As a professional mechanical engineer I have worked on high quality steel tubes (nuclear submarines) before. The immediate thing that sticks out to me in this proposal are the tight mechanical tolerances that have to be maintained. Talking about tens of thousandths of an inch tolerances on a 10' diameter tube is not to be dismissed lightly. That is going to be tough to maintain - especially with welding heat distortion. I would image the tubes will be joined with automated friction stir welding or something similiar, but that will still require a fair amount of post weld machining which has its own pitfalls. Not to mention simple thermal expansion and contraction as the temperature changes could change the circularity and inner diameter.
I would be more interested to see a tolerance stack up of those considerations than an FEA model of the concrete pylons. I can gaurentee that we can build concrete pylons capable of holding up a steel tube, that is done all over the country dozens of different uses cases. But can we build a multi-hundred mile long steel tube to the required tolerances?
I would be inclined to trade off efficiency for manufacturability. I.e. maybe a higher internal pressure or larger diameter to make it less sensitive. There should be plenty of power from the solar panels so it doesn't have to be perfectly efficient.
I'm also surprised that the I-5 plan is cheaper than buying private land. I may be naive here, but the pylons really do take away most of the objections from farmers and installing tubes over farmland has to be a lot cheaper than doing construction above a highway. I just look at boondoggle that was the SkyTrain in NYC (tram running over a highway out to JFK airport) and wonder if that is a great option.
The document mentions standard orbital seam wlelding, plus specialized machining equipment that travels along the tube to smooth out the gliding surface.
The capsules are only 60% the diameter of the tube, or 36% it's area (68/47% for the vehicle-carrying version), it doesn't seem to require tight tolerances for operation. I got the idea that tube distortion and movement is taken into account into the system.
Well, it's true that the top and sides of the tube don't get too close to the capsule, so those parts seem relatively low-tolerance, as you say.
But the load-bearing skis ride on an air bearing of 0.5mm to 1.3mm (see page 20), moving at over 1000km/h. As rossjudson notes, the skis are on mechanical suspension, to smooth out shocks to the riders, but it's not clear (to ignorant me) how much of a bump those skis can glide over. 0.1mm, no problem. What about 1.0mm?
On a related note, Musk seems sanguine about the sag you'd get in any structure supported by pylons (see e.g. page 27). Even with inch-thick steel walls, with pylons an average of 30m apart (100'), you'll see some sag, right? Any engineers want to comment on the deviation in 30m of inch-diameter-wall steel tubing? Let's see, 1200kph, 30m, so you pass a pylon 11 times per second. So in 0.09 seconds, you have to go from the top of one pylon, to the valley between two pylons, and back to the top of the next pylon. I guess that's all absorbed by the mechanical suspension?
So thanks for whatever you did in keeping the boats safe (both in design and construction), it was certainly much-appreciated in the Fleet.
It would be cool if you could take another look and see if the tolerances are truly what you describe, or if there's actually more room for variance.
In fact you might be able to handle some thermal expansion (at least seasonal, not daily) that way - release some clamps on a telescopic section, adjust, reclamp, melt and re-smooth the wax.
13 × 10^-6 thermal expansion coefficient of steel
45 - -40 max temp difference
570k length of tube in meters
line1 × line2 × line3 = 629m (~1890') of thermal expansion over a 570 km tube.
Did I read it right that they will take out all that expansion at the ends? To get that down to say 30m between pylons you have to have about 30 expansion joints. Can they go full speed through an expansion joint?
It seems that the proposal is actully much less serious than on the first glance:
Amusingly enough, the California HSR budget for the Central Valley is under $10 billion. Ie, in the same ball-park as this proposal. The reason the HSR project is going to cost $60 billion is because it has to face an uncomfortable truth; actually getting to LA and SF is expensive. Very expensive.
Moreover, would you like to be sitting in the tube on the chair from which you can't even stand up for a half an hour without the chance to do anything but remain sitting, not getting any help the next half hour on the occasion when you get sick? Would you take your kid there? Your parent?
Designing mass transportation while ignoring such aspects is like programming without handling the limit cases "it works for N between 2 and 100 but not for 0, 1 and MAX_INT, even if these are allowed inputs." It's bad, very bad for the user, only an "astronaut developer" can love such a solution.
The first time a kid dies because it got sick the first minute of a 30-minute ride, the project is dead for good. Imagine the press, imagine the public response.
I can imagine entering the capsule to reach the international space station, preparing a whole year before. I can't imagine doing the same preparations for the ride between SF and LA. Give me the real train, thank you.
The public seems to have no issue with that concept, it is a simple risk that goes with getting on the train.
And who says that big government stifles entrepreneurial innovation?
