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Can The Hyperloop Save Public Transportation?
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Can The Hyperloop Save Public Transportation?

Can The Hyperloop Save Public Transportation?

Cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and New York have extensive public-transportation systems. They carry millions of people by train, bus, and light rail. The recent expansion of shared vehicle options like Uber & Lyft gives commuters more choices. But they can also undermine public transportation in these cities.

So what will the future of public transportation look like in light of the innovations brought about by the private sector?

There are already alternative options that thousands of commuters are using every day. Uber & Lyft are probably the most popular shared transportation options. But many entrepreneurs and start-ups are aggressively trying to innovate and rethink public transportation. For example, Chariot, a privately run carpool option in San Francisco. Chariot offers crowd-sourced route suggestions that evolve based on commuter needs.

This is just one example of the players trying to disrupt public transportation. All these examples make one thing clear. If we want public transportation to have a place in our future cities, we need to improve it.


Enter Hyperloop

So, what is a Hyperloop? Hyperloop technology involves a systems of a vacuums and magnetic tracks to propel vehicle trains, known as pods, through a tube. Hyperloop pods can travel close to the speed of sound, at 700+ mph. 


Photo via Hyperloop Alpha white paper


While the technology is still in its development phase. Hyperloop shows the potential to transform terrestrial transportation. The concept of Hyperloop transportation was introduced and named by Elon Musk and venture investor Shervin Pishevar.

In August 2013, Elon Musk published the Hyperloop Alpha white paper that outlined in detail the concept and how the technology could work. This paper ignited overwhelming excitement from business and political leaders. This kicked off the development of the technology. Read the white paper here.

Since then – the project incorporated into a full business named Hyperloop One, acquired hundred of millions of dollars in funding, and locked in strategic partnerships with governments and leading businesses to help realize its vision.


The Long Road Ahead

If successful, hyperloop could transform intercity travel. Eliminating the need for short-haul airplane trips, long car rides. While cutting pollution caused by planes and cars. But not before it overcomes its fair share of obstacles.

Hyperloop transportation has not been tested over long distances or with actual people. It could take 7 to 10 years for feasibility studies, design work, engineering, land acquisition, and construction. There are also significant risks involved with this type of travel that need to be addressed. One key risk to safety would be the lack of oxygen in the vacuums the Hyperloop pods travel in. If the pods should malfunction, there needs to be a feasible plan for rescuing the people inside.


Photo by: The National


Hyperloop engineers will need to painstakingly test the technology and ensure its safety. Prototype testing along significant distances is necessary to discover and repair any unexpected problems. 


Dubai, Chicago, New York, & Washington D.C

One of the first real examples of a Hyperloop in action might happen in Dubai. The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has gone as far as unveiling initial designs of its proposed “Dubai Hyperloop Pod” project. Representatives from RTA and Hyperloop One have proposed a route from Dubai to Abu Dhabi that will take 12 minutes and have a capacity of up too 10,000 passengers per hour in both directions.


HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, HE Mattar Al Tayer, Rob Lloyd, RTA Executive Director of Rail Planning and Projects Abdulredha Abu Alhassan, CEO of Rail Agency at RTA HE Abdul Mohsin Ibrahim Younes, and Board Member of Virgin Hyperloop One and CEO and Group Chairman of DP World Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem outside the Dubai Hyperloop pod. Photo by: Dubai Media Office


Another Hyperloop project is picking up steam in Chicago. A proposed loop for the Windy city is getting lots of attention. Hyperloop One has gotten approval from city leaders in Chicago to build the express transit network between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport.

This high-speed transit system claims it would get people from downtown Chicago to O’Hare airport in just 12 minutes. Right now, anyone trying to get to O’Hare from the downtown Chicago area can look forward to a 40-minute one-way trip.

The journey through these Hyperloop tunnels will take up to 16 passengers at a time in high-speed electric vehicles. The cars, referred to as “skates,” have the potential to leave as often as every 30 seconds and can travel at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.


The Boring Company from The Boring Company on Vimeo.


There is also growing interest to develop Hyperloop routes in cities like New York, Washington DC.

With a single tweet entrepreneur Elon Musk announced the possibility of a Hyperloop project along the Eastern Seaboard between New York and Washington, D.C.


Elon Musk said via Twitter this potential Hyperloop project could make the trip from NYC to Washington D.C in 29 minutes. It takes most New Yorker’s longer than that to ride into downtown by subway. 


Implications For Life In Cities

 These new transportation technologies and models are looking to improve the way people get from place to place. Practically speaking, these developments could save us all time and money.

Hyperloop looks to transform lives in cities around the world. Hyperloop networks could provide people greater freedom to decide where they live and work. 


For more articles on the future of transportation, check out our popular post on Automobiles & The Cities Of The Future.



This article was made with contributions from Anna Kucirkova. Her original pitch can be found here.

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