Category Archives: Hyperloop

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.

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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.”

Missouri bid to land Amazon includes Hyperloop One Technology

kmov.com

Missouri’s bid to land Amazon includes a bold initiative that would connect St. Louis & Kansas City in under 30 minutes.

Economic Development officials are touting a plan that would create “an innovation corridor” that would connect both metropolitan areas with technology being developed by Hyperloop One.

If built, the plan would include a stop in Columbia.

The Hyperloop One concept would connect St. Louis to Kansas City in approximately 24 minutes, and would include a high-speed tube that would transport both passengers and freight.

A feasibility study funded by private money is already underway.

According to officials, Amazon employees would have the option to live and work in different cities throughout the state.

In addition to the state proposal, economic development officials say they will support plans being submitted by St. Louis & Kansas City.

State officials will not publicly disclose incentives, subsidies or tax breaks being offered to Amazon.

Proposals to land Amazon second headquarters are due today.

Amazon officials say the winning bid will mean 5 billion dollars in investment and upwards of 50,000 new jobs.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said, “This is the first time i can remember Missouri and Illinois working in unison on a Mississippi river development project. that is a big first. it’s a visionary proposal.”

NEXT: Hyperloop Commuting

David Staley @ Columbus Underground

Everyone who reads Columbus Underground must be aware that Columbus—or, rather the Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh “Midwest Hyperloop Project”— was one of 10 winners of Hyperloop One’s Global Challenge. Hyperloop, you’ll recall, is Elon Musk’s vision for a network of “vacuum tube trains:” trains that are sealed in a tube such that air and wind resistance are eliminated, meaning that, with very little power, the train can move along at very high speeds. If this vision is realized, a trip from Chicago to Columbus might take 30 minutes or so, a trip from Columbus to Pittsburgh only 20. The revolution in transportation—in the movement of people and freight—is obvious to contemplate. But the social and cultural consequences are no less important to consider.

Airline travel would surely be reduced were a system of hyperloops established across the country. If a trip to Chicago takes half the time, an airline flight now looks less inviting as a mode of travel. Many domestic airlines would ground their flights in such an environment, although international flights would more than likely remain the preferred method of international travel (unless hyperloops can be placed below—or above?—the oceans, and I’ve yet to see anyone proposing this.)

Depending on the scope of hyperloops across the country, freight will also be transported in this fashion, which would mean that the volume of trucking would similarly be reduced. Indeed, I assume that the transportation of freight would occur before that of people—there are still concerns about the experience of traveling by hyperloop and whether it will be comfortable enough. Inanimate objects would have little concern for passenger comfort.

Amazon would most certainly be interested in such high speed freight service, meaning that customer orders could be filled more quickly. Amazon fulfillment centers will likely be situated along hyperloop routes. This all assumes, of course, a robust network of hyperloops across the country, not only a Midwest corridor.

A half hour trip to Chicago would remake our cities. Currently, my commute from the suburbs to campus is about a half an hour each morning. If I could reach Chicago in 30 minutes, I might consider taking a job in Chicago but continue to live in Columbus. (And vice versa: I might live in Chicago and commute each day to Columbus).

I can recall one time—only one time—I awoke early one morning, took the first flight out of John Glenn International to Chicago, conducted my business, then hopped onto an afternoon flight at O’Hare to return to Columbus in time for dinner. I would not want to do that on a daily basis (I spent more time in airports that day than actually on a plane), but I could see some people who would easily and cheerfully take up to an hour one way to commute each day to Chicago and back. Columbus would become, in effect, a suburb of Chicago.

In the same way that the automobile transformed American cities and the residential patterns of suburbia, hyperloop might similarly refashion cities. As four-lane highways radiated out of the mid-20th Century city, cities like Columbus and Pittsburg might be similarly extended outward along a network of hyperloop trains. The distance between “where I work” and “where I live” might now be extended across several hundred miles.

We should be clear that hyperloop commuters will, at least in the early stages, be members of the economic elite. There is no consensus yet as to the cost of a hyperloop trip, but it seems unlikely that the cost would be something like the $2 it costs me to ride COTA. Even if a hyperloop trip to Chicago is less than the cost of flying there, which it most likely would be, a round trip cost of even $40 per day would mean that hyperloop-commuting would only be possible for a relative few.

