Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
Firm Will Test Air Taxis in Singapore Starting Next Summer
Flying cars have been the stuff of techno-futuristic fantasy for many decades, yet attempts to make them a reality have never quite gotten off the ground. Now a manufacturer of drone helicopters will give the idea a try in the form of a flying taxi service in Singapore.
Metro Report International reports that Volocopter will run a series of tests in the second half of 2019 to see how well their eVTOLs — electric-powered vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft — perform in a dense urban environment. Trips with passengers will be part of the testing regime.
The company will work with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to determine the scope of the tests and ensure that requirements are met. Velocopter will also establish a design and engineering team in the Southeast Asian city-state.
The helicopters can carry two passengers and have a range of just under 30 km (18.6 miles) between charges.
Ho Yuen Sang, director of aviation industry at the Civil Aviation Authority, told Metro Report, “There is potential for air taxis, or eVTOLs, to transform mobility and logistics in urban cities.”
A question these tests probably won’t answer: What happens if the concept takes off this time? Will the skies above our city streets become jammed with flying taxis?
One Final Weld Puts Finishing Touch on Oklahoma City Streetcar Tracklaying
The Oklahoman’s NewsOK website reports that city officials, local business leaders, community members and construction team workers officially marked the end of track construction on the Oklahoma City Streetcar Oct. 25 with a plaque unveiling and signing of a commemorative rail.
The actual end of track construction occurred the week before when construction crews welded the last segments of rail together. From start to finish, it took 20 months to lay the 6.9 miles of service track for the two-loop central-city circulator line.
Brookville Liberty modern streetcars have been making test trips on the shorter Bricktown loop since May. With the completion of the longer loop serving downtown and Midtown, test runs will take place on it over the next several weeks. Revenue service is tentatively set to begin on Dec. 14. The line’s $135 million construction cost was paid for entirely through proceeds from a one-cent, limited-term citywide sales tax Oklahoma City voters approved in 2009.
Revisions to BQX Streetcar Plan Turn Two Queens Council Members Into Opponents
Usually, changes to rail transit proposals aim to make the project less expensive while maintaining its original scope. An August report from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, however, concluded that the revised and shortened route for the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) waterfront streetcar line will cost more - $2.8 billion - and take longer to build than originally announced.
These changed conditions have led two Queens members of New York’s city council to come out in opposition to the project. The Queens Daily Eagle reports that Council members Costa Constantinides and Jimmy Van Bramer, both of whom represent districts through which the proposed line will pass, now doubt that the project will benefit their neighborhoods.
Constantinides, who serves on the BQX planning committee, worries that the line might trigger gentrification in the area around the line’s northern terminus in Astoria. He told the Eagle, “My constituents deserve answers not just on funding, but how it might physically reshape our neighborhood. I firmly believe Queens residents deserve a holistic, multimodal, reliable transportation system that allows them to travel within or beyond the borough.”
Van Bramer also criticized the project for failing to deliver better transit for Queens residents in a timely and cost-effective fashion, saying, “The BQX preliminary report does not leave me believing in its viability. I prefer a less disruptive alternative, such as dedicated bus lanes. The estimated cost of the project had already been extraordinarily expensive and now it is pricier, shorter, and delayed longer.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio remains supportive of the project, as do waterfront developers. If the revised proposal gets the go-ahead, construction would not begin until 2024.
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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.