On California High Speed Rail Blog, Robert Cruickshank (who also writes guest posts here) writes about a California ballot initiative to replace HSR with… hyperloop.

In August, I made the prediction that the hyperloop proposal, which appeared at a pivotal moment in CA’s HSR project, would be in effect attack on HSR: “The hyperloop idea will peel off some of CAHSR’s support, putting HSR at more risk…”

Generally, publicly sourced alternatives to any infrastructure project are a strategy to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt (or FUD). We see this whenever light rail comes to the ballot – a group of otherwise anti-transit activists will propose bus rapid transit that we don’t seem to hear about either before or after the rail campaign.

My hope is that this pattern helps transit supporters identify this behavior when it happens and helps us prevent this type of attack on transit from getting traction in the future.

89 Replies to “Hyperloop Turns Out to be Used Exactly as Predicted”

  1. I wanted to read a little bit more about the Hyperloop, so I Binged Hyperloop + Musk, which brought me to a story on BloombergBusinessWeek by Ashlee Vance. I read the story, then started reading some of the comments. I think everyone should read this comment. Before calling the Hyperloop “half-baked,” let’s remember all of the following were once considered half-baked in their time.

    “bobclarebrough • 5 months ago
    Always funny to read the comments from naysayers and armchair engineers.

    Every “knew” that Henry Ford was crazy to think of building a car for the masses, not just for the 1%. Thomas Edison was considered to be “rather dim” by the school principal who asked his mother to remove him and teach him at home. Franklin Mars was stricken with polio as a child and could no longer walk to school. His mother taught him at him and showed him the art of chocolate dipping. The NY Times once published a piece that declared: “If all the world’s scientists and mathematicians came together they would need a million years to figure how to make heavier-than-air planes fly.” Two bicycle mechanics took just three years.

    And as the song says: “They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round. They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.”

    Some things never change. Now it’s Elon Musk’s turn. We need a million more idiots like him. Way to go!!!”

    1. If Elon wants Hyperloop for real, he should work with the existing transit proposals to help his ideas *complement* them. Otherwise, it’s like a proposal to tear out all the streets to build PRT. Cuckoo.

      1. Sam: you’re wrong about all of your false historical non-examples. I have actually researched all of these, so you know, and your analogies are wrong.

        Several of them are just false.

        I’ve read the newspapers of the 1900s period and pretty much everyone expected that a mass-market automobile would be successful sooner or later.

        All the previous people you mentioned were pursuing research which was well-respected *among scientists and researchers”. The general ignoramus public, of course, mocked them…

        Hyperloop is mocked *among scientists and researchers*. The general public is all gung-ho for it! This is a good sign of something which doesn’t have a chance.

    2. And since you bring up Henry Ford, consider how much the automobile industry owes its supremacy to buying up a lot of the public mass transit systems that were in existence, and tearing out the tracks. Good example, Sam!

    3. I don’t doubt that frictionless travel will one day be the primary mode of intercity transportation. I do think it is insane to think that it would be cheaper to build than conventional HSR. This would be the first commercial use of Evacuated Tube Transport. It hardly seems like it would go off without a hitch.

      P.S. It was very commonly accepted that the world was round in Columbus’s time. What would have caused them to laugh at him was his massive underestimation of the diameter of the earth

    4. There’s a huge difference: automobiles exited long before Henry Ford started to mass produce them and sell. Ford’s genius was about mass producing and marketing, not inventing the automobile. For this situation to be analogous, we’d need several different functioning ‘hyper loops’ already. A better analogy would be something like high speed rail, where there are several function examples already… hmmmm.

    5. I propose replacing CAHSR with antimatter propelled human crewed rockets to visit nearby stars. If you laugh at me, it only proves the idea is totally realistic to pursue right now because there are no known instances of people laughing at ideas that actually turned out to be stupid.

      1. There’s a scene in Love & Death where a character tells us that everyone is laughing at him now, but history will always remember his name, Sidney Appelbaum. To take random and exaggerated examples of successful people who claimed they were laughed at as though that proves that people who are laughed at will always be successful is a fallacy that’s pretty low. 99.99999% of inventions that were laughed at were worth laughing at. Unless you can point to some reason this one isn’t (and “just like Edison” isn’t a reason), no one will be convinced.

    6. Of course you realize in the end Henry Ford failed. His stubborn insistance that one size fits all (and, implicitly, that he and he alone knew what was right for all) cost Ford dearly, as General Motors, employing the latest management techniques and the ability to manufacture all variations in design, color, features, to tailor their cars to the audience nearly drove Ford out of business until they too gave in to what the market demanded.

    7. Hyper loop isn’t an original concept. The first concepts of evacuated tube transport were developed in the 1850s. The vacuum is simply too difficult to maintain in such a large scale. There have been no significant technical changes since the 1920s or so in this area. This isn’t something that is solved with software or automation.

      East of Seattle there is the 8 mile long Cascade Tunnel. It takes 5,000 horsepower to create low enough pressure to get diesel exhaust out. Now imagine what it would take to maintain 300 microns or so of vacuum in a 900 mile tube.

  2. I have a real assignment for Sam: Go talk to all the people who campaigned against ST2, saying a network of express buses was better.

    Get them to endorse the impending measure to save our bridges, buses, and roads.

    We would love you for it!

  3. The hyperloop proposal is a joke. It is being used (or was originally designed) to do exactly what you said: to weaken support for HSR. Likewise, I’m sure there are folks who use BRT proposals as a way to weaken light rail.

