California is set to beginning construction on a high speed rail system sometime this year, but as problems and costs continue to rise, Hyperloop might be the cutting edge solution that the state needs.
California is a big state with three very major cities, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. At this point the only ways to travel are by car, plane, or train. As it stands right now, plane may be the fastest travel time, but going through security, parking, and checking baggage all makes it a hassle. Car is the next best option, but with rising gas prices and long commutes through traffic, it is not the most appealing option even if it is the most convenient. Then we have train, which is the least appealing both for time and money, unless you live along one of the routes and have a day time job to go to.
California proposed and passed Proposition 1A in 2008, a bullet train proposal to link LA and San Francisco by 2029 and then extending service to Sacramento and San Diego some time later. However, the original cost of the project was estimated to be $45 Billion and has since ballooned to $68 Billion.
While the proposed project could end up getting you from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in about 3 hours for an estimated price of $50 to $100, that is only if it gets completed.
The project was set to begin rail line construction and to modernize the state’s rail system this year, but with no land actually purchased and famers and landowners filing suits against the project, who knows when it might actually start construction.
Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and the commercial space company SpaceX, began thinking about what the next mode of transportation might be. Musk, disappointed at the proposed high speed rail system and its cost to the state and tax payers, began thinking about another system that might alleviate some of the issues.
That proposal, which is only an idea at this point with no backing to make it a reality as of yet, is called Hyperloop. Musk sees this as the fifth transportation in addition to air, train, car, and boat.
The basic idea of Hyperloop is to create a special atmosphere in a tube and then shoot pods full of travelers at supersonic speeds to destinations less than 1,000 miles apart. Musk is looking to possibly get Hyperloop to speeds of over 700 miles per hour which would mean travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco would be about 30 minutes, theoretically.
Musk also proposes that Hyperloop would be constructed above ground on pylons and would be able to circumvent the need to purchase land as it could follow the relatively straight path of the I-5 freeway; albeit with minor deviations.
Musk wants to make the system not only reliable and safe, but cheaper and energy self-sufficient as well. By his estimations, building the project would cost about $10 Billion if you wanted to add cars that could move more than people, or $6 Billion for just moving people. This has gotten a lot of California’s excited, especially when you understand that the high speed rail project only currently has about $12 Billion in funding; considerably short of their estimated $68 Billion price tag.
Musk also estimates that once the system is up and running, travels may be looking at a one way trip to cost as little as $20. If the idea can be created and if the numbers do pan out, it would seem that Hyperloop is the answer to California state wide public transportation question.
At this point it is only an idea, but the basic engineering and physics are very promising. Musk is making this an open source project wanting feed back and input from anyone interested in tackling the issue. He hopes that someone will grab it and run with it, but if that is not the case he may pick it back up himself down the line.
It sounds like a great idea, but then so did the high speed train proposal back in 2008. With a state focused on infrastructure and with a love for public projects, only time will tell if Hyperloop is the solution for California state transit or not.
By Iam Bloom