Saturday, November 10, 2012
Space-age rapid transit to debut in Tel Aviv
Personal rapid transit (PRT) alternatives are in hot demand worldwide – especially in big countries such as China and India — as a means to relieve traffic jams and energy consumption. Underground solutions are expensive and street-level solutions just add more congestion. “We are the most sophisticated PRT on the market … and also the least expensive, greenest and most efficient,” asserts Sky Tran CEO Jerry Sanders.
“People often don’t use mass transit because they don’t like to share vehicles, they don’t like having to get to a station and they don’t like to follow someone else’s schedule,” Sanders says. With skyTran, riders order a vehicle by tapping an icon on their smartphone. Once inside the pod, the passenger chooses a destination from an on-board console. The cost of implementing skyTran is estimated at $9 million per mile, as opposed to $100 million per mile for a light rail system and $20 million per lane for buses. The fare will probably be competitive with Tel Aviv’s shirut (taxi van) service, says Sanders. And maintenance costs would be remarkably low.
“The vehicles don’t encounter resistance like wheel-based systems do, so there is no wear and tear from wheels hitting pavement or track,” says Sanders. “When the vehicle comes to a station, it rests on little rollerblade wheels.” A former Wall Street lawyer and serial entrepreneur who teaches a graduate business seminar at Oxford University, Sanders was contacted by NASA to provide direction to the Ames engineering group that had pioneered the skyTran concept.
Sanders has found that Israel’s bureaucracy “is not as onerous as in some other Western countries. It’s a ‘two-telephone call’ country. Once the government knows about something and is interested in it, they find a way to clear the bureaucratic hurdles and that is what is going on with us.” When he predicts that Israel will become the center of the skyTran world, he is not only talking about passengers. While right now the modules and support poles are mass-produced in the same Austrian factory that manufactures aluminum parts for Mercedes-Benz, Sanders believes they could be made in Israel. In addition, the job of continuously upgrading the programming could be done by Israeli software engineers.
“Right now Ames is the headquarters for the company, but if and when we start a pilot in Israel, without a doubt we will train and qualify many local engineers and blue-collar workers working with local companies. Israel will become a base of knowledge for the skyTran system and if the first is system built here, people will come from all over to learn about it,” Sanders says.
Source Israel 21c