Mass Tram America Inc is the brainchild of Ben Missler, a (according to Willamette Week) "self-described veteran of the alternative energy movement". Missler and his PR rep Julie Mikalson gave the company's pitch to the Troutdale city council.
Here's how it's supposed to work:De-commissioned Boeing 737's are stripped of their wings, engines and tails. Power is provided by solar electricity, wind power and fuel cells.The system of single rails are hung from suspension cables. Towers from 50 to 100 feet high to support the rail system are erected every 1000 feet and fitted with solar panels or wind turbines.
Mass Tram America claims these tram cars will travel between 100-200 mph.
Where It Is Supposed To Go:
Mass Tram America proposed a Troutdale-Mt. Hood resort area system. But there's a big problem.
A tram from Troutdale to Mt. Hood would have to go through the Columbia River Gorge Scenic area, which is adjacent to Troutdale. As most everyone is aware, the Columbia Gorge Commission won't allow so much as a sno-cone stand in the gorge, so I don't think they'll allow a goofy tram with 300 foot towers.
Troutdale residents tolerate the wind, but I'm positive they wouldn't appreciate 200mph trams flying between 50 foot-high towers above their neighborhoods. Can you see it? You're in your quiet backyard, enjoying nature, when WHOOSH, the tram screams by at 200 mph a mere 50 feet above your previously private yard.
The Portland Tram generated at least one "F*** the TRAM" banner displayed by an unhappy homeowner below that tram's route. I don't think Troutdale residents would be so polite!
What They Say It Will Cost:
$4 million per mile, not including rights of way. Mass Tram America claims they can build this system above existing highway and rail rights-of-way, or leased from farmers and landowners. That's where BIG problem lies with their estimate of $4 million per mile. It is totally unrealistic. Costs would run of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars PER MILE for right of way acquisition.
What's the benefit for Troutdale:
According to Mass Tram America, the tram's benefit to Troutdale would be " free publicity, clean power, solar/wind farms."
We got the free publicity. Willamette Week, KGW TV, Gresham Outlook. I was interviewed twice on KPAM 860's Victoria Taft Show. Not because this tram proposal was a great idea, but because of its goofy LARRY LIGHTBULB concept.
Clean Power? We already have that about 30 miles up I-84. It's called Bonneville Dam, The Dalles Dam, etc. haven't they heard of hydroelectric? Sure, the dams kill fish. But wind farms kill birds by the thousands. Which way would the animal rights activists sway? Is it ok to kill the ugly fish, but not the cute birdies? Too close to call?
What about wind power generation in Troutdale? The city has studied this. According to experts, Troutdale doesn't supply enough wind in the summer. In the winter, our high winds would trigger automatic shut-down of current technology wind generators. They don't operate at higher wind speeds that typically blow through Troutdale for weeks at a time in the winter.
The Reason I Know It Will Never Be Built
If you can't explain what your basic concept is in 30 seconds, you'll never turn your tram dream into reality.
Mass Tram America's presentation to the Troutdale City Council was a long, slightly incoherent ramble of jargon. PR rep Mikalson talked non-stop for 45 minutes. During this entire long monologue, they couldn't elucidate what they wanted, who was supposed to pay for it, how it was going to be financed, or who was going to build it. Even when we asked direct questions on cost and financing methods, we got nothing but generalizations and more jargon.
Instead, we got 45 minutes of rambling on the following items (Taken from my notes)
Complex financial strategy
Business energy tax credit 35% of upfront costs financing
Green tag currency to avoid diesel/Co2 emission
Create green tag currency market now
Climate Trust- greenhouse gas facilitator
High quality carbon offset proposal
Infrastructure would be same as wind towers
Proposal to build megawatts of community based power
Were you bored reading all that jargon? Could you decipher anything about a tram in there? Neither could I.
With all due respect to Mass Tram America, my gut tells me this tram idea is less about alternative transportation and more about finding ways to spend the free money given away by Greeniac scams such as the Energy Trust. The source of the free money: arbitrary Co2 standards set by Global Warming high priests and priestesses as a way to redistribute carbon emission penalties of perceived Co2 pollution.
What They Didn't Disclose To The City Council
I am disappointed in a lack of disclosure by Mikalson. There was nothing in Mass Tram America's written materials or her presentation to the city council declaring that apparently she's also selling solar systems for a solar energy company. At the same time she was encouraging Troutdale to buy into the wonders of this marvelous solar powered tram, she apparently had a dog in the fight as a sales representative of a solar energy company.
According to her own web site, and her MySpace site here, Mikalson appears to be a manufacturers rep for CitizenRe SOLAR equipment. Also of some interest is CitizenRe's business model. CitizenRe is a multilevel marketing organization. According to a recent WIRED magazine article, "Citizenrē's offer is generating a furor in renewable energy circles, fueled by the company's own secrecy and an unusual business plan that combines serious technological expertise with an exuberant multilevel marketing campaign in the style of Amway, Mary Kay and Tupperware."
Regardless of Mikalson's interests, I'm not inclined to do business with pyramid schemes.
Mass Tram America didn't do their homework.
A tram in Troutdale is a Larry Lightbulb solution without a problem.
Costs are inaccurate without considering right of way acquisition costs.
Wind power won't work in Troutdale
Columbia Gorge commission and Troutdale residents would never accept tram or its 50 to 300 foot high towers
If they can't communicate what they're doing in 45 minutes, they can't build anything.
Finally, if you're pitching a solar energy- based transportation system to a city, you need to disclose that you sell solar energy systems for a solar energy manufacturer.