Elon Musk’s Boring Company is digging a 10-mile tunnel in Maryland

Kopitiam Bot

(Source: arstechnica.com)

On Thursday, Maryland officials gave Elon Musk’s Boring Company permission to dig a 10.1-mile tunnel “beneath the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between the Baltimore city line and Maryland 175 in Hanover,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

Further Reading

Hyperloop One announces 10 routes it will study, partners with Colorado DOTAccording to Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, The Boring Company (which Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk founded to advance tunneling technology) wants to build two 35-mile tunnels between Baltimore and Washington, DC. The federal government owns about two-thirds of the land that Musk’s company would need to dig underneath. As of Friday, it was unclear whether that permission had been granted. (A Department of Transportation spokeswoman told Ars that the land in question was owned by the National Park Service, which did not immediately respond to request for comment.)

But the 10 miles that…

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Amazon Has Received 238 Proposals For The Company’s Second Headquarters

PenneyVanderbilt

Just days after we reported that in the mad dash by virtually every American city to become Amazon’s second headquarters, in which some such as New Jersey offered as much as $7 billion in state and city tax credits, today Amazon announced that that it has received 238 proposals from “cities and regions in 54 states, provinces, districts and territories around North America” who want to host the company’s second headquarters, also known as HQ2.

As CNBC reports, bids for the new headquarters were due to Amazon on Thursday, Oct. 19. Cities big and small from across over America, from Newark to Boston and hundreds inbetween are trying to impress Amazon and the more than $5 billion it plans to spend on its second headquarters. One Georgia town’s mayor went so far as promising he would rename the town “Amazon” if the company agreed to build there.

Amazon didn’t name…

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Amazon Has Received 238 Proposals For The Company’s Second Headquarters

Just days after we reported that in the mad dash by virtually every American city to become Amazon’s second headquarters, in which some such as New Jersey offered as much as $7 billion in state and city tax credits, today Amazon announced that that it has received 238 proposals from “cities and regions in 54 states, provinces, districts and territories around North America” who want to host the company’s second headquarters, also known as HQ2.

As CNBC reports, bids for the new headquarters were due to Amazon on Thursday, Oct. 19. Cities big and small from across over America, from Newark to Boston and hundreds inbetween are trying to impress Amazon and the more than $5 billion it plans to spend on its second headquarters. One Georgia town’s mayor went so far as promising he would rename the town “Amazon” if the company agreed to build there.

Amazon didn’t name any of the bidders or say when it would come up with a short list for its potential picks. Cities including New York, Boston, Atlanta, Nashville and Austin, Texas, have said they applied for the new corporate site, which is expected to generate 50,000 high-paying jobs over nearly 20 years.

As noted previously, Amazon had very specific requirements for cities that are interested in placing a bid: it wants a city with an established mass transit system, easy access to international airports, availability of software developers and other tech talent, cultural fit and the ability to move into a
phase-one site as early as 2019. Other items on its wish list: a metro
area of more than one million people and tax incentives.

Still, as the WSJ adds, it is unclear where Amazon might land. “I don’t think any one market fits everything. It’s going to be a balancing act of the various attributes,” says Dave Bragg, a managing director at Green Street Advisors, which conducts real-estate research.

Amazon has increased its workforce from a few thousand to more than 40,000 over the past decade. And it is still planning to add 2 million square feet and 6,000 people in the next 12 months.

But to keep growing, the company needs more space. Amazon has said that it will give its team leaders a choice between staying in Seattle, relocating or being based out of both. It has said that the average pay for the new jobs will be around $100,000, depending on where it locates.
Recently Bloomberg laid out some of the cities that have a good shot at hosting HQ2:

Atlanta: The southern U.S. city, home of Amazon delivery partner United Parcel Service Inc., is a major flight hub, and the greater metro area houses a dynamic population of almost 6 million, as well as the headquarters of major corporations like Coca-Cola Co. and Home Depot Inc. Still, Atlanta is a relatively suburban city, compared with the urban HQ1 of Seattle.

