News

Mayor pitches pod cars to solve Google housing dilemma

In a last-minute effort to allow new North Bayshore housing for Google in the city's general plan update, Mayor Mike Kasperzak is proposing a system of pod cars to solve traffic issues.

It's not science fiction. A personal rapid transit system is in use at London's Heathrow airport and a company called Unimodal Inc. at NASA Ames is developing a system that uses magnet technology to levitate pods on overhead rails. The company has even proposed routes between downtown, North Bayshore and Moffett Field and once offered to fund the entire project.

In 2010, city staff estimated that an 8.5-mile-long system with 24 stations would cost between $60 million and $130 million.

Kasperzak made his pitch in a last-minute memo to council members who are set to vote on the city's 2030 general plan this evening, with or without the 1,100 apartments Google is hoping to build along Shoreline Boulevard north of Highway 101 and up to Charleston Road. Council members who oppose housing there say it would be difficult to create the sort of neighborhood people want with only 1,100 units and that it would be disconnected from the services residents there would need.

"I don't want a bunch of shuttle buses running back and forth to downtown," Kasperzak said in an interview, referring to Google's current practices. "That's not environmentally sustainable, not financially sustainable, that's not what we need and that's not the future."

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Kasperzak hopes that by making PRT a requirement for a planned housing development, businesses in North Bayshore will become inspired to think about it. For Google, whose founders are pushing the development of a self-driving car and have expressed interest in PRT, it might not be much of a stretch.

The cost of such a system could be shared by Google, other North Bayshore companies and the city. SkyTran had offered in 2010 to build its first system using investor funding. Kasperzak said he doesn't know if that offer still stands.

"We already require developers to build parking garages; you could put that money into a transportation system instead," Kasperzak said. He added that the city spent over $10 million to bring light rail to downtown and might also pitch in.

Kasperzak imagines that Google would give its employees free passes to use such a system. He adds that PRT may also be more lucrative than other transit systems.

"The financial model for some of these systems is they can make money because they are low enough cost over time," Kasperzak said.

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Such a system could be years away, Kasperzak says.

"It might take five to 10 years, in which case we don't do any housing for five to 10 years," Kasperzak said.

Kasperzak acknowledged that council members including Laura Macias have major concerns over impacts to Shoreline wildlife from new housing, but he says it is no different with all the new office development being considered for North Bayshore. Macias has cited concerns with feral cats preying on rare burrowing owls, which Kasperzak says is a separate issue that needs to be fixed now.

"If people are concerned about feral cats, we need to be concerned about feral cats," Kasperzak said.

"If you don't want housing out there under any circumstances whatsoever, then of course this condition doesn't do anything to persuade you otherwise," Kasperzak said of his colleagues.

Council members Laura Macias, Ronit Bryant, Jac Siegel and Margaret Abe-Koga did not support North Bayshore housing in a 4-3 straw vote last week. Abe-Koga may be the swing vote, saying in an email Monday, "My policy is to keep an open mind and take in all input until we deliberate and vote so you'll have to wait to know what I decide!"

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Mayor pitches pod cars to solve Google housing dilemma

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 10, 2012, 1:56 pm

In a last-minute effort to allow new North Bayshore housing for Google in the city's general plan update, Mayor Mike Kasperzak is proposing a system of pod cars to solve traffic issues.

It's not science fiction. A personal rapid transit system is in use at London's Heathrow airport and a company called Unimodal Inc. at NASA Ames is developing a system that uses magnet technology to levitate pods on overhead rails. The company has even proposed routes between downtown, North Bayshore and Moffett Field and once offered to fund the entire project.

In 2010, city staff estimated that an 8.5-mile-long system with 24 stations would cost between $60 million and $130 million.

Kasperzak made his pitch in a last-minute memo to council members who are set to vote on the city's 2030 general plan this evening, with or without the 1,100 apartments Google is hoping to build along Shoreline Boulevard north of Highway 101 and up to Charleston Road. Council members who oppose housing there say it would be difficult to create the sort of neighborhood people want with only 1,100 units and that it would be disconnected from the services residents there would need.

