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Greens and Republicans

by JOSHUA FRANK

You probably haven’t heard of it. It goes by the name of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), and it is fast becoming the latest fad of the Green Party and others.

So what is this PRT anyway? As Aaron Naparstek recently wrote in NY Press, “PRT is a computerized, driverless mass transit system. The passenger enters a sleek, four-person pod that is guaranteed to be waiting at the station, swipes a fare card, punches in a destination and goes. The pods run on a web of elevated tracks 16 feet above street level with stations every two or three blocks apart. PRT advocates promise transportation with no wait, no traffic and no smelly strangers.”

Even David Cobb, the anointed leader of the GP, has touted PRT as a “Green Technology” and trumped its potential benefits while “campaigning” in Minnesota last year. Dean Zimmerman a Minneapolis, Minnesota city councilman and GP member says that PRT “is going to be a major breakthrough in how people move around urban centers.” Zimmerman has even spoken publicly with right-wing Republicans to make a case for more public funds to study the technology.

Sounds odd. Are Republicans turning green on us? Or is the national Green Party losing its marbles? Sorry to say, it’s the latter.

In reality PRT has never worked despite over 30 years of research and development. Combining the small carrying capacity of a small car, with the expensive infrastructure of mass transit, PRT offers the worst of both worlds. Plus, it’s the brainchild of Ed Anderson’s private corporation Taxi 2000, who has already made a bundle of cash by convincing city and state governments that it is in their best interest to hand over phat research checks.

Although Los Angeles and Santa Cruz California have voted down proposals to allocate money to study the futuristic transit system, New Jersey, which has already appropriated $75,000 to PRT, plans to up that by $100,000 this coming year. While out in Minneapolis and Duluth, Greens and others are hoping their government will pony up the needed cash to go through with the PRT study.

Despite the past failures of PRT, hopes among its boosters remain high. Perhaps their hopes aren’t for a green public transit system; rather they hope PRT can continue to swindle even more loot out of government accounts.

“PRT is really a stalking horse for the pro-highway, anti transit lobby,” claims Ken Avidor who has kept a watchful eye on PRT in his home state on Minnesota. “It is supported by highway engineering firms, right-wing Republicans like [Minnesota] State Senator Michele Bachmann and Tom Delay.”

This new marriage surely makes for strange bedfellows, as Greens and Republicans seem to see eye to eye on the PRT boondoggle. Plus, Greens should know the history of those they are jumping into bed with.

The state of Illinois and Raytheon, the maker of “Bunker Buster” bombs, Tomahawk, Patriot missiles, and other assorted weaponry — has invested over $38 million to study PRT in the Chicago metro area.

“Though it all sounds very gee-whiz innocent, PRT is a major scam,” writes Naparstek in NY Press. “In Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Seattle, Chicago and elsewhere, PRT has burned through tens of millions of dollars of public and private investment. The only tangible result has been to clear the way for highway construction and make legitimate mass transit projects more difficult to build. In at least a few cases, after finally running PRT out of town, citizens learned that the public officials most enthusiastic about PRT had financial stakes in the companies developing it.”

JOSHUA FRANK is the author of the forthcoming book, Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, to be released in early 2005 by Common Courage Press. He can be reached at: frank_joshua@hotmail.com

 

 

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JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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