Hyperloop "approval" in the NE Corridor??


Elon Musk is pretty good at stirring up conversations and yesterday morning was no exception. Musk posted on Twitter that he “Just received verbal govt approval” to build a hyperloop transit connecting New York to DC. And wow was that a confusing statement.

For starters, it is unclear which government(s) he was talking to or about. Journalists started calling the various governments that would theoretically be involved in such decisions, like the cities the hyperloop would service, and found that most had no idea what it was or that there were conversations happening at all.

https://twitter.com/AlexJamesFitz/status/888142166962450433

The good news is that the service would be to city-center locations, like trains are today. And Musk expects plenty of capacity and multiple entry/exit points in each city.

He’s also clearly using the power of his social media following and followers to try to apply pressure on local authorities to approve whatever formal applications come along. That’s just smart business as this point.

But it sure would be interesting to know what verbal approval really means or who it came from?

Best guess I’ve seen so far is that Trump told him it is a good idea and that it should be approved. Musk was on a couple of the advisory councils of industry leaders until the US announced it was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreements last month. That would give him decent access to have the conversation and get a positive comment like the “approval” received yesterday.

Lacking any clear indication of what’s going on or when it might come to pass, the idea of the hyperloop connecting the region is an interesting one. The trip currently takes 2.5-3 hours on the train today; Musk promises to drop that to under 30 minutes. And the hyperloop pods are more flexible in terms of scheduling and routing of trips, at least in theory. Still a ton of technology that needs to be proven and then built in an economically viable manner. But the company is working on that, with a test track constructed and the first test run – albeit at lower speeds – now completed.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

17 Comments

  1. Funniest addendum I heard was on the Chicago news this morning, “[the city] is also in talks about building a hyperloop system between O’Hare and downtown.”

    Why is it that I am suddenly seeing The Simpsons’ “Monorail” episode flash before my eyes?

    1. We’d need a better song, I think. 😉

      The Chicago-ORD one is another line rumored, but also seemingly more engaged with the authorities who would give approval, mostly because the City should be able to do it all. For the NE Corridor so many agencies will be involved.

  2. Elon is the one person I would never bet against. The tunneling company is barely a year old and it’s already prototyping tunnels. Try tweeting at Elon. You may get an answer.

    1. He’s answered a bunch of people’s queries but not the specifics of ho he was talking to or what the “approval” was. I’m not betting against him but I think this is a marketing/politics play as much as it is reality.

    2. Keeping that 300-mile long pneumatic tube sealed is going to be hard. Boring a safe, 300-mile long tunnel that won’t cost $100 billion is going to be even harder. I’m not so sure Hyperloop is ever going to come.

    3. Otherwise known as pie in the sky verging on a scam. Think about boring a tunnel in the heavily congested NE where so much utility infrastructure is already underground. Not to mention the enormous challenges to build in emergency response, etc. My 14 year-old son is a Musk fan, but many of his ideas don’t pass the practical test.

    4. Getting past the existing infrastructure and even some of the environmental concerns can be done by going deeper. And he seems to think that’s what the system will mostly do. That might also help with sealing the tube but it does make emergency access more challenging.

      I’m not completely willing to write it off yet, though. Reusing rockets quickly and cost-effectively seemed pretty a couple years ago, too.

    5. And like Stephen Trimble said, that would cost how much? And given the long list of infrastructure priorities which are unlikely to be addressed for at least 5-10 years, why does this matter?

    6. I’ve assumed the Boring thing is really about Mars. Musk knows he needs to tunnel underground to keep a colony alive, and this Hyperloop scam is a nice way to get the government and other financiers to pay for a proof of concept. If it happens to work for Earth transportation, that’s just gravy, but it’s not the point and the chances are slim.

  3. I’m curious is you asked those officials if they knew of the Boring Company rather than of Elon Musk. Because isn’t that what his tweet actually said? The Boring Company confirmed that to him. Great way to take a statement out of context, winner.

  4. Won’t the tunneling need a right of way? I guess he could use eminent domain? But, I don’t think this will happen. Too many ifs.

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