Boston: Several Amazon executives have already advocated putting HQ2 in Boston, due to its proximity to Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology; an airport with nonstop flights to Seattle and Washington D.C.; and a lower cost of living than some other large urban areas. Amazon has ties with Boston already, having purchased local robot maker Kiva Systems Inc. for $775 million in 2012. The city also won General Electric Co.’s 2015 new headquarters bid, and has provided more than $100 million in grants, property tax relief and programs for GE – though the city has said it won’t negotiate any incentives with Amazon until Boston makes it past the first round of the selection process.

Chicago: The Windy City ranks second in Anderson Economic Group’s analysis of 35 cities competing for the precious HQ2, focusing on its talent, diverse ecosystem and access to transportation in its bid. Just last month, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner reauthorized the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax-credit program, which provides special tax incentives to companies relocating to Illinois or expanding operations in the state when another state is actively competing, according to BNA. One issue? The city isn’t known as a center of technology.

Denver: Denver has a busy international airport and is surrounded by a highly educated workforce. It’s also home to a surge of millennials looking for high-tech and energy jobs in Colorado, and boasts an outdoorsy lifestyle that’s an easy fit for Amazon’s quality-of-life considerations. Colorado has also chosen eight sites that meet Amazon’s requirements for HQ2. Still, other cities are offering larger tax breaks than Denver.

Detroit: Detroit offers low rent and the potential for larger tax breaks, because the city and the state of Michigan are still trying to turn themselves around and diversify from manufacturing. Michigan is also home to three big universities that produce a broad pool of talent. According to Michigan State University, 70 percent of its engineering graduates remained in the state. Even so, Governor Rick Snyder has said he will not ask the state legislature to approve additional incentives just for Amazon, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. The city’s mass transit system also isn’t on par with some other cities in the running, and Detroit has a smaller tech scene.

New York: In its bid for HQ2, the Big Apple is pitching its diverse workforce, robust university ecosystem and access to advertising, fashion and other industries. Brooklyn is emerging as an attractive component of the bid, with its building boom and throngs of young residents. New York is so serious about HQ2 that Mayor Bill de Blasio had landmarks around the city, including the Empire State Building and One World Trade, lit up in “Amazon orange” on Wednesday night. (Neighboring Newark, New Jersey, is also jumping in to bid, offering practically the same workforce with $7 billion in potential tax credits.) The bid by the biggest U.S. city may be at a disadvantage because of limited space for construction and already-high housing costs.
Amazon is expected to reveal the home of its new headquarters some time in 2018.

Separately, in its quest to consume all possible information about its clients, next month Amazon customers in select US states will be able to order take-out from certain local restaurants directly through the Amazon app. Users will be able to browse participating restaurants, place their order and checkout with stored payment information all through the app, without any additional accounts or logins needed.

The expansion of Amazon Pay integrates Clover point-of-sale systems, sending orders directly to restaurants in select states in the Northeast U.S. “Clover has the technology and scale we needed to bring this vision to life,” Amazon said in a statement. “We’ve had an ongoing partnership with Clover — we used them to great success with our Kindle pop-up stores — and it was only natural to expand on that.”

According to CNBC, the restaurant take-out service is already available for orders from T.G.I. Fridays as of July and will expand to include restaurants in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington D.C. — and, of course, the Seattle area.

How Do You Build a Subway Tunnel Under Water?

VICE.COM

In early 2019, the L train in New York City will shut down for 15 months to repair damage caused during Hurricane Sandy. Leading up to the closure, VICE will be providing relevant updates and policy proposals, as well as profiles of community members and businesses along the affected route in a series we’re calling Tunnel Vision. Read more about the project here .

On Monday morning, New York City’s subway system had another meltdown. This time, it was a signal problem at Rockefeller Center and an investigation in Downtown Manhattan, which caused a butterfly effect that left a number of lines stalled underground. “Happy Monday morning @NYCTSubway!” one rider wrote on Twitter, with a photo of a crammed subway platform attached. “Fix this shit.”

Often times when we think about subways, these are the most visible pressure points—the signal failures, the overcrowding, the slugging trains, etc. But so many of those problems are linked to the infrastructure itself. As the world’s largest subway system, New York has more than 800 miles of track running through it, meaning that the possibilities for failure are far greater than your average city.

