Tonight City Council members will decide what to do about their longstanding interest in having an automated transit network in Mountain View.
The futuristic idea is being raised as a way to deal with traffic congestion in Google's neighborhood north of Highway 101, where 3.4 million square feet of new offices could be built under a land use plan the council is considering this year. And as anyone who drives along North Shoreline Boulevard during commute hours knows, traffic jams are already quite common.
The concept that will be discussed tonight was proposed in 2009 -- an automated "pod car" system connecting North Bayshore's offices to the downtown train station and transit center.
Such systems aren't entirely unheard of -- there's one that's been functioning at London's Heathrow airport since 2009, a fleet of 21 automated pod cars with rubber tires that ride on a cement guideway. There several other companies with different designs, including a much more futuristic system under development by NASA Ames-based SkyTran which uses electro-magnetics to float and move the pod on an overhead rail that was said to be light enough to allow it to be mounted to utility poles and street lights.
Advocates say such systems are the most efficient and cost-effective transit systems ever devised, and may be the first to turn a profit. But whether Mountain View's vocal neighborhood development opponents would protest such a system remains to be seen. In a 2009 proposal, the route runs through the residential neighborhood on Stierlin Road on its way from downtown to Shoreline Boulevard. It also connected it to Moffett Field and NASA Ames, where development plans have stalled in recent years on a large research park and college campus.
City Council members passed a resolution in support of the concept in 2010 when it was referred to as a "personal rapid transit" system.
Tonight's council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall at 500 Castro St.