for proposals that create large unsightly infrastructure. I question the engineering and the marketing of these ideas. Richard Guadagno was supposed to present InTranSys but chose instead to talk solely about the diminishing energy supply, which he claims will be exhausted by 2018. Now there are two things that I disagree with him about.
The discussion on attracting investors was very helpful. Bob Barton (CEO, Catalyst Financial Group, Inc.) discussed 1) the transition of designs from concept to the demonstration model and 2) from the single inventor to the corporation with a board of experienced directors. He had a chart and placed the first on one axis and the second on the other. As you move on a diagonal from the bottom to the top of the chart you have a better chance of getting investment money. A well designed business plan was essential. Venture (vulture) capitalists demand high yields and often are able to steal the control of a company. Angel investors are a better source of funding for start-ups. I found this interesting especially when looking to see which PRT designs seem to be succeeding. On the other hand, one has to start somewhere. I do believe that those who can't partner with universities, governments, or other companies will move on a very slow track.
Amory Lovins was of interest to many of us. His intelligence comes through very clearly. He now has 50 million in investment money to work from. I didn't hear anything different from his website but he has a way of instilling optimism.
Thomas Hopkins spoke about high speed monorail. He was very enthusiastic and had some interesting ideas. He spoke about creating development along the highway corridor underneath the high speed rails. This is similar to an idea that I had earlier but life in the middle of congestion would not be very attractive. He also spoke about F.A.T. corridors (free and tolled) where things are turned on its head. Transit is free and certain highway traffic is tolled. Later I was talking with another DOT guy and Hopkins approached us. Thinking we were not of the PRT mindset he said, "These PRT people treat PRT as if it were religion." He did not think that PRT could handle the capacity.
With less than 100 attendees the designers were much more accessible than I ever imagined. It was easy to meet with people without feeling as if you were imposing. I met Doug Malewicki and the next day a few of us had lunch with Palle. He was very likable. Palles presentation was interesting but it was clear that the time was a little limiting. The materials from RUF indicate that much effort has been given to the use of quality graphics. I was able to get a copy of a full color brochure that will be very helpful to the "lay person" to understand- and how many people he is reaching out to do not fit in that category? Palle has a pleasant way of presenting RUF in a light-hearted manner. Doug also used his sense of humor in getting out the SkyTran message. He had a little maglev demonstration that fit in the palm of your hand. This was a little helpful but you had to be careful not to get pinched by the washer that either floated on magnetic waves or slammed into the magnetic array. I would have been very impressed with seeing a floating slab of metal on top of an array but I suppose I am expecting too much. Maglev seems very mysterious and perhaps most people want to see it in order to really believe in it.
The second day a number of us joined Ed Anderson for lunch. Eds presentation was very clear. The high-tech presentation matched what one might expect from a high-tech PRT system. His history, knowledge, and connections give me confidence in his work. A couple of us talked at length with Marsden Burger of Cabin Taxi. Marsden did not seem very optimistic about getting PRT going very soon. He seemed very dedicated but a little burned out in trying to get support for another implementation. Marsden seems to strongly believe in the Cabin Taxi design but everyone believes their design is the best. The engineering may be superior in some ways. I would think that the 6' tall guideway would be a hard pill to swallow for many communities. This, along with box-shaped vehicles. It may be the steak without the sizzle. Nevertheless, the use of one guideway for bi-directional travel is interesting.
I was impressed with the Ultra presentation. Martin and his son have a very practical side. I spoke with Geoff more than Martin. Geoff told me that they have decided to only work with those who are open and supportive of their concept. They believe in their system and do not have time for the squabbles. They chose 25 mph as the top limit due to government regulations for vehicles beyond that speed. When they discuss things you get the down to earth feel in the tones of their voices. Both were pleasant to talk to. Martin gave the presentation. I found that his deliberate pace gave us just the right amount of information at just the right time. The vehicle and guideway size and shape are pleasing to the eye. I could see marketing this system. It may have a somewhat smaller profile than Taxi2000.
Apparently the politics are much different in England. Once a project like this has government support people do not tend to fight against it. They have a partnership through the University of Bristol, Rover, Airbus, Ove Arup, etc. I guess it is Arup that Martin said was the third largest construction company in the world. That is hard to beat. One wonders how much of Arup is involved. Large companies have so many projects going on that sometimes upper management is not very aware of the details of any given project. It would be great if Ultra were successful and then Arup became fully involved in financing other projects. I am hopeful that this could be a very positive contribution to PRT history.
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Last modified: March 09, 2002