Recap: Hyperloop and It’s Impact on Central Ohio October 19, 2017

Topic: Hyperloop and It’s Impact on Central Ohio

In 2016, Columbus was awarded $50 million in the Smart City Challenge primarily to analyze and experiment with issues in transportation.  Almost in parallel with the effort resulting in this award, Columbus interests have been supported an initiative to build a new form of mass transportation – Hyperloop – in a new connection with Chicago and Pittsburgh, with travels times on the order of 30 minutes to Chicago.

Hyperloop is a concept created and promoted by multi-savant Elon Musk.  In essence, passengers would travel in a tube (think wingless fuselage – in a tube which creates front-end vacuum that compels a maglev-type engine at super high speeds, until a terminus is reached.  There are many technical challenges.  The costs have not been calculated, but they will be very high.  And certain socio-political issues must be resolved – like acquiring the land and the rights-of-way for the structures (pylons and tubes) to have a place to go.

Because of the high expense and complexity, Hyperloop wants to focus on only one or two routes to begin with.  And so they are sponsoring a competition of sorts, to determine which of the over 100 sites which originally volunteered, might be suitable for a working prototype.  The Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh run was late this summer selected as a Top Ten finalist for this this privilege.

So what would it mean for this area? Once operational, 30 minutes to Chicago and less to Pittsburgh might displace a lot of airline travel to Midway and O’Hare.  What would that mean for other airline development?  Would our tourism business increase from the influx of Chicagoans coming to Central Ohio?  Or would the traffic – for entertainment and fun – go the other direction, leaving a net loss in this area?  What industries might Columbus attract with this transportation feature installed?  What might we lose?

Who would pay for it?  How would it be paid for?  Would the benefits to Central Ohio justify a tax of some sort?  Do we exercise the right of public domain to acquire land and rights-of-way.  This may be run by a private corporation – or public-private partnership (PPP) – should taxpayers be asked to subsidize the new system?  (We seem to be asked constantly to subsidize and underwrite stadiums and arenas for sports teams.)

We discuss these questions and more – with some details about the operation of the technology.  Following are some resources, that might help bring an attendee up to speed.


Another great discussion in an exciting agenda emerging for our meetings this year. Hope to see you in the 21st!

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