The following comment has been submitted to the DRPT.
I recognize that the scope of the draft EIS does not include consideration of new technologies. Yet, if there is one industry in the United Sates that is undergoing radical change it is the transportation industry. In my view it would be irresponsible for the DRPT to make a recommendation to do with the future of passenger and freight transportation along the east coast corridor without considering these profound changes.
There are many aspects to the new technologies — these include drones, autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles. But the one that will have the greatest impact on the rail industry is what is known as ‘hyperloop’. The seminal paper on this topic was written by Elon Musk in the year 2012. He recognized that the key advantage to this technology is not speed — although traveling at 650 mph is certainly enticing — but the fact that such systems can be implemented without needing much real estate.
I am currently preparing an article with the working title, The Practicality of Hyperloop, for publication in a professional journal. In the article I address three questions:
- Does it (hyperloop) work?
- Is it safe?
- Can it be profitable?
Hyperloop is made up of well-established and commercially proven pieces (low pressure tubes, linear induction motors, mag lev suspension), so my conditional answer to the first question is “Yes”.
I have spent many years analyzing the risk to do with industrial systems (the picture is of one of my books on the topic: Process Risk and Reliability Management). Based on this experience I would say that there are legitimate safety concerns, but that traveling by hyperloop is likely to be safer than flying on a commercial airplane. So the answer to the second question is also a conditional “Yes”.
Finally, we look at economics. Obviously there are many unknowns but the fact that Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines has now made a substantial investment in the company known as ‘Virgin Hyperloop One’ suggests that professional investors see a real opportunity. So, once more, I respond with a conditional “Yes”.
I will mail a draft of my article to the DRPT before the November 7th comments deadline.
If DRPT management is interested in having a presentation on this topic, please let me know. I would be very willing to visit with management and discuss these issues in greater depth.