What if Muni went overhead?

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We can dream, can’t we? SMT Rail is a Silicon Valley-based company with a proposal to solve mass transit problems in cities around the world. The idea is rather simple: Put the vehicles above street traffic. And the proposal isn’t to raise the system aboveground in certain locations, as BART does with elevated rails in the southern part of San Francisco. Nay, SMT wants the whole damn thing up above our heads.

Watch the demo above (apologies in advance about the soundtrack?) or visit SMT Rail’s website for more details. And tell us: If Muni were to implement such a system (forgetting how much it would cost to build), how exactly would they screw it up?


  • How do you get out of this thing in an emergency?

  • Paul J. Lucas

    Where to begin…. (1) This brings back memories of the hideous Embarcadero Freeway. (2) The E and F lines on the Embarcadero already have a private right-of-way. If Muni would only implement signal priority, then it would be just as good. (3) Muni would have to buy all new vehicles that don’t interoperate with the rest of the Metro system. (4) Muni has no money now for anything.

    • As a regular commuter on the F-Market/Wharves, I think something a bit more utilitarian for commuters to the north end — even if this isn’t it — would be helpful. Thus far, the F ain’t it and I’m not convinced the E will be much better.

      • Paul J. Lucas

        The E/F lines will get better since more streetcars are being added to the line as they return from refurbishment in Pennsylvania. That will reduce overcrowding on the streetcars.

        Muni currently has a severs shortage in operator trainers and that would be true regardless of technology.

  • Paul J. Lucas

    It occurred to me that the only place something like this would make any sense would be to/from Treasure Island. With all the redevelopment planned there (including lots of new housing), traffic on/off the island is going to grind to a halt. Attaching one of these rail systems to the underside of the Bay Bridge and going to the new Transbay Terminal would be good.

  • Alai

    As usual, the promotional materials focus on the interfaces of the computers and other irrelevant cruft while sliding the actual questions of how these things physically work under the rug. I don’t think it’s (excessively) ugly. If it could deliver on its promises, I’d be happy to see it built– it’s no Embarcadero Freeway. But there are a lot of real, proven improvements that could be made to the current system, and a lot of questions to be answered about any new one. Let someone else be the guinea pig.

    That wheelchair lock seems pretty dubious, and I don’t think people would put up with the sort of slopes shown in the video– it would be a real rollercoaster.

    It’s nice to imagine for the long term, though, and I don’t think it’s totally crazy.

  • If it actually works and is reliable for long-term use for decades, then the basic idea is great. I don’t think SF needs customizable transit, just improved transit in several corridors. Muni would mess this up by replacing existing lines (like the E/F) with this system when instead it needs to put it down Geary and other major busy lines first.

  • BBnet3000

    PRT is a stupid fantasy.

  • Ooooo – Damnbarcadero Freeway II: The Whining.

    Of course a “Silicon Valley-based company” would propose this. There’s no views in SV that compare to the SF Embarcadero.

    I propose we replace the 38-Geary with this, just to piss of The Richmond.

  • Charles

    For a cogent critique of this video and the stupidity involved in this idea, see the folks from the Market Street Railway:


  • Dexter Wong

    Yet another monorai.l PRT system! More pie in the sky

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