Mass Transit

The Hyperloop Is Landing the Private Investment That Eludes High-Speed Rail

Company planning an early test in Nevada soon.


But will it have reliable wi-fi?

This Hyperloop might end up being a real thing. The latest news is that Hyperloop Technologies will actually be building an open-air test track in Nevada and will start testing its system in a month.

For those who may need a refresher, the Hyperloop, supported by tech innovator Elon Musk, is currently a theoretical concept of mass high-speed transportation. It would use large pneumatic tubes to transport people and goods at speeds approaching the sound barrier— about 750 miles per hour.

It hasn't been built before and we don't know for certain whether it will work safely. But the company is drawing in investors and getting to work. What they've announced this week is that they'll be building an open track (not an enclosed tube) in Nevada that will operate at half the speed. The plan to have a working, fully enclosed, high-speed tube that extends for two miles operational by the end of 2016.

Also of interest—the Associated Press takes note of how the financing is working:

The cost of the so-called Propulsion Open Air Test wasn't disclosed. The company said it has raised $37 million from investors and expects to obtain $80 million more in bond financing.

Jennifer Cooper, spokeswoman for the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said no tax incentives were involved.

Investors, not subsidies. Note that this is $37 million more in private funds committed to this project than California's High-Speed Rail proposal has been able to snag. The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is quick to say that there is an "interest" by any number of private investors, but they haven't gotten a cent so far.

There's more bad news for the high-speed rail crowd today. Democratic Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, representing the San Fernando area, has yanked her support for the train. It would cut through her district and she told the Los Angeles Times that it would damage her community, and she doesn't see any actual benefits from it. She also said there are five other Democrats who are reconsidering their positions. And current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will be running to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown, has openly spoken out against the project.

Below, ReasonTV interviews Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (a separate company from Hyperloop Technologies), about the project:

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  1. Really. Here’s a thought–go capture an asteroid and use it to fund whatever.

    1. By holding the planet ransom for one hundred billion dollars?

      1. Two not mutually exclusive options: Mine the asteroid and make hundreds of billions, and sell asteroid insurance policies. Actually, if it’s moved close to Earth, there’s a third option: low-gravity whoretels.

        1. Option three! Spacesteading!

    2. I swear, if you make us deploy Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to stop it, you’ll be sorry.

      1. That was a comet.

        1. Ajax?!?

          Or Acme, and we’re in roadrunner territory then.

        2. Did you just interject a Deep Impact reference into a discussion about Armageddon?

            1. And furthermore, no one ever talks about the Four Horsemen of the Deep Impact, Crusty. If that even is your real name.

          1. Unforgivable. Only one of them has Leelee Sobieski. The other has Liv Tyler getting freaky to her dad’s song.

          2. Hm, the web says it was an asteroid too. But wasn’t there jets of gas coming out of it?

            1. It was science, Trey. Don’t fight it.

            2. It looked like it was leaking noxious chemicals or something. It’s Michael Bay, so the gas was justified because it looked cool to him. There certainly was not a coma.

            3. One was an asteriod and one was a comet! Gosh.


                1. Twiiiiiix!

  2. I’m surprised to hear that Moonbeam’s supertrain is losing support among state representatives. I thought for sure the State would drive that nail in with its own forehead if it had to.

    1. If a Democrat takes a position, it’s for leverage, not principle.

      1. If a *politician* takes a position, it’s for leverage, not principle.


        1. Republicans take one position: the defensive position.

  3. The Hyperloop, a series of tubes…
    When will Al Gore be claiming credit?

  4. Wow, a whole two miles. Seriously, that’s totally lame considering the speeds they’re talking about.

    I wonder if he actually thinks this will work or whether he’s already planning to scale it back to a slower model.

    1. he’s already planning to scale it back to a slower model.

      That would be my guess.

    2. Assuming 1 G acceleration you’d need around 6 km’s to reach Mach 1. Which would be around 3.6 miles. So, you’d need a longer track or to test at greater than 1 G to get up to full speed.

      And practically speaking, you’d be better off using higher G’s (the fastest roller coasters use 1.5+ G acceleration). For example, you’d hit Mach 1 in a distance of 1.1 miles using 3 G’s. Then you coast for 0.5 miles and rapidly slow down at the end.

  5. It would use large pneumatic tubes to transport people and goods…

    Sounds like it’s going to suck.

    1. Do you know who else sounded like they were going to suck?

      1. Linda Lovelace?

      1. Why not both?

        /Bart Simpson

        1. Mega Maid?

    2. We used to use pneumatic tubes for moving mail and other small items. Wonder if that would be cost-effective today?

      1. It would require a fuckton of infrastructure, most of which would probably need to be located underground. Drones require no infrastructure.

