California High-speed Rail Could Face Another Challenge


California’s plan to build the first high-speed rail system in the country could face another challenge. This time it is not political opposition, an ever-rising price tag, or an angry homeowner. It is a newer technology.

The challenge comes from green transportation design company ET3. The company founder and CEO Daryl Oster, has proposed a new, magnetic tube rail system to replace the current high-speed rail plan, which he claims can be built for one tenth of the cost of traditional rail. Oster hopes to get an initiative on this November’s ballot that would authorize the state to provide the funding he needs to prove his technology is a better way to go than high-speed rail.

Oster describes his system as “space travel on Earth” and compares it to the way we as humans experience high-speed, frictionless travel around the sun, unaware that we are traveling through space at upwards of 67,000 miles per hour. The three Ts in the company name stand for Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies.

In a 2013 presentation at IdeaCity in Toronto, Oster explained that his plan is to build a tube system, that uses vacuum pumps to remove all of the air from the inside of the tube. Inside, a capsule capable of holding approximately six people, would levitate on magnets. The absence of air would create a frictionless environment which would allow the capsule to travel at very high speeds, and at only a fraction of the cost of other forms of transportation.

Oster also claims that, when fully implemented, a passenger would be able to travel from New York to Beijing in around two hours with a round-trip cost of about $100. In order to be able to do that, the capsule will need to travel at speeds of around 4000 miles per hour. If those kinds of high speeds and low costs can be achieved, it would pose quite a challenge not only to California’s high-speed rail plans, but other forms of transportation as well. He has started a consortium of interested individuals to support his idea.

If high-speed, magnetic, frictionless travel sounds a bit too good to be true, it just might be. At this point, the most obvious hurdle is that the technology has not been tried yet. Within the next two years, Oster hopes to find a three-mile stretch of land on which he can build a prototype that travels at 375 miles per hour. Within five years, he hopes to have a 300-mile network built, which connects several major cities. And in twenty years, he hopes to see his transport system used globally.

The Hanford news is reporting that ET3 has received the go-ahead from the  California Secretary of State’s office to begin collecting the 504,000 signatures needed to be placed on the upcoming November ballot. If ET3 is successful, high-speed rail will face another challenge in the form of California voters who will decide which plans and which technology they want to sink their money into. If Oster’s initiative gets the thumbs-up, it would stop the sale of high-speed rail bonds and effectively kill the current plans for a bullet train.

By Dan Reyes

California Secretary of State 
Hanford Sentinel

12 Responses to "California High-speed Rail Could Face Another Challenge"

  1. C$   March 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    ET3 is VIABLE TEXHNOLOGY. China has been developing ET3 since 2002! There is copius amounts of information pertaining to ET3: scientific journals, patents, prototype imagary, schematics, maps, etc.
    ET3 deserves to compete against CA HSR.
    When my grandmother was born (1910), the Model-T was in the early stages of production. She didn’t get on a commercial airlpane until the ’50s.
    ET3 and Personal Rapid Transport systems like Jpods and Skytran will create MILLIONS of jobs for this country.

  2. mikee   March 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    ET3 or bust…my guess is secret military bases are already using ET3 underground

  3. Thomas Christiansen   March 17, 2014 at 10:28 am

    ET3 is a safe and effective technology that CAN BE DONE TODAY! The so called “arguments” against ET3 are all bogus. ET3 has 12 years of R&D in China. ET3 is much safer than existing modes of transport.

  4. Flany   March 17, 2014 at 6:09 am

    Starry-eyed inventors and visionaries are always out there with the latest and greatest technological advance, which they say will instantly render existing transport modes obsolete. Never mind that these ideas are untested and the real costs are unknown or that there will always be unforeseen problems. It will take years and untold capital to see if these ideas actually work in everyday use, with no real service in the meantime. In essence, we are being asked to take these people at their word that this is a great leap forward on faith and little else.

    Meanwhile, these people will kill the high speed rail plan to advance their goals. If that happens, we will be setting aside proven technology in favor of an experiment. There is something inherently wrong with this.

    • jc04275   March 17, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Thank you. Two good statements.

  5. Willie Green   March 17, 2014 at 4:49 am

    Frankly, I believe that Oster’s proposal is more appropriate for a Hollywood Sci-Fi movie than actual travel… but maybe the publicity will attract some private funding for him to build a working 1/10 scale model to prove the technology. If he can successfully transport gerbils & hamsters through these vacuum habitrails, then maybe it’ll be worth while looking at larger applications.

  6. jc04275   March 16, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    OK, I’m not saying this type of technology (if it works) would have absolutely no application… I’m sure it would somewhere, like in direct terminal to terminal short-distance applications. BUT, if you try to take this technology (if it works) to the regional or long distance scale with stations along the way or even terminal to terminal long-distance routes — think of the mess! Tubes everywhere; clogged terminals. If I get in one of these things in Raleigh, NC to travel to New York, how do I get into the traffic already in the tubes? These things would only carry a few people. We’re talking tube clog and tube sprawl in Manhattan the likes of which the world has not yet seen! Outside it would look like a repeat of the interstate highway system but with tubes everywhere! If this works, find application for limited traffic, terminal to terminal needs.

  7. Jordet   March 16, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    @jco4275: I think what you MEANT to say is when Humanity is UPGRADED to traveling in capsules in tubes which provide the most efficient, safest and greenest conditions available AND arrive almost anywhere on the planet in less than 6 hours, COUNT ME IN!


  8. Geoff clinton   March 16, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Why stop there? Why not build a teleporter… we could get to the Moon or Mars in seconds! Why are you selling yourself short?

  9. jc04275   March 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    If you want to call this better technology, you’re entitled. But, do you really think this is going to automatically be the panacea to replace all other modes of transportation? This may have an application somewhere, but when humanity is reduced to travelling in pods, in tubes, let me out! Please vote against this.

    • Ovidiu   March 17, 2014 at 1:26 am

      What about planes, jc04275? Basically it’s a flying tube. Do you want out? Think about it, a transport system, which work with a small amount of energy, it is weatherproof and does not depend on fuel costs. I think it is worth it.

      • jc04275   March 17, 2014 at 6:04 pm

        I agree. Planes are basically buses with wings. I don’t particularly love flying, although seeing down upon the earth on which we live is a good experience occasionally. I use the trains in the Northeast all the time. We are humans though. God didn’t make us to travel in pipelines. Pipelines are for water, oil, fluids. While this unproven technology may be heralded by a few individuals as better technology (and past technologies scream that this one would have its problems too), I think we would be reaching a new low to adopt this on any kind of large scale. We are people, not fluid.

        I’m not totally against the technology though. If you can test it, prove it, and find an appropriate application, go ahead. I may even use it in the future. But for this article to bill this unproven technology as some sort of a panacea we’ve been missing for all these years — bologna!


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