Category Archives: mass transit

Sustainable Mobility


Dean Harrison Fraker of the College of Environmental Design, U.C. Berkeley addresses the Meeting of the Minds conference in Oakland, Ca on the 12th of September 2007 on the “Key to Urban Design: Sustainable Transportation.” For other presentations from the conference by some of the top urban planners and policy makers, visit EVWORLD.COM.

::text via google video::

A Highway in the Sky??

“Imagine a national transit system that runs on solar energy and wind power. Now imagine that it consists of recycled airplanes speeding along elevated tracks.”


This is the vision of Mass Tram America and its founder Ben Missler, an ex-Boeing engineer who wants to use the carcases of old Boeing jets (normally scrapped for metal) fueled with solar, wind and fuel cells as traveler trains that run up above traffic at 150 mph, suspended on a monorail. How it works:

  • The actual Tram car is constructed from de-commissioned Boeing 727’s, 737’s, and 757’s that are stripped of their wings, engines, and tails.

  • The fuselages become compartments equipped with solar cells and battery storage.

  • These compartments are attached to a rail system by permanent magnet regenerative motorized wheels.

  • Power is provided through solar electricity, wind power, regenerative breaking and fuel cells.

  • The system of single rails is hung from suspension cables, made level with support cables.

  • This system can be adapted to current road construction. When crossing a river, for example, the rail can be suspended from an existing bridge, minimizing construction and cost.

  • Structural steel or reinforced concrete towers are erected as high as needed, and multi-strand stainless steel cables are strung between towers.

  • Towers to support the rail system are erected approximately every 1000 feet and fitted with solar panels, wind turbines, or a combination of both.

  • Transfer stations are set up where necessary, allowing passengers to disembark or transfer to another tram. They also contain extra backup power for tram cars, as well as parking, concessions, and other passenger services.

  • All of the Tram’s components utilize off-the-shelf technology. All of the mechanisms needed to make “The Highway in the Sky” a reality are in use today.

Mass Tram America is hoping to launch a pilot project by 2011. For more info, pick up October’s Plenty Magazine, or check the Mass Tram America Website.

[Plenty Magazine; Mass Tram America]

No More Fearing for Your Life (On Your Bike in the Bean)

After nearly getting sideswiped by a school bus the other day on my ride home from work, this is very exciting news:


(AP) BOSTON Bicyclists often rank Boston as one of the toughest, unfriendliest places to ride.

Now, Mayor Tom Menino wants to make the city a cycling mecca.

Menino told The Boston Globe that during the next several years he plans to create a new network of bike lanes, put 250 new bike racks in place and post an online map system.

He’s also going to hire a “bike czar,” former Olympic cyclist Nicole Freedman.

Freedman says Boston could be one of the best bike cities in the country because it’s compact, flat, and has a young population and lots of tourists.

Menino’s bike push comes with his own recent conversion to biking enthusiast.

No money has been budgeted for the improvements so far, but officials will hold a summit of bike experts and enthusiasts next month to get ideas.

We’ll see if Menino makes good on his word. Here he is on his ‘daily predawn bike ride’ in Hyde Park (right near my hood). He is endearingly goofy:


(thanks biz!)


H.R. 6: CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 – is it enough?

WASHINGTON, June 22 — Automakers had to know they were in serious trouble when Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat with deep blue-collar roots, announced that she had lost patience with their annual objections to higher gas mileage rules.

“When automobile manufacturers told me they could not meet the increased standards, I listened,” said Ms. Mikulski, who said she had always been swayed by the potential loss of middle-class manufacturing jobs. “I listened year after year, and now I have listened for more than 20 years. After 20 years, I firmly do believe it is time for a change.”

Bolstered by such converts as Ms. Mikulski, the Senate just before midnight Thursday approved an energy bill that would for the first time in more than two decades require auto companies to produce cars and trucks that get substantially more out of a gallon of gas.

But that was about the only industry it took on. The measure, approved on a bipartisan 65-to-37 vote, essentially spared oil and gas companies and major utilities and fell short of goals initially set by supporters in areas like renewable fuels.


Jan 18, 2007: This bill passed in the House of Representatives by roll call vote. The totals were 264 Ayes, 163 Nays, 8 Present/Not Voting. View Votes (roll no. 40)


Jun 21, 2007: This bill passed in the Senate by roll call vote. The totals were 65 Ayes, 27 Nays, 7 Present/Not Voting. View Votes (roll no. 226)

Washington, DC [] In a flurry of activity, the U.S. Senate voted down two amendments yesterday that would have created $32 billion worth of energy tax incentives and a National Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPS) requiring utilities to generate 15% of electricity from renewables by 2020. Later that same evening however, the Senate passed H.R. 6, the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, 65-27.

The Clean Energy Act of 2007 is designed to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve.

But two key amendments that would have provided billions of dollars worth of incentives and revenue for the U.S. renewable energy industry were rejected. The Energy Tax Package—approved by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and House Ways & Mean committee earlier this week—contained a five-year extension of the tax credit for the production of electricity from wind, geothermal, biomass as well as the solar ITC extension.

Bill Status

Having passed in both the House and Senate, the bill may proceed to a conference committee of senators and representatives to work out differences in the versions of the bill each chamber approved. The bill then awaits the signature of the President before becoming law.

[NYTimes, RebewableEnergyAccess,]

A step closer to biofuels for planes

A new biofuels technology developed by North Carolina State University engineers has the potential to turn virtually any lipidic compound—e.g., vegetable oils, oils from animal fat and oils from algae—into aviation fuel or other high-value fuels.

The technology, called Centia, which is derived from “crudus potentia,” or “green power” in Latin integrates a sequence of three thermocatalytic-reforming processes that are either extensions of current commercial processes or based on recent laboratory breakthroughs. Centia can also be used to make additives for cold-weather biodiesel fuels and holds the potential to fuel automobiles that currently run on gasoline.

NC State received provisional patents to use the process to convert fats into jet fuel or additives for cold-weather biodiesel fuels. The technology has been licensed by Diversified Energy Corp., a privately held Arizona company specializing in the development of advanced alternative and renewable energy technologies and projects.


Halophyte Biofuel for Airplanes

EU tackles aircraft CO2 emissions

The European Commission has proposed that airlines operating in the EU should pay for any increase in greenhouse gas emissions above current levels.   The proposal involves brining internal EU flights inside the bloc’s emissions trading scheme from 2011, with all other flights following in 2012.  Air travel is a major, and also often overlooked, source of greenhouse gas emissions – in fact, a round trip flight between NY and London releases more global warming emissions than heating an entire home for a year!

Story via BBC News

New electric trams in Paris

Paris has opened a new electric tram line, the city’s first since 1937.  The new T3 electric tram line has been built to offer Parisians an enviornmentally-friendly method of public transport.  Because the trams are above ground, they are faster and cheaper to construct than their underground counterparts.

Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said at the inauguration, “We need to respond to pollution with action, it’s a necessity of public health and civilisation…Half of the planet’s population lives in towns today, so we need to make behaviour evolve.”

Story via BBC News