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A forward-thinking traffic idea – Marin Independent Journal
Thursday 5 Mar 2009, 10:43
Filed under: Marin, Railroad, transit

A forward-thinking traffic idea – Marin Independent Journal.

By Judy Arnold and Charles McGlashan
Posted: 03/01/2009 12:06:16 AM PST
If there eve was a time we needed to think outside the box, it is today in 2009. Given the mandate to achieve significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we need to explore all options for improved transit.We were intrigued by Unimodal’s SkyTran during their initial public presentation in Marin in 2007.

Over the past two years, SkyTran has progressed to the point where we asked our board colleagues to approve a letter asking for a pilot project proposal in Marin, with the hope that, if successful, it could be integrated in appropriate locations in Marin as a connector to SMART and our current bus and ferry services.

Our request is supported by Assemblyman Jared Huffman and Sen. Mark Leno, who are working in Sacramento to acquire funding for this pilot from AB118, which allocates funding for alternative fuels and vehicle technology programs administered by the California Energy Commission.

AB118 will provide grants to develop and deploy innovative technologies that transform California’s fuel and vehicle types to help attain the state’s climate change policies.

It is important to know what SkyTran isn’t; it is not a monorail with intensive infrastructure and need for many people to travel to the same place at the same time.

SkyTran travels on an automated electric guideway system that operates on demand 24/7. Each vehicle transports people directly to the destination chosen by the rider without intermediate stops.

SkyTran consists of:

Pods – small, private vehicles that accommodate one to four people with their belongings, including wheelchairs and bicycles.- Guideways – dedicated tracks for the pods that have a small footprint and are typically elevated above ground on poles. Guideways can be easily integrated with existing roadways.

– Stations – conveniently located boarding locations. Stations can be elevated, and some could be in existing buildings.

– Control System – automatically moves the pods to the rider’s destination.

A pilot project is by definition small in scope, involving about a mile of guideway. Even with this limitation there are several potential locations.

The Civic Center has been mentioned – and we can imagine eventual growth with a loop traveling from the SMART station there to other large employers in the area, such as Kaiser or Autodesk, as well as commercial centers like Northgate.

SkyTran could be a valuable connector to take passengers from the Cal Park station directly into the Larkspur Ferry Terminal with a prepaid ferry ticket – with no additional “wheels on road” in that very congested area.

Others no doubt have good ideas, and we look forward to public input on the best location for this initial implementation.

Lastly and perhaps most important in these difficult economic times is the fact that a SkyTran pilot project can be implemented in Marin with no need for county taxpayer funds.

Pods are currently being assembled at NASA Ames in Mountain View, and Unimodal’s private financing partner is interested in funding a pilot project that can be up and running as early as two years.

This is a first step in a process that will include many discussions and public meetings to identify a location and to analyze environmental impacts.

It is worth our time and attention to work with private industry to bring innovative solutions like SkyTran to Marin.

Marin needs visionaries who aren’t afraid to think creatively.

We are reminded of a Yale University professor who wrote on a student’s paper: “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a C, the idea must be feasible.” The paper was written by a student named Fred Smith, proposing a reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found the Federal Express Corp. (FedEx).

Judy Arnold of Novato and Charles McGlashan of Mill Valley are members of the Marin Board of Supervisors.

I had asked the owner of the company a while back about this for Humboldt County, the answer was he is looking for large cities, and areas.


1 Comment

Sounds about as plausible as rebuilding the railroad through the Eel River Canyon…

Comment by Chris Rall

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