By Ken A. Epstein
CyberTran International, a Richmond-based start up company, is turning a lot of heads with its “ultra light rail” project that has the potential to significantly transform mass transit in the Bay Area and around the country.
CyberTran is developing computer-automated, solar-powered trains, in reality more like passenger cars, that can move up to 20 passengers at a time between stations. Because of the small size of the vehicles, they are easier to build and much cheaper than bigger systems like Bay Area Rapid Transit.
The company’s technology will create a passenger rail system that allows passenger to plan their destinations around their personal schedules, not stop at every station like other systems.
Because stations are built on off-track sidings, other cars can move through the system while some are unloading and loading.
“Currently, transit projects in the Bay Area are stalled or can only be constructed piecemeal. The ultra-light rain transit system developed by CyberTran represents the possibility of enabling these projects to built soon and at a quarter of the cost,” said Dexter Vizinau, president of CyberTran.
In addition, said Vizinau, the success of CyberTran’s project would be a major economic boon to Richmond. “The development of a light rail manufacturing plant in Richmond potentially means thousands of jobs for local residents,” he said.
The Richmond City Council voted unanimously in September to enter a public-private partnership with company. On Feb. 14, another agency, i-Gate, signed an agreement with the company.
i-GATE, a state-sponsored business incubator, has asked CyberTran to participate in a network of green transportation and clean-energy technologies, where the company can access advanced industry and technology development opportunities.
“We are excited by joining i-GATE,” said Neil Sinclair, CyberTran’s chairman. “Cyber-Trans’s technology development will be accelerated by joining i-GATE’s system of two national research labs, universities and venture community.”
The company currently is seeking $25 million in funding in order to build a test track, a significant price tag but much less than an equivalent piece of BART track.
CyberTran is hoping it will be funded by a new transportation reauthorization bill that is now under discussion in Washington. However, the company understands that it still struggling within the context of a transportation environment traditionally dominated by points of view that opposed or ignored new transit technology for the past 30 years.