Hyperloop One sets sights on ten inaugural routes

Hyperloop One Global Challenge winners represent the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, India and Canada. (PRNewsfoto/Hyperloop One)

So, let’s skip over the part where true high speed rail does not really exist at all in the united States today. Is it possible that we’ll see multiple companies competing to provide such on the same route in the near future? If you consider Hyperloop to be a rail project – it qualifies in some ways, not in others – then that just might happen. The latest news from the company has 10 finalists chosen for potential Hyperloop One intercity service and the Miami-Orlando corridor is among them. That’s the same city pair Brightline is hoping to connect with its rail service.

These are the ten Hyperloop One Global Challenge finalists/winners
These are the ten Hyperloop One Global Challenge finalists/winners

Same city pairs is probably where the similarities between the two projects end. Brightline is mostly repurposing existing track and expects to maybe finally complete the final miles of construction at the Orlando end of the route in the 2020 timeframe. It also plans to launch the South Florida end of the line this year. Hyperloop’s timeline doesn’t come close to the initial launch target, though the full run timeline might be viable.

Hyperloop One will work with the 10 finalists to validate the designs and viability of the projects, with a goal of delivering the first three functional routes by 2021. No guarantee that the Florida line will be among those, but it is one of the ten.

The proposed Hyperloop One route between Orlando and Miami stays inland, touching farms more than high-priced, beach-front real estate.
The proposed Hyperloop One route between Orlando and Miami stays inland, touching farms more than high-priced, beach-front real estate. (PRNewsfoto/Hyperloop One)

I do find the Florida route most interesting given the geology of the region. While the other proposed markets sit on relatively stable bedrock most of Florida is soft limestone with a high water table that makes underground construction spectacularly challenging. The Hyperloop One project would involve 200+ miles of underground paths for the pods to travel in. That said, the proposed routing stays inland rather than hugging the coast (a la Brightline). That could help with securing right-of-way while working against the potential for intermediate stops at populated areas.

Some stats Hyperloop used to justify the Orlando-Miami route
Some (questionable) stats Hyperloop used to justify the Orlando-Miami route

Also, I have no idea where the 3:25 flight time between the two cities comes from. Maybe when considering total travel time city center to city center, but definitely not just the flight.

Of the US markets proposed I’m inclined to think that the business model for the Texas Triangle is most viable, with the Pittsburgh-Chicago route in second. While those appear more fiscally sound to me, they’re not the first to move forward. According to today’s release, “[A]s a direct result of the Global Challenge, Hyperloop One and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), with support from AECOM, will enter a public private partnership to begin a feasibility study in Colorado.”

In any of the US markets the company will be forced to overcome not only the technical challenges but also a significant consumer mindset that is nearly universally anti-rail/ground transportation.* That’s going to be tough to overcome. And the costs to implement this tech won’t help on that front, either.

Read More: HSR challenges in Florida for Brightline

Still, it is impressive to see the project moving forward. Maintaining the low pressure system safely over hundreds of miles will not be easy, but the potential payoff is huge if it can be successfully deployed.

*I recognize a certain amount of irony in writing this while sitting on Amtrak; I’m trying to make the US rail system work for me but it is decidedly not high speed rail.

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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.


    1. One of the main ideas behind Hyperloop One is that it is all underground. The Boring Company is drilling the tunnels.

      That’s supposed to ease construction and right-of-way issues. Also creates safety questions, particularly in a low pressure tube, and other issues. But not as hard as buying a ton of mostly premium value land to build rail that people have to live next to.

    1. I think the logic with those cities is that you’d take light rail from those stations. Hi-speed rail keeps being suggested but Cheyenne to Albuquerque with Denver, COS stops too. One can only dream for a great people mover system on the front range.

    2. Stephen Trimble , the proposed route actually connects up the “Golden Triangle” of Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, and I guess they threw in a spur down to Laredo to catch trans-border traffic of some sort. The proposed track looks a bit like a misshapen lambda:

    1. Maybe the existing HSR project limits that viability. But most of the winning bids are shorter or multi-city operations so that also probably limits the viability to start.

      But also, the existing HSR project in California is still low speed into the city centers, right? It is a strange plan out there.

  1. I think Toronto – Montreal has a real chance here. There’s a huge amount of high-margin travel demand between the two cities, and I can see the Canadian government getting approvals through faster than the conglomeration of federal-state-local regulatory bodies that would have oversight in the US.

  2. I think Hyperloop should consider a model of moving freight first before passengers. You could move tons of freight to pay for the project and test for test for the passenger system.

    I read somewhere how they dream of a China to US under the ocean route would be cool. This would be great to move products quickly like iPhones and other products cheaper than planes and boats. You need to run that as non-passenger route for a while before I’d want to whoosh under the ocean.

  3. Thanks for sharing an update on Hyperloop technologies and routes. Regards, Alastair Majury

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