Hyperloop Expected to Cost Far More than Originally Stated

Oct 27th, 2016 | Posted by

This shouldn’t come as any surprise, but the latest financial disclosure documents show that the estimated cost of the Hyperloop has soared. It’s further indication this thing is not ready for prime time and surely is not any kind of substitute for high speed rail:

In his 2013 paper that set the tech world abuzz with the promise of high-speed travel via vacuum tubes, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk projected a Hyperloop route from Los Angeles to the Bay Area would cost as little as $6 billion, or $11.5 million per mile, far less than the cost of high-speed rail. But Hyperloop One estimates for many projects are significantly higher, based on a promotional document for potential investors and real estate developers updated in July and in circulation this October, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the company. At the top of the range: a 107-mile loop around the Bay Area alone—either by tunnel or a mix of tunnel and elevated track—would cost between $9 billion and $13 billion, or between $84 million and $121 million per mile.

The article notes that current estimates for California high speed rail are $123 million per mile, so this cost for the Hyperloop is now approaching or already at the CA HSR cost projection.

Another interesting tidbit is Hyperloop advocates now recognize that, as this blog has been saying for years, the obstacles to connecting LA and SF with fast trains are political:

Nowhere is Musk’s Los Angeles to San Francisco corridor mentioned. Asked whether Musk was overly optimistic with his initial projections, Lloyd replied, “I have a huge amount of respect for Elon Musk.” He said Hyperloop One isn’t interested in that route for the near term due to a “very complicated political environment.” “We do think the first routes, in the next three to four years, will be shorter and will be in important corridors.”

When Musk first unveiled the Hyperloop, he and the media both sold it as better than HSR, assuming that the problems the CHSRA faces were of their own making. But now it’s clear that they were not. Building an intercity rail project in California is an inherently expensive undertaking that is made more challenging by persistent anti-rail bias on the part of some local elected officials and by most in the media.

I won’t gloat at seeing the Hyperloop experience the same challenges. This just goes to show the problems that do exist are not made by the CHSRA nor are they inherent to HSR. We need to make it much easier to build rail in this country, and we need to find ways to overcome the backward-looking folks who continue to deny the need to build more rail.

  1. Eric
    Oct 27th, 2016 at 11:12

    And in other news, water recently found to be wet.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    There is this thing in journalism school where they tell you: Don’t make headlines of the obvious and the common.

    But apparently in the US “Stuff costs money” is not yet a sufficiently understood concept…

    Which might explain two wars and tax cuts at the same time…

  2. Joe
    Oct 27th, 2016 at 11:30

    Science literate reporting is non-existent.

    Hyper-loop and self-driving cars propaganda are both easily contradictable by interviewing domain experts. Ask autonomy researchers and they’ll explain the difficult, unsolved problems including the long time it takes to being a driver back into the loop.

    Hyper loop claims are even more easily challenged by simple capacity calculations on a napkin or debunking land acquisition and cost to construct any road or any system in CA.

    Reporters repackage marketing claims with sensational headlines and then people, such as in Gilroy, will argue against transit in public meetings because we’ll be using autonomous cars and hyper loop. Yes both are brought up as reasons to do nothing and wait for the next big thing.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    There’s one very easy stink test to glamorous sounding news:

    “If all the claims were true, would they be doing what they are doing”

    If for instance Musk had indeed found a way to build stuff on stilts for far cheaper than any comparable stuff on stilts, why did he not market this expertise already?

    Stuff on stilts is not exactly a rare type of construction… And we have not just started doing that yesterday, so a major development in the cost of stuff on stilts would be huge news.

    But media seems to be bereft of stink tests the more they get into the nitty gritty of tech stuff.

