Would it be cheaper to build a Maglev with wheels?
Anyway, where could I go with news that Maglev was left out of any funding*... So if you go across the whole history here, we imploded over an attempt to build Skybus which was a novel transit system using rubber wheels on a guided track while Maglev without wheels at all has defined inertia for decades. You wonder why we don't ever try the normal thing and build or use boring rail lines. We just have to be different. Oh yeah, no money for rail either now. Thus is the state of transit strategy in Southwestern Pennsylvania. If your strategy was to actually not expand transit options would the results be any different.
You would think the maglev folks would get something just as a reward for sheer tenacity at this point. You can call up my past Maglev related comments here. There was a moment in time not too long ago when the ethereal Maglev project looked like it might actually happen. Just before 9/11 there was momentum for an actual demostration project with real money for maglev. Pittsburgh had been declared one of two finalists along with a plan to build something from DC to Baltimore. An actual draft environmental impact statement was put out there which was a real step toward something concrete (pun intended). Retired PG transportation columnist Joe Grata even dubbed it all "High Speed Maglev Week" at the time. It looked like a light at the end of a long tunnel. On top of it all the folks in Maryland did not seem to be keen on the impact construction of the line would have through the endless exurbia that now seperates DC and Baltimore. A Pittsburgh maglev almost (well, almost almost) seemed inevitable. It was not to be.
Long ago Pittsburgh lost any bragging rights to have the first operational maglev even if it had been built. Shanghai's maglev line is up and running and has been for years. Shanghai actually built theirs with Transrapid technology, a German company that was slated to build the Pittsburgh high speed maglev. One problem is that Transrapid announced it was shutting down last year. It didnt go away immediately and I am not sure what the status is, but there is a great writeup of Transrapid's history in the Indian press (why not? flat world and all of that) just last week. As of more news today.. and as best I can tell the Germans are still trying to keep Transrapid from fading away completely.
How long has maglev been a figment of our imagination? Again this illustration from 1985 kind of says it all:
* High Speed Maglev that is.. have not heard from either of the low speed maglev projects that have been talked about in town. One out at Cal U and the other that I think was going to connect Downtown with parts of the lower Hill District I thought... have to go look that up. Someone should check in on them to see what traction they have remaining.