On-Demand Levitating Monorail Could Revolutionize Urban Commuting

This unique hybrid maglev-monorail system is more than just a pipe dream.

Many people who advocate for public transit also fear opposition from those who are accustomed to being able to move about in an individual manner with cars. In certain circles, this group sometimes seems to have won out. However, a futuristic on-demand 500m monorail test loop being built at the Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI) campus in Lod, Israel combines the best of both worlds and might have you thinking differently about transit.

SkyTran, which was developed by Stanford Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering graduate Douglas J. Malewicki, has big plans to bring its transportation idea to markets in the United States, India and Europe – but will it catch on?

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SkyTran is a maglev-based monorail, a combination of technologies that has the potential to evoke both admiration (due to Japan’s blazingly fast maglev train system) and derision (due to the infamous Simpsons episode Marge vs. the Monorail). A unique physical aspect of this particular combination of the systems is that it’s suspended 20 feet above the ground, allowing it to take advantage of an unused, and therefore less congested, part of the urban landscape.

We wonder, however, how far citizens and policymakers would be interested in implementing this idea in city centers. Many of the demonstration renderings and footage show the cars moving through what seem to be business districts, but in more residential areas, residents might be opposed to the cars roving past their windows and disrupting their privacy.

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Privacy is a key pivot point of SkyTrain’s case for itself in a different way, however, because unlike most mass transit, it’s meant to be a personal system. Instead of large vehicles that run on a schedule, SkyTran’s cars will be small and personal, designed for two people, and will be summonable with a smartphone app. The system’s automated nature, transit expert Joe Dignan told BBC News, could be a good test of whether the public is mentally ready for autonomous cars. It’s also a test of whether anti-train elected officials actually hold such views for practical reasons, or if they really just hate the idea of sharing space with other people.

Despite its futuristic ring, SkyTrain hopes to be finished with the test loop in the next year, and with its NASA campus headquarters and Space Act Agreement funding, it could actually go places.

SkyTran

[h/t] Engadget, BBC

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