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Could Commuter Transit Pods be the Answer to Easing Triangle Traffic?

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WAKE COUNTY — State highway engineers say the Triangle needs alternatives to help ease traffic troubles. Could the answer be buses, trains, orSkyTran-- a commuter option that looks like it comes from outer space?

Imagine zipping along to work in a two-person pod that travels non-stop at 100 miles per hour, and is powered by environmentally-friendly magnetic levitation.

Backers of SkyTran are very confident the system will work for the Triangle.

"I have no doubt it will be in the Triangle and North Carolina some time in our future. It's just a matter of when," says Bob Cotter, SkyTran vice president.

Cotter says electricity on a raised rail would power the personal, rapid transit pods.

"When you hop into one of the SkyTran pods you're not sitting there with a bunch of other people waiting for them to get on and off," says Cotter. "You're by yourself. You listen to music, you watch television, you read the paper, look at the Internet -- whatever you want to do on your way to where you're going."

The biggest cost of many transportation projects is buying up the land and acquiring rights of way. With the SkyTran system all that is needed is airspace 20 feet above the side of the road or right down the median.

SkyTran claims its system would be cheaper to build and operate than a traditional commuter rail system. The company also claim it is much more user-friendly than buses.

TheNorth Carolina Department of Transportationsays the Triangle needs alternatives to get cars off of clogged commuter routes. But DOT officials who have talked with SkyTran say they do not think commuter pods are the answer.

"There's no reason to go back and use old technology like light rail and buses," says Cotter. "We're in the 21st Century. It's time to make use of automation. It's time to make use of computers and move forward and get there fast."

Right now SkyTran is just a prototype, but the company says it is a prototype that will work.

Transportation engineers in Phoenix are talking with SkyTran representatives as they plan a 177-mile public transit system.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
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