    So, just to make it clear: I think BRT makes a lot of sense for West Seattle. Much of it is already done (there are a lot of freeway ramps, some with exclusive lanes already). Adding BRT would provide a lot of the same benefits (speed) at a much lower cost. It wouldn’t have the capacity, but it sure looks to me like you would never need it there. With the difference in cost, you could provide a lot better service to the peninsula, as well as other areas. I support most of the light rail plans, but I think BRT has a positive role to play. I’m mentioning this now so it is clear that my support for BRT in certain areas is sincere, and you’ve had a chance to hear about it before folks talk seriously about rail to West Seattle.

    1. “The iron horse is a joke. It’s being used to weaken support for horse drawn mail carriages.”

      Beaumont T. Pemberton III. Wells Fargo Mail Carriage Operator. 1862.

      1. Bluntly, you don’t know what you’re talking about, Sam.

        Railroads were essentially non-functional until a few key inventions were made, most of which people don’t know about.
        (1) The flanged wheel, developed in the 1970s if I’m correct. Before this, railroads were practically useless.
        (2) The rolled wrought iron rail, developed in 1820. Before this, the tracks had a tendency to break, making them not really usable.
        (3) The angled wheel. This is why trains can be really long; it provides passive stabilization. Prior to this invention, railroads were always less efficient than the alternatives (which were usually canals). For some reason I cannot find records of who invented this absolutely key invention, but it was sometime from 1800-1830.

        Evacuated tube transport, such as Musk suggests for the Hyperloop, is old technology.

        *And it’s no good*; it’s less efficient and more expensive than the alternatives. Elon Musk *has not developed a breakthrough* akin to the angled wheel or the rolled wrought iron rail which would make it efficient and effective for passenger transport. Nor has he adopted someone else’s breakthrough. If he had, it would have been noticed by the engineers looking at the Hyperloop proposal. There isn’t a breakthrough; it has all the problems any evacuated tube railway from the 19th century would have.

        Contrast this with what Musk did in space flight. He realized that one of the most expensive parts of every space shot was control systems, and that all the control systems were from before the microeelectronics revolution. By replacing the mechanical and electromechanical control systems with electronics, he eliminated a large portion of the costs. Hence the success of SpaceX.

        Contrast, again, with what Musk did in solar panels. He realized that the problem with adoption was purely one of financing, and so devised a financing scheme. Hence the success of SolarCity.

        Contrast, *again*, with what Musk did in electric cars. He realized that electric cars were already ready, but were being suppressed by the established auto companies — realized this by watching “Who Killed the Electric Car”, in fact! — and so he knew that all that was necessary was to set up his own car company and deal with all the financing, marketing, factory construction, etc. problems. Which is what he has been doing with Tesla Motors, hence its success.

        There isn’t anything comparable to any of these in his Hyperloop proposal. Which is why *he hasn’t started a company to promote it*. It’s a no-good proposal which won’t work as advertised and will cost far more than advertised.

      2. Elon Musk is one of those great inventors of our time who can’t be counted out, but let’s remember the US Government tried to invent a powered airplane. They failed, the Wilbur Brothers succeeded.

        So why should Musk muck up HSR? Oh to sell more Tesla sportsters, perhaps?

    2. Of course, with the hyperloop being the joke it is, anyone who is going to use this as an excuse to oppose HSR probably already opposed HSR anyway.

    3. @ RossB
      I think that West Seattle has had it with road access. Many freeway ramps, some with exclusivity to transit just does not cut it. The choke points remain, and they are severe. Polls show greater than 85% of WS residents want rail, regardless of it’s effectiveness. They are like cancer patients who have run out of options.
      Finally, getting here is only 1/3 of the job. The peninsula has 100,000 residents spread over miles of hilly topography. Either a BRT or a rail system would be challenged to service this area itself, let alone provide connectivity to the rest of needed city services.
      No one would like to see some solution more than I, but I also realize that an effective solution will require careful and costly analysis and construction, and this would take time – that which West Seattle feels it is out of.

      1. I have no doubt that West Seattle residents want rail, because most of them have never seen BRT. They have seen Metro buses, they have seen Link buses, and they have seen Rapid Ride buses. None of them work very well for West Seattle and none of them are real BRT.

        Meanwhile, we have a mix of light rail in Seattle. But when people think “light rail”, they think Link. That system has its flaws, but it is fairly fast because it is mostly grade separated.

        But our streetcars are light rail, too. Imagine if that is all we had. My guess is that people wouldn’t be so eager for that.

        You are absolutely right, the problem is the bottlenecks in West Seattle (which are horrible). But fixing those bottlenecks and leveraging the existing infrastructure would be way cheaper than building a light rail line, and just as fast. When people say they “want rail”, they want something like Link — they want fast, mostly grade separated rail. But what if they were given the choice of a completely grade separated BRT system, with off board payment along with a nice interface to the Sodo station or a light rail system that consisted of a surface line the whole way. One of the reasons why people hate the idea of BRT is because Rapid Ride has been called BRT. It is to BRT what streetcars are to light rail.

        Just to be clear, I think light rail makes a lot of sense in a lot of areas. The existing and planned line are fairly good. We have underground transit in much of the central city, and cheap elevated transit in less dense areas. There are plenty of areas where BRT simply won’t work. A good example is Ballard to the UW. You can’t build a freeway there; if you build an elevated structure, you might as well make it rail. Likewise for the densest part of the city, which is basically everything between Mercer Street and I-90. South Lake Union as well as the Central Area need high speed transit, and BRT just doesn’t make sense here (you are going to have to dig some tunnels). But West Seattle, like the Aurora corridor, makes sense for BRT.

        Of course, one of the key aspects of our system is connecting the various modes. So far, we haven’t done that good of a job.

