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is that an airport connector in your pocket?

By enelson
Wednesday, October 4th, 2006 at 6:43 pm in BART, rail, technology.

Photo from 


As BART directors agonize over unions and competition from AC Transit and airport parking, e-mailer Jerry Schneider tells me he’s got just the aspirin for BART’s headache.Call it the little people mover, which has been dreamed up in many varieties, all of which sport the same main attributes.

One, they can operate on an elevated track, just like the more traditional airport-style, driverless people mover BART is contemplating.

Two, they’re allegedly cheap. And the best part is, three, they’re adorable and everyone will want to ride them, maybe even pay $5 a head as BART plans now envision for the big-boy people mover.

A professor emeritus at the University of Washington’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Program, Schneider wrote:

There are lots of possibilities for doing this job quickly and at a much lower cost and for much lower fares.

Examples include some of the innovative transit systems that I monitor at my ITT website. It includes descriptions of more than 100 innovative systems from around the world. Some are operational, some are under development and some are still conceptual. All are electric, environmentally benign, low cost, easy to quickly construct and useful for both intercity and intracity travel.

He included a bevy of websites on such inventions, so decide for yourself how viable any of them might be.

There’s the Cabintaxi, a phone booth-looking vehicle that hangs from or rides upon an elevated track.

Then there’s the Information Age-appropriate SkyWeb Express (pictured here), which has that cuddly Beetlesque pregnant look.

The Vectus PRT boasts the low-low construction price of $17.6 million a mile, but then again, they all say that until you find out it needs a self-anchored suspension span to make it work.

The ULTra runs on a flat track.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based Megarail promises “near-term, no-cost-to-taxpayer transportation solutions.”

Cybertran could, one imagines, navigate the flatlands of Oakland more effectively than I could get around its website.

Austrans, like several others on this list, could easily be confused with a Tomorrowland car.

And I think the Urban Monobeam System just about says it.

The Urbanaut has the cachet of “semimaglev” technology while on display as a garden railway-looking toy train set. A cheaper version runs on rubber tires, not a magnetic field, and might win a race with a Vespa.

Nominate your choice today and type up your recommendation on the BART rider feeback page.






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8 Responses to “is that an airport connector in your pocket?”

  1. Steven Hauser Says:

    Taxi 2000, where the picture is from, is in MY TOWN. They basically collapsed in a lawsuit – stock scam. A bunch of hucksters like most “faith based transit”. Google “PRT is a JOKE” for the history of 40 years of scams and schemes. And then check the Denver Airport Luggage system debacle, hundreds of millions of dollars of debt shifted to the public by United Airlines failed PRT luggage system that NEVER WORKED.

    PRT is like rocket packs, what a cool idea until your pants catch on fire.

  2. Robert Raburn Says:

    Prior to recent service cuts by AC Transit, my wife and I rode a reliable AC Transit
    #58 bus that linked Downtown Oakland with the Airport. The main problem with that
    service along the MacArthur corridor was the delay caused by having to circle the
    Coliseum BART Station. Now a trip to the airport now requires a minimum of two bus
    transfers. Most people will still need multiple transit transfers even with the costly airport connecter.

    With $5 fares for only leg of the trip, a taxi represents a reasonable option.

    April 2007 is the mandated deadline to consider jettisoning this long-delayed expenditure
    proposal passed by the voters in November 2000. Let the ACTIA Board know your

  3. South Bay Resident Says:

    I think that these people movers are the wrong approach for a BART-Oakland airport connector for several reasons:

    1) Nobody has been able to build a successful, cost effective PRT system of this kind. Once you’re building an elevated guideway, it is nearly as cheap to build it for larger vehicles as it is to build it for small vehicles.

    2)Demand for the transportation between the terminal and BART is clumpy. That is, the only time you get people wanting to go to the airport is immediately after a train arrives at the station. This would easily overwhelm even a large number of small vehicles. The situation is similar at the airport side.

    3)Being stuck in a small vehicle with a stranger creates an uncomfortable situation for many riders who, quite reasonably might fear for their safety.

    So, what’s the right approach?

    I’d improve signage directing people to the AirBART buses and give them signal priority (or mabye even queue jumping lanes). This bus service nearly pays for itself and requires no capital investment. I might also improve bus service between the BART station and the airport maintaince facilities, since airport workers represent the bulk of the ridership on airport rail lines. This approach would be far more cost efffective than the proposed monorail and would free up money for projects that could actually improve mobility in the SF Bay area.

  4. david vartanoff Says:

    At Baltimore, the airbart equivalent is a free service of the airport. Encourages usage, eh? And, the Light Rail starts just outside of the terminal to take you downtown.

  5. Bruce De Benedictis Says:

    The Airport Conncetor is an example of something that I like to call Amusement Park Transportation planning. This is a proposal for service that the proponents, generally people who would get gobs of money for building them, would never ride themselves, and in fact, could never imagine attracting enough riders to be a paying operation. So they propose amusement park rides for them, saying that the the exoticism of the rides will attract riders. Examples are “People Movers,” ferries, aerial cable cars and amphibious buses (which were both proposed for service to Alameda Point, high-speed rail, and in fact, pretty much all rail service.

    The basic problem with the Airport Connector is that no matter what technology you use for it, the amount of time it will save is minuscule compared to the amount of time that you lose by going to a BART station, waiting for a train, taking it to the transfer station, and transferring to an additional service. If you live far enough from a BART station, you might as well go all the way to the airport. Most of Oakland and neighboring cities falls into that category.

    What might be worthwhile would be a separate roadway for buses from the BART station to the airport, both Airbart and AC Transit. A good start would be an elevated roadway that would include and replace the pedestrian walkway to the Colosseum and Arena, which would continue on to the opposite side of the freeway. This would add a couple more destinatiion points right off the bat.

  6. Frequent Amtrak Rider Says:

    Only Oakland would approve of something this awful. Is anyone in the world building elevated structures anymore? Wouldn’t a BRT style busway would be more effective? This is politcal. Oakland wants an airport connector because SF has one even though it really doesh’t make any sense.

  7. BART Fan Says:

    I believe the Airport Connector is a good idea as planned. The selected mode – Automated Guideway Transit – is safe, reliable, and unlike the many PRT examples above, – proven technology. PRT sales brochures always say they’re dirt cheap, until you start digging into the numbers. Bottom line is that any elevated structure is expensive, especially in a siesmic zone 4.

    As for BRT, I agree that it is a cost effective solution. However, if you read the FEIR for the project, BRT was considered but AGT was preferred because of the grade separation (elevated structure) which will allow trains to bypass traffic on Hegenberger Road. This road can become quite crowded at times, and AGT would provide a vast improvement over current AirBART times. BRT could be better than AirBART, but not as quick or convenient and still subject to heavy traffic.

  8. Dee Wigley Says:

    Good Job.

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