"I don't want a bunch of shuttle buses running back and forth to downtown," Kasperzak said in an interview, referring to Google's current practices. "That's not environmentally sustainable, not financially sustainable, that's not what we need and that's not the future."

Kasperzak hopes that by making PRT a requirement for a planned housing development, businesses in North Bayshore will become inspired to think about it. For Google, whose founders are pushing the development of a self-driving car and have expressed interest in PRT, it might not be much of a stretch.

The cost of such a system could be shared by Google, other North Bayshore companies and the city. SkyTran had offered in 2010 to build its first system using investor funding. Kasperzak said he doesn't know if that offer still stands.

"We already require developers to build parking garages; you could put that money into a transportation system instead," Kasperzak said. He added that the city spent over $10 million to bring light rail to downtown and might also pitch in.

Kasperzak imagines that Google would give its employees free passes to use such a system. He adds that PRT may also be more lucrative than other transit systems.

"The financial model for some of these systems is they can make money because they are low enough cost over time," Kasperzak said.

Such a system could be years away, Kasperzak says.

"It might take five to 10 years, in which case we don't do any housing for five to 10 years," Kasperzak said.

Kasperzak acknowledged that council members including Laura Macias have major concerns over impacts to Shoreline wildlife from new housing, but he says it is no different with all the new office development being considered for North Bayshore. Macias has cited concerns with feral cats preying on rare burrowing owls, which Kasperzak says is a separate issue that needs to be fixed now.

"If people are concerned about feral cats, we need to be concerned about feral cats," Kasperzak said.

"If you don't want housing out there under any circumstances whatsoever, then of course this condition doesn't do anything to persuade you otherwise," Kasperzak said of his colleagues.

Council members Laura Macias, Ronit Bryant, Jac Siegel and Margaret Abe-Koga did not support North Bayshore housing in a 4-3 straw vote last week. Abe-Koga may be the swing vote, saying in an email Monday, "My policy is to keep an open mind and take in all input until we deliberate and vote so you'll have to wait to know what I decide!"

Comments

Sully
Cuesta Park
on Jul 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm
Sully, Cuesta Park
on Jul 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm
3 people like this

OMG!!! What an eyesore that would be! But hey, it's in a business district where there's not much housing or neighborhoods to speak of.
I can probably live with "pod cars", but I don't care to see "High Speed Rail" stop here!


Garrett
another community
on Jul 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm
Garrett, another community
on Jul 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm
3 people like this

Start from ECR, right up Shoreline to Crittenden Land and the new Google headquarter building. We are either going to have so many cars that no one will want to have a office with a bunch of ugly slow buses. We could also have pod cars run down Central Expressway by putting it on a road diet but still maintain 4 lanes or Middlefield Rd.


Dominick
Waverly Park
on Jul 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm
Dominick, Waverly Park
on Jul 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm
3 people like this

Two comments. What is plan B if plan A does not work?

Second Comment

Laura Macias, Ronit Bryant, Jac Siegel, and Margaret Abe-Koga
Why am I not suprised that they don't like it?


Go Large
Castro City
on Jul 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm
Go Large, Castro City
on Jul 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm
3 people like this

The city most definitely needs to ban fast food joints since it doesn't look like most obese people would fit in one of those pods. They appear to be made for the Googler stick figure types.


Stephanie
The Crossings
on Jul 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm
Stephanie, The Crossings
on Jul 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm
3 people like this

The opposing council members seem disconnected from reality. Why is this area so precious, apart from the owls? The area between 101 and Charleston is not some pristine piece of land that would be forever damaged by the addition of apartments. It's already developed! And as for disconnecting people from services, have they ever been to the Google campus? Do they realize how many services are provided by the company ON CAMPUS for its employees? Not to mention the Starbucks, laser tag, multiplex cinema, Shoreline recreation area...and the "20 minute walk" to downtown that the council members already pointed out. This area is NOT disconnected from anything. I guarantee you that a bunch of young Google employees who want to live close to work are going to find plenty to do, and will be riding their Google bicycles to work every day, not driving their cars. I just don't see why this particular area is getting such scrutiny, when they are perfectly happy to okay dense commercial enterprise and apartment complexes over on my side of Mountain View, right at San Antonio. What about the environmental impact in this corner of the woods?