      2. Ditto what RossB says.
        At some point voters are going to start asking why so much money was invested for such small gains. That’s the big picture, whether you favor bus, brt, rail or hyperlink. They all have to connect and function well to move more people, more often, with travel times comparable to autos.
        So far Transit, and I mean all of it working together, isn’t doing a very good job of providing an alternative to driving. Autos still carry over 80% of all trips taken over the last 20 years.
        In 1993 transit (again all of it in the 3 counties) provided 101 M trips. Today, that has grown by 60%, during a time when population grew 33%.
        In 1993 transit provided less than 5% of all trips taken in the region. That is still the case.
        Transit has grown their budgets 400% in the same time here.
        It makes no difference whether you spend a dollar on buses or trains, in service or capital, if you can’t move the goal posts substantially over 20 years.
        Completing Sound Move and ST2 in the next 10 years will help, but transit could be wearing out their welcome at the ballot box without substantially ‘Getting There Collective Shit Together’.

      3. “I have no doubt that West Seattle residents want rail, because most of them have never seen BRT”

        The problem is that nobody has ever seen BRT. It appears to be a unicorn.

        Sure, there’s Curitiba. They declared that system to be overwhelmed and are planning to replace it with a train service. Mmm-hmm.

      4. “You are absolutely right, the problem is the bottlenecks in West Seattle (which are horrible). ”

        Classic solution for serving a spread-out, low-density area which has bottlenecks leading to it:
        (1) Build a railway line through the bottlenecks.
        (2) Put train stations with parking lots on the West Seattle side of the bottlenecks.

        This works, generally.

      5. West Seattle isn’t low-density enough or parking-lot-oriented for your BART solution, and it isn’t remotely high-density enough to support the expense of a brand new waterway crossing, or even to support feeder service that wouldn’t yield slower trips than the buses that exist today.

        West Seattle is a classic American medium-low density single-family in-city-limits-style sprawl.

        I remind you again, Nathanael, that your worst comments invariably involve prescriptive advice about places you’ve never been and whose spatial arrangements you don’t understand.

        West Seattle already enjoys partial all-hour exclusive laneage at its primary bottleneck. A “true BRT” would be able to finish that job, to 100% bottleneck-free standards, for a fraction of the cost of brand-new infrastructure in any mode.

        The decentralization of peninsula destinations would also make this a (rare) worthy case for “open BRT”, in which Delridge, Junction, etc. buses could all take equal advantage of the bottleneck-bypassing infrastructure.

      6. The cheapest transit improve for West Seattle is something that no one, thus far has been willing to consider – route buses in a straight line (or at least as straight as possible given the geometry of the streets).

        This means moving the junction stop to the other side of California Ave. and eliminating the around-the-block detour to serve the current stop. It also means taking Fontleroy all the way from SR-99 to Alaska St., eliminating multiple stoplights and right-angle turns.

        Those on Avalon Way would still have service on the 21, a route that already runs just as frequently as the C-line Monday-Saturday. If the detour to Avalon Way avoids traffic jams on Fontleroy during the peak (since I never ride through here in the peak, I don’t know), then maintain the current routing through Avalon during the peak, but stick to Fauntleroy during the off-peak.

      7. “At some point voters are going to start asking why so much money was invested for such small gains .. Autos still carry over 80% of all trips taken over the last 20 years.”

        That’s because politicians and citizen activists prevented spending any more money for higher-quality service that would have attracted more people. If you want New York’s transit modeshare, you have to have New York’s level of transit. Some of the opposition was due purely to cost, or not wanting to put money into non-automobile infrastructure. But some of it was opposition to density, which led to less-than-optimal station locations and restrictions to station areas. A lot of that overlaps because the people who oppose density are usually the same ones who want maximum car lanes and parking spaces.

        The best transit system is one that people want to use. Something that’s as good as or better than driving. That costs money. Link is the closest thing we’ve gotten to it, and opposing it would not have gotten anything better.

      8. I’m not a die-hard must-have-rail in West Seattle. At the same time, I think those who categorically oppose rail are shortsighted. Too many times we have underestimated the potential of things and people, and not foreseen how things and people’s attitudes might change. The best way to get Seattle to grow to its potential is to give it some high-capacity transit infrastructure, so that there would be a really good alternative to driving. Then when driving becomes less popular or affordable — as I’m sure it undoubtedly will — people will have an alternative in place and will readily use it. And they’re more likely to make that switch if the infrastructure is there. In any case, people are filling those denser buildings and Metro’s ridership is increasing in spite of its limitations, so the change is already happening albeit very gradually.

        The right solution is the highest level of service that the politicians and public are willing to allow. In a best-case scenario that would be light rail. In a second-best scenario it would be BRT, and we’d have to hope that the BRT would remain adequate for the long term. (Hint: it would never be adequate for the U-District, you just have to look at the 71/72/73 and their overflow the 43/49/70/255 to see that.)

      9. “West Seattle already enjoys partial all-hour exclusive laneage at its primary bottleneck. A “true BRT” would be able to finish that job, to 100% bottleneck-free standards, for a fraction of the cost of brand-new infrastructure in any mode.”

        If you can actually convince government officials to complete bus lane painting, yeah, of course it will work. Go for it! Good luck! And if you can do this, a lot of other public transportation problems will melt away like ice cream on a hot sidewalk, too!

      10. Make no mistake, Nathanael and others: true solutional BRT to West Seattle is going to require more than just paint.

        There will need to be some dedicated infrastructure, in the form of transit-only ramps at the ends of the West Seattle Bridge, and some real solution to the “stuck mile” at the periphery of downtown.

        But what is not needed is an entirely from-scratch bridge over / tunnel under the Duwamish. On that crucial mile, the eastbound bus lane remains unimpeded and westbound carrying capacity is in excess.

