Imagine traveling from New York City to Washington, D.C. in just over 20 minutes. It’s a bold concept and, according to heavy-hitters in the tech industry, one that could become a reality in the next five years. Dubbed “Hyperloop One,” it would revolutionize domestic American travel.
A draft proposal of the project was first announced in 2013 by Elon Musk (founder of Tesla and SpaceX) through his groundbreaking Hyperloop Transportation Technologies venture. It sparked new debate over the feasibility, affordability, and ultimate possibility of widespread hyperloop travel in the U.S. Recently, the idea garnered renewed interest at a D.C. event earlier this month as part of a bold, forward-thinking campaign to connect the United States via massive, electromagnetic tubes.
The first milestone of Hyperloop One (not to be confused with generic “hyperloop” technology) is to open a cargo transport line between two East Coast hubs by 2020. They’re hoping to open the line to passenger travel the following year. The route will use levitating pods powered by super duty electromagnets to travel through a reduced-pressure tube at more than 700 miles per hour. The technology could shorten travel time between Washington, D.C. and New York City from more than three hours to just 20 minutes. Company executives note that rolling this out on a larger scale could benefit more than 80 million people and provide the potential to travel between any point in the U.S. in less than five hours. To be clear, it’s faster-than-airplane travel for the price of a bus ticket.
While the general concept isn’t a new one — here in the U.S. or other parts of the world like Japan — it’s now receiving more traction, funding, and planning than ever before. In January, the company brought on Uber’s former chief financial officer to raise the necessary billions in venture capital to fund such an ambitious project. Former D.C. Department of Transportation head, Gabe Klein, believes it will likely take longer to realize than most of its proponents think. There’s substantial governmental red tape, including local/federal regulations and right-of-way clearances. But, even he notes, “I think it’s going to become a reality.”
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