If ALL Musk does with the Hyperloop announcement is shed more light on the potential debacle that is to be our $70b+ high-speed rail in California, we owe him a debt of gratitude.
PS - Direct link to the Hyperloop plans .PDF http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/hyperloop_alpha-201...
magic response: "of course we may be wrong, we'll look into this immediately." and then they decide to build it.
likely answer: praise, perhaps even an evaluation, then disregard as unrealistic a year from now.
why would "big government" ignore this idea? fairly simple: risky and unproven, for a politician, in a career where risk is not related to upside; and probably more important is the ability to control $70bn in spending to private citizens and contractors - far more valuable to their careers (leading to donations and influence) than spending a smaller amount (a mere $7bn) on fewer contractors. For the most part, the hyperloop contractors would not be the same guys who have been donating to politicians for the past decade in support of the train.
so yes, big government and the natural corruption of a large budget (donations->spending with favored constituents) will likely lead to the status quo - a ludicrously overpriced train.
as far as political repercussions, california is not a two party state any more, so there's no one to capitalize on the idiocy of the folks in power. i guess, we reap what we sow.
Influential people and money people and politicians are all going to read this and say Sounds great. Elon Musk? I'm listening. 7 Billion? Go on. And scientists are going to chime in, and universities, and people always forget the global reactions. Momentum.
I'm going to keep my faith that this idea has legs.
he is in bed with gov employees unions (the unions are primary driving force behind 200-300K/year gov employees pensions (http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/pensions) with retirement age of 55, CA is something like $200B deep in that hole), and especially with prison guard union - of course huge prison population resulting from "toughness on crime" may not be viewed as government waste by some.
Building a bridge or high-speed rail to nowhere - just a [large] peanut in that picture.
200-300K/year (and higher) pensions are pretty much entirely executives who weren't union members, it has nothing to do with unions.
e.g., the #1 highest: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/27/opinion/la-oe-cole-v...
"Denson also earned $407,908 in total wages in 2011, according to city data, making him the highest paid city worker in 2011. Of this sum, $212,738 consisted of "cash out" pay, which accounts for such factors as vacations, holidays and unused sick pay. His regular salary was $195,169."
All defined benefit pensions -- whether set by union contract or not -- use these kind of formulas. But the high pensions are not the product of the formula alone -- even if you work long enough at one of the formulas to get near (or over) 100%, you still aren't going to get 200-300K per year pension unless you have a last/highest/(average of last three)/etc. years salary (which ever is the base for the particular formula you have) high enough to push the pension that high.
Surprisingly enough, almost no rank-and-file workers have that kind of salary. The people with 200K and higher pensions are mostly people that are retiring from executive positions.
what if the prison guard union got in on the contract to have the prisoners build the hyperloop?
Of course he's with the government employees unions, he has to live with them every day.
>>> Of course he's with the government employees unions, he has to live with them every day.
Having to work with them and being in bed with them is not the same thing. Though many politicians fail to see the difference, it is a known problem.
Politicians aren't all afraid to take risks, especially when they believe a particular policy they like will live on and be remembered.
Our former governor Jesse Ventura overcame incredible resistance and media scorn to get our first light rail line built. Almost all casual observers thought major health care reform was impossible in Washington. These things actually happened.
The key to passing a good policy is to reduce the risk. Politicians love projects where someone else was the guinea pig for them and/or someone else pays for studies and prototypes. Usually, they look for other units of government that have done something very similar with great success.
If I wanted to get Hyperloop to pass, I would first aim to table discussions on high speed rail for the proposed route. You would find allies among politicians who don't want to spend any money on transit, usually to appease highway contractors.
Secondly, I would immediately aim to seek R&D money for a high-profile demonstration project with plenty of funding for a study to project potential costs and impacts. This effort should even begin before the high speed rail bidding is tabled. I would leverage the demonstration results in the media and build a grassroots and lobbying organization around support for a Hyperloop.
Finally, I would seek advice from experts to craft a model bill with appropriate requirements for the bidding process.
In fact, some of the highest resistance to the high-speed rail project that would run from L.A. to the Bay Area comes from Angelenos, according to new data released over the weekend by the USC Dornsife / Los Angeles Times Poll:
About 56 percent of would-be voters in L.A. County would say no to the train if allowed to vote on it again; 37 percent would be in favor. In San Francisco the train would win 47-45.
About 66 percent of Central Valley voters were opposed to the train, which would run through their farm region.
Statewide, if a re-vote on the train were allowed, 59 percent of would-be voters would say no; only 33 percent would give reaffirm it.
About 55 percent of statewide voters said they'd be down for a re-vote.