Hyperloop would not address transportation around the city, of course, as in how I would get my kid to school or how I would get to the grocery. That is, American cities like Columbus will remain automobile-centric unless and until we decide to redesign our cities around light rail or bicycles or some other alternative form of transportation. A hyperloop from Clintonville to Westerville would, of course, be ridiculously impractical.

But when the Midwest Hyperloop Project is completed, many Midwesterners will quickly find Columbus to be an easily accessible place to live and work.

David Staley is interim director of the Humanities Institute and a professor of history at The Ohio State University. He is president of Columbus Futurists and host of CreativeMornings Columbus. The next Columbus Futurists monthly forum will be Thursday October 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Panera Bread community room (875 Bethel Rd.) The topic will be “Hyperloop and its Impact on Central Ohio.”

Richard Branson bets on Hyperloop One’s futuristic technology

cbc.ca

British billionaire Richard Branson placed another bet on the future with an investment in Hyperloop One, which is developing super high-speed transportation systems.

Hyperloop One said Branson’s Virgin Group would take the company global and rebrand itself as Virgin Hyperloop One in the near future.

Branson has joined the board of Hyperloop One, which will develop pods that will transport passenger and mixed-use cargo at speeds of 402 km per hour (250 miles per hour).

The company did not disclose the size of the investment.

Hyperloop technology will revolutionize transportation, but it has to get off the ground first
Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes? Futuristic people mover zips to next stage

Hyperloop was originally conceptualized by Elon Musk. In July, Musk said he had received verbal approval to start
building the systems that would link New York and Washington, cutting travel time to about half an hour.

Last month, Hyperloop One raised $85 million US in new funding, bringing the total financing raised to $245 million US since it was founded in 2014.

Hyperloop One’s co-founders, executive chairman Shervin Pishevar and president of engineering Josh Giegel, have previously worked at Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic is Branson’s space company, which in 2016, was granted an operating license to fly its passenger rocketship with the world’s first paying space tourists once final safety tests are completed.

Hyperloop One is also working on projects in the Middle East, Europe, India and Canada, according to the statement.

Hyperloop technology will revolutionize transportation, but it has to get off the ground first
Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes? Futuristic people mover zips to next stage

Virgin Group invests in high-speed transport startup Hyperloop One

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has made a major investment in Hyperloop One, the startup that wants to transport passengers and cargo in pods at close to supersonic speeds through networks of tubes. Virgin says the two companies have formed a strategic partnership and that Hyperloop One will be given the name Virgin Hyperloop One.

Richard Branson on Hyperloop One investment: ‘Going faster than an airline’ on land excites me

CNBC

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has invested in Hyperloop One.

The company, which hopes to build the super-fast transportation system, will rebrand to Virgin Hyperloop One.

The company showed off a full-scale test of its technology earlier this year.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is investing in Hyperloop One, a company developing the super-fast transport system originally dreamed up by Elon Musk.

Hypleroop One is rebranding itself as Virgin Hyperloop One, and Branson is joining the board, the billionaire British investor and entrepreneur announced Thursday on CNBC from London.

Virgin Hyperloop One will focus on a passenger and mixed-use cargo service.

Breaking ground on a commercial hyperloop in two to four years is possible if “governments move quickly,” Branson said in a “Squawk Box” interview. So far, no government has approved a plan for a hyperloop system. The Virgin founder also said that building a hyperloop tube above or below ground is “cheaper” and “faster” than a traditional rail network.

The idea of the transport system — conceived in 2013 by Musk, the head of both electric automaker Tesla and SpaceX — works by propelling pods through tubes using magnets reaching speeds akin to those of airplanes.

“There are consumers, for instance, that would love to go from London to Edinburgh in roughly 45 minutes. And that will be possible” with a hyperloop, he said. “You can have a pod outside your office that you and your colleagues can jump into. The pod can self-drive to the top of the tunnel. It then goes down the tunnel. It connects up and off you go at 600, 700 miles an hour up to your destination, going faster than an airline.”

