Chicken pox: The Villaj Idiut

My wife accompanied my oldest son last month on his school’s eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., for a week.

It was the perfect opportunity for “baching” it, I figured, me and my youngest home alone – which meant unmade beds, Taco Bell for dinner every night, dirty dishes piled high in the sink, soiled clothes on the floor and the unmistakable stench of body odor coming from different areas of the house.

Editorial: June's here and we're all thumbs


Graduations are over and we are all thumbs as we tackle the week in review.

Thumbs-up: To the graduating classes of 2017, we offer congratulations. You have crossed that metaphorical portal into adulthood – guess that means no longer asking the folks for money. Yeah, right.

A Piece of My Mind: A bridge to somewhere

“What’s going on?” I asked the young man busily setting up tables at the plaza where Main and State streets intersect.

“We’re kicking off the Los Altos Downtown Vision plan,” he responded. “Stick around – we’re collecting community input. And we’re serving refreshments!”

Letters to the Editor

Thumbs-up for ‘activating’

Thank you for the wonderful article about an amazing human being, Parveen Panwar (“‘Activating’ positive change: LA resident on mission to empower others,” May 17).

He makes my heart smile. He is what humanity should be all about. Not simply being nice, but acting on it. Yes, Parveen!

Editorial: More public engagement for Hillview

There’s a citywide public “visioning” process underway for determining the future of downtown Los Altos. There’s one also underway for crafting a public art master plan.

How about one for Hillview Community Center? No, and let’s not go there again. That seems to be the sentiment among some observers as the city moves to rebuild Hillview.

Other Voices: PRT –  a solution looking for a problem

The April 26 Town Crier reported on Mountain View's ongoing fascination with “Pod cars,” otherwise known as "Automated Guideway Transit" (AGT) or more accurately as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). This is a bad idea that just won’t die despite many shortcomings with the concept as discussed by experts. Gökçe Günel, for example, explained why Masdar City's PRT is an “Expensive Toy.” (See

Steven Hauser explains that PRT is "a 40-year-old concept for a system of autonomous vehicles that can go to multiple destinations on demand, on a track or guideway. Techo-cultists are fascinated by it – a Jetsonesque technology that has its own German joke word, “gadgetbahn.” Like most cults, it has a core of true believers and the more sinister quacks and scammers that prey upon them. Right wing nutcases back the PRT technology movement; they know it will never be built and PRT proposals can block or dismantle real public transit infrastructure and systems. Occasionally, left wing fantasy loonies who want to transform the world into a Futurama cartoon back PRT schemes. All the PRT backers say 'if only' – 'if only there were politicians to back a real big system it would work; if only there were funding; if only ….'” (See

Fabien and Young explain that "PRT promoters speak in the conjectural tones of 'could' and 'would'. Or 'can' and 'will'.   After 50 years of such conversations, we cannot truthfully state in the present tense: PRT satisfies urban transport needs. At best, we can point to West Virginia University, which is served by a USDOT demo from the 1970s and a few recent shuttles overseas." (See

The folks in Minnesota had to deal with this, as you can read in the PRT Boondoggle blog (

PRT only seems to get built in niche areas, such as airports or planned communities with car restrictions. Author Eric Jaffe points out that "though the concept has been around for half a century, only five completed systems in the world can be reasonably defined as personal rapid transit: those in Morgantown, West Virginia, which opened in 1975; Rotterdam in The Netherlands (1999); Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (2010); Heathrow Airport in London (2011); and Suncheon Bay in South Korea (2014). While there's been a noticeable uptick in the past 15 years, four projects in that span is still, in the report's own words, 'not enough to claim that there is an active market sufficient to support an industry.'" (See

This topic has been discussed at length. I recommend a couple of articles on the Light Rail Now website.

First, there’s “Let’s Get Real about Personal Rapid Transit,” by Ken Avidor ( He points out that “PRT has a solid 30-year record of failure. Its main purpose in recent years seems to have been to provide a cover enabling its proponents to spread disinformation about real, workable transit systems.” (delete altogether if you need more space.

 “The unsubstantiated claims of PRT proponents are always presented in the present tense as if the system is a proven success … which, of course, it certainly is not. Promoters never seem to fail to bash real transit, such as light rail (LRT), as ‘old-fashioned technology.’ Sadly, the media rarely check the veracity of PRT publicity and propaganda.”

A longer, more technical article is “Cyberspace Dream Keeps Colliding with Reality” ( The authors write, “Despite the persistent and fervent claims of its promoters, repeated attempts to implement a working PRT system, even in very small-scale scenarios, have invariably failed. Not a single PRT plan, during these promotional efforts over the past 40 years or more, has seen successful implementation even in a small test application, much less a major, heavy-duty, citywide rapid transit application. Early would-be PRT installations, such as the AirTrans system at Dallas-Ft. Worth Regional Airport, and the PRT at West Virginia University at Morgantown, eschewed any attempt to provide true PRT-style, small-vehicle, customized origin-destination service, and were implemented in effect as line-haul automated guideway transit (AGT) peoplemover systems with some innovative features (such as offline stations).”

And finally, the good folks at Light Rail Now have put up a helpful list of links to various Monorail, PRT, AGT and “Gadget Transit” analyses at

A good article by Setty and Demery points out that, “In our view, it is a big waste of time advocating such ‘gee-whiz’ options, given the severe limits of monorails and similar technologies such as PRT, when U.S. transportation problems are almost always sociopolitical and economic ‘not technical’ in nature.” (See

Mountain View's staff and city council should do some research beware spending money on this solution looking for a problem.

Bill Hough is a Los Altos resident working for a California-based transportation agency. He has a master's degree in transportation from Brooklyn's Polytechnic University.


Letters to the Editor

Plant-based diet key to saving planet

In his May 3 letter to the Town Crier, Jagjit Singh writes about eating a plant-based diet to save the planet (“Switch to plant-based diet to protect Earth”).

Well, he’s right!

Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

You can also have your say right here at – scroll to the bottom of any story to add a comment. 

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