mobility and innovation

Skytran, a tram named desire

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Tel Aviv will soon welcome a new experimental urban air transport system, Skytran, developed by the SkyTran company, based at the NASA research centre in Ames, California, which aims to revolutionise urban travel.

When reality overtakes fiction

Skytran has largely surpassed the project milestone (announced a few years ago) and is preparing its advent for 2015 in various cities around the world, including Tel Aviv.

Indeed, Tel Aviv has some 410,000 inhabitants who, for the most part, use their cars every day, creating heavy traffic. On many occasions, the city authorities have encouraged citizens to use the bicycle alternative, in particular through the bicycle rental system, but this has not been enough to solve the problem. The municipality has also considered the AutoLib service like Paris, but this will not be enough, so the tramway of the future is undoubtedly the solution. 

It is the latest addition to the NASA research centre: small cabins suspended from a rail and moving thanks to an electromagnetic field. It is a kind of ultra-fast and innovative aerial tramway that resembles the "eggs" of the ski slopes. A magnetic rail above the ground (magnets in the vehicle create a magnetic field around the metal coil inside the rail) will carry passengers on two- or four-person gondolas at 100km/h but its propulsion system can reach 250km/h.
 Thanks to intermediate garage systems and diversion rails, passengers make direct, non-stop journeys to the chosen destination station.

The first phase of the project will put in place a 10 km rail line linking the Atidim district of Tel Aviv to the port of Jaffa, then an installation should be set up in Netanya and another around the new Ariel Sharon natural park. The system uses very little energy and could be powered entirely by solar panels.

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State-of-the-art computer programs will be at the controls of the system and passengers will be able to book their seats with their smartphones; once inside the gondola, they will choose their destination from an onboard console.

The cost of the project is $7 million per km compared to $75 million for a normal tramway and $20 million for a bus lane. In addition, maintenance costs would be remarkably low.

"Our goal is to build a pilot project so that we can make Israel the world center for skytran, " explains Jerry Sanders, the CEO of the company in charge of building skytran. "We offer the most sophisticated transportation on the market and also the cheapest, greenest and most efficient."he says.

Construction of the Skytran will begin in three months in Tel Aviv.
(Source: IsraelValleyNews - June 26, 2014)


Strasbourg, the first French city to opt for Skytran

Other cities around the world have also shown an interest in Skytran; in particular Strasbourg, for whom Skytran seems to be a perfect solution "to rethink network extensions, to serve less well-off neighbourhoods, to relieve congestion on congested roads such as the route de Schirmeck or to develop fast and practical services for the city centre to connect the station to all points of interest". The whole project is designed with a view to developing multimodality.

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The first section would be an 8.5 km loop providing services from Strasbourg station to various points of interest, particularly for visitors and tourists. There would be six points of connection with the existing tramway network.

After the first section departing from the station, the first thoughts for the deployment of the Skytran network are in the form of several connections to serve the districts with the least public transport and the major roads congested by traffic. Linked by a central point, the various lines of Strasbourg's transport network seem to lend themselves to a spider's web tree structure. This potential structure is seen as ideal for providing rapid connections between all parts of the city.

The construction cost of this first section is estimated at €59.5 million. By way of comparison, the budget for the 2.7 km extension of the tramway is €120 million. At over €44 M/km, the Skytran is 6.3 times cheaper than the Tramway.

The Skytran idea seems to be gaining traction, notably Alain JuppéThe mayor of Bordeaux, who plans to set up these suspended shuttles to avoid traffic jams and limit pollution. 

As for the city of Toulouse, it would like to position itself as an industrial site: Jerry Sanders, the CEO of the American company Skytran, affiliated to NASA, revealed to La Dépêche du Midi its intentions regarding the establishment of a factory in Toulouse. Because to manufacture these capsules, a manufacturing unit will be needed...

But who wouldn't dream of such an alternative to urban transport?

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