        You could get flawless BRT with about 10-15% of the new infrastructure of a rail line.

      11. Mike: Look no further than Roosevelt for your guide as to what happens when you hand a politically influential and change-averse neighborhood an exorbitant piece of rail infrastructure with no strings attached.

      12. Regarding BRT:
        “Sure, there’s Curitiba. They declared that system to be overwhelmed and are planning to replace it with a train service.”

        Have you spent any time in Curitiba? I have.

        The system they have is actually reasonably impressive, but keep in mind it requires building two highway lanes and dedicating them only for bus use. No auto traffic, No Car Pools. Nothing at all except the high capacity buses designed for use on it.

        In other words, it is exactly like a dedicated right of way light rail line, only with buses.

        The only significant advantage it has to light rail is that one bus can pass another bus anywhere it needs to – but in Curitiba they never installed a signal system to allow this so they just ran in follow-the-leader operation instead. It really isn’t especially cheaper to build, and you use diesel fuel instead of electricity. If electricity is that expensive you can go with diesel light rail (think New Jersey RiverLINE), but in Seattle it isn’t, and if prices increase they should seriously consider using capacitor energy storage banks in the substations.

        There are only a few places where BRT really makes sense.

        One is in cases where you have a number of expresses and locals and therefore need buses to pass each other a lot in many random locations, so that you would need vastly complicated trackwork.

        It makes sense in paces where you have steep hills that light rail can’t climb, but I think you will find this is also not satisfactory because buses can climb steep hills, but they do so very slowly.

        It sort of makes sense where you have a bunch of bus routes that operate infrequent service but need to go somewhere in common so building them dedicated lanes for part of the route is desirable. However, most operations have found it works far better to have a well planned and built rail system for the fast and frequent areas and those are fed by lower frequency bus routes, with well scheduled transfer at the various stations.

      13. Roosevelt is exactly the kind of “restrictions to station areas” I was talking about. You can’t have everything you want but you can have something. Roosevelt is not the end of the world. I’m looking forward to walking from the station to Whole Foods and Greenlake and the speaker shops and MMA school, and it’s one of the neighborhoods I may move to when the station opens. It’s likely that people will be more pro-density in the coming decades, and then they’ll be willing to build more of what you want. Would you rather have nothing, and no new development, and waiting for unreliable buses, and nothing strong enough to be an effective transfer station for east and west?

      14. Your walk to Green Lake could have been much shorter, for hundreds of millions fewer dollars.

        Meanwhile, anything that gets built adjacent to the station will be way out of your price range, thanks to the almost absurdly limited supply.

        If you want anything remotely affordable, you’d better be prepared to have your window open directly onto I-5… as an equally absurd percentage of the units built will do.

      15. For affordable housing, maybe apartments in the area they upzoned over by I-5 will do the trick. With a nice view of the freeway, and it would be closer to Green Lake too.

    4. It seems pretty simple. The routes start off as regular bus. If a corridor forms, you add BRT and then after that if there is still even more volume go to LRT.

      The issue around here is there has been so much foot dragging about building what would naturally be LRT out to anywhere but the one corridor in Seattle that BRT advocates were given a valid reason to voice their opinion.

      The thing with BRT is, as easily as you can add it, you can also remove it once a faster more segregated form of transit becomes available.

      1. That makes a lot of sense, except that BRT systems can be really expensive. One of the big reasons that people don’t care for BRT in this city is because we keep trying to build BRT on the cheap. We paint some buses red, and then call it BRT. We don’t even have off board payment (which is fairly cheap).

        I don’t think we’ve actually built BRT infrastructure and called it BRT. We’ve added a handful of off ramps in the suburbs, as well as plenty of HOV lanes, but none of that has been called BRT infrastructure. It is no wonder that people don’t care for BRT, they think thing the ‘B’ stands for Bullsh**.

        Unfortunately, that stuff costs a bunch of money. New freeways and ramps are expensive. But if you can leverage existing freeways, then they are a lot cheaper than building a light rail system from scratch (and that is certainly the case for West Seattle). Even with the high cost, you do make a good point. If you spend a billion dollars on a first class West Seattle BRT system, only to find that twenty years later you want to build a rail line, you haven’t wasted your money. Some of the infrastructure can be reused for rail (e. g. if you build a tunnel in part of West Seattle for BRT, then you can re-use it for rail) and at worse, you can still run buses and car pools on the HOV lanes.

      2. “It seems pretty simple. The routes start off as regular bus. If a corridor forms, you add BRT and then after that if there is still even more volume go to LRT. ”

        Replace “BRT” with “bus lanes” and I’d agree with you.

        The problem is that it seems to be politically very difficult to repaint a road to replace a “general purpose” lane with a bus lane!

        This means that instead, we get these extraordinarily expensive expenditures on concrete-pouring in the name of “BRT”, which then have to be ripped out and replaced later when train tracks are needed. This is wasteful.

    5. Lots of freeway ramps in W Seattle? If you mean on ramps to the W Seattle bridge, there are 4. Only one of those has a bus lane. That bus lane ends before any off ramp meaning the bus has to rejoin general traffic before going to either 99 or 1st avenue.

      There is also a bus lane leading to the Delridge on ramp but it ends right before the on ramp starts.

      If you mean access to I-5, there is one way to get there and, because of the weave with traffic coming from Spokane St and going up Columbian Way, is congested almost all day.

      1. I wouldn’t connect a West Seattle BRT to I-5, I would connect it to a Sodo transit center. You would have to add a ramp either on 99, or from the West Seattle freeway. You also need to add lanes closer to West Seattle, and maybe a tunnel for part of West Seattle. This is expensive, but way, way cheaper than building light rail the whole way. For the difference, you could serve a high density area, like everything between Mercer Street and I-90. Or an area that simply can’t be served by BRT, like Ballard to the UW (two areas that are way more dense than West Seattle).