    Danny Reply:

    there’s something about tech that, since it’s a “real thing,” just makes people turn off their brains: some people spend their lives polluting messageboards with liquid-fluoride thorium reactors; the fact that, even in the days when AEC and military was pouring billions into nuclear tech to justify their white-elephant reactors (cars! ramjets! fusion! civilian electricity!) they never built one (the atomic plane was particular amusing, since the bigger it got the more shielding it needed which meant it had to get bigger …)
    now they’re flogging automatic trucks, which don’t exist and haven’t had any trials but are going to have 0 accidents and 0 emissions and presumably run off an equally-imaginary power source
    the LaRouchites have flogged their little ET3 scam since the 90s; the real funny thing is that it was HSR that MuskPod coverage managed to pose as some imaginary tech with spiraling costs: they get to bitch that it’s both too newfangled AND too outdated at the same time
    and this happens whenever someone proposes steel on steel: they tried to force PRT for Minneapolis (Blue Line opened 2004); BRT and monorail promised low price and better outcomes, but ended up costing more; I have two even more incontrovertible proofs, and they rest beneath me every time I take the LA Metro instead of whatever Lawsonomy-derived crankery they were proposing to hold it up
    besides the BANANA-ism, all this self-involved geekery is also to feed techno-delusion for its own sake (hype makes it easier to attract investors, definitely, but it’s an ideology of its own); given the system doesn’t actually exist, the costs will be even higher than “as expensive as HSR, already”

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    The US certainly suffers from this more than most other places…

    In Germany the only such phenomenon was the Transrapid (which actually works, yaknow)

    synonymouse Reply:


    BRT #1 scam. The “mobility” of a bus was the primary argument used against streetcars. BRT makes a bus into a streetcar. An advantage of a bus on an ugly thoroughfare like Geary is that it can pull into the curb-safer for pedestrians, stop on the far side of traffic lights and use all the lanes to get thru. Why take that away?

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    There only ever is a case to make for BRT in low income countries.

    The US is not a low income country by any stretch of the imagination. Even though the Republican Party would like to change that…

    Eric Reply:

    Pulling into the curb significantly slows down the route because you need to wait to re-merge into crowded traffic lanes.

    Similarly “using all the lanes” frequently condemns the bus to sit in traffic.

  3. Danny
    Oct 27th, 2016 at 13:07

    Chris Cuomo: “As far as I see it, Hyperloop One is perfectly flush with cash and a triple-A investment. Good Americans don’t read documents like that. Good Americans don’t hanker to know what’s really going on”

    J. Wong Reply:

    And “[g]ood Americans” don’t invest in the stock market or really anything else for exactly this reason.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    So I am a bit confused, are good Americans the same as real Americans ™ ?

    What about goo Americans?

    Danny Reply:

    CNN ordered people not to even go to the WikiLeaks website, let alone worry their little heads about anything like leaks

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    CNN has the power to “order” people to do anything?

    I thought CNN was the thing airports use for white noise…

  4. agb5
    Oct 27th, 2016 at 15:02

    Monaco to Nice would could be an easy starter project, they are only 11 miles apart on the same coastline so in theory a 15 mile long tube sunk onto the sea floor would do the job, but there are deep undersea canyons and ridges which probably make the undersea route as infeasible as the land route.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    And there are at least in theory people rich enough to pay for the tickets or even (in Musk’s world) the whole construction…

  5. Reality Check
    Oct 27th, 2016 at 15:22

    Green Caltrain (Friends of Caltrain blog) has a new post:
    New disclosures raise questions about blended system capacity and station area land use

    Interesting slides from yesterday’s SF-SJ HSR Community Working Group Meeting suggest HSRA wants to move the Bayshore Caltrain station closer to Geneva Ave. and their yard on either the east or west side of the old SP Bayshore yard (see pages 21-23) … and some other stuff about 4th & King, Millbrae and SJ Diridon configuration.

    J. Wong Reply:

    They do need to move the Bayshore station to straighten the curve going into the tunnels. Also FSSF rather than SFFS.

    randyw Reply:

    I was assuming since they now seem to be planning on many 3 track sections that the fast tracks should be in the middle since the fast track could be accessed directly from north and south bound tracks.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Why would they 3 track an already 4 track section even if they’re moving them? The ROW here is totally under their control and wouldn’t need any takings.

    Also, note that the proposed locations for the LMF don’t interfere with the proposed Brisbane Baylands.