And nowhere is that area more vulnerable than under water.

The New York City subway system has 16 subway tunnel connections underneath water bodies, if we’re counting smaller gaps, like the Newtown Creek and Harlem River. That number grows if we add in the tunnels for the Long Island Rail Road, PATH Train, New Jersey Transit, and Amtrak. When Hurricane Sandy hit, in 2013, a large number of those tunnels were flooded, disabling them entirely until workers were able to pump the water out. The Montague Street Tunnel, which takes the N and R trains between Manhattan and Brooklyn underneath the East River, had to be shut down for 13 months, for complete reconstruction. The Canarsie Tube, which transports the L, now faces a similar fate.

But to understand why, or how, these tunnels became so vulnerable, it takes understanding a question that subway riders (myself absolutely included) often do not ask ourselves—how were they even built in the first place?

When I posed this question to Michael Horodniceanu, he immediately made a clarification: The subway tunnels in New York are not necessarily “underwater,” but rather, underneath the riverbed. Except, he adds, the 63rd Street Tunnel, which carries the F train to Roosevelt Island. That one was precast in the South, floated up to New York, and quite literally dropped into trenches dug into the East River, with dirt, stone, and concrete slabs placed on top over time. (So if you dive deep enough, you’d hit the tunnel? “No, because they’re all covered,” he told me. I know, dumb question.)

Horodniceanu would know—for nine years, he served as the head of Capital Construction for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), overseeing two of the system’s largest expansions in decades: the 7 train extension to Hudson Yards, and the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway (He stepped down this year.) But those, of course, were built in the 21st century, using modern technology that wasn’t available at the turn of the 20th, when most of the subway system as we know it was constructed.

The Canarsie Tube, opened in 1924, was built the same way most of the city’s subway tunnels were, says Horodniceanu. Workers would dig by hand through the riverbed, placing cast-iron rings around them as they went. The soft mud was easy to dig through, but highly pervious; a shield had to be placed in front to block out water, allowing the workers to continue. Once the physical tunnel was constructed, a second layer of concrete was added, to seal it.

But still, that material doesn’t always hold. “There is no such a thing as a tunnel that doesn’t have leaks,” Horodniceanu declared. “It doesn’t exist. Eventually, water finds its way.” Especially in tunnels that were built more than a hundred years ago. And once water gets in, it affects everything that’s inside the tunnel—the signals, the lights, and all of the other electrical utilities that can turn a Monday morning commute into a hellfire.

“It’s not that complicated to fix the leaks. It’s more complicated to change everything that’s in there,” adds Horodniceanu. “In the tunnels, you have these benches on one side, the evacuation bench. Inside this bench are gazillions of tubes that are carrying all kind of systems, and number one, they are old. So sometimes the concrete crumbles, because it’s old, and was exposed, even more now with humidity, but then water that came in.”

Horodniceanu says the work planned during the L train shutdown will address these two problem areas, with modern-day material that plugs up water penetration on outside, and a total rewiring of the utilities that run through the tunnel. The latter is time-consuming, he says, requiring multiple trades who have to work in conjunction, to get everything up and running fast. Finishing in 15 months—the timeline given by the MTA for the tunnel’s work—”is doable, but ambitious,” he added

One of the major issues back then was also air pressure. Famously, when building the tunnel leading up to the Brooklyn Bridge, at least five workers died from “the bends,” or decompression sickness. In another occasion, a shield ‘blew out’ due to pent-up pressure, sending a man named Richard Creedon soaring out of the 4 and 5 train tunnel, into the East River, and up in the air. He survived, and became a local legend.

Tunnels in 2017 are, of course, built a little differently. A good example is the Hudson Tunnel Project, a plan to build two new tunnels underneath the Hudson in order to replace the existing century-old structure, which services Amtrak, and New Jersey Transit. Many people might know the larger Gateway Program’s predecessor, the ARC (Access to Region’s Core) project, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sunk, pissing off a majority of his state in the process. (Grumblings over the outgoing governor are background noise on any delayed NJ Transit train.)