        One thing that nobody has mentioned is that the state has no interest in paying for transit. But they have paid for HOV lanes and ramps before, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they paid for them again.

      2. HOV lanes are popular among “road warriors” because they can be converted into “HOT” lanes and then into toll lanes. If the tolls don’t pay for them, they can then be converted into general purpose lanes…

        In most places, HOV lanes seem to be no substitute for *actual bus lanes*. There may be exceptions — some HOV lanes in some places seem to flow freely for buses. But usually not. There’s some sort of political pressure to allow other vehicles into them at key bottlenecks until they don’t and the buses slow down. I don’t quite understand the way this works… but HOV lanes were originally designed for carpoolers, anyway, so they were probably never intended to help buses, really. For carpoolers they’re great.

      3. Sometimes, I have to wonder if the 520 “transit and HOV project” is really just a back door to add more general-purpose lanes. In theory, the new road spaces is entirely HOV and shoulders, with the number of GP lanes remaining at 2 per direction. However, when all is said and done, the freeway will be a mere paint job away from being converted to 4 GP lanes per direction, with no shoulders – thereby justifying another widening to add HOV lanes and shoulders again, and the cycle repeats.

        I don’t know the likelihood of this happening, but all I can say is if we want to keep the HOV lanes, we had best use them as much as we possibly can. If future service patterns end up funneling everyone onto EastLink, expect the HOV-ness of the HOV lanes to disappear.

  4. Rein in a shade, Sam. Or brake lever, clutch in, and retard your spark. Look through a few decades’ worth of contemporary photography, pics of guys that looked like Orville and Wilbur Wright. Derby hats. Mechanics with tight collars and ties. “Duster” coats for motoring.

    Henry Ford had a very long, continuous record of proven experience that a platform on four wheels could reliably carry people and freight over a variety of solid surfaces. With a variety of propulsion packages, from animals to steam to electricity to volatile liquids.

    “Horseless carriage” done says a mouthful. At a car show at the Ballard Locks year or two back, I remember a functioning buggy-whip in a socket by the driver’s seat of a chain drive car. For the same reason as the Titanic and its maritime generation carried sail- not bad to have a proven backup for known real-world certainties while the uncertainties in a new system are worked out.

    Modest proposal: before Elon Musk asks for a penny at year-2014 exchange rates, let’s have him build, at his own highly-affordable expense, one mile of “hyperloop” and run it in passenger service for five years. Call it fair compensation to Henry Ford for his years of proving that cars worked. Also to the electric cars of Henry’s contemporaries.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The issue with these technologies, which commenters here often point out with HSR, is they are designed to be more like airplanes than trains. They make long hauls, but are bad at start and stop.

      This is why something like Sounder, with maybe a bit more speed, Medium Speed Rail (MSR) appeals to me more than either Hyperloop or HSR. Expanding the range of transit beyond the limits of the typical subway, and allowing for more people, in more places, to share centralized facilities.

      1. From the look of things, MSR is what we are going to get anyway… at least in the next decade or so…

  5. Hyperloop had NOTHING to do with the “Transportation Innovation Inititive”.


    This initiative will allow other faster, more efficient and newer forms of transportation technology to be voted on rather than being limited to the “60 year” old HSR tech which would have been great…. 60 years ago.

    Hyperloop, although the design is a move in the right direction, is severely limited (in its current form) by connecting only Los Angeles and San Francisco. This results in a seriously truncated demographic.

    But wait… There’s more!

    The Transportation Initiative would also enable you to vote for ET3.

    Welcome to the 21th century! Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies! (ET3)

    No tax payer money (privately funded)
    Fraction of the cost to build
    3 times as fast
    Negligible impact on environment
    Uses 2% of the power required by the commercial airline industry
    Solar powered
    Able to stop at any small city along the route without disrupting any other passengers destination.


    TEDx talk here:

    1. Welcome to Seattle, Jordet.

      now, let me introduce you to the Seattle Process.

      1. Citizen Barmy Bollocks-Daft wants something, rattles cages demanding it.
      2. Other citizens hear the cage rattling, start rattling their own cages in response and support.
      3. Self-absorbed opportunistic greedy politician decides the cage rattlers have a point, and “feels their pain”.
      4. Bollocks-Daft gets appointed to a commission to research the feasibility of their idea, while earning an excessive salary for “their troubles”. Bollocks-Daft hires their friends and relations to weave baskets from switchgrass, pays them golden parachutes for their “artwork”
      5. Bollocks-Daft gets a backroom bribe to give special consideration to an unproven idea that costs double and takes three times the time to construct what the proven idea and solution would. Politicians say “Corruption doesn’t exist in the Seattle Process, we’ve weeded all that out”.
      6. Bollocks-Daft writes up a ballot proposal to enact their idea, finding willing voters who just want a solution and don’t really care how it gets there.
      7. Somebody comes out of the woodwork and says “Whoa there, something doesn’t smell right”, promptly gets a nice consideration from the designer and constructor of the proven idea to push reconsideration.
      8. Reconsideration is given and ignored.
      9. Construction finally ensues after many delays, with resulting cost overruns.
      10. Project opens, and Bollocks-Daft gets key to the city and a nice pension for serving on their commission.

      This is how we roll up here.

      1. You forgot the endless community meetings where people show up to talk about how it was done in some foreign country they visited, or to bring up stuff that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    2. So you were “on target” to build a test track in 2013 according to the TEDx talk. Did that actually happen, or are you now looking for some other future date to actually try your idea?

