Mountain View Voice

News - April 19, 2013

Council brief

Council asks Congress for pod-car funds

The City Council decided Tuesday to push for federal money to help get "automated transit network" technology — also known as pod cars — off the ground, possibly in Mountain View.

The council voted 6-1, with Mayor John Inks opposed, to ask local Congress members to request that the Federal Transportation Administration offer a competitive $4 million grant to American companies developing the technology, which allows driver-less transit vehicles to run along automated guideways.

The Council passed a resolution in support of what was then called "personal rapid transit" in 2010, and a route was even proposed by one company between downtown, Google's North Bayshore offices and NASA Ames. One local company at NASA Ames is developing a system called "SkyTran" that allows pod cars to ride on magnetic overhead rails.

"There is support within the FTA to do this," said council member Mike Kasperzak, who once called himself "the pod car mayor" of Mountain View. "There is a $20 million fund the administration has for this sort of thing."

The request the council approved says that ATN technology is a missing link that can "boost ridership of existing public transit systems and lower capital and operating cost of new systems." It adds that "the emerging ATN industry is dominated by EU and Asian companies. However, the most advanced ATN technology is under development in the U.S. Without FTA support, the U.S. is unlikely to gain leadership in ATN technology and will lose critical manufacturing jobs."

Since the council approved their resolution in 2010, commercial PRT systems have been deployed at Heathrow Airport in London, Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates and Suncheon Bay, South Korea, Kasperzak writes in his report. He adds that the Valley Transportation Authority also supports the development of ATN.

Daniel DeBolt

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