        1. Yes-It is quite effective for a campus. Beyond that scale, I think it would get cost-prohibitive.

          1. There is also not-minor issue of anybody who wished being able to poke a hole, rather easily, in the hyperloop tube. It would be like dynamiting a section of conventional rail track that would in minutes make the entirety of the line unusable.

            1. The more realistic plans I saw (not the fancy graphics) imagined the use of large diameter concrete sewer pipe. It wouldn’t be that easy to poke a hole in it. A gun wouldn’t do it. Sure you could break it open with explosives, but you could also blow up a bridge with a train on it just as easy.

      2. Quite. Hospitals use them for transmitting lab samples, and I believe Home Depot still uses them for getting cash from registers into the vault.

        1. Yeah, its a scale thing.

          Its one thing to run hundreds of feet of small diameter pipe inside a building or campus, to move stuff.

          Its another thing entirely to run hundreds of miles of very large diameter pipe through the countryside, to move people.

          1. Wait a second. What about in homes?

            1. Central Vacuums are quite common. It’s nearly the same hardware, though you can use 90 elbows versus sweeps when plumbing it.

              1. I sense. . .possibilities.

  6. I still do not understand why we ever moved away from horses and wagons.

    1. Because capitalists wanted to come up with a better way to exploit their workers.

      1. What were companies that summed up ‘Big Horse’ back in the day? General Steeds? Bavarian Mare Works?

    2. I’m still pushing for a major INFRASTRUCTURE plan for the high-speed Canalzzzz.
      Those things dominated two centuries ago.
      Ditches of water just scream 21st century.

  7. Wait, what? The government isn’t running it? Gasp! Anarchy! Transportation can only be run by Top. Men.!

    1. You know government will have to become involved. They will need eminent domain to grab land for this.

      1. Or they could just bury it.

        1. I don’t know, how far down does one’s property rights go? Do I own a tiny fraction of the Earth’s core?

          1. /has flashback to law school.

          2. I think so. But many properties have become divorced from their mineral rights over the years.

            1. In WY this is easy. All land defaults to the Gov. having the mineral rights. In Colorado no so easy.

              1. Maybe some of the lawyerly types can weigh in on this, but it seems like there’s a fundamental difference between East Coast land and Louisiana Purchase/Mexican Cession land in that the latter was held by the US government prior to being transferred to private ownership.

                It seems to me like the government retains a lot of rights over land west of the Mississippi compared with land east of it.

                1. Texas is special outlier to that pattern you observe. Part of the deal for Texas to join union was Texas owning all the public un-deeded land. So there’s no vast tracts of Federal anything in Texas except military facilities actually purchased by the Federal Government.

          3. In CA you don’t have a right to the water either under or running through your land. I wouldn’t be surprised if land ownership in CA is ground-up.

            1. From “Mineral Rights on Property”:

              This hearing resulted in return of ownership rights, both surface and subsurface, to California landowners. These rights were reaffirmed by a federal district court decision in 1955.

              (Previously, the courts ruled mineral rights in California belonged to the federal government.)

              The most basic form of real estate ownership is called fee simple, and means that the owner has control of the ground, subsurface minerals and the air above the property. The owner can sell, lease or gift these rights individually or in total. If you do not own the mineral rights related to your property, you are considered a surface owner.

              So it depends upon how you own your property. Most owners are fee simple but in some areas, like Canyon Country and Simi Valley, it’s leasehold.

        2. Go Google Seattle Bertha and tell me how well that’s going to work out. They can’t dig a 2 mile tunnel without massive delays and cost over runs.

      2. You know government will become involved because Elin Musk is involved.

        1. I hate autocorrect.

          1. Yeah, sometimes it takes a golf club to your windshield and you just have to drive off.

  8. Democratic Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, representing the San Fernando area, has yanked her support for the train.

    Sounds like someone learned she wasn’t getting a train station.

    1. The rail route would cut through the district.

      Yeah, through but no stop.

      1. NIMBY’s would probably oppose it even more if there was a stop.

          1. And those sorts of people might get off.

    2. “Sounds like someone learned she wasn’t getting a train station.”

      Only the teacher’s union in her district.

      1. Teachers’ Union? Teachers Union?, that’s definitely not it.

        does the term imply that the members posses the union, or is it just a pluralization (“A Union of Teachers”).

        Yeah, I’m a hit at parties, wannafightaboutit?

        1. follow-up question: are any of the members qualified to answer the preceding question?

  9. I get theory.

    Its just that, on any scale that makes any sense, this strikes me as completely impractical to impossible.

