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The Hyperloop concept (AP)
There are plenty of nay-sayers who are already shoveling dirt on Elon Musk's proposal that someone or some entity take up the design for a high-speed conveyance he is calling Hyperloop to create a 30-minute trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Hyperloop, a high-speed solar/electromagnetically powered "train" concept that would travel in an enclosed tube at speeds of more than 700 miles per hour, is the first true 21st century transportation plan that we have seen proposed by anyone. Musk is the founder of Paypal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and has a track record of disrupting established industries.

USA Today carried a story by Chris Woodyard headlined: "Why Elon Musk's Hyperloop Won't Work". The newspaper quotes the Navigant Research blog: "The biggest concern with this plan has to do with temperature. The pod will be compressing air and expelling it downwards and backwards. All that air compression creates an enormous amount of heat, which can damage the pod and its machinery."

Eleazar David Melendez writing for HuffPost Tech quotes Zafar Khan, analyst for French Bank Societe Generale, who follows train and airplane manufacturers: "Ignoring the physics of it, to make it viable, pricing would have to be astronomical to have a reasonable payback period."

Khan continued: "You will remember the grand Eurotunnel project and what a mess that became. The Eurotunnel project devolved into a slew of lawsuits after revenue projections turned out to be far too optimistic, writes Melendez.

Is Eurotunnel really the right comparison, though? Musk's notion is that the elevated tube carrying passengers between San Francisco and LA be built alongside the highway, thereby eliminating the need for complex real estate acquisition. The land is presumably already owned by the State of California. Given the state's occupation with green projects, one would think that the state that gave us HOV lanes and the zero-emission-vehicle tax credit and the California Air Resources Board [CARB] would be cooperative.

The Eurotunnel, on the other hand, involved the governments of two countries, countless unions and the engineering feat of digging under the English Channel.

Musk came forward with the Hyperloop plan, suggesting a $6 billion price tag, compared with the $70 billion price-tag for a high-speed rail project (surely to balloon to $100 billion in real terms) when he saw the obvious waste in that plan. Why $100 billion? Because politicians who will greenlight the project see it as an enormous opportunity for patronage to supplier companies and unions. Why opt for a $6 billion project (that would probably balloon to $10 billion when you can get $100 billion approved with Federal money involved?

Musk says that he is hoping that the project gets built by someone working off his company's scheme.


"...it's kind of like a open source design that maybe you can keep improving. And I don't have any plans to execute, because I must remain focused on SpaceX and Tesla,"

"... it's kind of like a open source design that maybe you can keep improving. And I don't have any plans to execute, because I must remain focused on SpaceX and Tesla," Musk said on a Tesla Quarterly Earnings call.

Melendez also criticizes the Hyperloop schematic for suggesting a per passenger load of 220 pounds at a time when Americans are getting heavier, not thinner. Okay, but the schematic can be changed to allow for seats wider than 27 inches and to handle more weight. Some engineers are saying that the elevated tube will also be prone to problems from wind. Okay, build it closer to the ground. The point is that these things can be fixed without killing the idea.

And forget Musk's notion that cost would be in the area of $20. That's nuts. A round trip airline ticket between San Francisco and Los Angeles with a few weeks notice costs $196 booking via Orbitz.com. This frequent traveler would gladly pay $300 to make that trip in 30-minutes without having to deal with airports, taxis and the crotch-groping TSA. That's a no-brainer. Big business, which pays hundreds of dollars more for plane tickets every day would pay the same and more to save time.

And then there is The Onion, which perhaps rightly suggests that the Hyperloop could be powered by the energy from screaming passengers going over 700 mph in an enclosed tube. Then again, talk to my 11-year old son who began riding the highest, fastest roller coasters as soon as he was deemed tall enough, and he'd tell you there is a market for fast, reliable, hassle free travel even at that speed.

Of all the reasons I am reading about why Hyperloop won't work, the biggest one is that it is a potentially cheaper, less energy-dependent project to advance the way the country thinks about mass-transit and inter-city travel. Labor unions and corporate interests that would benefit more from a series of $100 billion high-speed rail systems peppered around the country will pressure politicians to blow off the cheaper, cooler, more energy-efficient, modern solution.

Why enter the 21st century when the 20th is still more profitable for business?

If the project advances, it will surely be a public-private partnership of some kind. Will Amtrak take it on? Not likely. It is also unlikely that the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., would appropriate funds given that "infrastructure" has taken on similar status in the halls of Congress as "gas taxes" and "Obamacare."

