In what looks like a model railroad enthusiast’s dream come true, a South San Francisco transportation company creates a vision to revolutionize the way the area is traveled.
In the midst of an extensive network of wooden rails, prototype vehicles and elevated platforms, the Glydways team is optimizing an electric shuttle system that is intended to help clear the traffic jams in the region.
Although the model seems a bit crude in its current situation, the company eventually plans to build an autonomous system of small electric cars that can be celebrated like an Uber or Lyft if necessary.
CEO Mark Seeger said the company offered a unique bargain for a high quality driving experience and low cost for cities and users, combined with high capacity and a low carbon footprint.
“We can go to a city like South San Francisco and say, ‘They have a localized transportation problem and we can fix that’ and be viable for them and us, and that has never been done before,” Seeger said.
A rendering of the Glydways model is intended to help remove the congestion in the region.
The system, which is expected to cost around US $ 30 million to build, is intended to provide a connection between public transport stops such as Caltrain, BART or the ferries to concentrated employment offices.
Although the cost can be a sticker shock in some circles, Seeger found that the system is significantly cheaper than other public transportation programs such as light rail or traditional train options.
The isolated Glydways system is not intended to interfere with the roads reserved for cars. So the company claims it will reduce the congestion. It is suggested that Glydways cars travel between 30 and 60 mph with a system capacity between 2,000 and 6,000 drivers.
An initial illustration shows a pilot route extending approximately one mile from the new Caltrain station near downtown along Forbes Boulevard east of Highway 101 to the Genentech campus and the nearby ferry terminal at Oyster Point. However, other iterations show that the route extends to both South San Francisco and San Bruno BART stations, extending the system’s range to more than 4 miles.
The routes could run in a square as small as a bike path or be elevated to limit competition for valuable space in congested areas. South San Francisco is interested in an elevated system, Glydways officials said.
To show the city’s interest in the proposal, South San Francisco officials paid $ 30,000 in July to complete an environmental study. The San Mateo County Supervisory Authority has also shown interest in the program and will make a proposal at an upcoming meeting to help further develop corporate planning.
Supervisor Dave Pine toured the Glydways facility with Mike Futrell, Manager of the City of South San Francisco, in August to get an idea of the company’s vision. And Glydways officials said interest is spreading regionally, with other communities in the Bay Area also intrigued by the proposal.
For his part, Pine admired the ambitious nature of the Glydways vision.
“It’s an interesting combination of autonomous vehicle technology and on-demand service and local transport. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever come across and I’m very intrigued by it, ”he said.
Pine acknowledged that he needed to see more details about the technology, operational details, and funding before drawing any conclusions about the feasibility of the program, and believed this could help solve sticky transportation problems.
“It seems best suited to the last mile challenge,” he said, alluding to the difficulty of connecting commuters to transportation hubs and jobs.
Seeger said the systems make most sense in dense work and residential centers, acknowledging the company has an opportunity to prove its worth to workers hoping to facilitate their commuting as an intermediary for larger public transportation.
To that end, the area east of Highway 101 in South San Francisco could be an ideal location for the construction of the route, Seeger said. Not only because the company’s office is nearby, but also because the existing infrastructure is struggling to meet the demands of the city’s thriving biotech sector.
With the expectation that up to 30,000 more people could work in the city’s life sciences area, Glydways officials believe their system could help offset much of the congestion expected to grow in the area.
Seeger realized that luring drivers out of their car into a public transit alternative is not an easy task, and said the low cost of its service could be a major draw.
The company is able to control costs by building its network of materials available in the open market and running the system efficiently through a uniquely designed system. The potential to reduce fossil fuel reliance with solar power also makes it the most cost-effective.
The result is one that is beneficial to both the operator and the driver. The cost of rides is expected to be in the vicinity of $ 2. That amount is negotiable, however, depending on whether the system is built with public revenue, private equity, or a combination of both, Seeger said.
With the expectation that these terms will continue to be worked out over the course of the company’s time, Seeger said Glydways was content to grow from humble beginnings.
“We like the idea of starting small,” he said from the office next to the work area, which is a miniature version of the company’s big idea.
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