Coleman Young II's Futuristic Transit Proposal Is Up in the Air

This futuristic vision is part of a 10-page "Plan for Detroit" from mayoral candidate Coleman A. Young II.

If he unseats Mike Duggan in three months, the state senator wants to persuade Michigan's Department of Transportation to support a Detroit application for federal grants to build an overhead skyTran monorail with "jet-like rapid transit pods" like the one above. The system uses uses magnetic levitation instead of wheels.

Concept illustration from skyTran, a company based at NASA Research Park near San Francisco Bay.

That suggestion brings derision Wednesday from Michigan Capitol Confidential, a news site run by the Mackinac Center for Policy. "Election Season in Detroit, and Here Comes Another Transit Scheme," says the headline. Evan Carter writes:

The mass transit system would use two-person, computer-controlled pods to transport people on an above-ground rail network. . . .

The document claims the mass transit system could position the city for new development in an age of driverless transit, much like the automobile did for Detroit 100 years ago. Young’s campaign document suggests that building an elevated tram system would only cost around 10 percent of the cost of a traditional light-rail system, and would use less energy.

These "jet-like" transporters are in the demonstration stage. (skyTran photo)

Carter gets a reality check from Robert Poole, transportation policy director at the Reason Foundation, a libertarian research group in Washington, D.C.:

"To call two-person pods mass transit is madness. It needs mass.

"They cost a fortune and they’ll only attract such a small portion of the population, that’s a rounding error on how much they improve congestion, and a rounding error on how much they will improve mobility.

"This money could probably be much better served by rethinking how the bus system runs."

Here's how the Michigan policy center's journalist tweets a link to his post:

The Midland writer can't resist reminding readers that Detroit has a three-mile monorail built in 1983 with federal money:

The People Mover cost $24.2 million to operate in 2016 but brought in just $1.4 million in fare revenue, according to Detroit’s most recent annual financial report.

Grants and contributions from other sources filled $14.9 million of the gap, leaving the city on the hook for almost $8 million in expenses.

Young, the 35-year-old son for former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young (1974-94) placed second with 27 percent in Tuesday's primary. He and Mayor Duggan will be on Nov. 7 ballots.

These skyTran videos show how the startup pitches its concept to domestic and foreign transit planners.

Read more:  Michigan Capitol Confidential

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