Currently in Mesa, the city is in the midst of a long term transit analysis and exploring various transit options for the future. Supporters of the untested and futuristic concept, built by Unimodal, want it included in the analysis and as the focal point of the study. Mind you, the analysis will help steer the city's future transportation planning.
To include PRT as a focal point of the analysis is simply ludicrous. PRT systems are not designed for mass transit, period. They are incapable of handling large passenger loads and are more suited for places like universities and large company complexes with many buildings spread out over hundreds of acres.
Wild and unsubstantiated claims on the SkyTran website such as SkyTran being able to "totally eliminate commuter congestion in any city" is literally false advertising and a complete misrepresentation of the product. Another claim of "SkyTran can END road congestion, car accidents and automobile air pollution" also state the impossible.
Where are the actual studies proving these claims? Not in-house computer projections or "what we believe" press releases but the actual independently conducted case study that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that SkyTran will totally eliminate 100% of the traffic congestion in any city? I already know the answer, there isn't any such study.
The author of the azcentral.com article, Jerry Spellman who is a volunteer coordinator for Unimodal/SkyTran (and would make a tremendously successful used car salesman), touts SkyTran as the cure-all to Mesa's transportation problems. It can make a profit that can be shared with the city, Spellman proclaims. The same claims were made about the money losing Las Vegas monorail. Unlike the Las Vegas monorail however, Spellman wants the SkyTran system as the focal point of Mesa's transportation future. An untested and unproven mode of transportation that is full of the promises of Utopia if only it can be built.
Another claim from the makers of SkyTran is that people will be traveling around at 100 mph around the city. If you sent someone in one of the passenger pods for a 4 block ride, you would not get it to 100 mph. If you did, that person would be thrown back and whipped forward as there is insufficient space for speeding up and slowing down safely. You also would have hundreds of switches and sensors along the line to allow the PRT pod to bypass stations and other pods. One tiny error in any of the millions upon millions of calculations per second the system must do or a small system glitch, as the driverless pod is whipping around the city at 100 mph, could easily spell disaster.
The SkyTran website reads like a science fiction novel. Between the wild claims being made, bashing every other mode of time proven technology and fancy computerized graphics, one gets a clear vision of how Utopia is seen through their eyes. I really had to fight to convince myself that the SkyTran site wasn't a satire site but a real site aimed at convincing people that SkyTran is the answer.
"No ongoing taxpayer subsidies needed!" exclaims Spellman in his article. "A load of bull!", I exclaim here. As with the Las Vegas monorail, more tax money will have to be pumped into it as time goes on. Simply put, SkyTran will not even remotely pay for itself yet alone bring in the big profit that Unimodal states it will. There will be no sharing of the windfall with the City of Mesa.
To pay for the operation, you will either have to charge a ridiculously high amount to ride it which will keep most people off of it (and you still won't meet the operating costs as the higher the price, the less will ride) or you'll have to be subsidized by the taxpayer. That's basic Mass Transit Economics 101 in this day and age, Jerry.
Given that SkyTran is envisioned by Spellman as the central core of Mesa's transportation system, there is no way in hell that more tax money won't have to be poured into it. Your not going to be able to have SkyTran be the core system while charging $25 a ride. Your going to have to get the price down to existing transit fares which will mean a big drain on the SkyTran finances. To make up for the loss, you'll be heading to city hall to plead for more tax money to keep the system running.
What disturbs me the most is that the SkyTran sales pitch is exactly what tax and spend politicians love to bite on. Something unproven, sure to skyrocket in price and is touting the "green" message that these politicians blindly follow like mice following the Pied Piper. If Mesa doesn't bite on the SkyTran proposal, they'll start hitting up other cities to fund their PRT folly.
If SkyTran is all that it claims, where is the test line on company property to clearly show everyone the concept in a full scale working model? So far, all I see are visions of what it should be with wild promises being made. There is a huge difference between theory and reality. So many things work in theory but in reality they fall far short. In theory, even some of the greatest blunders of mankind looked great on paper but failed miserably when unleashed on the public.
This isn't the only PRT proposal floating around either. There are a few others out there by other companies. An ongoing proposal in Minnesota as well as one in Washington state to mention two I personally am aware of. Each one sounds the same however, build it and all your transit problems will be forever solved. None have been tested nor have any been willing to build a test line completely on their own dime to prove their claims. These companies all want to place it as a central core part of the existing transportation infrastructure. As I see it, this means that they have an escape if things go wrong and can unload the responsibilities onto the government if it goes belly-up.
Mesa politicians should not even think about including such an untested and unproven concept such as SkyTran into the transportation analysis. The residents of Mesa need to make that clear to their elected officials. If built, it won't save money, it won't be safer and it definitely won't cure your transportation problems. You'll end up with an expensive white elephant that even more of your tax dollars will have to be sunk into just to keep it running.