Imagine an interconnected network of overhead tracks carrying small electric-powered transit cars that whisk you to your destination at 100 miles an hour or faster upon hearing your personal voice command. This Jetson\u2019s like technology--for those old enough to remember the cartoon--is inching its way toward reality in California. Next year, the developer, Unimodal, claims it will roll out a 1,000 foot long demonstration system at a location in northern California that is still being arranged. While the concept--known as personal rapid transit--may seem to be on the utopian edge of technology, it is attracting serious consideration from some heavyweight public officials and agencies in California. Primarily that is because it functions like the infinitely popular automobile--flexible in where it can take you and available whenever you want it--rather than like today\u2019s limited public transit systems that operate on fixed routes and schedules. Now, to support development of such novel and attractive technologies in the war against climate change, the Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee to the California Air Resources Board has backed auctioning off greenhouse gas emissions rights. It would use the proceeds to fund demonstrations of new technologies, like personal rapid transit, which it lauds as holding significant promise in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Air Board chair Mary Nichols has voiced enthusiasm about such a funding program at a time when California\u2019s climate change law, AB 32, seems to have unleashed a legion of inventors to turn their talents to solving the climate change problem. One such figure is Unimodal founder Doug Malewicki, who is known for inventing the \u201crocket belt\u201d to fly people through the air. At Unimodal, he has conceptualized a personal rapid transit system known as Skytran, which so far already has gained modest financing from the federal government and private investors. While it seems futuristic, Malewicki--who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for designing the world\u2019s most fuel efficient gasoline-powered car at 157 miles per gallon--maintains that Skytran is based on existing technologies that can be quickly assembled to provide a new mode of rapid transit. First off, the system consists of a narrow track, or guide way, placed on top of quickly installed poles similar to the ones utilities use. Over the guide way travel tandem personal transportation cars about two feet wide. They use magnetic levitation for propulsion. Radar and computers keep the cars safely spaced as they travel at high speeds to the individual destinations of their occupants. The main track has side tracks at closely spaced stops--or portals--where the cars decelerate to a halt. Riders exit onto a small platform and walk downstairs to the street and then on to their home or jobs. Empty cars always wait at the portals to carry riders on demand to their chosen locations. The whole system is powered by solar energy, according to Malewicki, or simply draws off the grid. Mag-lev propulsion minimizes the number of moving parts, which dramatically reduces wear, tear, and maintenance. Initially, Malewicki envisions installing a full-scale demonstration of the system at an airport. It would move people between terminals and conceivably to nearby hotels, parking lots, and then to the nearest public transit station. Chris Perkins, company chief executive officer, confirms that Unimodal already has discussed with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority two potential routes for installing a Skytran system. One would connect Los Angeles International Airport to the metro area\u2019s light rail system. The other would connect Burbank Airport to Studio City and then continue to a light rail line that serves downtown Los Angeles. The company estimates that the system could be built for about one-tenth of the cost of a conventional light rail system. Due to the price of land and complexity of building, in Los Angeles it might be comparatively even less expensive. For instance, installing the eight-mile long light rail line in the city, known as Expo Line, is expected to cost more than $800 million. Once built, an extensive Skytran network could take anybody to within a half mile or so of their destination just about anywhere in the city. \u201cIt\u2019s an architecture for delivering transportation service,\u201d said Perkins, explaining that it functions similar to today\u2019s networked highway system. The promise of such low-cost, low-polluting, and flexible public transportation in California, a state heavily dependent upon the auto, appears to have captivated the imagination of some top public officials and agencies. They see it as a way to relieve congestion and cut greenhouse gases. The company estimates that Skytran moves passengers about 200 miles on the amount of energy in a gallon of gas, compared to the 20 miles that a gallon of gas moves the average motorist, a reduction in emissions of 90 percent. Impressed with the concept, the officials recently outlined their support for demonstrating such a personal rapid transit system in correspondence to the California Air Resources Board\u2019s Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee, which endorsed the technology in its final report earlier this month. The Air Board is set to adopt the committee\u2019s report next week. One official backing the technology is Los Angeles County supervisor Yvonne Burke. In a January 24 letter to the committee, she urged state support for a project in Los Angeles County, where she also sits on the Metropolitan Transit Authority board. David Freeman, the state\u2019s former energy czar and now president of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, backed a state demonstration project too in separate correspondence. Northern California public officials weighed in favorably as well, including Judy Arnold, Marin County supervisor, and Barbara Goodwin, Fresno County Council of Governments executive director. So it\u2019s more than conceivable that California could see a significant-sized demonstration of the Skytran system--or something like it--in an urban setting in the coming decade. If so, it not only would create construction jobs, but jobs building the components, including the cars, and developing the software. Finland, Sweden, and Italy also have expressed interest, according to Malewicki, as has New Orleans as it seeks to rebuild.