“The Hudson River tunnel that’s existing now is increasingly unreliable, and a single point of failure for 10 percent of the nation’s GDP,” Craig Schulz, the Gateway Program spokesperson, told me. “Four-hundred-and-fifty trains a day, 200,000 commuter and passenger trips made every day, rely on this 106-year-old asset. This thing was built before the Titanic set sail, when the Wright Brothers were switching from the Model A to the Model B flyer.”

Schulz, like many others, referred to it as the “most urgent infrastructure program in America.” “It needs to be replaced,” he added. “It needs to be rebuilt from the inside out, and there’s no alternative.”

In order to do that, the design for the Hudson River Tunnel includes four Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs), which, if you haven’t already seen the videos, are basically these massive drills that look like something you’d see someone driving in Mad Max. Attached to the TBMs are conveyor belts, which takes out the river muck and rock. As the machine bores deeper into the earth, workers follow behind, adding in the decor, like the lighting, tracks, and concrete finishes.

The two tunnels are three miles long, and require two TBMs each, which are custom-built for their respective terrain. The Palisades, which one tunnel will go through, has a hard rock surface, requiring a different cutting head than the other tunnel underneath the riverbed. The construction and operation of the TBMs make up a significant portion of the project’s estimated $12.9 billion price tag. (The project is currently finishing its environmental impact statement, and awaiting funding.)

Considering that technology, one might be wondering how subway tunnels built by hand nearly a hundred years ago have sustained billions of passengers for this long. But it’s not the original design that’s causing any of the issues.”It’s just that it’s old, and as you’re well aware, New York doesn’t close their subways,” Michael Wyetzner, an architect at Michielli+Wyetzner, who has written on the topic, told me. It’s in continual operation, which makes it even more challenging, and puts more wear and tear on it.”

In fact, he argues that the structural engineering that went into those tunnels was “really kind of brilliant,” a marvel of the Industrial Age build. He then mentioned the cut-and-cover method used underneath city streets, no further underground than a basement; engineers cut trenches on the side of the road, lifted up the cement, laid down tracks, and then put the road back on top. “It’s very American. It’s very New York,” he continued. “It’s pragmatic, and very, ‘Just get it done!’ And then they’d decorate it with some nice tiles, which I kind of get a kick out of.”

But like with any engineered construction, Wyetzner added, its utilities require maintenance—something that, critics say, the agency hasn’t funded properly in decades. And the result of that was seen by millions of passengers Monday morning. “It’s like a car—if you maintain your car, it’ll last much longer than if you don’t do anything,” Wyetzner told me. “That’s what really causes the delays and breakdowns. Without maintenance, everything tends to break down at once.”

Missed opportunity for a new Port Authority bus terminal

METRO

No, I am not a BUS LOVER, but realize how important they are where there are no trains.

Recent news that the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has yet another plan for rebuilding the existing 42nd Street Bus Terminal is disappointing. The approved Port Authority 2017 – 2026 ten-year $32 billion Capital Plan provided only $3.5 billion toward construction of the new $10 billion 42nd Street PA Bus Terminal. Initiation of another planning study for $70 million is just the first down payment. How many more years will it take to complete this study, environmental review process, preliminary along with final design and engineering?

It is wishful thinking that the Port Authority can count on $6.5 billion in future federal funding to make up the difference. Don’t be surprised in waiting until the next Port Authority ten year 2027 – 2036 Capital Plan before a complete $10 billion or more funding package is in place. This is necessary to support awarding construction contracts.

The Port Authority, MTA, NJ Transit, NYC DOT and other transportation agencies are counting on the same US Department of Transportation Federal Transit or Federal Highway Administration to help provide billions toward the $29 billion Gateway Tunnel, $10 billion Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel and $6 billion Phase Two Second Avenue Subway among many others.