“As a train owner, ” Branson said, “I felt this is something that I want to be able to operate. At the moment our trains are limited to 125 miles an hour.” His sprawling Virgin Group empire includes a train network in the U.K., as well as airlines and a business to take tourists into space.

 

Elon Musk Just Gave Hyperloop Makers a Tip on How to Reach 700mph

inverse.com

Elon Musk has given a helping had of sorts to the startups developing his hyperloop idea toward achieving the goal of sending pods through a vacuum-sealed tube at 700 miles per hour.

The man behind the original white paper for hyperloop’s design responded on Twitter Wednesday to a query about how best to propel pods using an air bearing suspension system. The nugget of info could help teams reach the theoretical maximum speed and enable trips from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. And it’s all about more gas.

Hyperloop pods tend to use one of three suspension systems: wheels, magnetic levitation, and air bearing suspension. WARR Hyperloop from Germany, which achieved a speed of 201 mph back in August, used wheels for its record-breaking pod, but they suffer from friction that could cause slowdown. Magnetic levitation is used on a select few train tracks, and Hyperloop One uses it with its test track to reach 192 mph, but it’s incredibly expensive. Air bearings, which uses a thin film of pressurized air, could save money and reduce friction.

“Air bearings offer stability and extremely low drag at a feasible cost by exploiting the ambient atmosphere in the tube,” Musk said in his 2013 paper. “Externally pressurized and aerodynamic air bearings are well suited for the Hyperloop due to exceptionally high stiffness, which is required to maintain stability at high speeds.”

So what does Musk propose to help this gas-based suspension system reach high speeds? More gas.

Ever since Musk released his idea, third party teams have been working hard to reach those theoretical maximum speeds. Hyperloop One, one of the more prominent hyperloop firms, has built a 0.3-mile “DevLoop” test track in the Nevada desert. In tests back in August, the team managed to get its magnetically levitating pod to reach speeds of 192 mph, and it believes that it could easily reach the top 700 mph speed.

Musk’s space exploration company SpaceX has held two competitions on its 0.8-mile test track, aimed at getting college teams and others to focus on pod design rather than building a full-scale test track. In the second event, WARR Hyperloop made its record-breaking run.

The race to reach full speed is on, and any advancements that save on cost while improving speed could prove welcome. But while air bearings could serve as a good way of reaching even higher speeds, Musk’s paper does not propose ditching the trusty wheel altogether. At speeds of under 100 mph, landing gear wheels similar to those found on airplanes could deploy and allow for easier maneuvering. Some technologies never go out of fashion.

The demonetisation of housing

SmartPropertyInvestment.com By Kyron Gosse

It seems kind of counter-intuitive as a property investor to be sitting here talking about how housing might one day be free, particularly when so much of the current conversation around housing consists of unaffordability, intense capital growth and generations condemned to rent, writes Kyron Gosse.

Yet the signals are there for those who know where to look. There is an impending sea change just around the corner that may result in housing becoming demonetised to the point where we can no longer charge our tenants.

Now before you start scoffing and calling me a communist – I am not saying this is going to happen anytime soon, nor am I saying that it is going to happen everywhere. All I am saying is there are some signs pointing towards a decreasing cost in living which might one day influence rents and house prices.

When we look at the biggest costs of housing, there are four things that contribute to the bill: land costs, construction costs, council bureaucracy and living costs.

Yet with the advent of hyperloop and flying cars, we will be redefining what a city means. These technologies will open up large amounts of land to be a commutable distance from cities.

In fact, if we look at Sydney, considering the possibility of hyperloop in the near future, everything from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast would be considered a commutable distance from the CBD.

What’s more, in the years to come we might see a decline in our reliance on traditional farming. Between vertical farms in urban zones and plant-based meat there will be very few farms left. This will result in thousands of hectares of farmland now accessible from major cities becoming almost insignificant of value.

On the construction side of things, we have found ourselves as spectators in the race for a commercially viable house 3D printer. China and Russia are neck and neck in this race, with each party having proved they can print houses for as little as $10,000. Given these are simply the first prototypes, costs are sure to come down in the future.

Energy costs are shrinking thanks to solar. Solar is now the cheapest form of energy available, and with Tesla’s Powerwall we are able to store that energy better than ever before.

