Friday, November 21, 2014
For the last several years, Silicon
Valley was the main source of American news about podcars. This interest in
next-gen mobility is shifting east in at least seven places.
Northern California has a Skytran prototype
hanging in a NASA facility at the sourthern tip of San Francisco Bay. San Jose
coined a new term for PRT and studied “Automated Transit Networks” -- ATN -- quite seriously for its airport. Over
the last several years, Milpitas, Mountainview, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Santa
Cruz have all flirted with daring new podcar concepts. Off in the great Central
Valley, Fresno has a growing pot of money for innovative transit. Several years
ago, given the lack of comparable interest in other parts of the USA, I
entitled an article California Rising! to describe Golden State interests.
The 4th Podcar City conference took place in San Jose in 2000. PCC9
will return to Silicon Valley.
|The geography of US podcar interests.|
Today new interest in podcars is palpable along
the historic Eastern Seaboard, where cities are older and cultural gems are
found amid the 20th century infrastructure..
Podcar projects have quietly
advanced in different ways in seven locations -- stretching from winter-hardy
Boston all the down to genteel Atlanta. One of them is close to DC. USDOT is
paying attention to the Rising Seven. Here is a rundown, north to south:
MA: A coalition of green activists
is pursuing solar-powered podcar implementations in several locations. Boston’s
booming knowledge economy is driving growth and new construction, but also
traffic. Harvard’s plans to expand south of the Charles River are moving
forward, and the School of Public Health, which is 2-3km away in Boston’s
Longwood complex, has received a huge from a Hong Kong developer.
NJ: Jpods has already set up
a demo section in this progressive and prosperous town just a short train ride
west of Midtown Manhattan. Funding possibilities from real estate development
and sponsors tied to the MetLife Stadium and other regional destinations are
great. Feet are already on the ground.
Monmouth NJ: The state wants to
establish itself as an R&D focus point for emerging driverless vehicle
technologies for public transport, including buses, podcars and driverless
taxis. Input from Princeton’s statewide PRT studies are an excellent starting
point, with expert guidance from ATRA Chair Alain Kornhauser.
Co. MD: County land use and
transportation officials have taken interest in ATN as a way to extend their
BRT ambitions, or to serve as a way to save costs by using podcars to serve
off-corridor destinations. The University of Maryland needs better connections
to the Washington Metro station -- the proverbial last-mile problem for transit
|North Carolina students and entrepreneurs think small and dual-mode for ecoPRT.|
NC: In a region where PRT was
studied in some detail near the airport before the 2008 crush and at an institution
that looked at APMs in the 1990s, North Caroline State University (NCSU)
engineering students, professors and entrepreneurial affiliates are advancing ecoPRT
SC: Clemson and Bob Jones Universities
are working on driverless carts in a progressive town where cars and
construction are prominent. PRT Consulting
has analyzed and helped envision hiking trail and airport applications. Local
executives at Fluor, Michelin and BMW look for growth opportunities in a region
where senior communities are taking to car-free living.
Co. GA: This transit-less county on
the other side of Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport has voted funds to immediately restart
conventional on-street bus services with half the new sales tax revenues. The
other half is to be dedicated to development of a 15-25km transit spine that
would link into the MARTA airport station. Commuter rail and BRT have been
studied, but there is interest in network solutions.
In the Heartland, there have been
few such signs of PRT interest. In Chicago, plans looked serious in the 1990s
but aborted. Minnesota with its rich involvements in PRT development has no
project underway. Colorado always has dreamers, including some with podcar
ideas. Nothing of the intensity of Silicon Valley nor of the fundamentals now rising
in the East can be found in the Heartland or the Sunbelt from Florida across the
Gulf of Mexico to Texas and beyond.
New winds of podcar interest are blowing in the East,