It could be just me, but Musk is probably the only one around with enough skills, moxie, angst, vision and disruptive thinking to get it done. I hope he changes his mind. The country will be better off being shown that Hyperloop can work than it will be if Musk sells more of his $80,000-$100,000 Tesla electric cars.

Billionaire Pushes For Amazing 'Hyperloop' Tubes

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Everyone would be wise to not doubt Elon Musk. It seems that everyone wants to jump on the "debbie downer" train instead of being innovative and positive. Is this still the United States where technology and innovation has been our hallmark of survival and economic expansion for over 200 years. Let's just be popular and shoot it down based upon it being an outlandish idea. At one time we thought it impossible for a rocket to launch then land in the exact spot it launched right-side up (see SpaceX grasshopper). Shortsightedness and negativity will lead us into the future! I can't wait, geez.
        • 1 Year Ago
        I couldn't agree with you more! People fail to realize that modern commercial air travel is less than 80 yrs old. Closed eyes harbor closed minds.
      • 1 Year Ago
      There's no reason why it can't work, and absolutely no reason why private industry can't do it. Sell it to the public as stock in the founding of it, just like any other investment that's a good idea. Let us join together to build it. Fares will pay for it and give dividends on the initial investment stock. Even if the government sponsored the building of it, it's OUR money paying for that - the government is funded by US. Try building one between Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston for beginners.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Private Industry in partnership with government is building the Tucson to Phoenix HS route.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Back in the 1960's, Walt Disney offered to pay OUT OF HIS OWN FUNDS a test Monorail system to parallel the 5 freeway in order to help with traffic (which was awful even back then!). The ever-present red tape put the kibosh on that..
        • 1 Year Ago
        now that is sad. when a private citizen has to pony up and THEN
      • 1 Year Ago
      No one has to get from point A to point B that fast. Just because you can do a thing doesn't mean that you should do that thing. This will fade away just like lighter than air ships for the masses did.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Though the actual concept may be unlikely, the technology may be applicable to improving existing systems.
      • 1 Year Ago
      SWEET...make it happen
      • 1 Year Ago
      If its viable it will be built
      • 1 Year Ago
      Probably 200 years away
      • 1 Year Ago
      You're right about the public and labor union special interests and political back-room deals in Sacramento that will sabotage it. This seems like it would be a dream of the political left, but look at how badly bungled the CA high-speed rail has been so far. Private enterprise could probably build this within a year and at 1/4 of the cost than if the government were involved, but the flipside is the tickets would be $2000 each way for rich techie yuppies, as opposed to the $100 or less the bleeding hearts would demand for the unwashed masses, at least until they could amortize the cost to make tickets affordable.
      • 1 Year Ago
      People like to blame everything on the great puppet master in the sky. All it will take is one city, one state to make the commitment along with a few visionary investors. Screw LA to SF try it on a smaller scale first. Realistically, the hardest part is securing land rights, especially when non-human habitats are threatened.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Steve Forbes had a piece several years ago on why high speed rail was a bad idea. First, if it was a great idea, you wouldn't need the government involved. Aerospace manufacturers got into the jet airliner business, because the airlines wanted planes that were faster, could fly above the weather, could carry more passengers and cargo, and wouldn't have the maintenance needs that piston engines required. Second, the U.S. has the most efficient freight rail system in the world. We can move increadible amounts of freight at prices that no one matches. If we start diverting resources from the world-class freight system to high speed rail, our freight system will suffer. Third, while high speed rail sounds good, not everyone will want to use it. The system proposed in Florida would connect downtwon Tampa to the Orlando airport. That's great, if you are in Tampa, or fly into Oralndo, and you want to get to Disney World. But, whether in Tampa or Disney World, you can't get to downtown Orlando on the train. So, the business person in Tampa who needs to get to a meeting in downtown Orlando will probably stick with the car. By the same token, sheer speed of the Hyperloop may simply create a demand that no one can stop. Why build high speed rail, that only promises speeds of 125 to 250 miles per hour, when the Hyperloop, built on land already owned by government, promises speeds 4 to 5 times faster?
      • 1 Year Ago
      Isnt it amazing how all the negatives are coming from the car industry their pundits and supporters. Vetrenarians probably did the same when the car was invented.
        • 1 Year Ago
        The car industry loves this because it will take decades and will not work. The true solution are rail systems that are streamlined in certain ways which are proprietary with us. That is what the carmakers do not want.
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