August 11, 2009
My friend Greg Moran, who knows a thing or two about infrastructure, sent me this fascinating link to SkyTran. The developers of SkyTran describe the product thus:
SkyTran is the Auto 2.0 or Auto2 – not just auto-mobile but auto-matic. This new-generation vehicle holds two passengers and weighs just 200 pounds empty. It moves on lightweight “guideways” one-foot wide and 20-30 feet above the ground, riding on magnetic levitation (“maglev”) coils inside the guideway instead of wheels. Because vehicles floating on a magnetic field can switch on and off the guideway easily, there will be stations every few blocks – or several per block in busy areas – little platforms 10′ above the sidewalk or attached to the side of buildings.
GreenTech Media provides a great illustration of what such a system might look like as well:
For a mental picture, think of a magnetic levitation (maglev) trains cross-bred with that thing that shuffles around shirts in a dry cleaner.
The first lines would be along heavy-duty transportation corridors, i.e., delivering passengers from central downtown stations to the airport, or inside the redesigned city of the future. Over time, the lines could be extended to individual homes with parallel tracks for exits. The cable required to propel the vehicle and hold them in the air is only about 18 inches wide and two feet wide, said John Cole, Unimodal’s COO.
“You could install it on standard utility poles. It would require the same gauge [of pole] that would hold up a traffic light,” he said.
August 9, 2009
I currently live in Boston and when I first got here I was discouraged by the meandering streets and their incredible lack of logic. Streets truly do go the path of the cows as one may start going east-west and end up traveling north-south. This lack of thoroughfares and streets with rational routes makes bicycling challenging, on top of the heavy traffic and frequently narrow streets. The New York Times points out today that Boston is trying to make its streets more bicycle friendly and create a bicycle sharing program. The Boston Globe ran a similar article last week.
While getting people to ride bikes in theory gets cars off the road there are many challenges with trying to get more people to ride bicycles in an older city without roads designed for bikes.
- bike lanes are meant for one bike at a time and do not accomodate riders going at different speeds
- many streets simply cannot accommodate a bike lane
- bicycle parking downtown or in other areas
However, I adore the idea of bike sharing, especially if they come equipped with a basket to carry small items like groceries or a purse. Bicycle sharing occurs at unattended stations where people can rent bicycles for a period of time. It works much in the same way car sharing programs like Zipcar and PhillyCarShare do.
The other way of making bicycles more integrated into city life is making transit hubs like subway stops and commuter rail lines equipped to be bicycle commuter friendly. That is shelters or simple racks must be around for commuters to park their bikes at before hopping on other forms of public transit.
Overall, I applaud Boston’s efforts and hope to see many more riders cruising down Commonwealth Avenue in the none-too-distant future.