Rather than sitting in traffic on the Howard Frankland Bridge, it’s exponentially cooler and more efficient to strap yourself into a magnetic pod and fire yourself across the Bay in a Jetsons-style elevated rail system, and apparently a local company is trying to make this happen.
During a Monday Feb. 3, council workshop, Clearwater councilman Bob Cundiff asked for a “resolution of encouragement and assistance,” to allow BeachTran Clearwater LLC to request information from the city for a proposal to build Tampa Bay’s first aerial rapid transit system, which uses “magnetic levitation to move people through lightweight, electric pods,” reports the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
The company, which plans to completely self-fund the project with no tax dollars, plans to collaborate with a NASA Space Act company called skyTran Inc. to build a solar-powered, on-demand transit system, operating much like a taxi service, says TBBJ.
According to NASA, the pods themselves are just under 12-feet long and 3-feet wide, allowing two to four people to comfortably and quietly ride in the pod up to 50 to 200 miles per hour along a system of aluminum rails, using passive magnetic levitation (maglev) technology.
Since the systems use “seamless point-to-point travel,” according to skyTran’s site, riders would only stop at their chosen destinations, and the “small vehicles mean the infrastructure required has minimal ground footprint - using small concrete foundations and support poles just every 50 metres.” The company says the self-driving monorail system will chop a two-hour commute down to 10 minutes.
Investors for skyTran include embattled former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann, former Google chairman Eric Schmidt and India’s Reliance Industries, among others. The company currently has operational test tracks in California, Texas, and Mexico.
TBBJ reports that phase one of the proposal includes stations in downtown Clearwater, Island Estates, Pier 60, as well as Clearwater Beach and the marina. While phase two would include a station at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg that we presume also connects riders to downtown Tampa.
“I think this is a slippery slope with something futuristic as this and we have no idea where this is going to lead,” said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos in the meeting reports TBBJ.
As of now, it’s unclear if the item will be included in the city’s next council meeting on Feb. 18
Tampa Bay, which a 2019 report ranked near the very bottom among the nation for public transportation, isn’t the only metro flirting with this technology. Over the last year, skyTran has signed agreements with four Israeli cities to build similar maglev systems.