Also thanks to water collection and reverse osmosis technology, as well as breakthroughs in sanitation, it is becoming possible for nearly anyone to move off-grid. Or better yet, to sell excess energy back to the grid thereby offsetting their mortgage payments.

So, imagine being able to pick up a section that is a 30-minute commute to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra or Brisbane CBD’s for next to nothing. Spend $10,000 3D printing your home, utilising technology to be entirely self-sufficient and sell any excess to cover your mortgage.

However this plays out and how strategies might change, I will always remember something taught to me by my mentor Steve McKnight – “as long as people live in houses, there will be an opportunity to make money”.

Celine Cooper: Hyperloop would be a far cry from orange cones

Montreal Gazette by Celine Cooper

Hyperloop would zing passengers in small container-like pods through a low pressure tube at an estimated average speed of 962 km/h.

From orange cones to the Hyperloop: is this the future of transportation infrastructure in Montreal?

Back in 2013, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and the entrepreneur behind PayPal, introduced plans for what he called the Hyperloop transportation system. In a public blog post, he called it a fifth mode of transport “after planes, trains, cars and boats,” that was “safer, faster, lower cost, more convenient, immune to weather, sustainably self-powering, resistant to earthquakes and non disruptive to those along the route.”

Inspired by the pneumatic tubes that were used to move inter-office mail a century ago, the Hyperloop would zing passengers in small container-like pods through a low pressure tube at an estimated average speed of 962 km/h up to a maximum speed of 1220 km/h. It all sounds very futuristic and slightly far fetched (if not mildly terrifying). But it’s also close to becoming a reality: A Hyperloop prototype was successfully tested in the Nevada desert.

But could it be the future of transport here in Montreal?

Some people think so. In 2016, a company called Hyperloop One announced a global challenge for proposals to bring Musk’s concept to life. There were 35 finalists, and last month, 10 winning proposals were named. The Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal route — brought forward by a team called HyperCan — was the only Canadian route among them. Hyperloop One will work with each of the 10 to determine the viability of their routes.

The company claims that Hyperloop transportation could theoretically connect 25 per cent of Canada’s population in less than 40 minutes. Imagine being able to travel 640 km from Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes, or the 450 km from Toronto to Ottawa in 27 minutes, or the 190 km it takes to get from Ottawa to Montreal in 12 minutes.

There’s no question that it would be appealing to anyone who travels the Toronto-Montreal corridor regularly, as we did over the Thanksgiving weekend to visit family in Ontario, and dreads getting stuck in the chronic bottlenecks as one approaches the cities. But just how much of a priority would it be, and for whom?

Writing for MTLinTech, a local online technology website last year, Joseph Sizick explored a few potential stumbling blocks for a Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal hyperloop project. Here are just a few:

First, it would be expensive. Like, really expensive. When Musk first conceived of the concept, he estimated that a Hyperloop system would cost about $11.5 million per mile to build in the United States. But leaked documents obtained by Forbes in 2016 indicated that Hyperloop One — one of two companies attempting to make Musk’s idea a reality — is estimating the cost to be $84 million to $121 million per mile. To build a Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal Hyperloop would require long-term, non-partisan partnership and commitment among all three levels of government, as well as a steady flow of private investment and venture capital. Is the money and the political will there?

Second, ironing out complicated logistics would take a great deal of time. Experts have estimated that sorting out the urban planning, environmental assessments and policy issues to bring a Hyperloop to life could take up to 20 years or more.

Third, do these Canadian cities have the population density to sustain such an ambitious system? Montreal has around 4 million people in its Census Metropolitan Area, Toronto has around 6 million people in the Greater Toronto Area. Ottawa has just under 1.5 million. These numbers are expected to grow, of course, but would enough people use it to make the investment worthwhile?

Seeing as we’re in the middle of a hot municipal election, it’s still worthwhile asking what candidates running for office have to say about the Hyperloop concept and how it fits into the future of Montreal’s transportation system. But for now, I think most Montrealers, myself included, are more concerned with transportation issues closer to home. Before turning our attention to a Hyperloop, let’s concentrate on fixing the potholes, building safer bike lanes and an expanded, smoothly functioning STM.