Doug Pearson
Blossom Valley
on Jul 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm
Doug Pearson, Blossom Valley
on Jul 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm
3 people like this

Traffic in North of Bayshore is already a serious problem and solutions are needed. The question is, are any of them really cost effective.

Pods have the advantage that there are no drivers, but the disadvantage that they can't use existing streets so they have to build their own "road". (That's a disadvantage they share with High Speed Rail and light rail.) More VTA or shuttle buses between Downtown and North of Bayshore would probably make the traffic on the Shoreline interchange worse. The "20 minute walk" (Using the Stevens Creek Trail for part of the distance?) each way between downtown and North of Bayshore eats up 40 minutes of a lunch hour--not what I would want.


Otto Maddox
Monta Loma
on Jul 11, 2012 at 7:53 am
Otto Maddox, Monta Loma
on Jul 11, 2012 at 7:53 am
3 people like this

I can't decide which word to use to describe this idea.

The choice is between LAME and STUPID.

I swear the city council is going to start buying magic beans pretty soon.


B Minkin
Sylvan Park
on Jul 11, 2012 at 8:18 am
B Minkin, Sylvan Park
on Jul 11, 2012 at 8:18 am
3 people like this

This was a lightweight proposal intended to go nowhere. One company that wants to make this system has been pitching it for years, but it is always too expensive to imagine building it. The proposed free system would have ultimately cost the city plenty

So why would Mike Kasperzak make a proposal like this? He must have known it would not have approved.


eric
another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 8:50 am
eric, another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 8:50 am
3 people like this

But Main Street's still all cracked and broken
Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken
Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

Great idea from Mayor Lyle Lanley...



Rodger
Sylvan Park
on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:22 am
Rodger, Sylvan Park
on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:22 am
3 people like this

What we need are more ideas to solve this problem, for instance since Moffett Blvd already goes over highway 101 extending this road down the west side of NASA for a short distance then a bridge over the creek to the North Bayshore area would provide more traffic capacity.


Garrett
another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:43 am
Garrett, another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:43 am
3 people like this

This is something worth following, we could build lines through out Mtn View.


Steve
Sylvan Park
on Jul 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm
Steve, Sylvan Park
on Jul 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm
3 people like this

Not any more ludricrous than the multi-thousand dollar per unit taxpayer funded bicycle sharing program that was already approved. Or Buck Rodger's very own high speed rail to nowhere.


John
Monta Loma
on Jul 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm
John, Monta Loma
on Jul 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm
3 people like this

...or moving 47 low income residents out, so 51 low income residents can move in at a cost of 9 million! Oh yea, forgot-there were "code" violations.

Follow the money


mrweidler
another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm
mrweidler, another community
on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm
3 people like this

In looking over the other comments, the two biggest misconceptions I see are size and traffic conflicts.

First, there are no traffic conflicts and no appropriation of precious road lanes. PRT is usually elevated about 20 feet in the air. It does not interact with ground traffic.

Second is the size of the guideway. This is differs depending on which system is implemented. ULTra runs on a road-like guideway which is a little wider than a golf cart. Skytran's guideway is so small you could literally put your arms around it.


Kristine
Monta Loma
on Jul 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm
Kristine, Monta Loma
on Jul 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm
3 people like this

Isn't google developing self driving cars over there? Thus making something like this redundant?


Name hidden
Blossom Valley

on Sep 25, 2017 at 10:16 pm
Name hidden, Blossom Valley

on Sep 25, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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