    We are going to run hundreds of miles of the enormous pipe this thing needs, set up the facilities to evacuate the air from that pipe (and keep it evacuated), so we can run a jumped-up hovercraft?

    You go, private investors. But this strikes me as nuts.

    1. Well it’s better then dealing with the TSA

      1. This thing will need the TSA on steroids. You know what’s worse than a train full of explosives? A train full of explosives traveling at 700 mph.

    2. Well, sure, when you think about it that way.

    3. I’m in the same boat. If it works good on them, but I’m not investing in it.

    4. Over 100 years ago a primitive version of such a thing was built in NYC, so its not unprecedented.

      Beach Pneumatic Transit

      1. you been watching Ghostbusters?

        1. you dont stare at the wallpaper in Subway?

  10. “It hasn’t been built before and we don’t know for certain whether it will work, safely.”

    Pneumatic tube transportation systems were first built in the 19th Century. #In_public_transportation

    If you’re giving Elon Musk the credit for the pneumatic tube transportation, then I want credit for inventing the airplane, the incandescent light bulb, and the semiconducter.

    1. I give you credit for inventing the Internet.

      1. I thought Al Gore got credit for that.

        Just ask him.

      2. I thought Al Gore got credit for that.

        Just ask him.

        1. Did he invent the squirlz too?

  11. WTF is an open-air pneumatic tube?

    1. Never mind. I reed gud.

  12. It would cut through her district and she told the Los Angeles Times that it would damage her community, and she doesn’t see any actual benefits from it.

    Sounds like somebody bought their real estate along the wrong route. Oopsie!

  13. I had never heard of this, so i started poking around.

    From Forbes

    A cost analysis team estimates conservatively that a two-way passenger tube will run $45.3 million per mile. “I believe we’ll find innovations with steel or other materials to bring the price down closer to $20 million per mile,” says Jamen Koos, a Cisco employee who is running HTT’s product management team.

    this sounds almost as bad as the DC street car.

    1. the DC street car figure was for how much people got mugged for per mile.

      1. To be fair, they would need to run that thing to the moon and back to match the ten-billion-dollars-per-day spending rate of the DC apparatus.

    2. So they’re telling people they can reduce the cost by more than half of a conservative estimate, just by using improved materials?

      Jesus. If I was listening to a pitch from these clowns, I’d be planning my securities fraud lawsuit before they even got to the end of the slide deck.

      1. “How is this different than maglev, like the one’s that work in Japan?”

        “Here’s some graphics that explain that it’s way more complicated, some hemming and hawing about how we’re not really sure, and some definitive statements about how it will be way faster, smoother, cheaper, robust, and efficient.”

        I *love* that it rides on a cushion of air in a low-atmosphere tube. I’m not saying it won’t/can’t work, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound like a finely balanced (not robust) kludge.

  14. The Intertubes is People!

  15. “This Hyperloop might end up being a real thing.”

    If so, it might become obsolete when new low sonic boom planes get developed and the ban on supersonic air travel over land gets lifted.

    Even more so when hyper sonic ramjet planes get developed.

    1. Your hyper sonic ramjet technology is going to look nice in the museum next to my transporter terminal.

      1. Next to your preserved body with a giant fly head.

  16. Somewhere, Lyle Lanley is smiling. “Monorail, monorail, monorail!”

  17. Well, of course it gets private investment while the HSR in California doesn’t.

    This project has a chance of becoming a freight line to rival traditional rail (yeah, yeah. I know. “Passengers.” Right.) in moving things between at least the large current rail depots (e.g. Chicago to Kansas City to Denver as a triangle).

    The HSR project in California has the exact opposite going for it:
    1) You are trying to link extremely diffuse housing areas to extremely dense housing areas with no real plan to get those people elsewhere (do you want to hop the train to go to San Francisco’s rich people neighborhoods? No? Whyever not?)
    1b) There was(still is?) a plan to connect it to two industrial areas, but the terminal points that I saw of that option was miles from most of the industry. So you get there and then have to get a rental car to get to work? That is almost as bad as flying from Ontario airport to San Jose airport just to get to work.
    2) You have the environmental nightmare of CA building
    3) You have the eminent domain nightmare of dealing with each and every city and county along the path where they will shake down the project for their own pet needs
    4) The TSA has threatened to take over passenger screening, since it will be long-distance, which will immediately make everyone want to bike the entire length instead.

    If I had several billion dollars, I’d look at the project sponsors at the state asking me for money like a dog looks at a high pitched sound.

    1. Forgot #5) There are no plans that I have seen, that allow for this to additionally offset operating costs by allowing freight transit, either.

  18. (V^2)/r on the curves has interesting eminent domain implications.

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