Pasted below is a link to our GSA Biz forum today regarding a "automated Podcars on a monorail" project for Greenville that was the topic. It provides a good summary of some highlight comments from our panel members.
Automated pod cars on Greenville’s horizon
David Edwards, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport; Mike Lester, Taxi 2000; Fred Payne, Greenville County Economic Development Corp.; and Woodrow Willard, a commissioner with the S.C. Department of Transportation at today’s GSA Business Power Event. (Photo by Kim Davenport)
Teresa C. Hopkins
Published July 30, 2015
Greenville could someday be home to an elevated personal rapid transit system that would provide residents and visitors with nonstop transportation service in and around the city and county.
Automated transportation was the topic Thursday at GSA Business’ Power Event. An elevated personal transit system would provide a transportation option for residents and visitors and enhance the current infrastructure, said Fred Payne, chairman of the Greenville County Economic Development Corp. and a Greenville County councilman.
“Our vision is to provide improved transportation using automation for a better future for Greenville and for economic development,” Payne said.
The proposed 22-mile automated transit system would consist of personal pod cars that would transport riders from one point to another without any stops in between.
Woodrow “Woody” Willard Jr., a commissioner with the S.C. Department of Transportation, said alternative methods of transportation are going to have to find their place in the state.
“At some point in time we’re going to max out how wide we can make Interstate 85 and how wide we can make Interstate 26,” Willard said. “We’ve got issues that deal with air quality and all the many other issues related with normal cars.
“This is a unique and energized approach of getting people from urban areas to other urban areas, and the DOT is really looking for a defined project so that we can work through it and see what the challenges are so that we can get it off the ground.”
Officials at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport have researched automated transportation for its campus.
“We’re in the middle of a $125 million terminal renovation, which is preparing us to go from 2 million passengers a year to 4 million passengers a year,” said airport CEO David Edwards. “We have already bumped up against parking demands, which we know we’re going to have to start to address in the next two to three years.”
Edwards said the airport has faces two choices: A third parking garage or an additional surface lot. But with that additional parking comes the question of how to connect it to the terminal.
“The single largest complaint we receive these days from a parking perspective is connectivity to the current economy lot,” Edwards said. “We think having an on-demand, nonstop system is the way to go. Our board has endorsed us moving forward with a preliminary design.”
Mike Lester is president and CEO of Minnesota-based Taxi 2000, one of the companies to bid for the project during the county’s first request for bids that ended without a selection. Lester said that while the idea of personal rapid transit may seem futuristic, it really is not that massive of an undertaking.
“From a cost perspective, if you were going to build 10 to 15 miles of a light rail system, you’re talking about close to a billion dollars,” Lester said. “We’re talking about 22 miles at $300 million to $400 million. You’re getting more system for your dollar.”
Lester said the components for such a transit system already exist.
“The challenge is just getting the project implemented. “It’s not a tech challenge or an engineering challenge; the challenge is just to get moving with the project, and that’s the challenge of any transit project,” he said.
There are few automated transit systems in the world. There is an operation in Morgantown, W.Va., that opened in 1975 and a system of passenger pods that opened at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2011.
The next step in the process of bringing an automated transportation system to Greenville is the county completing its second round of requests for proposals from companies interested in constructing the transit system.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove a URL that incorrectly connected Greenville County Economic Development Corp. to Greenville Area Development Corp.