As cities are reimagining ways to bring alternative mobility solutions to traffic-clogged South Florida, another major player has thrown a hat into the ring.
In July, Refresh Miami reported on a proposal from Elon Musk’s Boring Company to build a tunnel system under Las Olas Boulevard. The East-West corridor between the Brightline station and the beach is notoriously backed up, especially in tourist season.
Silicon Valley-based Glydways responded to the government-mandated solicitation for competing proposals. Glydways proposes a roughly 4-mile mobility system that runs partially above and partially below ground. Their goal is to alleviate traffic and provide South Floridians with a pleasant, accessible ride. Two competing bids were reportedly disqualified, but Glydways believes it meets the qualifications.
Mark Seeger, founder and CEO of Glydways, is passionate about public transport. Having been born in Europe and spent a significant chunk of his life in Asia, he says he has “grown up with a love for what public transportation delivers.” Seeger sees mobility as a key way to promote “access to opportunity, affordable housing, employment, education, care,” and other social goals.
Glydways has developed a public transportation system that it says can carry up to 10,800 passengers per hour. Users hail a ride and are greeted by their own lightweight electric vehicle (no sharing with strangers). The new-age design looks closer to a vehicle you might see on the Jetsons than on I-95. These small vehicles have enough space for a few riders, plus bulkier items like a stroller or bike.
The system has a net-zero carbon footprint, thanks in part to the solar panels Glydways installs on the roof that protects its vehicles. According to Seeger, these panels generate more power than they consume. “We give [the excess energy] back to the community,” he said, rather than selling it back. “So that means that our solar system is offsetting a gas turbine somewhere, and so you’re burning less hydrocarbons.”
Another key aspect of Glydways’ positive environmental impact comes from the efficiency of only deploying vehicles that will actually be used. This stands in stark contrast to busses and trains, which have to run even when they are empty
In keeping with their goal for accessibility, Glydways has committed to charging the same price for their services as currently-available public options. Seeger claims that Glydways is “profitable with every ride,” citing that their capital costs are 90% cheaper than traditional public transit options. The startup is privately funded and, unlike most instances of train transport, does not take any operational subsidies to run.
There is also a physical element to Glydways’ accessibility. Seeger explained that while luxury Teslas are nice, they are not the most practical for people travelling with items like wheelchairs or scooters – both of which fit into Glydways’ vehicles.
Glydways was interested in Fort Lauderdale because the project would initially have a relatively small footprint, but would have room to expand in the future. Seeger noted that the city was also advantageous because it has some major transportation infrastructure like the Brightline and TriRail, but has gaps in connecting these systems with major destinations. “We want to be the last mile connector,” he said. This enables Glydways to, in Seeger’s words, “add value to the existing system” while also helping underserved communities.
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