Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Urge to Green

Design professionals recognize the sterility of the modern city; they want to embrace the natural world's appeal. And yet it is so hard for them to challenge the dominant species –  not humans but the automobile. Their street is incomplete without cars at grade.

Student Landscape Architecture • one of 88 designs
So instead of inexpensively transferring mobility services to a narrow guideway above the ground, Mexican designers here have created a costly walkway for people which would be safe – and accessible at grade – resulting in pedestrians still subordinate to the automobile.

Mexico City’s busiest avenue returning to residents as a stunning elevated public park
YouTube Animation

Even where natural spaces are envisioned for the street at grade, designers still feel the necessity to create intersections between people and cars. (Note the street at the center.)

Hammarby, Sweden

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Reclaiming streets

I transcribed part of a video I saw today, to bring to light one of the most fascinating benefits offered by podcars for urban living. 


When this Southeast Asian fishing village and trading post became independent in 1965, the founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew committed to transforming Singapore from "mud flats to metropolis" in 10 years. It came to pass, not the least by "reclaim[ing] land in a useful way." With a density of 8,000 people per square kilometer on a small island, land management is indeed crucial.

Rethinking Urban Infrastructure: Global Perspective (Video)

Fast forward to the present day and let's find out what's in store for Singapore.

Now mobility we touched on very briefly, but we have the same demographic as other countries. We have a limited amount of road surface and a limited amount of housing area so we have to prioritize housing because that's the way things are.

And so we'd like to build fewer roads going forward, and in fact have started to build almost no new roads and in fact all of the money is going into public infrastructure – more underground tunnels and so on.

But what we need to do is rethink the whole movement of people – not simply building more buses on the road – because that just keeps the congestion high.

Now this is a picture which we haven't shown publicly very often which is the Land Transport Authority in Singapore, the government agency with whom we partner, is thinking through a multilevel platform in Singapore that would allow several things to occur.

So if you can kind of read it from the bottom up, the underground system or mass rapid transit which is in place today and continues to expand. Then there is a level which would be primarily for goods delivery and freight and trying to keep that out of people's way. And so some of that would be autonomous, ideally more and more autonomous.

You go up a level and you have some of the last mile autonomous pods that would allow people to go from a central point to their final destination (love for more of that to be electric) and then on top what is currently a paved road surface would be reclaimed and thought of as parkland and areas in which there would be a quality of life because nobody wants to live in an increasingly dense environment in which you simply survive until you get home and so from this perspective we want to reclaim land.

So Singapore already has a high rate of trees, and planting and gardens but we want to make it more, and it's also a green aspect, which is of course the more we can do, the more we can contribute positively to the climate issue.

So we think of this as: We have to ... and so we will.

Steve Leonard, Executive Deputy Chairman
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore


Well, Steve, your heart's in the right place. We do want "a quality of life," and I appreciate that you pointed out the obvious – that current city streets can't possibly deliver "a quality of life," period. 

With a couple of simple steps, you can have this now in Singapore at perhaps 5% or 10% of the cost and 1% of the aggravation that your Land Transport Authority is contemplating:
  • Establish a podcar network above the streets
  • Keep the sidewalks intact 
  • Jackhammer the pavement – except for a bike path meandering through the middle.
  • Add soil, then plant trees, shrubs, flowers, and lawns where cars used to transgress
What will you have now?
  • Instead of dark tunnel walls, podcar passengers will have a view of the natural landscape.
  • Instead of spending their days in unhealthy bleak tunnels, commercial personnel will load their wares on freight carrying pods that will enter seamlessly into and out of buildings.
  • Likewise, recycling will be handled in recycling pods equally accessible. 
  • Construction machinery and objects to be carried that are too large for pods will utilize the bike paths, transiting through the landscape at sub-lethal speeds (5-10 km/hr).
  • And then...
Join the solarevolution and celebrate "a quality of life!"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spartan Superway Academic Program Basic Class Objectives

This slideshow explains the basic objectives of the Spartan Superway Academic Program.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

UJ Futran visits Futran test track

On September 4, 80+ senior Civil Engineering students from the University of Johannesburg visited the Futran Systems test track north of Brits in South Africa.

A few more photos are posted here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

University of Johannesburg designs Futran System

The University of Johannesburg Civil Engineering senior capstone project for 2017 is to design a solar-powered, suspended podcar network for Johannesburg under the sponsorship of Futran Systems. The 8 student teams are designing routes, structures, and stations, with attention to structural engineering, geotech, water systems (such as toilet facilities for passengers), and more.

As a pioneering academic institution in this emerging field, UJ is also developing a curriculum for advanced studies in sustainable public transit.

The students are beginning to create their individual and group blogs as a tool to exchange information with others who are working in parallel with them. These blogs can be seen on their project blog:
The project teams have been informed about the SPARTAN Superway, another pioneering parallel initiative at San José State University in Silicon Valley.

More details about the San José State program can be seen here:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Summer 2017 Research Experience for Undergraduate & Graduate students

Tired of traffic, fossil fuel usage, and pollution?
Do you want to work on a new paradigm for urban transportation – solar-powered automated rapid transit ascendant network (SPARTAN) and get practical, real-world experience?
If interested, please go to the following URL and fill out an application:

The Spartan Superway is a new paradigm for sustainable urban transportation that consists of solar-powered automated rapid transit ascendant networks (SPARTAN). SPARTAN features non-stop, on demand, origin-to-destination travel service that is powered by solar energy.
Candidate summer interns will fill out an application (see above) that will help the management team decide which project best fits your interests. There are potential opportunities in Mechatronics, Mechanical Design, Structural Engineering, Solar Design / Generation / Grid Integration, Urban Design and Planning, Vehicle Cabin Design, Power Electronics, Industrial Systems Engineering, and Mobile App Development.
There are two options for SJSU housing (8 week stay minimum for program):
  1. SJSU International House:
    1. I-House Summer Application: Start date June 1st, 2017. End Date August 1st, 2017. $30 / Night → 8 weeks = $1,680 + $100 for linens, with possible $50 rebate for linens.
    2. Campus Village Building Application: Start date June 1st, 2017. End date August 11th, 2017.  Rates vary from $195 - $365 / week dependent upon availability + $15 for linen package. Minimum Price: $1,575. Maximum Price: $2,935
    3. Round trip flights from your home → San Jose → and return = $500-$1000 (?)
    4. Food costs = ~$50 / week = $400
For more information, please contact:

Eric Hagstrom - Spartan Superway General Manager:
Prof. Burford Furman - Spartan Superway Co-Director:
Ron Swenson - Spartan Superway Co-Director: