Community Transit: Private Aerial Urban Transport

Post by Gondola Project

Guest post by Charlotte Boffetti.

Community Transit concept. Image via Innovcity.

Dave Owsen is an American industrial and automotive designer. A few years back he proposed an aerial transport system called “Community Transit” where passengers ride in independent cabins which allow them to customize their route. He sees this urban cable car concept as a futuristic transportation system for not only commuters, but also for shipping cargo. The vehicles are shaped and designed to maximize storage space.

Cargo cabins. Image via Innovcity.

Rather than calling the independent vehicles as “cabins”, he refers to them as “cells”. The reason for this is because he was inspired by plants. He envisions covering the “cells” with a special dye (invented by MIT) which effectively captures and converts solar electricity for use in cabins.

Each cell can accommodate up to 4 people. Inside there is a touch screen, which allows passengers to pick and choose their preferred destination. For safety, each cabin has a camera, and riders must register with an identification card. The cells also travel in a dual rail configuration to enable vehicles to bypass one another.

ID cards required to access system. Image via InnovCity.

Since David Owsen is a designer (not an engineer), the visualizations and renderings of this proposal are incredibly stunning. It would be great if all transit systems looked this stylish!

While I’d like to comment on the technical challenges and feasibility of realizing this concept, my background in planning and policy largely prevents me from doing that.

David even thought through the process of washing and maintaining the cabins! Image via InnovCity.

However, from an ideological and urban planning perspective this conceptual private transit system does prompt us to re-examine the meaning of mass transit.

Since Community Transit is a private transport model (similar to that of a PRT), many riders will likely be thrilled that they no longer need to rush into a crowded subway during a morning commute. Or for many passengers, a private “cell” could offer more peace, tranquility and security than other mass transit modes.

However, I feel that these PRT models tend to reinforce the individualistic side of city living. For me, being car-free means that riding public transit is a great adventure each and everyday. Often times, this is the best part cause you never know who you will meet or what will happen — and that’s the story and joy of urban life!

Source: InnovCity.fr


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  1. Geez not this again. You can see right away how little thought out this idea is. Solar paint? He does realize the very tiny amount of power that could be attained from such a small surface? These will naturally be going in and out of shadow all the time too as they travel through the city. Very inefficient, but hey "It's solar! It must be sustainable!". These individual 'cells' aren't any more sustainable then individual cars. They only seem so because they look like public transit.
  2. Yes, this sounds like PRT (personal rapid transit) by another name and with some cosmetic changes. The inherent contradictions of limited capacity and high infrastructure costs of these systems mean they are often just a red herring that distracts from what is truly viable. They may have some reasonable applications but in most instances they don't address the real problems faced in urban transportation.
  3. Kinda ironic how a "private" transport system is named Community Transit?
  4. About PRT , I have still to get an honest answer from PRT advocates on the fact that in real urban environment the flow of people is near-always one-directional and unbalanced - In reality every morning we have people commuting from periferies and suburbs that stay in the city until afternoon. What we do ? provide each 2 or 4 a PRT Cell , but we got to transport the cells where users stay , and then store/park for the way back? I'm astonished that no-one has thought the PRT ONLY as a goods distribution system - this could have sense, because goods could have a much more balanced flow - and more important, goods CAN WAIT , since they are already doing this, in warehouses or into vans in queues on the streets,

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