The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

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Friday, August 02, 2002


From the Cabalmaster:

No, it doesn‚t go to you-know-who!

The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal has inducted Dennis Polhill, P.E., Senior Fellow, Independence Institute into the Society for the Abolition of Effective Public Transit.

Mr. Polhill received this award based on a paper which epitomizes “Sappy” thinking (“Is RTD Passing Gas?” Colorado Transportation Center, May 29, 2002.

Mr. Polhill, 55, is a former construction engineer, City Engineer and Director of Public Works, a pavement expert and a past president of the Colorado Chapter, American Public Works Association. See:

The Colorado Transportation Center is an offshoot of the Independence Institute, a right-wing “think tank” with headquarters in Golden, CO. Its president, Jon Caldara, was named Denver‚s “Best Media Manipulator” in the “Best of Denver 2001” feature by the alternative newspaper “Westword” (see:

“RTD” is Denver's Regional Transportation District. RTD is unusual in that its Board is directly elected. Caldara was once RTD Board chair; he and other conservative and Libertarian board members attempted to stop expansion of Denver’s light-rail system. But voters elected a pro-rail board in 1998 and approved the Southeast Corridor (“T-Rex”) project in 1999 (see: “If at First You Don't Succeed . . .” by Kelly Nordini and Lauren Martens of Transit Alliance, in Progress, November-December 2001;

Mr. Polhill’s paper warns the world about the dangers of ozone, generated by the electric motors which power light rail transit vehicles.

“Ozone is produced in electric motors when arcing occurs. Arcing is a continuous process within these motors. Higher voltages and higher power demands yield more arcing and in turn, more ozone. Because LRT is powered by electric motors, some environmental assessment of potential affects is warranted. This question was raised in 1994 in Independence Institute issue paper: ‘Stop That Train’ -- by Mueller and Polhill” (Polhill 2002).

A true Sap(tm) ignores the fact that arcing does not occur within alternating current (AC) motors, which propel virtually all new rail transit vehicles. No arcing, no ozone.

A true Sap(tm) also forgets, whenever convenient, what he wrote (or didn’t write) previously:

“Mueller [Stephen R. Mueller, P.E.] and Polhill” do not mention ozone in “Stop That Train” (Independence Institute Issue Paper 2-94, March 1994;

Nor do Mueller and Polhill mention ozone in other papers:

“Stop That Train II” (Independence Institute Issue Paper 5-94, May 1994;

“Light Rail in Denver: Taking the Taxpayers for a Ride” (Independence Institute Issue Paper 4-97, February 1997; .

It would appear that Mr. Polhill is blowing generous quantities of hot air, in best Sap(tm) fashion.

“No expert or other knowledgeable individuals or reports on outdoor ozone could be found at either the US EPA or the Federal Transit Administration. However, there was a study in Southern California of ozone generation by LRT in 1992. It was conducted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and concluded that one 350 person light rail train produced as much ozone as 8,000 passenger cars and added 0.04 parts per million per train per hour to the ambient air along the light rail corridor. Clearly these numbers understate the problem on the basis of people moved and demonstrate a non-trivial environmental cost of LRT. None of RTD‚s Environmental Impact Statements has made mention of ozone as a potential problem” (Polhill 2001).

The “problem" appears to be the creation of Mr. Polhill himself. The South Coast Air Quality Management District is the air pollution control agency for the Los Angeles metropolitan region. A TransitCabalist™‚ research team has been unable to locate the SCAQMD study referenced by Mr. Polhill, or to find other references such as citations or catalog entries.

“Rail opponents,” writes conservative leader Paul M. Weyrich, “often use bizarre arguments based on calculations that will not hold up in the marketplace of ideas” (see: This is an excellent explanation of “Sappy” thinking.

Mr. Polhill provides an excellent example of “Sappy” logic:

“The fact that nearly everyone, including those who should know the most, seems oblivious should raise a red flag.” (Polhill 2001).

We trust that neither Mr. Polhill nor his colleagues at the Independence Institute use copy machines or “laser” printers, for both produce ozone.

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