A viable alternative to high-speed rail?

A viable alternative to high-speed rail?

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When Elon Musk talks, people listen.

He’s earned street cred — as in Wall Street — from co-founding the company that grew into PayPal; co-founding Tesla Motors, the most successful electric car start-up company; and founding SpaceX, to which NASA has outsourced future trips to the International Space Station.

HyperloopOn Monday, Musk shared his much-hyped plan for a so-called “Hyperloop,” a high-speed transportation system that would be a visionary alternative to California’s planned high-speed rail system.

The Los Angeles billionaire offered a hint of its design this past Thursday during a Google Hangout with British billionaire Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group. (Branson also is bullish on commercial space.)

The Hyperloop “involves a tube,” said Musk, confirming some online speculation, “but not a vacuum tube,” like those that used to be seen pre-ATM at bank drive-throughs.

What Musk has in mind, he said, is a “fifth mode” of transport “after planes, trains, cars and boats.”

That fifth mode would send passengers hurtling through low-pressure tubes in ultra sleek pods at speeds of up to 800 miles per hour. At that clip, a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco would take a mere half hour. That’s two hours and eight minutes faster than California’s bullet train promises to make the 432-mile jaunt.

Hyperloop vs. high-speed rail

And the Hyperloop would have other advantages over the state’s vaunted high-speed rail system.

It could never crash, like the high-speed train that went off the rails in Santiago de Compostel, Spain last month, killing 79 passengers. It would be self-powered, using solar energy, which would save a fortune in electricity costs. And the ticket price for that L.A. to San Francisco excursion would be considerable lower than the $81 projected for the planned bullet train.

Perhaps the most appealing feature of Musk’s Hyperloop — at least where California taxpayers are concerned — is that it would cost nowhere near the whopping $68 billion it will cost to build the state’s high-speed rail line.

Moreover, with the backing of a proven entrepreneur like Musk, the Hyperloop could attract the billions of dollars in private investment that the state’s proposed bullet train promised, but has failed to deliver.

If there is one big reason not to get overly enthusiastic about Musk’s proposed “Hyperloop” it’s that Musk, the visionary, says he’s too busy with Tesla and SpaceX to undertake yet another Big Hairy Audacious Project.

So, on Monday, he unveiled his design for the Hyperloop, answered a few questions, then busted a move.

But that was all good. Musk doesn’t have to be the guy who actually builds the Hyperloop. There are a number of extant companies that could conceivably make that happen. And Musk could help finance the project by making a few calls to billionaire pals like Branson.

4 comments

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  1. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 14 August, 2013, 11:37

    Notice that two of Musk’s three “successful” companies depend directly on government contracts or subsidies and the other one (PayPal) is indirectly dependent on Federal Reserve meddling in the financial markets with various monetary stimuli. There is a phrase that describes entrepreneurs like Musk – Crony Capitalists!

    His vaunted ability to make money is nothing more than a willingness to milk the current corrupt corporatist system for all he can get, taxpayers be damned. Hardly a laudable trait, but sadly typical in the waning years of our increasingly dysfunctional Constitutional Republic turned globe straddling leviathan.

    It’s so good to see that Elon has cooked up another phantasmagorical techno-boondoggle to fool naive journalists and enthusiastic techies everywhere. 50 years from now people will read about this transportation boob tube and wonder how anyone believed such futuristic balderdash. And by the way, where is my flying car, my time share condo on Mars and my 200 year life span? Still stuck on the dusty front page of some long forgotten issue of Popular Science magazine, that’s where.

    P.S. Congratulations CWD on your successful suppression of just about every comment on your website. You must be so proud!

    Reply this comment
    • admin
      admin 14 August, 2013, 14:23

      Dyspeptic: Believe me, we are struggling to solve the comment blocking issue. If I knew the tech answer myself, I’d be a billionaire like Bill Gates and wouldn’t be here serving you and California.

      — John Seiler

      Reply this comment
  2. us citizen
    us citizen 14 August, 2013, 11:58

    Isnt Tesla in financial problems? I mean their car is not for the middle or lower class.

    And just how much would it be to take a ride on this? If its out of line with a plane, then its not going to go anywhere……money vs time.

    Reply this comment
  3. GregS
    GregS 20 August, 2013, 05:45

    Tesla is in pretty good shape, and they have already paid off their Government backed loan.

    Reply this comment

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