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The Podcar: ever consider personal rapid transit?

Just days after Syanapse Partners announced plans for the CuseCar car sharing venture, representatives from Podcar gathered at the Technology Garden downtown to discuss an upcoming international conference that would explore transforming one central New York city into the first Podcar City in America.

But they weren't talking about the Syracuse.

On Sept. 14, an amassing of engineers, energy experts and planning professionals will convene in Ithaca to explore alternatives to the automobile.

The Podcar, or PRT (personal rapid transit), presentation last week brought Christer Lindstrom stateside to address preliminary questions a month before the Ithaca conference. Lindstrom is the founder of the Institute for Sustainable Transportation in Sweden, the organization leading the Podcar evolution - the company plans to open a track at Heathrow Airport, London, in spring 2009.

"It's not about selling a technology, it's not about telling people what they should do. It's about asking the question, is the car the peak of human evolution?" Lindstrom said. "Well, I don't think so."

The conference in September, a three-day affair, aims to address current transportation concerns in the city of Ithaca, and explore the alternatives available for improving public transit. That is where the Podcar comes in.

Podcars are every bit as futuristic as the name implies. Seating up to four passengers, the cars are powered electrically along rails, and directed to the passenger's destination with the press of a button. Unlike traditional light rail or bus systems, the Podcar is personal, moving individuals to their next stop without the hassle of waiting for stops in between.

As for the future of PRT in the Salt City?

While the topic was not on the agenda last week, Lindstrom did make a point with which most Syracusians would agree:

"In Syracuse, I-81 is a freeway going through the center of the city, As appalling as I think it is, you have a very good, exciting opportunity to take it down and do something better," he said.

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