Once Again, the Hyperloop Isn’t a Substitute for High Speed Rail
Elon Musk’s gadgetbahn concept of a hyperloop that can travel at speeds up to 900 mph from San Francisco to Los Angeles gets trotted out by those who want to troll high speed rail into oblivion. The hyperloop has serious flaws to it that suggest it is an impractical idea. Yet one entrepreneur, Nick Garzilli, still thinks we should scrap HSR even though it’s been a proven success everywhere it’s been tried and replace it with the hyperloop. He’s filed a ballot initiative to do exactly that.
There’s no reason to believe this proposal would ever make to the ballot, unless Garzilli is willing to spend a couple million dollars to put it there. And even if it got on the ballot it’s unlikely to pass, since voters can see a truly flawed and ridiculous idea for what it is. Still, it’s worth pointing out that replacing HSR with the hyperloop is deeply unwise.
That’s just what Kerry Cavanaugh did at the LA Times:
Look, California’s bullet train project has its problems. The cost has doubled since voters approved spending nearly $10 billion on the project in 2008, and it’s likely to take at least a decade longer to build. If it gets built. The High-Speed Rail Authority has yet to spell out how it intends to fund the first phase of the line from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.
But stopping one ambitious project for a new, more ambitious project doesn’t make sense, particularly when the new idea is half-baked. As neat as Hyperloop and ET3’s idea may be, they are just concepts. We don’t know the cost, safety or time needed to build these projects. They may not even be possible.
I think Cavanaugh has the framing totally wrong in that first paragraph – she implies that Republicans are reacting to the Authority’s errors and that it’s up to the Authority to fix the problem, when in fact it is Republicans who created those funding problems and who should be held to account for them.
However, she is absolutely right in the second paragraph to call the hyperloop “half-baked.” Its costs will be much higher than Musk has estimated. It will face the same resistance from NIMBYs that HSR has faced. And it’s extremely unlikely that the hyperloop will be able to be 100% privately funded, so public funding will be required in some form, which means it will face the same resistance from Republicans that HSR has faced.
HSR is a good and workable idea that is ready to go here and now. Let’s make that happen, rather than chase a mirage.