A company wants to build a futuristic pod transit system in Florida


Rather than sitting in traffic on the highway, it would be exponentially cooler and more efficient to strap yourself into a magnetic pod and fire yourself across Tampa Bay on a Jetsons-style elevated rail system – and apparently a Clearwater company is trying to make this happen.

During a Monday Feb. 3, council workshop, Clearwater councilman Bob Cundiff asked for a "resolution of encouragement and assistance," to allow BeachTran Clearwater LLC to request information from the city for a proposal to build Tampa Bay’s first aerial rapid transit system, which uses “magnetic levitation to move people through lightweight, electric pods,” reports the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The company, which plans to completely self-fund the project with no tax dollars, plans to collaborate with a NASA Space Act company called skyTran Inc. to build a solar-powered, on-demand transit system, operating much like a taxi service, says TBBJ.

According to NASA, the pods themselves are just under 12-feet long and 3-feet wide, allowing two to four people to comfortably and quietly ride in the pod up to 50 to 200 miles per hour along a system of aluminum rails, using passive magnetic levitation (maglev) technology.
Since the systems use “seamless point-to-point travel,” according to skyTran’s site, riders would only stop at their chosen destinations, and the “small vehicles mean the infrastructure required has minimal ground footprint - using small concrete foundations and support poles just every 50 metres.” The company says the self-driving monorail system will chop a two-hour commute down to 10 minutes.

Investors for skyTran include embattled former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann, former Google chairman Eric Schmidt and India’s Reliance Industries, among others. The company currently has operational test tracks in California, Texas, and Mexico.
TBBJ reports that phase one of the proposal includes stations in downtown Clearwater, Island Estates, Pier 60, as well as Clearwater Beach and the marina. While phase two would include a station at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg that we presume also connects riders to downtown Tampa.

“I think this is a slippery slope with something futuristic as this and we have no idea where this is going to lead,” said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos in the meeting reports TBBJ.
As of now, it’s unclear if the item will be included in the city’s next council meeting on Feb. 18

Tampa Bay, which a 2019 report ranked near the very bottom among the nation for public transportation, isn’t the only metro flirting with this technology. Over the last year, skyTran has signed agreements with four Israeli cities to build similar maglev systems.
Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.