A network of maglev-powered pods running on a monorail-like system is being touted as the future of city travel. We ask what this could mean for public transportation.
A new high-speed network of two-passenger vehicles called skyTran is positioning itself as the next generation of public transportation, and with its Jetsons-like design, it is easy to see why. The network of vehicles magnetically levitates beneath horizontal tracks in the sky; a design that can only be described as futuristic.
skyTran, which has been developing its system in partnership with NASA, promises low costs, little-to-no environmental impact and no waiting or crowding during commutes. These benefits sound great, but how are they possible?
The vehicles on the elevated skyTran tracks move through magnetic levitation (maglev) propulsion, which releases little-to-no pollution into the surrounding environment. A minimal amount of outside power is needed to kickstart the vehicles into motion, which can be provided by sustainable sources such as solar power.
Both the tracks and vehicles of skyTran are made from inexpensive aluminium with a streamlined design that is easy to mass-produce.
skyTran creators say that the low cost of construction will pay for itself with the high volume of passengers it will receive.
Urban travel freedom
Once a skyTran network is constructed, it will allow passengers to travel quickly and efficiently. Order a vehicle on your smartphone or laptop, meet it at the station of your choice and go straight to your destination without stopping for other passengers to get on and off.
“Imagine going from JFK to Midtown Manhattan in five minutes. During rush hour! And now imagine doing that in your own private vehicle—a vehicle so quiet you’ll have to look out the window to realize you are in motion,” skyTran Chairman and CEO Jerry Sanders wrote in an update on the technology.
Though most cars fit one or two people, skyTran’s computer-controlled system means that cars can be programmed to stay together so that large families or groups of friends can travel all at once without worrying about getting separated.
Likewise, you can order two vehicles if you need a place to put your bags after a day of shopping or if you are carrying luggage.
The future of city travel?
In June, skyTran announced that the company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in Lod, Israel will be the first community to use the skyTran system. Once it is built, people on IAI’s corporate campus will be able to travel on the network and give feedback so that skyTran can refine their system before commercial tracks are built in Tel Aviv and other locations throughout the world.
skyTran is an exciting development in public transportation, but it will not be easy to change the tide from bus, train and underground systems.
skyTran could end up as a common means of travel for the wealthy, similar to calling a taxi to take you directly to your destination, depending on the cost per ride.
However, if fare is relatively cheap, skyTran could become the primary means of travel not just within your city, but across states and countries, as well.
Images courtesy of skyTran.