      I am open to new ideas so long as we actually TEST them before committing unknown amounts of money to building a fully functional one.

      Until that happens, we should not let these ideas stop the progress on proven solutions we know will help our real transportation problems.

      1. Correct… And we are still ready to break ground as we speak. Unfortunately, typical political red tape is holding up progress!

        Throughout history, we see examples of this. Take for instance, the English Chanel. It took 186 years from the first proposal to start of construction and then only 6 years to build and another 5 years to see a net profit.

        Robert Goddard explored the idea of vac trains and mag lev in the 1910’s. I sincerely hope that we’re not going to have to wait another 100 years before evolving to the next mode of transportation!

      2. What sort of political red tape? Is there political red tape that can stop you from buying land in the desert and building a prototype, or is your real problem that “red tape” is separating you from the money you need to manufacture it (that is, that you can’t convince someone with money to invest enough to build your prototype)?

    3. Jordet: Evacuated Tube transportation is 19th century technology. Look it up.

      Rail actually works and it’s more cost-effective than evacuated tubes. Just as it was in the 19th century. Lots of progress has been made on rail, a little progress on evacuated tubes, but the fundamental advantages of rail still dominate. Trains are passively stabilized due to the rails and the angled wheels, and as such they can be very long, very full, and very fast, and will still “track” properly, even around curves.

      1. Actually, (after taking your advice and “looking it up” cause lord knows I NEVER even thought of the possibility of doing proper research… thick sarcasm) Evacuated Tubes were a 19th century IDEA before the technology to make it a viable solution even existed.

        Horse & buggy actually work too and they worked for 1000’s of years but pesky old technology came around and made that mode of transportation obsolete. Railroad has had a great run but as with EVERYTHING, it is time to let go and move forward.

        OK…. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s too soon to move forward. How long do we need to use railroad tech before evolving to the next mode of transportation? Another 50 years? How about 100? Maybe railroad deserves to get the same amount of time as the horses and buggy.

        Thru out history there are ALWAYS the nay-sayers holding up progress. ET3 has gone thru the research and development phase and is now shovel ready to build the 3-mile demo. The only thing holding us up is POLITICS! As usual, it’s the guys pushing pencils around, driving desks and getting paid the big bucks to make sure that the status quo sucks every penny they possible can from legacy tech before even glancing at the fresh, sustainable, cost effective, more efficient, and way faster possibilities!

      2. Go ahead, build your demo. It will be more expensive and less efficient than steel wheels on steel rails.

        You have physics working against you. Conical steel wheels on steel rails has physics working *for* it — cheap passive stabilization.

      3. FWIW, practically everything else about railroads has changed repeatedly, apart from the conical self-stabilizing wheel on the steel rail.

        The tracks aren’t the same material as they were in the 1830. They aren’t the same profile. They aren’t attached to the ground or kept “in gauge” the same way. The motive power has changed from horses to steam (generated by burning wood, then coal) to electricity (generated by burning diesel, or off the grid, and now stored in batteries). The connections between cars have changed from “buffer and chain” to “Janney / buckeye couplers” to “Scharfenberg couplers”. Loading platform height has changed, loading platform width has changed — we’ve developed “low floor” trains. Car construction has changed repeatedly, from wood bodies on separate frames through many intermediate stages to monocoque construction. They’ve gone from wood to steel to aluminum or stainless steel. Control systems have been completely changes repeatedly. Signalling systems have changed repeatedly. Inter-car gangways have changed, with modern subway trains having very comfortable total walk-through. Et cetera et cetera et cetera. Most of the “modern” developments in automobiles in the last few decades were developed for trains first.

        A modern train has very little in common with a train of the 19th century, except for the conical steel wheels on the steel rails — and that survived because *it’s better* than damn near anything else.

        Track gauge has changed before, and the ideal track gauge is now known to not be the standard gauge, but it turns out *standardization has inherent benefits* which outweigh other technical considerations. And that’s the other thing the fans of unproven gadgetry need to realize. A solution which is slighly better technically is worse if it’s incompatible. To justify a gross change to something completely incompatible, you have to be a *lot* better.

        Even maglev wasn’t sufficiently better. It’s technically mature, you can build a maglev any day, but it’s not worth the cost in 99% of applications (possibly 100%). The same will be true of your evacuated tubes, if you make them work at all.

    4. And the TED franchise continues its quest to become the great global snake-oil convention of our time.

      I suspect that we will soon reach Peak TED, and will need to seek out new resources to satisfy the growing global demand for smugness, pat oversimplifications, and audience flattery that deftly discourages critical thinking.

      1. And so, we should shut down all new railroad construction, no matter how modern, because something that *might* be better is about to be tested in the laboratory?

        I don’t think most of the criticisms here are of Hyperlink’s technology, but of the disingenuous political use of it to stop a project that will compete with an even more outdated technology.

    5. Please be my esteemed guest and be the very first person to get inside a capsule inhabiting a three mile long tube evacuated to 80 mile high pressures.

      Ride it back and forth for those three miles three hundred times, to mimic a round-trip between LA and San Francisco. Report back to us about your experience so that we can judge the quality of the technology for your garden variety schlub who wants to make the trip.

  6. Anyway, regarding the hyperloop… I want to say that in the 80’s, when I was a child, I read in some science book or another about a theoretical vacuum transport system. The idea was to tunnel underground, and capsules would travel in an atmosphere-constrained environment (ie as close to a vacuum as technologically feasible), propelled by fans which would push the constrained atmosphere for movement.

    Realistically, there’s nothing in and of itself which proves the hyperloop inpractical. If you have a trillion dollars to burn, you could build a functioning system with current technology.