Five years ago in December 2012, NYC officials and developers broke ground for the new Hudson Yards project which is to be built over the Long Island Rail Road Westside storage yard between 10th and 12th Avenues in Manhattan were all smiles. It left transit riders and taxpayers frowning. The existing 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal is antiquated lacking sufficient capacity to deal with current and future needs. Upon completion of their morning AM rush hour trips, hundreds of buses have to dead head back to New Jersey for midday storage. They have to make another return trip in the afternoon back to NYC for outbound evening service. Eliminating dead heading of buses would open up additional capacity for the already overcrowded Lincoln Tunnel. Relocating this facility to the Hudson Yards site would have provided the ideal solution. There would be the ability to expand capacity for new bus services. Hundreds of buses could lay over in Manhattan saving the costs of both fuel and deadheading to and from New Jersey.

Recent news that the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has yet another plan for rebuilding the existing 42nd Street Bus Terminal is disappointing. The approved Port Authority 2017 – 2026 ten-year $32 billion Capital Plan provided only $3.5 billion toward construction of the new $10 billion 42nd Street PA Bus Terminal. Initiation of another planning study for $70 million is just the first down payment. How many more years will it take to complete this study, environmental review process, preliminary along with final design and engineering?

It is wishful thinking that the Port Authority can count on $6.5 billion in future federal funding to make up the difference. Don’t be surprised in waiting until the next Port Authority ten year 2027 – 2036 Capital Plan before a complete $10 billion or more funding package is in place. This is necessary to support awarding construction contracts.

The Port Authority, MTA, NJ Transit, NYC DOT and other transportation agencies are counting on the same US Department of Transportation Federal Transit or Federal Highway Administration to help provide billions toward the $29 billion Gateway Tunnel, $10 billion Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel and $6 billion Phase Two Second Avenue Subway among many others.

Five years ago in December 2012, NYC officials and developers broke ground for the new Hudson Yards project which is to be built over the Long Island Rail Road Westside storage yard between 10th and 12th Avenues in Manhattan were all smiles. It left transit riders and taxpayers frowning. The existing 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal is antiquated lacking sufficient capacity to deal with current and future needs. Upon completion of their morning AM rush hour trips, hundreds of buses have to dead head back to New Jersey for midday storage. They have to make another return trip in the afternoon back to NYC for outbound evening service. Eliminating dead heading of buses would open up additional capacity for the already overcrowded Lincoln Tunnel. Relocating this facility to the Hudson Yards site would have provided the ideal solution. There would be the ability to expand capacity for new bus services. Hundreds of buses could lay over in Manhattan saving the costs of both fuel and deadheading to and from New Jersey.

Is Richard Branson’s high-speed train in a pneumatic tube pie in the sky?

The Guardian

First airlines, then spaceships. Now the Virgin boss wants to build Hyperloop One – a high-speed, pneumatic maglev railway. But engineering experts doubt that it will ever leave the station.

Last week, Richard Branson gave a boost to tech tycoon Elon Musk’s vision of a futuristic transport system. Hyperloop One is the frontrunner among several companies working on plans for magnetically propelled ground shuttles capable of keeping pace with commercial airliners. Branson announced an investment of an undisclosed sum in the company, which took its total funding to £186m.

Musk first outlined his plans, entitled Hyperloop Alpha, in 2013, when he said the system could provide a safer, faster and more convenient mode of long-distance transport than cars and trains, while also being low cost, sustainable, immune to adverse weather and earthquake-resistant.

He went on to describe a system of tubes elevated on columns running the 381 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with journey times cut from a driving time of six hours and 30 minutes to 35 minutes. In Silicon Valley style, he “open-sourced” the project, inviting others to take up its development.

Earlier this year, at Hyperloop One’s test site in Nevada, they carried out a trial using a full-size pod that reached 190mph, although the company is aiming for top speeds of 600mph-plus for the passenger vehicle.

Meanwhile, Musk, who is not directly involved with Hyperloop One, has taken his vision underground. In July, he claimed his separate venture The Boring Company had secured verbal agreement from the US government to build an underground loop from New York to Washington DC. The White House described the exchange only as a “promising conversation”.

As founder of the internet payment system PayPal, electric carmaker Tesla and rocket builder SpaceX, Musk has earned the right to be taken seriously. However, Branson’s financial involvement has failed to quieten the critics who argue none of the players in the hyperloop field has taken proper account of the size of the enormous hurdles facing anyone seeking to make the technology a reality.

