Imagine a ski lift running 30 feet above a city street, elevated by supports similar to standard utility poles. Now replace the cable with a 1' wide guideway track surrounding a new maglev (magnetic levitation) track called Inductrack (developed at The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for missile defense rail guns and energy-storage flywheel bearings).
The vehicles are streamlined 2-passenger pods that hang underneath the track and travel at up to 100 MPH in the city, quietly and cleanly driven by maglev propulsion, with the energy efficiency equivalent of 200 MPG!
The SkyTran track is like a freeway, with on/off tracks, the main non-stop tracks and cloverleaf interchanges, so pods on the main tracks never needs to stop between stations. The computer for track-switching at junctions is in the pod, so the ramps are passive (except for the accelleration/decelleration controllers) and relatively very inexpensive, with a projected cost of only $10,000 each.
The pods arrive at/depart from SkyTran portals; stations elevated approximately 10' from the ground, which pod commuters arrive to or depart from. When entering a portal, the pod slows down to 1-2 km per hour and quickly transitions from maglev suspension to track-mounted wheels for stable boarding. And unlike conventional mass transit, Several pods will always be available for commuters at every portal, with spare empty pods at pod maintenance centers automatically routed continually to any portals having fewer waiting pods.
The commuter ascends the short portal stairway (or uses the adjacent auxiliary wheelchair ramp or lift) to the boarding level, boards the first-in-line open pod and is seated. Once the fare is paid by waving a debit or smart card and a destination portal is touch/voice selected on the pod's touch-panel, the pod door automatically closes and locks, and the automatic seatbelts are activated. The pod then slowly procedes out of the portal and quickly speeds up onto the main track.
The proposed economics are astounding: only a few million dollars per mile for the tracks (similar to the cost of paving a city street), approximately only $10,000 for each SkyTran portal, and much less for each pod (see SkyTranEconomics). I lived in Paris for a year recently, where many have no cars and rely on older public transport. Replace that with 100 MPH point-to-point travel, and you see why an estimate of 40-60% consequent replacement of cars for commuting is conservative.
The pods will be continually computer-spaced 60-70 feet apart while in transit (see SkyTranSafety), making the SkyTran system dramatically superior in safety to any road vehicles, trains and subways. How else?....
1. The pods are elevated above roads and traffic, so collisions with road vehicles or pedestrians are impossible.
2. Because the pod is locked to the track, derailment is impossible. Along the center-line of the pod's topside, a nearly pod-long and narrow vertical bracket extends into the continuous slot along the track's underside, where it is connected by multiple hinges (to allow the traveling pods to lean outward at track curves) to the Inductrack unit inside the track, onto which Halbach magnet arrays are mounted on the unit's underside and sides for maglev suspension and stability.
3. The pods are elevated 20-30', travel at high-speed and NON-STOP, and the tracks have no pod-stopping intersections.
4. The pods hang underneath the track instead of riding above it; so they cannot collide with anything on the track's topside, such as maintenance personnel or equipment (or like the ill-fated maintenance vehicle in the 2006 German TransRapid maglev train disaster).
Ideally, the above safety factors are passive. Only one must be active: the automatic braking. If the pod's built-in radar system detects the pod ahead has slowed or stopped, it will activate 6G braking. As the distance between pods is computer-controlled by each pod, with a collision therefore being impossible, the pod's automatic seatbelts will largely be for the commuter's peace of mind and personal comfort, rather than safety. And, unlike roads and train rails, because the braking surface is inside the track, rain, ice and snow will not affect it.
By 20:11, 9 August 2009 (UTC)HowieGoodell
By 02:29, 22 December 2010