    Roland Reply:

    @JAW. Again, you are on the wrong blog. How about SSFFSS or SFSSFS a la HS1?

  6. morris brown
    Oct 27th, 2016 at 16:32

    If ever there has been an “enterprise” that smelles like a scam, this one surely fits the bill.

    Robert you shouldn’t waste space or time on hyperloop.

    Roland Reply:

    Hyperloop One definitely has the aroma of yet another unicorn.

    These guys on the other hand are building test tracks & pods and and are not asking for anything other than corporate sponsorship:https://electrek.co/2016/10/21/hyperloop-pods-compete-spacex-competition/.This one is guaranteed to wake up Dr. Who:

  7. Bahnfreund
    Oct 27th, 2016 at 17:18

    On an entirely unrelated note, Wikivoyage has an article on High Speed Rail:


    What say ye?

  8. synonymouse
    Oct 27th, 2016 at 19:01

    What we need to do is rebuild the rail we lost to the highway lobby’s treachery. We need to better serve the population we have.

    What we don’t need is project designed to increase the population and induce sprawl. What California needs is a smaller population not larger.

    Danny Reply:

    I thought all the out-of-state yuppies, Midwesterners, hipsters, and students living in Geoff Palmer hulks were being attracted by the Expo Line

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He wants immigration into California to stop right after the last of his grandparents stepped off the train or boat.

    Danny Reply:

    doesn’t that describe most Californians?

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    The Trumpistas at any rate…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Reasonable immigration is important and obvious – just no dumping allowed. No islamicists nor gangsters.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Who or what are “islamicists”?

    Also, fun fact: Many Syrian refugees coming to Germany find the existing mosques… Too conservative. No joke.

    synonymouse Reply:

    People who shoot up and blow up French music-halls.

    Aarond Reply:

    Rumor has it DB will have Bundeswehr at major HBfs to prevent the type of situation that happened in Koln over new year’s.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    You are misinformed.

    There is Bundespolizei in train stations, but that has been the case at least since 1994 when Deutsche Bundesbahn and Deutsche Reichsbahn [sic!] became Deutsche Bahn AG. I think prior to that there was a separate railway police, but I am not quite sure on that.

    At any rate, one or two years ago federal police (which is as distinct from the military as police and military usually are) guarding train stations was given quite heavy guns. I don’t know whether they fall under any legal definition of “assault rifle” or “weapon of war” but they sure as hell look like it. Given the well known right wing tendencies of some police officers (and of course some soldiers as well), it borders on a miracle that none of the police officers has gone berserk and started firing into the crowd yet…

    But I guess that’s the price we have to pay to combat “terrorism” (unless of course it is perpetrated by right wing white people or Christians, in which case it’s not “terrorism” at all but “tragical isolated events”)….

    I used to ask my parents how the era of the raf (a leftist terror group mostly active in the 1970s officially dissolved in the late 1990s) must have felt. Now I know.

    Aarond Reply:

    I only bring this up because when I visited Dusseldorf (flying into CDG and taking a train in, very nice) in 2006 German police stations had no visible police but the French stations had armed military everywhere.

    Bear in mind, even in places like Sacramento and DC there is no armed military, only police. Even Dianne Fienstien’s mansion has highway patrolmen and secret service agents, not military.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Well in the end it matters little whether the guys with the assault rifles are police or military. At least in my mind it doesn’t. But Germany is anally retentive when it comes to the constitutional implications of military used domestically. With good reason, I might add, because (para)military forces have attempted several coups but none has ever originated with the police.

    If you ask me, Germany should do as Costa Rica has done and get rid of the military. And I am saying that despite not particularly liking Costa Rica. But unfortunately getting the crap kicked out of them twice in the span of thirty years is not enough for Germans to give up their military…

    At any rate, yeah I usually take a train to/from the airport even though there is a airport in my town because it is often cheaper and sometimes faster and more “unusual” itineraries cannot be booked out of minor airports. But did you know that both Düsseldorf and Cologne have major international airports? Despite Frankfurt (Germany’s main airport) being only one hour away by ICE. Crazy, isn’t it?

