Podcar:Local Engineer Develops New Transit System

By Seth Daniel

It’s one part roller coaster, one part Star Trek, and another part innovative, and it could be the answer to Everett’s transportation woes.

Mike Stanley of Allston has proposed to Everett that it look into the idea of his new Transit X pod system public transportation system that he claims is two to 10 times faster than buses, cars and trains – a system that is elevated above the streets and safe from snow.

“Technically, it’s like a roller coaster with a circular pod hanging from it,” said Mike Stanley of Transit X.

Stanley said the system is easy to set up and is affordable and lightweight and not dependent upon carbons. The ultra-light podcars quietly glide above traffic under a thin rail. Each podcar carries a single rider or up to a family of five, and destinations are entered via smart phone or kiosk. Riders get into a waiting podcar at stops that are as convenient as bus stops. A podcar accelerates up a ramp to merge onto the podcar highway, traveling non-stop until reaching the exit ramp at the destination stop. Travel times are guaranteed, he said.

The innovative system, which is more of a concept at the moment, is something that Stanley said he would like to be included as an option in the current Everett Transit Action Plan being run by the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT). That plan looks to revise bus routes and bus stops and try innovative approaches to improving bus transportation throughout Everett, which is historically underserved by the MBTA rail system.

“This needs to be in front of people and given as an option,” he said. “If they don’t see it as an option, they won’t know it is an option. I chose Everett because it lacks access to public transportation via subway. The people of Everett I’ve talked to understand that this is a viable option. MassDOT is so stuck in the status quo and not thinking outside the box. Everett needs that solution that is outside of the box. Buses are not going to solve Everett’s transportation issues. You don’t need a study for that.”

Already one person thinking outside the box about the issue is Mayor Carlo DeMaria. DeMaria has written a non-binding letter of support for Transit X.

“We are pleased to be working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on the Everett Transit Action Plan, which will identify short-, mid-, and long-term possibilities to increase transit options and connectivity within Everett,” he wrote. “Right now, our only option is MBTA bus service – we are not connected to the MBTA system by light rail like other cities in our region. We believe that the mass transit service proposed by Transit X would be a good fit for our dense urban environment, and look forward to further discussions as the development of the system continues.”

Stanley, who attended MIT and has never put his mind to transit solutions until now, said he came up with the idea due to the snow two winters ago.

“My wife and I live in Allston and she works in Somerville,” he said. “One day she had to walk back home from Somerville because the T wasn’t operational. I wondered why it was a place like Boston has a transportation system that doesn’t work with weather.”

One of the key pieces to his system is that when one pod has stopped to pick someone up, the other pods going by don’t have to stop and wait.

“This would go non-stop to your destination and that’s where a traditional transit system has a problem,” he said. “You built more traditional stations and you create a problem because there are more stations and stops. That makes it very hard. Transit X doesn’t have that problem.”

Beyond that, he said he is also challenging the notion that the public sector has to operate mass transit. He said he could build his system within two years of funding, and could replace more than half of all the MBTA system just with the price that it is going to take to build the recently-approved Green Line extension to Somerville, which is only 4.5 miles and is estimated to cost $2.5 billion.

“Roy Rogers said it’s not the things you don’t know that hurt you ; it’s the things you know for sure and are dead wrong on,” said Stanley. “Everyone believes mass transit systems are can only be subsidized to operate because they’re not profitable and have to be propped up by the state. It turns out that isn’t true.”

Or so Stanley says.

Right now Stanley is looking to raise money for his venture and to build a certified test track. He said Everett residents can expect to see him around town with his scale model and other Transit X materials. He said Everett is one of the first communities to show interest, and many others will be watching.

“I have about 20 cities that want to be number two,” he said. “Everyone wants to see it working. We have to get over the first hump and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Transit X inventor Mike Stanley with one of the pods that people would travel in up and down the streets.

Transit X inventor Mike Stanley with one of the pods that people would travel in up and down the streets.

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