Technology troubles
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While hyperloop might look revolutionary, some of its core concepts have a long pedigree. Musk’s plans describe capsules being fitted with electric compressor fans to transfer high-pressure air to the back of the vessel and travelling through low pressure tubes.

Maglev transport systems using magnetic levitation have long been used in Japan, South Korea and China. Pneumatic tube transport systems used to deliver messages and small parcels were developed during the 19th century. These use air-compressors attached to the ends of tubes to create a partial vacuum that pulls cargo along. The short-lived Beach Pneumatic Transit system used compressed air to move a carriage along a 95-metre tunnel in Manhattan between 1870 and 1873.

Of course, a hyperloop that safely carries people over long distances is an entirely different proposition and raises major engineering challenges. For example, the rapid compression of air required to drive the capsules would produce a lot of heat. Air conditioning could deal with this, but would require wider, more expensive tubes or tunnels.

Engineers also say the pipes would be subjected to significant thermal expansion under direct sunlight, especially in the Californian desert. A 100km pipe could expand by as much as 50 metres in length, potentially undermining the system by allowing air in. High-speed railways cope with this by having rails that overlap at the ends, but this isn’t possible with hyperloop. Musk’s solution is to use expansion joints, but the LA to San Francisco route would require thousands of them. This would produce a large maintenance workload to prevent a potentially critical failure.

Safety is the top priority for any transport system and engineers note that Musk’s hyperloop pronouncements have so far not been big on how it would handle glitches without fatalities. “It’s an exciting engineering challenge, but not much has been released on the safety case,” says Philippa Oldham, head of technology and manufacturing at Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers. “The devil will be in the detail. We really need to know a lot more about the safety features and what would happen if something went wrong.”

“As something entirely new, it will require an intense amount of testing, possibly even more than for the pharmaceutical industry, where trials can take 10, 15 or 20 years,” says Adie Tomer, an infrastructure expert at the Washington DC-based Brookings Institution, a public policy thinktank.

Even if it can be shown to be safe, hyperloop also needs to be relatively comfortable. “Some people have called it the ‘barf tube’, because being accelerated at high speeds and then decelerated again is likely to make people sick,” says David Bailey, professor of industry at Aston Business School in Birmingham. This depends on the rate of acceleration. Passengers on a typical commercial aircraft experience a G-force of about 0.4 when taking off. Musk says hyperloop capsules could reach a top speed of 760mph in around 70 seconds, which would see passengers experience 0.5G.

We also experience lateral G-forces when going around a bend. To restrict these to 0.5G, the turning radius would be about 23.5km at 670mph. This requires routes to be kept almost straight or the capsules to slow right down when curves are necessary. Even then some passengers may still feel nauseous.

Those who have followed the twists and turns of selecting the route for HS2, England’s second high-speed rail network, planned to link London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, will know that getting people to agree where to put overground infrastructure in densely populated countries is challenging. “In a crowded country where land is expensive, the potential problems for hyperloop would be like those of HS2 on steroids.”

Such projects have to produce environmental impact assessments, which can take years to write. Work on a 16.2 mile extension to Washington DC’s subway began last year, having first been proposed in 1996. The project was long delayed by legal claims that it would undermine populations of Hay’s spring amphipod, a tiny protected crustacean.

People also tend to be pretty vociferous in their opposition to plans to demolish their homes for new transport systems to help others. That means they require solid, long-term support, which is difficult to get from politicians focused on elections.

“Finding and then obtaining the right land for infrastructure projects of this scale is a lot trickier than people realise,” says Tomer. “It’s what drives a lot of projects into the ground, whether because of the environmental protection of endangered species or people not wanting to give up their land and making the project take more expensive alternative routes.”

These complications probably explain why Musk’s more recent statements on hyperloop have described an underground system.

Consumer fears
As anyone with a fear of flying can attest, consumers’ perception of risk is more important than actual risk when it comes to passengers’ choice of modes of transport. About 30% of people admit to some fear of flying, yet mile for mile, driving a car is 100 times more deadly. Even a traditional train is twice as likely to be fatal.