    However, who would think a trillion dollars would produce something better than what’s already out there? And the high cost is due to the rather staggeringly high amount of fixed infrastructure required.

    This is why trucks move freight.

  7.  Here’s is a paper from Journal of Modern Transportation (JMT) pertaining to Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies (ET3).

    ET3: a maximum value global transportation network for cargo and passengers (JMT): http://www.et3.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/JMT-Mar2011-pg42-50.pdf

    Skytran ( Skytran.net ) is building in Tel-Aviv while Jpods ( Jpods.com ) has a $2.2 Billion dollar contract to build 200+km in China as well as a project in NJ.

    “Information is everything” – Gordan Gekko

  8. a) Community Transit’s Swift BRT with off-board payment is really nice. I’ve used it and feel unlike Hyperloop, BRT is a good idea worth debating for certain places at certain times. It would not be appropriate for Skagit County, it might be appropriate for Island Transit Route 1 from downtown Oak Harbor to the Clinton WSF ferry dock AND the Tri-County Connectors and certainly is working well for Community Transit.

    b) The thing is BRT could not do what light rail has done for Seattle which is create a high-capacity, decent-speed if not high-speed spine for a metro core needing a good connection from the international airport to the downtown core to places beyond. Of course, Seattle has the ability and willingness to pay for light rail. So Ben is right there.

    1. I agree completley. Light rail is appropriate for certain areas, and that includes the areas where you now see it (e. g. through downtown). But BRT makes sense in other areas, especially where there is already substantial freeway infrastructure to leverage. For that reason, the two areas In Seattle where I think BRT makes the most sense are in West Seattle and 99. It would make a lot more sense for 99 if the tunnel had a HOV lane and freeway exits, but it is too late for that. I could see building a half mile bus tunnel from Westlake Center to Aurora (with its own ramp) which would provide grade separated travel from downtown to Greenlake. Unfortunately, after that, you will have to contend with traffic lights. Nonetheless, I would love to see how much that would cost, since it could provide very fast and frequent travel to East Queen Anne, Fremont and Wallingford.

      1. There was an argument made on one of the rail advocacy websites that what we needed was not “BRT”, but “better bus”.

        Basically, BRT has become a name for overblown projects which pour concrete but get no operational improvements — when what we need is something more like London’s extensive network of bus lanes, excellent bus stop signage, congestion charge downtown, etc. And they don’t call it “BRT”.

      2. @RossB

        Explain to me what you mean by a tunnel from Aurora to Westlake center… do you mean you want to branch a tunnel from the 99 tunnel to the existing bus tunnel? Are you talking about a new tunnel from Aurora after it splits from 99? Or maybe a cut and cover tunnel to 3rd ave using the old Battery Street tunnel they are going to fill in?

        On a side note, it looks like there is going to be a fun new bottle neck near the entrance of the new tunnel where Aurora goes down to one lane before it continues back to two lanes as it heads into Seattle:


        Its true that the current Battery Street tunnel treatment is not too different for folks wanting to skip the viaduct, but what is different is that the new tunnel has no exits until you get south to the stadiums, and it will also have tolls. I expect this new interchange to be jammed up pretty good in rush hour.

        That could pose a fun problem for trying to get dedicated transit lanes all the way downtown (or using Aurora as a BRT corridor at all past Harrison street)

  9. ET3 represents a quantum improvement in many dimensions: energy use, labor efficiency, speed, silence, reliability, ecology, capacity, safety, durability, and material use. ET3 will use less than 1/50th as much energy per passenger mile (or ton mile) as automobiles (or trucks), therefore ET3 produces less than 1/50th as much emissions as automobiles or trucks if using the same energy source. Infrastructure material mass / capacity is improved by as much as 100 fold. Use of hydro power virtually eliminates emissions. The energy savings is calculated at typical use freeway use factors. Per mile energy use diminishes at higher use factors.
    Over 95% of the steel and concrete can be recycled (and 99% of the magnets and coils). The entire embodied energy of materials and construction is recovered in less than 1/3rd of a year of savings if used at typical freeway use factors.

    Login to http://www.et3.net and get you license today!

    1. Its really easy to pull numbers out of the air about the efficiency of a system that no one has ever built.

      If it really only takes $10 million to build a working model and you have licensed out your “technology” to 230 entities, why aren’t there any working models yet?

      Stop wasting our time with your hand waving and come back when you have actually have a working example.

      1. First you ignore any of the arguments here and argue against your own straw men. Then, you ridicule the straw men. Then, you lose, because you haven’t actually responded coherently to any of the arguments here.

  10. @Brent… Somehow, you must of missed all the “coherent arguments” and links throughout this thread directing you to comprehensive documentation of the most elegant global transportation system ever devised. Let me help you out by consolidating those here:

    Official Sites

    Social Networks

    News Article

    TEDx ET3 talk:

    These last 2 links will probably help you out the most though:

    Journal of Modern Transportation:

    ET3 FAQ:

    1. Some questions.
      The journal arcticle you linked to said that the ET3 Tech will accellerate to topspeed in 1/13th the time it takes for a HSR tech to reach top speed, and over 1/20th the distance. Both techs are listed as having a top speed of 500 km/h. If the a is constant(bestcase), that gives you about a g pushback against the seat for the duration. How will the a ds graph look? Is there the potential for people to pass out, or for medical complications? Also, it said the switching speed is again 500km/h, which would require very sudden A.

      1. Acceleration and deceleration are handled automatically at a comfortable rate for the human body. Likewise, switching is fully automated to comfortably merge off the main route to the desired access portal. Access portals will be spaced no more than 15 minutes apart. The speed of each branch will be determined by the the tightest bend radius along that route. All capsules in each branch will maintain exactly the same speed. If your destination requires a branch change, the capsule will merge from one branch to the next while smoothly accelerating or decelerating to match the new branch’s required speed limit.

