Hyperlooping Around the Southwest

hyperloop.jpgMad genius Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX, yesterday revealed conceptual plans for the Hyperloop. It is, for all intents and purposes, a giant air hockey puck that transports people insanely fast inside a massive bank teller tube.

It seems like it’s as close as science is going to get us to Futurama’s tube transport without actually enlisting the aid of the Globetrotters.

Here’s how it would work: A main route between San Francisco and Los Angeles would be built using pylon-mounted tubes, mostly on the existing Interstate 5 median. Pods carrying 28 people would be fired along the tube every 30 seconds to two minutes, hitting top speeds of around 700 mph. This would put the travel time for the 380-mile trip at about half an hour and cost about $20, as opposed to an hour-and-a-half trip by air for $160 round trip, or two-and-a-half hours at $210 round trip by the proposed high-speed rail system that California is looking at building.

The fun part, though, is that Musk’s proposed expansion map wouldn’t just limit the Hyperloop to a SF-LA route. It would also include stops in Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego and … Las Vegas.

His proposed route would make use of existing median on the I-15, and would have some sort of branching station around San Bernadino where riders could presumably continue on to Los Angeles or go down to San Diego. Departures would go every eight minutes, and the trip to L.A. would take about 24 minutes. Going to San Diego would also be right around half an hour.


Musk says the main route can be built for around $6 billion and would break even in 20 years. He doesn’t have any estimation for how long it would take to tack on a Vegas route. What it would do, though, if someone wanted to assume the expense of building it, is put the final nail in the coffin for the already clinging-to-life XpressWest.

All of that sounds great. The idea of being able to go see a Dodgers game without having to drive five hours and get a hotel is fairly appealing. So what’s the downside?

Proximity, for one. We could easily envision a brutal turf war between Tony Hsieh, Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson, Gary Loveman and Jim Murren over just where the station gets built. If it comes down to some Warriors-style gangland violence, we have to think Hiseh’s army is already groomed to work as a unit, and would be very willing to dress in ridiculous uniforms in pursuit of a common goal.

The entire economies of Primm, Baker and Barstow for another. Calico won’t be the only ghost town along that corridor. And then where’s Snoop Dogg going to randomly play if the Star of the Desert Arena dries up? Can they survive on bleary-eyed truckers alone in those towns?

Then there’s hotel occupancy. How bad does it get dented when a swath of SoCal weekenders decide to get in and out for one crazy Saturday where they don’t have to drive, as opposed to crashing five-to-a-room after an evening of bottle service at XS? Will you be able to ride the Hyperloop while stumbling around, carrying your high heels? Can someone reach out to Elon Musk and see if he’s addressed this contingency?

Finally, there’s communication. How big are they going to build the intercom on either end of the tube? It’s hard enough to understand the pharmacist when you’re dropping off a prescription at CVS. Adding another 300 miles seems like it’s asking for trouble.

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