    Danny Reply:

    you mean the assimilated non-Syrians who lived off of marijuana, alcohol, ham, and gay sex?

    Aarond Reply:

    It certainly does and will make for an interesting election in November.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I doubt any more FBI whitewashes will remove the taint from Hillary’s rep. The last thing we want is a coronation. Under her everyone’s gonna get their taxes raised to pay for dubious schemes. Think the Bay Bridge, the poster boy of boondoggles. How did we(residents of the Bay Area, yours truly included)allow that piece of shit to happen? Mediocre, troubled structure at at least twice the price and no extra capacity whatsoever. All the transport fanboys should hang their heads in shame and rethink nonsense of the same order like base tunnels to Palmdale.

    A great part of that six billion could have and should have been spent on better and more useful things.

    Aarond Reply:

    She’s not going to get that far. From NBC, “Recent Anthony Weiner Scandal Led to New Clinton FBI Review”. There is also a new leaked audio clip of her suggesting the US rig an election in Palestine. Even if she is elected, it’s going to be a short hop into another Watergate situation. Congress is getting everything they need to take her down.

    Joe Reply:

    Bernie will then be asked to step in and govern.

    Fun fact, William Safire wrote a NYTimes column about Hillary being indicted and convicted over whitewater. It ran before Bill was inaugurated.

    There’s a market for this stuff. Like those reader submitted penthouse letters.

    Aarond Reply:

    There’s a difference, because she’d be President. Bill was Impeached for much less and back then the Democrats still held the South. If she’s elected at the very least we are looking at a total shitshow going into a 2018 GOP landslide. Even Obama (who people actually believed in) lost in 2010.

    There’s just no way she can win now, even as President. The larger question is how much damage she is going to do to the party as a whole.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    What is it with the Clintons that everybody wants to make every damn thing they ever did into a big scandal?

    I am sure you can find stupid things Sanders said about Ortega that you could hammer him with today. Heck, Ortega is one of the most anti-choice politicians in Latin America, yet nobody ever brings that up.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m sure the Republicans will get their knickers in a twist for the bazillionth time about the Clintons. They have 24 years of experience of seeing all sorts of bogey men under every bedstead. When they aren’t busy pissing in there pants over some infinitesimally small risk.

    Aarond Reply:

    Small risk? Enough has been leaked already to prevent Democrats taking back Congress. The Democrats’ base is coming unglued while the 2020 Census is just around the corner. And all it takes is one white lie to get an Impeachment.

    Hilary, if we’re extremely lucky, would do to the Democrats what Dubya did to the Republicans.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    The current Congress has been gerrymandered into existence…

    So its composition has little to do with the popularity of each party and much less with the President.

    And for the 2020 Census, the local elections in question are much more important. And a party can very well be strong locally and weak at the national level or vice versa. Look at the Dems in the 80s.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Weapons of mass destruction? When they weren’t pissing in their pants about that they were busy pissing in their pants over Al Qaeda. The same way they pissed their pants over Communists. And Medicare.
    Their convention this year was a long tirade about how everybody is out to get YOU ! When our cities weren’t in flames they were cesspits of crime. All directed by the cabal. When it wasn’t a conspiracy. ISIL is going to be spraying malls in rural Iowa if evil HIllary is elected. And you won’t be able to do anything about it because through sheer force of her will she is going to repeal the Second Amendment. Democrats, repealing the Second Amendment in Republican nightmares for years.

