Very soon, Atlanta commuters may see small pods, reminiscent of The Jetsons, zooming by above their roads. Boston-based microtransit startup Transit X has made its way down south to to pitch solar-powered, autonomous transit to public officials and community leaders across the state of Georgia.
The company’s four-passenger pod travels on thin rails above traffic and works in all types of weather, reaching speeds up to 150 miles per hour.
CEO Mike Stanley says that Transit X could provide an easily-installed, non-stop transit alternative for Atlanta, which often tops lists of the country’s worst traffic cities.
Stanley shares that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “So far, cities and counties in Georgia have shown the highest interest in the United States,” he says.
The podway — the track used to transport the pods — is installed on existing utilities and street lighting infrastructure, fitting along roads and highways once installed. Each track can provide the same capacity as a 12-lane highway.
Transit X’s low cost of building infrastructure and operating the system enables it to be privately financed, says Stanley.
The passenger would book one of the solar-powered pods through their smartphone and walk to one of the designated stops. Upon their arrival, the pod lowers for the passenger to jump in and quickly lifts back onto the track. The fully-automated unit travels non-stop to the designated destination.
In the case of many interested Georgia cities and counties, one main goal is to facilitate non-stop travel to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
“Conventional public transportation now requires heavy government funding for expansion and subsidies for operation. Transit X’s micro-rail is privately-financed public transportation,” says Stanley. “Transit X can deliver a service that is much higher quality than personal vehicles, but with fares and capacity of conventional public transportation.”
According to Stanley, the Transit X solution costs about $7 million per mile to install, and the municipalities also benefit as they see about 5 percent of Transit X’s gross revenue.
“Transit X can solve many of the current issues related to transportation including eliminating congestion, parking constraints, high expense of personal automobiles, pollution, carbon emissions, and zero crashes,” says Stanley.
So far, Transit X has seen interest in the form of non-binding letters of interest from six Georgia counties and cities, including Macon-Bibb County, College Park, Forest Park, Lake City, Hapeville, and Henry County. Henry County’s commissioner presented the possible pilot at a town hall late last year; the proposal would create a 36-mile rail to the airport with 40 nearby stops for local residents.
“Transit X can easily integrate with existing transportation systems while providing a path to replace more costly and less efficient modes of transportation. Atlanta is ready because what Transit X primarily requires is political leadership,” says Stanley.
Transit X’s first public demonstration was last October, in Massachusetts. Stanley says the first pilots will break ground in 2019 and begin operations in 2020. Talks with Georgia officials are currently ongoing.