Last login: Thursday, January 19, 2012
While I favor alternative transportation systems to our current overburdened freeways, there is at least one system on the horizon that would be much more user friendly, link the entire state, and do it for a FRACTION of the cost of the proposed high-speed rail project. What's more, it's being developed right here in California.
Since September 2009, NASA has been working with SkyTran, a California-based start-up company located at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field. The company is working to develop its innovative 'personal rapid transit' system based on "active magnetic levitation" technology (for more information, go to www.SkyTran.net, or view SkyTran videos on YouTube). In place of trains that stop and start on a pre-determined schedule, SkyTran's system would provide on-demand, non-stop service using individual vehicles that seat 2-3 people. According to SkyTran officials I spoke with, vehicles would travel at 150 mph between urban centers, with onboard wi-fi service. While slower than the bullet train, the absence of multiple stops along the way would allow vehicles to complete the L.A. - S.F. trip in the same time as the bullet train...and the tickets would be a good deal cheaper, too.
Admittedly, SkyTran is still a work in progress, endeavoring to build its first test facility, and any public system needs to demonstrate its safety before serving the masses. But as the public becomes more comfortable with the technology, shorter local lines, once proven at slower speeds, could quickly expand to longer distances at higher speeds, and a more comprehensive, seamless network than the bullet train will ever offer. I suspect that at least as many operation and maintenance jobs would be created with this system as we would see with high-speed rail.
The alternative appears to be to commit to spending $98 billion on high-speed rail, and hope enough people will ride it. In light of the newer, cheaper, and more effient techology, I just think we can do much better than that.
January 19, 2012 at 10:23 p.m.
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