I was one of those who attended the recent Town Hall meeting hosted by Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott, and was treated to a presentation by Tony Morris, of AMT, on the magnetic-levitation transit system. As a complete stranger to this technology, I was fascinated by what I saw.
The Q and A session pointed out several issues which need to be resolved before attempting to implement the installation of such a system. However, it also pointed out the depth to which the AMT people have done their homework, for which I give them due credit. Although they could not answer every question, their responses indicated that they had applied some thought to every topic that was introduced. In short, there were no “deer in the headlights” moments.
The most interesting thing of the entire presentation, however, did not involve technology or shut downs, or accidents, or schedules, etc, but rather it involved finances. Being one of the ancient denizens of this country, I am more than familiar with pitchmen, hucksters and snake-oil salesmen. I was fully prepared to see one when I went to this meeting. Throughout the presentation, I kept waiting for the catch, the “hook”, so to speak. It never came.
This entire system will be constructed and operated by private funding. That’s right folks! No upfront money. No “good faith” money. None of our money is involved in the construction of the system. Further, it could be operational by 2015, assuming construction could start soon.
Taxpayer involvement would only come, should the ridership fall below the break-even numbers. That number is set at 34,000 riders per day. The system will operate 20 hours per day, which equates to 1700 riders per hour. Assuming it will serve 5 major areas of population that breaks down to 340 riders per hour from each area. With vehicles leaving on 5 minutes schedules, each vehicle could carry as few as 30 passengers, and still exceed the requirement for break even. Based on the areas served in the 21 miles of proposed system, a reasonable estimated ridership is actually around 60,000.
I am sure everything is not as rosy as it might appear, but there are enough positives, at his time, to warrant further investigation, particularly when, it costs nothing to look and quite possibly “nothing to buy”. Frequent letter writer, Ron Sifen, is mass transit knowledgeable, and I will leave it up to him, and others of similar background, to find the “devil in the details.”
As for me, when faced with the prospect of a free rail system throughout the county or one costing close to a billion to build, requiring ten years to construct, and no telling how much cost to operate and maintain, I certainly intend to visit their office and their test track, to find out all I can about this the mag-lev system.
For more information about them contact them at www.american-maglev.com.