Special to the Post
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt after a recent city council meeting posted a blog attack on local company CyberTran International, Inc.
(CTI) and the company’s president Dexter Vizinau. CTI is a transit innovation development company that for close to 20 years has been working to bring Ultra Light Rail Transit (ULRT) systems to market. In comparison, BART was first envisioned in 1946 and began a demonstration project in 1971.
BART technology could not have been implemented without government funding.
The light-rail system, if fully deployed, will eventually be in direct competition with BART. Butt’s company works as a consult for AC Transit, which is in competition with CyberTran.
Butt is against any government monies supporting such technology and has repeatedly refused to provide any letters of support even though he claims to support the technology.
Publicly, he has voted to support the efforts, but his actions demonstrate otherwise.
In his blog statement, Butt starts off by stating the company is not a legal company. CTI, a legal corporation since 1994, had a brief administrative mishap and is currently in good standing as a legal corporation.
Mayor Butt states that CTI has never built or tested anything.
According to Vizinau, all but one of Richmond’s City Council Members have visited the company’s facilities including Butt and have even sat in the 2nd generation prototype.
The system has already been built and tested with over $6 million dollars having been invested in the development of the technology. ULRT was designed to reach speeds up to 150 mph and has been analyzed by the American Association of Railroads.
According to CTI Board Chairman Neil Sinclair, “We don’t have engineering problems, we have political problems.”
The company has taken the prototype vehicle up to 60 mph and has proven the system can climb a 10 percent grade. This means the system can go over grades such as the Altamont Pass and the Grapevine on Highway 5.
Neither BART-type systems nor Bullet Trains can do this and have to tunnel, which is very costly. A study conducted by BART concluded ULRT would be a quarter of the cost to build and half the cost to operate and maintain, compared to a BART type of system.
BART is PG&E’s biggest customer, while ULRT will run on solar and generate eight times more energy than it consumes. The system is a power grid with a transit system in it that provides clean renewable energy to surrounding communities everywhere it will be installed.
ULRT is disruptive technology. According to Vizinau, there is no shortage of status quo groups that don’t want to see this technology move forward.
“Panic is setting in because we are so close to funding so there is a push to discredit ULRT,” said Vizinau.
In 2011, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously to explore a public-private partnership and seek ways to include the system in the city’s general plan. Since Richmond has taken steps to potentially be the first the city to deploy ULRT, the company has made great progress in Washington, D.C.
Washington is only interested in demonstrations that lead to deployment says Vizinau. Somebody has got to be first.
According to Richmond Councilman Eduardo Martinez, “We want to capture the opportunity to create good well-paying jobs in Richmond and be the first.”
However, Mayor Butt has a seat on the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee (WCCTAC), and he is doing everything within his power to kill the idea.