A new taxi service operating on rails in the air could solve some traffic problems for cities around the world.
Public transportation is a great idea that is also a hard sell, especially for Americans brought up to go everywhere in their car or truck.
Major cities have subways for travel within the city (Chicago has one underground and one above ground), and those same cities are connected by trains that help get commuters from one place to another. Most cities, large and small, have buses.
But maintaining most public transportation systems has become a bit of a boondoggle, especially subways. Meanwhile, the streets are clogged with private automobiles and taxi services, including the newly created and generally unregulated types like Uber and Lyft.
Among that crowded field, a California company has unveiled a new entry, called the SkyTran.
Debuting in Tel Aviv last week, SkyTran is an aerial mass transit system that ride elevated tracks built 20 to 30 feet above ground. The tracks operate magnetically, and the cars hang from the tracks above, as opposed to riding them as a train does.
The first example of SkyTran runs for about 900 feet on the campus of Israel Aerospace Industries, which partners with the Mountain View, Calif. Company to develop the sky taxis.
The cars are designed to travel up to 60 miles per hour.
The system is scheduled to expand to three other Israeli cities, and conversations are being held with several U.S. cities for development of the skyway traffic system. The company says Baltimore is interested in starting construction on the system in 2016.
The appeal of the SkyTran is that it is above ground and away from foot traffic. It is cheaper and easier to build than ground supported structures like trains and subways, and it is more environmentally friendly, according to SkyTran CEO Jerry Sanders.
“It’s why we think it is important for the public transportation system,’’ Sanders said in the company’s announcement of the system debut. “Surface systems are expensive and eat up a lot of energy with their big infrastructure and carbon footprint.”
The SkyTran system requires about $8 million per mile to build and the cars cost between $25,000 and $30,000. Sanders said the cars require one-third of the energy used to drive a hybrid car the same distance.
Because the system uses magnetic levitation technology to move the cars, it can operate even when electricity is out or unreliable.
While so-called personal rapid transit systems are appealing to environmentalists and traffic researchers, the system designed for SkyTran has its detractors.
“These systems like this one may make sense in some limited applications like an expansive airport, university/corporate campus, or something like an expo,’’ said MIT City Science Initiative managing director Ryan Chin to CNN. “(But) the construction and operation of the SkyTran infrastructure is not an inexpensive proposition considering you need to have stations that bring people up and down, and in places that don’t have enough urban density this will be too far for people to walk to and from and like remain car-dependent.”
Sanders, however, sees SkyTran as a way to eliminate the car from the urban setting.
“Being stuck in traffic is just the most stress-inducing, soul-crushing part of society today,’’ Sanders said to CNN. “We really want to make people’s lives better and elevated, high-speed transportation is the answer.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.