Monday, December 16, 2019

Last Call For Hyperloop Hyperbole

The biggest suspension of disbelief in the new study this week that finds constructing a hyperloop route from Chicago to Pittsburgh through Cleveland would cost $30 billion or so is that anyone actually wants to go to goddamn Cleveland at 700 mph.

A high-speed hyperloop line that could zoom passengers through a vacuum tube from Cleveland to Chicago and Pittsburgh could cost from $24.7 billion to $29.8 billion to build, depending on variations in the route and stops along the way.

But the profits and economic benefits would justify the expense and attract the substantial private investment needed to make it happen.

Those statements are among the key assertions of an 18-month, $1.3 million feasibility analysis scheduled for release Monday by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and Los Angeles-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

The report, led by TEMS, a consulting firm based in Frederick, Maryland, constitutes what the authors believe is the most extensive hyperloop feasibility analysis released publicly to date, anywhere, said NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci, who discussed some of the report’s core findings ahead of Monday.

A hyperloop system would consist of large-scale vacuum tubes with magnetic-levitation tracks that would carry capsules with 28 to 40 passengers at speeds of up to 760 mph.

First envisioned by entrepreneur Elon Musk as a high-speed alternative to other modes of transportation, hyperloop has yet to be proven safe for human travel. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, or HTT, is testing capsules on a track in Toulouse, France.

Hyperloop projects are under study in Europe, the Middle East and corridors in the U.S., including a Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago route.

On the basis of the new report, Gallucci said she would recommend that the Cleveland region should participate in further studies that could lead to construction as soon as 2023, with the understanding that the bulk of the costs would be borne by private investors.
“I am sold to move to the next step,’’ Gallucci said.

“I think there’s enough evidence in the feasibility study to suggest we should move forward as a region in order to leverage the work that we’ve already done and to capitalize on the momentum of hyperloop nationally and internationally,” Gallucci said.

But she emphasized that the impetus for hyperloop is coming from the private sector.

“NOACA’s not trying to push this,” she said. “NOACA wants to be part of the innovation and a leader, but that’s very different from pushing it. This is not our agenda.”

The report will state that a Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh route could be up and running by 2028, following six years of construction.

Cincinnati can't get a bridge built to replace the Kennedy-era Brent Spence over the Ohio River, but hey, hyperloop!

I know picking on Elon Musk is low-hanging fruit, and normally I'm a raging Keynesian on macroeconomic issues and especially on mass transportation infrastructure, but hyperloop is a classic example of Austrian school malinvestment.

Hyperloop will choke out all other infrastructure spending and end up hurting a lot of people. $30 billion spent on going really, really fast from Chicago to Pittsburgh means it's not being spent on anything else, and besides, if you want to go that quickly we have these things called airplanes.

Jesus, this is a horrific idea.  Give me the $30 billion, I'm sure I can find something better to spend it on.

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