counter statistics

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Discovery Institute Personal Rapid Transit Connection

PZ Myers in an article titled "Microsoft and the Discovery Institute " asked the following question:

"The one issue I haven't seen anyone address, and one the Salon article didn't touch, is whether the Discovery Institute's Cascadia Project is an effective tool for resolving transportation problems in the Pacific Northwest. I have no idea. It could be a font of innovation, or it could be wasteful money sink that publishes white papers and organizes pointless meetings that go nowhere. I'm inclined to suspect the latter, given the incompetence of the director in my field of interest, but my suspicions, the fact that Microsoft officially sucks, and that the Institute is stocked with right-wing theocrats, just aren't enough to rouse me to call for condemnation.

"I would like to call for an objective summary of Cascadia's accomplishments, though…anyone know of one?"


PZ Myers is right when he says the Discovery Institute's theocrats are infamous for promoting "Intelligent Design". Also infamous is the Discovery Institute's support for "Intelligent Transportation". Intelligent Transportation is a term that includes various unconventional transportation ideas that are only a smokescreen for the organization's pro-highway, anti-transit agenda. One of the Intelligent Transportation ideas that the Discovery Institute has fooled around with is "Personal Rapid Transit" or PRT.

Like Intelligent Design, PRT is used as a "wedge" tactic. Its not surprising that promoters of Intelligent Design like Senator Michele Bachmann, also promote PRT.

In a discussion on the Seattle Post Intelligencer web board, someone with the screen name "Soul not sold to Road Warriors" makes the connection between The Discovery Institute and other Puget Sound-based anti-transit organizations that have promoted PRT:

Ted Van Dyk's Greatest Hits / Bloopers Collection

Last Spring, Ted Van Dyk got all excited after attending what he called a "highly informative" Discovery Institute transportation forum at Microsoft - and wrote this column.

Of course, the usual lies and distortions were present - but rather than reel them off (which is so easy to do with an untrained hack like Van Dyk) I want to look at what this conference actually led to. Sure, it got the anti-transit forces fired up, but what came of this expensive endeavor, aside from just more elitists' whizzing in the wind? Plus, our pal John Niles organized the whole thing.

I attended said forum, and was struck by the absurd level of vagueness attached to the whole thing. While the region is poised to actually start BUILDING a modern transportation system, these pin-headed think tank types always seem to have a new, untested, unreliable, "re-inventing the wheel" approach. Naturally, Van Dyk was attracted to the pin heads.

Of course Niles' results-free "Intelligent Transportation Systems"garbage
came up, as well as the perennial right wingers' idea that we can just drop a bunch more buses on the freeways, and that will do it. And, naturally, Libertarian Reason Foundation road warrior Robert Poole had his Niles-like presentation on "Highways and ITS Technology."

At the end of his column, Van Dyk encourages people to log-on to the Darwin-challenged Discovery Institute's website, for a "worthwhile immersion in common sense transportation solutions."

So, what was the immediate follow-up meeting to Van Dyk's inspirational conference?

Yep, you guessed it: yet another stupid Personal Rapid Transit snake oil sales pitch!

And, since Mr. Niles organized the whole thing, of course his CETA pal Jerry "Moonbeam" Schneider had to have a paper to present*.

As if Van Dyk hadn't already discredited himself enough! I can just imagine this cranky elitist sitting back with his wine and cheese, while listening intently to our local PRT geek-cult whackos (who think taking transit can be just like "surfing the internet") pitch their latest simulation.

So, Ted, we know you're just a mouthpiece for the anti-transit crowd over at CETA; and we know you are one of the last people so poorly informed, you would take Mr. Niles' ill-conceived views seriously (along with Bruce Chapman, apparently) repeating his inane claims....but please, Ted: do you really consider PRT "a common sense transportation solution?" CETA has been stupid enough to hitch their wagon to the Jetsons' Golf Cart, but are you really that dumb, too?

On second thought, Mr. Van Dyk, I hope you endorse PRT. It would make your anti-transit / phoney progressive portfolio complete.

[*CETA is the Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives, an anti-LRT group. Schneider promotes PRT and other gadgetbahn fantasies on his wacky website -Avidor]