Passenger Train Services Can And Does Make Money

ntbraymer

By Noel T. Braymer

What does most of the rest of the world know, that most Americans don’t? It’s that rail passenger service is valuable for their economy. Most of the major long distance rail passenger services around the world operate at a profit. Often there is competition between companies willing to pay to secure a franchise in order to run passenger trains and make money. This includes high speed rail service. It’s not just running the trains that makes money. In San Diego an unnamed private investor just bought the downtown 102 year old Santa Fe Depot which is San Diego’s train station. Why would this person do this? Because it was a good investment, in other words to make money. Since the expansion of Los Angeles to San Diego rail passenger service in the late 1970’s from 3 round trips to 6, passenger traffic has increased. Today 12…

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It’s likely freight first for hyperloop

freightwaves.com

On May 12, in the desert of Nevada, engineers and executives from Hyperloop One gathered together to test their technology. It was the middle of the night. Anticipation was high. Co-founder Shervin Pishevar would later describe this as their “Kitty Hawk moment,” equating their hyperloop test to the iconic beginnings of aviation. After shooting a metal sled through a 1,600-foot steel tube at 70 mph, they declared victory. It was the first full-system test of a hyperloop, in which all of the different components could be seen to work in unison. In a subsequent test at the end of July, a Hyperloop One pod achieved an even greater speed at 192 mph.

To date, Hyperloop One has raised $160 million in pursuit of an innovative transportation alternative. Although the 260-plus employee company has been pitching visions to the public in which passengers are whisked from city to city, at speeds that may eventually exceed 700 mph, many safety concerns remain. And the United States Department of Transportation doesn’t know how to regulate this technology if it comes to fruition.

In a podcast interview with Recode Decode, former Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said, “Will it happen some place? Absolutely, I’m sure it will. Not even sure it’s going to happen first in the U.S., to be honest. But I think there will be some proof points out there to show that hyperloop is a real thing. And whether it’s passengers first or freight first — probably I would think, probably more freight will move first on hyperloop.”

Foxx stated that government regulation delays the adoption of new transportation technology. However, he emphasized that it’s important to consider all safety aspects.

Arrivo is a competitor to Hyperloop One, based near downtown Los Angeles. Its website states: “Arrivo is building technology based on the hyperloop architecture that will deliver a truly 21st century seamless experience for passengers and freight.”

Arrivo’s founder Brogran BamBrogran, who began his career as a design engineer at Northrop Grumman, says that hyperloop may move freight before it ever moves people. Although his company aspires to be in the business of shuttling passengers across vast distances, he wants to start off by proving that hyperloop can transport freight safely and efficiently.

Hardt Global Mobility CEO Tim Houter has also spoken publicly about the potential for freight transport via hyperloop.

“When you are implementing a hyperloop system, it will go a lot further than just transporting passengers. You’re not getting just a fast people mover,” said Houter, before explaining that the system could also transport large freight containers. “You’re getting one system that can almost move everything you can dream of.”

As the owner of a third-party logistics company called FreightSavvy, Chris Facey specializes in the movement of general cargo throughout the United States. In an exclusive interview, he said that a successful hyperloop would majorly disrupt the transportation industry.

“The proposed projects, rolled out strategically, will disrupt parts of the industry and augment the industry as a whole,” Facey said. He noted that it will take time for hyperloop to achieve scale and bring costs down, but once that is achieved, “it will primarily disrupt two freight markets only, air freight and surface expedited freight.”

Chris Facey believes that the air freight business is the most vulnerable to disruption because hyperloop “ostensibly could move as much freight as rail but at the speed of an air freight shipment.” However, the industry disruption doesn’t stop there.

“Civilian airlines are also in the freight game and they will be affected similarly as they will likely lose out on much of these additional shipments/revenue,” he added.

Facey predicts that immediate adoption of hyperloop cargo service will be delayed by R&D, regulation, insurance, construction, and other factors. In order to gain access to commercial freight markets, hyperloop startups will need to build entirely new infrastructure. As they try to construct it, the companies may encounter red tape, particularly if their project is displacing current infrastructure or civilian areas.

