Maglev test line for Atlanta?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

One of our guest opinion columnists has an out-of-the-box idea for a transportation experiment in the city – a maglev line running from MARTA’s Arts Center station to the Atlantic Station area. What do you think?

Commenting is open below.

By Dave Henson

After the failure of the metro Atlanta transportation referendum last year, Gov. Nathan Deal said it “slams the door on further expansion of our rail network any time soon.” Despite this understandable sentiment, I think commuter rail can get back on track.

It’s important to remember that the governor supported the referendum to the end, nobly going down with the rickety ship he inherited. The business community was grateful for his support, but other pro-transit groups undercut him by loudly opposing the plan. I believe a business-backed rail initiative could still pique Deal’s interest.

In addition to benefiting the business community, new rail would have to serve a large number of potential riders and come with a low price tag. All of the above can be had with a demonstration line from the MARTA Arts Center Station to the state-owned property at 17th Street and Northside Drive, which is being eyed for future Amtrak and Greyhound stations.

The rail line — state-operated, by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority — could form the spine of a “transportation innovation zone” in the progressive, up-and-coming West Midtown/“Westoma” (west of Midtown Atlanta) area. Many cutting-edge startup companies are based here, and AT&T is scouting the vicinity for one of its acclaimed Foundry innovation centers. Ridership would not be a problem.

As for low cost, the answer might lie with American Maglev Technologies, a Marietta company that builds magnetic levitation (maglev) transit propulsion systems. Maglev vehicles travel on a magnetic field, about a centimeter above elevated guideway rails, and are propelled by small onboard, electronic, emission-free engines. Unlike those found in conventional maglev systems, American Maglev’s guideways have no moving parts and require only a 5-foot-wide footprint.

Based on American Maglev’s per-mile projections, building the 1.2-mile demonstration line would cost $30 million to $35 million, a relatively low amount compared to other rail options. Currently, the company is bidding for commuter projects in Colorado and Florida. Seeing futuristic maglev trains streaking across the Downtown Connector could make a grand impression here as well.

Although maglev transit systems aren’t eligible for federal construction funding, they are covered under the recently passed “America Fast Forward Financing Innovation Act,” which offers a federally backed, low-interest loan program and a unique bond program that provides annual tax credits to bond investors in lieu of transportation agency interest payments.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed seems to have a fairly amicable relationship with President Barack Obama and might just have a shooter’s chance at landing one of those America Fast Forward loans or bonds for the maglev project.

It would be a win for the business community, and a win for Gov. Deal.

Dave Henson is a digital marketing executive and founder of Georgia Policy Solutions.

37 comments Add your comment

Matt321

March 7th, 2013
12:48 pm

I just wanted to applaud Bernie’s comment on March 5th, 2013, 11:06 pm. Said everything that needs to be said. We have existing rail infrastructure we can use right now. Why introduce a whole new system that doesn’t even have prospects of connecting to any other systems?

Atlanta was first and foremost a railroad town – a Terminus. A lot of the rail’s still there. Let’s use it.

Jackson

March 6th, 2013
3:25 pm

I think “test line” is lost on people. It would be a short (CONSERVATIVE) run to test technology, ridership, etc, before extending to Cobb.

Atlantaphotog

March 6th, 2013
2:26 pm

American Maglev already has a test line in Powder Springs on their private facility grounds which they use to show prospective clients (the public is not allowed). Maglev is not a short distance style of rail… street cars are short distance, or people mover rail (such as at the airport). MARTA would be an example of longer distance rail, and commuter rail for even longer. Maglev is designed for long distances and high rates of speed… to replace shorter plane trips as an example. It would be completely impractical for such a system on such a short run.

[...] test line for Atlanta? Maglev test line for Atlanta? | Atlanta Forward Looks like this is not something that has any serious backing at this point. But interesting. Not [...]

AI

March 6th, 2013
11:40 am

Great idea. A small investment spurring meaningful new business developments. Future property and sales taxes from these new businesses makes the investment obviously economical viable.

zeke

March 6th, 2013
10:45 am

You mean TAXPAYER SUBSIDIZED LOANS OR GRANTS BECAUSE NONE OF THESE MASS TRANSIT PROJECTS IS ECONOMICALLY VIABLE?

l

March 6th, 2013
10:19 am

I do not see any sense in 35 million for a 1.2 mile track
What would make sense would be MagLev wind turbines. This would generate millions in revenue using the wind[the endlessly renewable source of clean energy]. The unique aerodynamic design captures the kinetic energy of all the wind passing thruough the area. The design uses both lift and drag for power. More 210KW MagLevs can be packed into a small area than conventional turbines.
Magnetic levitation allows the turbine to spin freely. No magnetic linkages to wear out. Finally, because of the levitation they can be used at lower altitudes.
Cheap energy to power industry is Georgias future.