Hyperloop, air taxi, gondola considered for Bay Area transportation

Urban planners are studying the future of transportation in the Bay Area. Among the new modes being studied are Hyperloop, air taxis, and gondolas.

Brian Pessaro, the principal planner for the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA), said gondolas are likely closer than the other new forms of transportation. He says the technology is ready to use, but local officials have to make sure it's ready for use in an urban setting.

Pessaro's agency was awarded a $1 million appropriation by the legislature to study the area's transportation future. He says they are using around $220,000 now look into several options.

One option is Hyperloop -- a passenger pod that travels through a nearly-airless tube, similar to a vacuum. 

"In theory, it can get up to speeds of 700 miles an hour," said Pessaro.

He said that technology may be more suited for travel between cities, while air taxis and gondolas may be better suited for travel within the Tampa Bay area.

Gondolas have already been talked about locally.

"Going from Clearwater to Clearwater Beach," explained Pessaro. "That's one of the areas we'll be looking at in the study." 

The new study is separate from current plans for a proposed Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) and an expanded and modernized streetcar system in Tampa's urban core.

Hillsborough County voters approved a penny transportation tax increase last November to fund that project and others.

"People are saying they want solutions and they want them now," added Pessaro.

He and other planners are working on near-term solutions while the new study looks at the long view of transportation in the Tampa Bay area.