In addition to these government-related challenges, the hyperloop companies will have to win over public trust. Due to the fact that hyperloop cargo transport would be a new and different service, operators and customers may have initial doubts. Customers will need to be reassured that their cargo will arrive on time and intact.

If such concerns arise, they might turn out to be warranted. The acceleration and deceleration of hyperloop capsules and 760 mph top speeds could cause vibration and shifting of cargo, according to Facey. Additionally, the magnetization of the tunnels and cars could damage some types of cargo.

Insuring the cargo would be expensive. Fortunately, Facey noted, “Insurance costs should come down over time as the service develops and eventually be lower because there is less human intervention, and fewer things can ostensibly go wrong in an evacuated tunnel.”

Facey also noted that there are many unknowns when it comes to the design elements of hyperloop.

“How will containers be transported? Will freight be loaded on pallets then onto cargo containers at a hyperloop port like an airport? Or will they be direct loaded on the containers like rail or ocean freight?” Facey wondered, as he tried to envision this nascent technology. “Since they eventually will have to be transported over the road, containers will likely be the same outside profile as current containers but rounded on the top. Perhaps current containers will be retro-fitted to accommodate these containers inside them and reduce handling and touches. Perhaps a new system entirely will need to be developed.”

Presuming that truck drivers are not replaced by autonomous vehicles, as Elon Musk has predicted they will be, Hyperloop may still leave some jobs for drivers.

“Hyperloop will require both ‘first mile’ pickup and ‘final mile’ deliveries for all shipments. This creates more sustainable, healthy jobs for truck drivers that allow them to stay local and possibly see their families every once in a while,” said Facey.

Facey’s speculation makes it obvious that a working Hyperloop system would impact a diverse range of businesses, in ways that are not readily apparent. Warehouses could be built farther off-site, at a much lower cost. Currently, warehouses are strategically placed near the largest markets. Although hyperloop companies will still need to actively manage their operations and sell their services, Facey believes that freight transport via hyperloop would produce a significant impact.

“The ripple effect on businesses will allow them to even further utilize ‘just-in-time’ processes where truckload scale goods can be delivered at air freight transit times and at truckload costs,” said Facey. “This changes the decision timeline, the supply chain cost (both time and money), the amount of time to get from lab to factory floor and then into customers’ hands. It has wide-ranging implications all around. Hyperloop transportation is rail service at the speed of air freight.”

Fire alarm systems offline in new Second Avenue Subway

ABC7.COM

Amid the gleaming, spotless Second Avenue Subway stations there are lingering problems. Riders Eyewitness News spoke with said they had no idea that the fire detection system in the new Second Avenue Subway doesn’t work.

And they had no idea that the men pacing the stations are actually fire wardens on hand to report a fire if one breaks out.

“Does that make you feel safer?” Eyewitness News Reporter N.J. Burkett asked.

“No, they’re people, you know?” said Sean Devney, a rider.

“That’s a tremendous deal!” said Kenny Turner, a rider. “What happens if something goes awry?”

MTA officials admit the system has been offline since May.

That’s when a malfunction triggered the sprinkler system in the 86th Street station, damaging several key electrical components.

Engineers are still working to reprogram the detectors.

They chose to shut down the entire fire detection system to prevent another sprinkler malfunction, while keeping the stations open.

“The Second Avenue Subway is open, safe, serving roughly 170,000 riders a day,” said Shams Tarek, spokesman, “and reducing pressure on the Lexington Avenue Line.”

And with the fire wardens, MTA officials insist riders are even safer than they would be, otherwise.

Riders Eyewitness News spoke with weren’t so sure.

“If that man is over there and the fire is at the other end of the platform, or below the platform where he can’t see it, that’s an issue,” Turner said.

The line opened on New Year’s Eve.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was determined to deliver the service on-time, as promised.

But critics say that might have been a mistake, right on down to signs at 72nd Street. That’s where the northeast arrow points riders south, and the southeast arrow points riders north.

“They launched it too quickly, before it was truly finished,” said Deborah Newman, a rider. “It’s just all carelessness. They went too fast at the end.”

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