It’s no question that the United State’s public transportation systems are significantly behind what other first world countries have to offer. Unlike Japan’s technologically advanced trains and Europe’s highly integrated and connected rail network, travelers in the U.S. are limited to a comparatively weaker infrastructure, much of this due to the continued popularity of the automobile. With an eye to bring America’s public transport into the 21st century, tech innovator and entrepreneur Elon Musk has promoted his underground Hyperloop system to much interest, though some in the public transportation industry are less optimistic.
Richard Anderson, CEO at Amtrak, has publicly taken a somewhat dim view of Musk’s Hyperloop , calling the fledgling system unrealistic. While noting the importance of innovative thinkers like Musk, Anderson instead placed the focus on repairing America’s existing infrastructure, citing a need to reinvest in tunnels, bridges, and other aging structures across the country.
Anderson’s comments are understandable given his connection to both rail and train companies, both legacy modes of transport compared to Musk’s cutting edge solution. Prior to his position at Amtrak, Anderson held the CEO position at Delta and Northwest Airlines.
The U.S. has taken a more active and optimistic position towards Musk’s project. First proposing the idea in 2013, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO received approval from the United States to begin building of the system via his latest venture, the tunneling and infrastructure-focused Boring Company. The initial phase will focus on connecting cities throughout the American Northeast. While possessing some rail, ferry, and bus service, Musk’s project would be a huge leap for the region, connecting Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., and other major U.S. cities.
Though it has evolved somewhat since the 2013 white paper, the general details of the Hyperloop system remain the same. Designed to run underground, the system uses electric propulsion and a low-pressure tube to magnetically levitate the transportation pods. The pods are suitable for both passenger and freight transport. Because of its low aerodynamic drag, the Hyperloop would be capable of achieving speeds around 700 miles per hour, putting it on par with airliners, though without the extra travel time due to takeoff and landing.
Because the system is underground and produces no direct carbon dioxide emissions, it is also significantly more environmentally friendly than current modes of public transport. In that sense, the project echos Musk’s Tesla motor vehicles. Hyperloop’s current goal is to have three systems up and running by 2021.