Hoverboards, Flying Cars, and Wireless Solar Streetcars

One of the speakers at the ribbon cutting for the Atlanta Streetcar congratulated the city and then wondered, “What’s next? Hoverboards and flying cars?”

A fair question.That’s what the Back to the Future movies predicted for 2015, right?

Although hoverboards and flying cars (of a sort) may actually be available, they’re still financially out of reach for the majority of us. Or they catch on fire. There is a technological advancement for the Streetcar that is well within our grasp and one I think warrants strong consideration, especially for the BeltLine corridor.

And ultimately it could save the city significant money.

What if we could power the streetcars with solar and hydrogen? What if we could do it at 50% of the cost of typical streetcar infrastructure with 50% less ongoing maintenance costs because we eliminated the need for overhead wires and wayside power systems?

One of the things that has compelled us to go forward to the past by bringing back streetcars to Atlanta is the promise of electric powered vehicles as a pivot away from petroleum dependence and a way to reduce our carbon footprint.

Although the carbon reduction lives up to it’s promise at the street level — less petrol fumes polluting the streets of downtown Atlanta — the electricity used to supply power to the streetcars is still generated at coal-fired plants. So the net effect is zero reduction in carbon emissions.

Then there’s all the poles and overhead wires. One of the elderly attendees at the ribbon cutting ceremony explained that removal of the tangled web of wires overhead was one of the reasons folks back in the day reluctantly went along with the city wide shutdown of streetcar service. I confess that I dislike the additional visual clutter it brings to our streets. I think only a few of us would be nostalgic enough to opt for a city wide web of cables when there’s a self-powered streetcar option that removes the need for the wires and reduces infrastructure costs by half.


Look, Ma. No wires!

And when it comes to streetcars on the BeltLine, I feel quite certain that the aesthetics of no poles or wires on a loop of linear park is something that would gain significant grassroots support.

How fortunate for us that solar-powered, wireless streetcars are not something that is only the stuff of science fiction movies. They exist now and are gliding through the streets of Aruba and Mexico and will be soon in the Arab Emirate cities of Dubai and Qatar.

Ironically, these offshore installations are made possible by an American company, TIG/m, out of California. TIG/m has yet to find significant traction in the States because U.S. municipalities are extremely risk averse and the FTA regulations applied when Federal money is involved are restrictive at best.

So while other parts of the world may be miles ahead of the US in urban transportation, this could change with a truly “transformative” 22 mile streetcar system encircling Atlanta. It’s a project where we haven’t been afraid to dream big and take some risks. The first BeltLine parks have solar canopies for net zero operations, so it’s something we’ve already dabbled in. It’s innovation that could continue to spawn innovation.

Let’s upgrade the Atlanta Streetcar system to wireless solar on the BeltLine. It’s not a flying car, but it’s a move in the right direction for a system with wings for a logo.

ASInterested in living in Atlanta’s Streetcar District? Check out the Downtown SCORE Board here.

About Burke Sisco

Burke Sisco is a Realtor and Associate Broker of eXp Realty with over 20 years of experience in the Atlanta real estate market. He calls the surging infra-culture around the BeltLine both home and business territory and is the founder and managing editor of BeltLandia.com. He has helped a number of satisfied clients buy and sell property in BeltLandia. Those interested in living the BeltLandia Lifestyle can reach Burke at 404.421.9968 or by email at burke.sisco@exprealty.com.


  1. In other news, the Atlanta Streetcar was shut down for a few hours after a light pole fell on the wires http://patch.com/georgia/midtown/nearby-atlanta-streetcar-system-shut-down-after-light-pole-falls-wires-0

  2. Federal Scientists are now reporting that 2014 was the hottest year on record. Another reason to plan for running the BeltLine streetcars without the burning of fossil fuels…

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