    … the evil libbrulllllllllll Democrats. The ones who managed to catch Osama bin Laden.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    And they did not even put Osama on trial. They just went and “boom – headshot”…

    Even some conservative (!) European politicians would have preferred to have him get a day in court…

    Aarond Reply:

    For what it’s worth, OBL was not a US citizen therefore he was not entitled to a trial. This is also why illegal aliens are allowed to be put into detention camps. Don’t lose your Passport if you’re ever in the US.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    I am not exactly sad Bin Laden is dead, but it would have sent a strong signal to put him before a court and have him in prison…

    Unfortunately, this would have had a major risk of him getting away or making a run for it from prison, or even (as happened with German terrorists) terrorists trying to spring him from prison…

    Imagine President Trump having to negotiate with an Al Qaida leader who has Ivanka in his grasp and will kill her unless Bin Laden is freed…

    Aarond Reply:

    OBL would have been tried in NY (for murder) and NY doesn’t have a death penalty which means at least twenty if not thirty years of taking care of him. Put simply, he’d likely be the only muslim in his prison and would have to be kept separate from the rest of the population, meanwhile all the guards would obviously have a huge vendetta with him. Look at how Jeffrey Dahmer’s life ended, for example.

    Also America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, we either pay them directly or we shoot them. An example of the latter fucking up is Operation Eagle Claw, which is how we got both President Reagan and the V-22.

    Joe Reply:

    For what it’s worth, OBL was not a US citizen therefore he was not entitled to a trial. This is also why illegal aliens are allowed to be put into detention camps. Don’t lose your Passport if you’re ever in the US.

    I did not this.
    Foreigners have the same rights as Hosts on Westworld.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Republicans would have pissed their pants for months until he was dead if he had come anywhere near any state. He would have been tried by Federal courts. Which don’t hand down sentences governed by state law.


    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Well who decides what negotiations with terrorists look like?

    Oh that’s right, the commander in chief.

    Now a sane commander in chief recuses himself when a next of kin is involved and in immediate mortal danger. For an example look at The West Wing. But Trump is not a sane person. I consider Trump totally capable of a) handing out Bin Laden to get Ivanka back and b) throwing an atomic bomb on where he thinks Bin Laden is at to get rid of him

    Yes I think Trump is that crazy.

    Alan Reply:

    @aarond: Maybe you should watch something besides Faux Noise. There won’t be any 2018 GOP landslide. The GOP has been nearly destroyed by Herr Drumpf, and it will take at least a decade to heal. And just to correct your history: Obama did not lose in 2010, because he did not run in 2010. A lot of Dems did lose that year, but as the saying goes, “All politics is local”. Suggesting that 2010 was caused by Obama is naiive.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    2010 was not caused by Obama, it was rather caused by the fact that a person who is not Bush was in the White House.

    A similar thing happened in 1994 with Clinton’s first midterm. Fortunately for Clinton, 1994 was not a census year.

    Roland Reply:

    No need to panic. Here is Plan B: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/435966/hillary-clinton-2016-joe-biden-elizabeth-warren-could-be-democratic-ticket-if

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Democratic Party seems to be lacking in new faces when they want to put Biden in as Secretary of State. Why not elevate Jerry now that Gavin has promised to behave and tom to PB?

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    I think Biden should get something to do with rail travel as his new job. Head of Amtrak, secretary of transportation, head of the FRA – something like that.

    Alan Reply:

    You’re rather delusional if you fall back on an article that was published 5 months ago. That’s an eternity in a presidential campaign.

    Bahnfreund Reply:


    Aarond Reply:

    CAHSR builds a backbone that is actually useful. It’s not 1916 and it is impossible to use Oakland as a norcal terminal. As much as I wish it was not so, they made the decision to rip out the Key System, to not have any Amtrak/BART transfer stations, and to dismantle the 16th street station.

    The new hub is Diridon because that’s where all the roads run to. A major component of CAHSR is connecting SJ to LA in a way that allows for reliable and usable service.

    Neil Shea Reply:


    Roland Reply:

    What makes you think that the Key System cannot be resurrected? Has it ever occurred to you that tunneling across the Bay is a lot easier than tunneling across Pacheco Pass?

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is no Key System in Manhattan – therefore not acceptable or permitted by SPUR-MTC-Heminger-Lee et al.

    Aarond Reply:

    If SF/Alameda are going to build tunnels then LRT is #3 behind BART tubes and maybe a Caltrain tube (but only if they’re able to get state money for it, and finish the DTX).

