Dive Brief:

The City of Clearwater, FL passed a resolution supporting the exploration of a new aerial transit system that would connect the city’s beaches to its downtown center.

BeachTran Clearwater LLC is pushing for a network that would carry four-passenger pods about 20 feet off the ground to and from Clearwater Beach, as a way to alleviate traffic congestion. BeachTran would work with California-based skyTran on the pilot. If successful, the BeachTran system would expand to service the entire Tampa Bay area.

The resolution, which reportedly passed 4-1, does not set aside any money or staff to the project, but simply expresses the city’s support for it. That could entice skyTran to relocate to the Tampa area and should help garner more support for the project as it moves towards construction.

Dive Insight:

Traffic to and from Clearwater Beach can be notoriously slow, especially during peak season. That’s not just a problem for visitors and locals, but also for the service workers that must commute to and from the beach. While the city has offered ferry services and has explored other traffic fixes, like additional lanes, BeachTran has pitched itself as the best solution.

“Anything on the ground is going to add to the congestion. The only choice is to be elevated,” BeachTran Founder Tom Nocera told Smart Cities Dive. “I like to think of Clearwater as a smart city, now we can be a city that demonstrates to the world how to handle traffic.”

The proposed system from SkyTran would carry four-person pods along a maglev track. The pods would go up to 50 miles per hour and would be powered by solar energy. Nocera said the system would also have autonomy built in on its point-to-point service for what the company is calling “Mobility on Demand.” The pods could also be used to carry cargo.

The endorsement from the Clearwater City Council comes after the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization passed a similar resolution of support. Nocera said they are also seeking similar support from the neighboring city of St. Petersburg. However, as with any new technology, there are likely to be hurdles to approval, permitting and construction, especially if it is the first system of its kind.

According to Florida Politics, city council member Hoyt Hamilton even expressed some reservations as he supported the resolution, saying, “if this is something that can be actually developed and implemented, it will be interesting to see​.”

In response to congestion, several companies have sought ways to move people off of roads entirely. Elon Musk has pitched a tunnel network from his Boring Company, while Uber is among several tech firms exploring “flying cars.”

Source: https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/clearwater-fl-eyes-aerial-transit-system/572237/