Greater City Providence

The rails we have

railpodThere’s been a lot of discussion lately about Obama’s plans for high speed rail systems. Such a system, linking together major cities throughout the nation, would be an amazing project that would no doubt create thousands of jobs and leave us with an amazing infrastructure improvement. Obviously, this new system isn’t going to happen overnight, and there’s clearly a lot to think about regarding high-speed rail, and we’ll do our best to keep up with the discussions.

In the meantime, there are countless rails already on the ground in Rhode Island, and though we’d love to have more commuter and local service, it seems most of the rails are either used for freight, MBTA/Amtrak, or are sitting unused and rusting.

railpod side by sideRailPod, a company up in Belmont, MA, thinks they have a solution. They are introducing a passenger car that can run on a single rail and is autonomously driven. Featured recently in Mass High Tech, these two-person sized, battery powered cars can take you point to point on-demand along any existing single track.

RailPod™ vehicles are fun and easy to use! Entrance to the vehicle is permitted via an access card. When you arrive at a station, swipe your access card, enter your destination on an interactive touch-screen similar to an ATM, sit down, and enjoy the ride! You will be transported, non-stop, to your destination.

Matthew Coolidge

Matthew Coolidge is co-founder of Greater City Providence. In addition to the occasional blog post about cycling, sailing, or urban rant, he works as an Electrical Engineer, often traveling to major cities and ports around the globe, or simply Warwick.


  • For some reason I can only think of the Marge and the monorail episode of the Simpsons after reading this. Sounds like a simpsonesque scheme.

  • I think this sounds like a fabulous idea. Especially for Providence, where mass transit volumes in neighborhoods like Broadway or the East Side might not make a large, human-operated, “T” style light rail system financially viable…

    Circulating railpods with set stops at various locations seems to have a lot of promise. I’m very intrigued…

  • I could see these working out quite nicely here in the soulless suburbs of Virginia. Lots of rail but not always lots of trains! I could take one of these almost all the way to the office and then hop on the shuttle for the rest of the way.

  • I think their particular idea is a little silly, but the basic concept of an ultra-light rail is a good one. I wonder how this thing would handle track switches. Maybe a two-rail system would be better, with slightly bigger vehicles, roughly van-sized. Another open question is how the automation would interact with grade crossings.

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