      2. Ok. So each segment has a max speed lower that the linear max speed of the system, and the entire segment is confined to that speed due to the method of propulsion. Supposing that you dont want to leave the capsule or whatever, how does it switch between segments without causing any loss of vacuum? Also, if geography demands a much slower section with abrupt changes in velocity between sections, how do you prevent bottlenecking? One more question, exactly how much vacuum are we talking? How much vacuum would it take to move something that large by vacuum alone? And how much power is needed to create and maintain it?

      3. Each branch or segment’s speed is determined by geographical constraints, not the method of propulsion. The linear electric motors propel each capsule up to it’s predesignated speed to match all other capsules in throughout the network. Let’s say you want to make an international trip to Paris. from Los Angeles. The first part of this route would be most likely be under 600MPH which will allow access portals to be placed in strategic cities up the California coast, up through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska. At this point, You would be switched to the international background accelerating up to 4000MPH. At 1G, this would take 3 minutes and 100 miles. Picture a 100 mile long merge/exit ramp or interchange on a highway. Merging into the backbone at 4000MPH, you would then coast to your destination where the capsule would automatically exit to the appropriate branch or access portal. Deceleration speeds would also be optimized for human comfort levels.

        The optimum vacuum level produces the minimum total energy use. The energy is minimized when pumping power is equal to propulsion power. Higher quality vacuum reduces drag, but takes more energy to produce. Optimum vacuum is a function of many variables including: design speed, material leak rates (tube wall, capsule wall, and seals), airlock cycle rate and undisplaced volume, number of capsules per unit of time, etc. Use of a medium grade vacuum of 10ee-3 Torr, to 10ee-5 Torr is our target for our 600km/h target design speed. This level can be achieved with a single stage pumping, but two stage is more efficient. A old CRT style TV is evacuated to a thousand times higher quality vacuum.

        At the target range, the drag will be reduced by a factor of about one million. Higher speeds and more intense traffic favor deeper vacuum. There is some drag, but the coasting distance is very long, and speed loss is low. It is estimated that at 4kmph the drag energy loss for a 8k mile trip is about 8kWh (out of a total kinetic energy of about 250kWh). Up to 10ee-9 Torr is achieved for very large enclosures such as NASA space simulation buildings, and the LIGO observatory. Space is about 10ee-12 Torr up to 10ee-19 Torr. The record vacuum level is better than 10ee-13 Torr.

      4. I like how your response to every question about how you intend to shoot scalable numbers of people safely and comfortably at 4,000 mph in a tube barely larger than my desk chair seems to boil down to: “we’re totally going to do that shizznit.”

        Or did I somehow miss the great technical insights buried behind the truisms, fluff, and libertarian boosterism that constitutes your 8-page “paper” in The Journal Formerly Known as The Journal of Southwest Jiaotong University (English Edition)?

        You don’t exactly seem ready for prime-time, clichéd misquoter of the Mahatma.

      5. Forgive me as I incorrectly attribute the following quotes to your ancestors!

        “What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?”
        The Quarterly Review, March, 1825.

        “That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.”
        Scientific American, January 2, 1909.

      6. And there’s the rub.

        A glance at the actual archives of Scientific American reveals the exact opposite: a litany of fanciful, overzealous predictions of how then-new scientific discoveries would imminently change everything about everything!

        Your quotes, far from being “incorrectly attributed”, appear to be full-on fictions, copy-pasted endlessly from one website full of self-affirming credulous hackery to the next.

        You see, Jordet, I have nothing to gain or lose by exposing your smug dickishness to any readers who might stumble upon this blog.

        But I am baffled as to what you hope to achieve by openly revealing that your technical abilities top out at “incompetent Googler”.

      7. Oh, joy, I found the original Scientific American, which merely suggests that the basic combustion-engine technology behind the automobile was unlikely to change in any significant way.

        Which… um… it hasn’t!

        I guess this is one of those times when that often less-than-circumspect publication actually hit it quite on the nose!

    1. Yep.

      Contiguous swaths of people and stuff, adjacent to other places with contiguous swaths of people and stuff.

      West Seattle may be lovely, but it’s a suburb, and kind of a weak-metrics one at that.

    2. While I agree with you that rail to Ballard makes a lot more sense, I don’t think this map makes a compelling case. The big problem is that it only shows residential density, and yet commercial (retail and employment) density is probably a bigger factor in how well used a rail line would be.

      Here are some examples:

      – According to the map, Fremont north of 36th St is much denser than south of 36th St. But south is where all the jobs and businesses are.
      – Large portions of downtown, SLU, and Uptown are no denser than West Seattle, even though those are some of the strongest transit markets in the region.

      I think this map does a much better job at showing why Ballard is the place to build. A stop at 22nd and Market would be in the center of a huge mixed-use and multifamily area. Likewise for stops in Fremont, LQA, SLU, and/or Belltown.

      In contrast, light rail to West Seattle would pass through several industrial areas without stopping. Then, aside from the Junction (which is about on par with Fremont), everywhere else it might go is a relatively low-density, primarily single-family area.

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  12. I like what the Hyperloop represents, but I don’t like the idea of leaving my car in a parking lot miles away from work or needing to transfer onto a bus to get to my final destination. Check out The BiModal Glideway Dual Mode Transportation System which can get you from home to work at a high rate of speed without leaving your car! Which system would work for you and your family, Hyperloop or The BiModal Glideway? For more information on The BiModal Glideway visit bimodalglideway.com!

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