    Even then, most of the problems are local: Berkeley and Oakland residents do not want the Key back otherwise ACT would have voted to provide it. Even if they did, building it would be a huge slog because people would have to move their fences back and streets would need lanes removed. Also, Oakland is not interested in making a hub for it, especially when they won’t fix the mess that is West Embarcadero.

    I’d love to be proven wrong, though.

    Ted K. Reply:

    The Coliseum stations for Amtrak and BART may not be integrated but they are linked with a pedestrian bridge that crosses the tracks to the Oakland Coliseum and San Leandro Blvd./St. to the BART station.


  9. Trentbridge
    Oct 28th, 2016 at 05:56

    Since we are all now buying online, I can see a Amazon hyperloop in the future – three feet diameter – shuttle craft of parcels – sending orders from distribution centers to population centers – say thirty miles or so. Look – freight doesn’t complain and – if things go wrong – doesn’t sue for personal injury…

    EJ Reply:

    Well there’s the Alameda-Weehawken burrito tunnel:


    Roland Reply:

    Another gravy-ty train, yes!!!! Think of the par-tay and the J-O-B-S!!!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Freight doesn’t care and can be put on a self driving delivery van that telephones you to come out and get the parcel.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Well the real revolution is never new technology but a wider spread of old technology.

    For example railroads have existed for a long time, but a railroad link that serves both China and its markets in Europe is a big deal…

    A Hyperloop in Frisco harbor is not.

    Danny Reply:

    Amazon Prime’s one-hour delivery is done by–people on bicycles

    Aarond Reply:

    Amazon would sooner buy their own fleet of aircraft:


  10. morris brown
    Oct 28th, 2016 at 06:23

    Fox and Hounds: Notes on the Milken Institute’s California Summit

    From this article on Hyperloop:


    Bruce Upbin of Hyperloop One said the first hyperloop events will happen soon, in a few years and the focus is on moving cargo. He presented a proposal for developing a hyperloop pipe along the Alameda Corridor from the Long Beach port to speed cargo deliver and free the highways of trucks.

    One interesting note: He said forget about a hyperloop track to carry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco. When Elon Musk proposed the hyperloop, it was suggested the fast moving vehicle could put the high-speed rail out of business. Upbin said there was too much politics involved to consider that route.

    Do you suppose that the governor, who considers the high speed rail a major legacy project, might have reminded Elon Musk of the generous state subsidies for some of Musk’s other California endeavors?

    EJ Reply:

    “We totally could have made it work, guys, I swear! There was just too much politics!”

    Aarond Reply:

    It’s hilarious. They realized that trying to compete with HSR will just cause people to view HSR favorably, so now they’re trying to claim they can do freight. I wonder what makes these people think (assuming they do) they will be able to take on the truckers, Class 1s, all three major parcel delivery services and the USPS.

    I mean I get everyone is drinking the silly cone valley kool aide, but this is still a huge stretch.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Jerry drank the Antelope Valley Kool-aid some time back.

    Danny Reply:

    the real issue isn’t that Musk is on the public teat, but that he bites it
    this happens a lot in the tech world–Washington does all the work for them, the Bay Area then screams that it did it all on its own

  11. Roland
    Oct 28th, 2016 at 10:13
  12. Alon Levy
    Oct 30th, 2016 at 09:59

    There’s a project in the UAE that might actually happen (translation: the UAE can splurge because it doesn’t have citizens who pay taxes, it has subjects). Cost is $60 million per km after PPP adjustment, in easy terrain, so around twice what California HSR is in the Central Valley and three times what the cheaper tunnel-free HSR lines here get.

    Danny Reply:

    that’s what they were promising for monorail before they started actually building it; then monorail got more and more and more expensive

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    If they can’t get it build in an oil monarchy where political opposition does not exist and money is of no concern, they cannot get it build anywhere.

    Danny Reply:

    they’re techno-utopians: the failure will only be further proof that there’s an all-pervading conspiracy against the technology
    that’s why I mentioned that “some people spend their lives polluting messageboards with liquid-fluoride thorium reactors”: they seriously think that, precisely because it was never built during a time when literally any nuclear program could get funding, it’ll be forever safe and clean and give us infinite energy

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