Ithaca, New York—home to hoards of vegetarians, well-educated social liberals, and the citizens hope, an organized system of eco-friendly podcards by the year 2010. (Ooh, just like in Woody Allen’s Sleepers!) Here’s how it’d work: Each car would carry 2 to 10 riders who type in their destinations on a computer pad. The vehicle, which can make stops every half-mile or so, would take the riders directly to where they want to be. In other words, you’re always on the express train. Will it really happen in just two years? Says city honcho Jacob Roberts:
It’s time we design cities for the human, not for the automobile…. [The podcar] creates the perfect blend between the privacy and autonomy of the automobile with the public transportation aspect and, of course, it uses clean energy.
Podcar networks already exist in West Virigina University and Sweden. And recently Heathrow Airport, Santa Cruz, as well as the potentially bucolic Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates are all devising similar systems. (Not to be outdone, Santa Cruz plans to make theirs solar-powered.) So what’s the hold up? Skeptics! Argues U-Penn transportation professor Vukan Vuchic:
It is operationally and economically unfeasible…. In the city, if you have that much demand, you could build these guideways and afford the millions it would take, but you wouldn’t have capacity. In the suburbs, you would have capacity, but the demand would be so thin you couldn’t possibly pay for those guideways, elevated stations, control systems and everything else.
But why take either Roberts’ or Vuchic’s words at face value? We decided to make a little checklist: PROS Riding in a totally cute little car Protecting the environment Eliminating road rage/congestion Saving dough on gas Possible awesome cross-marketing by Apple to create iPod Cars (a shoutout to Annalee!) CONS Mechanical errors Higher taxes to fund the operation Getting stuck in a stanky cabin (our NYC readers know all-too-well what we’re talkin ’bout) vehicle development images courtesy Advanced Transport Systems Ltd.