The image looks like something far in Santa Clara’s future, but if Uber Elevate has anything to say about it, it will not be too far into the future.
The company recently announced a partnership with Related Companies, the company behind a 240-acre development along Highway 237, adjacent to Levi’s Stadium. The development was already slated to include shops, office buildings and housing, but Uber Elevate hopes that one day it will also include a skyport.
“We see urban aviation as the next frontier and are excited about Uber’s concepts creating a whole new paradigm of how people commute and move throughout the region,” said Joanna Rose, the Executive Vice President of Related Companies.
But as of now it is just a concept. While Uber’s renderings show an aerial ridesharing vehicle flying over Santa Clara, the company says it currently does not have any solid plans to launch a skyport in Santa Clara.
Despite that, Santa Clara City officials are excited to see what’s to come.
“While there are many regulatory processes ahead for Uber Elevate, the City of Santa Clara is supportive of exploring all modes of transportation and looks forward to seeing how this cutting-edge venture would further transform Santa Clara as a future-forward city,” said Lenka Wright, the Director of Communications for the City of Santa Clara.
However, plans for the skyport may be grounded before they even start. The site’s close proximity to Levi’s Stadium and San Jose International Airport poses planning problems.
“This probably isn’t going to happen,” said Mark Connolly, Planner with the Airport Land Use Commission. “Here’s the problem with this. It’s right in the direction of south flow [of air traffic from San Jose International Airport] and it’s well under 400 feet. When the weather gets cloudier or there’s rain or anything like that, that’s the way the planes land. In regular traffic, that’s the way they take off, so either way.”
Connolly says he’s heard talk of permits for short distance pick-ups and drop-offs for package delivery, but nothing like what Uber Elevate is proposing.
“I can’t imagine you’re going to be able to get approval to operate these kinds of vehicles there; they’re flying up and down like that. If one gets away from somebody, you’re [in for a] total disaster,” said Connolly.
Uber Elevate plans to launch Uber Air in Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco Texas and Los Angeles first. If all goes as planned, it will hold flight demonstrations next year with the hopes of making aerial ridesharing commercially available in 2023.
There are a number of regulatory hurdles that Uber will face before it gets the go ahead in Santa Clara.