Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Charles McGlashan and Judy Arnold: Personalized rapid transit
Sunday 25 Nov 2007, 09:12
Filed under: Railroad

SEVERAL MONTHS ago, we met with representatives of Urban Maglev to discuss a maglev train in Marin. In researching its proposal, we learned the federal grant money for a demonstration project was no longer available.However, as a result of the publicity about that proposal, Unimodal Inc. in Southern California contacted us, and as a result, we are hosting them at a public meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. Dec. 5 in the Board of Supervisors Chamber in the Civic Center. Everyone is invited to attend.

Unimodal is developing SkyTran, which is personalized rapid transit that uses small maglev guideways supported on standard utility poles. The automated two-person vehicles are climate controlled with full communication and Web access. Stations can be located every quarter mile where vehicles are available with no waiting. Your vehicle takes you non-stop, point to point to any destination in the guideway network: 45 mph in the city and 150 mph between cities. One guideway has the same capacity as a three-lane freeway.

The elevated guideways eliminate surface collisions. The driverless vehicles use computers, sensors and radar collision avoidance systems to navigate in all weather operation.

is reputed to be the least expensive of all options to install and operate: 10 times less expensive than light rail. Powered by electricity, vehicles get the equivalent of up to 500 miles per gallon of gasoline, and eliminate commuter congestion and gridlock. SkyTran has no wheel and “surfs” on a magnetic wave, literally gliding on air, driven forward by an electric induction motor.

Unimodal claims SkyTran is unlike large cumbersome systems. Its lightweight, simple modular design translates into lower manufacturing, installation and operational costs. SkyTran has the capability of providing off-line stops at every city block. If a high-speed line haul system, like a bullet train, that goes 150 mph stopped and started every city block to load and unload passengers it would never achieve average speeds much greater than 20 mph. That’s why they’re designed to serve a limited number of stops spaced tens of miles, sometimes even hundreds of miles, apart. This is inefficient.

SkyTran vehicles going 150 mph can pass hundreds of stops until they get to their own destination stop. There, they switch off the main guideway into off-line stations, a key feature of personalized rapid transit architecture. Unimodal says this is the personalized rapid transit advantage: you can get on your own vehicle at any city block and go from one end of California to the other and cause no interference with the free flow of any other vehicle at any city block.

They claim the insurmountable problem of public transit today: When you share a vehicle with passengers that have different destinations you have to accept significant time, access and convenience penalties.

We appreciate the opportunity of providing this chance for Marin residents to learn more about this innovative system, which has received funding from the federal Department of Transportation. They also are working with NASA and the National Consortium for Aviation Mobility to design and build composite structures that will be used in the demonstration.

For more information or questions, call either of us at 499-7331.

Charles McGlashan and Judy Arnold are Marin County supervisors. McGlashan represents Southern Marin and Arnold the Novato area.

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