It's a lesson we learned from the internet: Small packets on dedicated lines can move extremely fast from one place to another. All SkyTran wants to do is turn data packets into human transport packets, and suddenly they've solved the dilemma of modern transportation. At least, they think they have.
The California company might seem to be a bit off their rocker, but they've crunched the numbers, and it's actually a pretty innovative system that could actually work.
Basically, two-passenger cars would be suspended from beams roughly the size of a traffic light pole. The cars would be levitated by passive magnets, so they would have no moving parts. Energy for moving would be in the track, so the cars themselves would need no power source or engine, thus keeping the weight (even with two passengers) under 1000 lbs. All of that frictionless, low-weight technology means very little energy is needed to get these cars moving, and SkyTran estimates that the cars would get the equivalent of 200 MPG in the city, though, of course, they'd be powered by electricity not gasoline.
The system would have two paralell tracks, one travelling in each direction. Underneath each track would be a suspended station, where cars would merge out of the system and slow to let passengers on and off. Cars would then be brought back up to speed to move onto the upper track for full-speed travel.
I can see a few flaws here that have not been discussed previously. First, the one-way nature of most suburban traffic (toward cities in the morning, away from them in the evening) means that cars would always be needed and would have to travel empty back from the city to pick up more commuters in the morning. I have no idea what resulting wait times and inefficiencies would be, but it's not ideal.
This is, however, inarguably better than cars and mass transit. You get your own vehicle with no waiting at bus stops. But you also don't have to pay attention to driving, you can travel faster, and I would assume it would also be safer. The footprint is much smaller than a roads or rail and because it's suspended, it would be easy to integrate the system with pedestrian, road and rail traffic.
The question is, how much does it cost. Skytran says the system should be about $10 M per mile, which is about 1/4th the cost of light rail and 1/5th the cost of interstate highways. It might not be cheaper to implement that bus systems, but it would certainly be utilized a lot more, and could, with a small per-mile fee, be a heck of a lot more profitable than any other system. And since, of course, you might just be able to sell your car (not to mention your parking space) you could probably spend quite a lot on this system without concern for cost.
It's not the first of these systems we've heard about, there's also SkyTram (yes...that's different from SkyTran) and none of these systems have ever gotten the kind of initial interest and capital needed to really make it work. Will it be possible this time?
written by Timsbro2000, August 11, 2009
written by BruceMcF, August 11, 2009
written by Andrew, August 11, 2009
written by Hans, August 11, 2009
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