Personal Pod Transit Coming to New Jersey
The suspended carriage rail system will be tested on Garden State commuters
Some New Jersey commuters may soon have good reason to be smug: if a personal rapid transit (PRT) test project proceeds according to plan, riders will be able to enter their own private pods, select from a list of pre-set destinations on a touch screen, and soar quietly away, overlooking traffic congestion below.
JPods, a PRT system developed to fight congestion, high transportation costs, and environmental impact, will soon be tested in Secaucus, N.J, a traffic-burdened community near New York City which, like many others, experienced severe gas shortages after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. The company has already begun building a mobility infrastructure for the system, which it suggests will — upon full realization — “exceed 260 passenger-miles/gallon, won’t emit green house gases, and will be 1000 times safer than traveling in cars on the streets below.”
With their proposed system, the JPod team seeks to address not just traffic congestion but also, among other things, the $300 billion cost of auto accidents per year, the 1.6 million vehicle-related American deaths in the past 40 years, and the nation’s “required oil-wars” and misdirected “oil-dollars,” the latter of which “fund Al Qaeda terror,” they note. As JPods CEO Bill James tells Co.Labs,
We’re a bunch of West Point grads that looked at this situation and realized we’ve been fighting oil wars since 1990. So we decided to do something about it. Our point of view on this thing as veterans is that we need to be looking ahead at what causes the path to war and act in advance of it.
The JPod system was designed to supplement existing transit services and provide connecting and/or alternative service to regular drivers, not unlike the ‘park and ride’ light rail set ups which many commuter-heavy cities arrange. To serve as both primary and secondary transit modes for residents and commuters, JPod systems are also intended to be built directly on or into existing infrastructure, with the lightweight pods’ solar-powered, suspending carriageways running alongside, over, or even attached to major roadways.
“In a couple of weeks we will have a small ride-able network,” James told Gizmag. “We have 100 meters (328 ft) of truss being shipped soon. This will be used to set two parallel rails for vehicles to travel on.” This first structure, he explained, will serve as “a Rescue-Rail system designed for temporary use over broken heavy infrastructure after a hurricane or earthquake.”
A number of personal rapid transit systems are already being used on a smaller scale throughout the world. Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City already has (as shown above) its own PRT, a term which, JPod’s site urges, “is an antiquated acronym that needs a better name” (the team notes such preferable, alternate names “emerging to match current technology” as podcars, automated guideways, and automated transport networks). West Virginia University has even been transporting its students and faculty from several hub stations to its campus since the ’70s, having been chosen as a test community because of its weather conditions and population demands, among other factors.
While Seattle residents, for example, may choose to shirk repeated proposals for PRT in their city, it seems that the transit method — not to mention its eager proponent force — is keeping pace in the race to innovate mass transit.