The article later goes on to state:
The biggest problem for this train is timing -- California is facing another crushing budget deficit and a stalling economic recovery. Dan Schnur, director of the poll:
Californians aren't necessarily against the idea of high-speed rail. But they don't want to spend all that money right now, and they don't trust the state to make the trains run on time.
But building one across the coastal part of California? Or across the NE United States? Why yes, that does make sense, and why yes, it is warranted by the densities in those areas. The fact that the U.S. also owns Alaska doesn't really matter. No one is arguing Alaska needs a high-speed rail network.
Build fast trains connecting all the red areas:
Repeat for suitable other areas across the U.S.
The California coastal cities (and connecting areas) are still pretty sparse, comparatively. And the marquee High Speed Rail project takes a big inland detour to the smaller interior cities, for political reasons. If ever finished, that will hurt its price/time attractiveness compared to flying.
You'll notice that Elon Musk's plan for the Hyperloop includes an option for shooting automobiles through the tubes. That's because the mass transit within the cities on that coast is shit.
Inter-city mass transit only makes sense once you've solved intra-city mass transit. Unless you really, really love hanging out within a few city blocks of an inter-city train station, you need to have a convenient, desirable mass transit system waiting for you in the city you're going to. If you're linking Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC, you're liking the best mass transit system in America with four other pretty good transit systems. Cutting Boston to DC from 6.5 hours to 90 minutes is definitely worth doing.
As someone who uses only mass transit, I think that's untrue.
Even in Oklahoma City, where only ~1% of people commute via mass transit, there are still thousands of people who can live happily without a car because mass transit serves them fine. That does not mean that Oklahoma City has a great transit system.
I wonder. It's easier to find low cost airfares to Las Vegas than other cities. A conduit to Las Vegas from the populated west coast might be interesting to some.
And here you can travel from most parts of Melbourne to most parts of Sydney with just two train changes. One at a Melbourne hub to the interstate trains and one at Sydney to the local system.
Even so, we feel our train systems suck too.
Unless you can take a train into the center of Australia, in which case I apologize.
> If you don't want to be searched at the train station, you have the freedom to not ride the train.
I'm sure there some contingency has been thought of, unfortunately it's just the world we live in these days :(
Most likely safer than a train.
I responded to concern over the Hyperloop shutting down for hours whilst the damage is repaired.
And, if someone fired a few pot shots into a taxing A380 at LAX, I have to imagine that the whole place would be shut down for a few hours.
As mhandley noted, Hyperloop might be more susceptible, as the concern is more like your airplane flying an inch off the ground and hitting a stationary large brick.
...which reminds me of an old analogy: Back when large-capacity (ooh! 10MB!) hard drives were becoming common, I recall hearing the comparison that the read head was akin to a 747 traveling Mach 3 just 1 inch off the ground. Perhaps Elon wondered how this might work in real life, and so came up with Hyperloop.
Of course, if any damage occurred on the ground, this would be a non-issue entirely as the aircraft wouldn't be pressurized at all.
Remember a big part of TSA isn't to protect the people on the planes, but to protect other people from the planes themselves. It's pretty hard to weaponize a vehicle that's stuck inside a tube or on rails.
The only hope would be that the anti-rail side could point to the growth of projections as either incompetence or out of control budgeting, which could both sway the vote. But I think if you go back to 2008 and say, "This will cost $100 billion," the vote would be the same.
Edit: correction from dragonwriter, via wikipedia :
"The cost of the initial San Francisco-to-Anaheim segment was originally estimated by the CHSRA to be $33 billion (2008) / $35.2 billion (2013), but a revised business plan released in November 2011 by the CHSRA put the cost at $65.4 billion (2010) / $68.9 billion (2013) / $98.5 billion (YOE). The latest plan has revised the costs down to $53.4 billion (2011) / $54.5 billion (2013) / $68.4 billion (YOE)."
you should check cost of highways in Moscow - $300M/mile. Hint - it isn't about terrain :)
Though it's somewhat difficult to separate out the 42km of new tunnels (expensive) and a whole bunch of new stations (expensive) including a whole bunch of revamped ones in the centre of London (very expensive).
Another factor at play is that TGV lines are purpose built for high-speed traffic (curve radius, climb rate, ...) while for example in Germany they are mostly shared. That makes the single TGV track cheaper, but you still ahve to built another track for lets say freight. If want another track, that is.
But the cool thing ist that TGV don't stop at every single village that happens to be the hometown of some polititian.
But the U.S. delegates decision-making to agencies and courts in a way that this doesn't happen. California might take input for a long time before deciding on its plan, but its final plan is still not final. Anyone can sue it for many different reasons. Maybe it violates the federal Clean Air Act, maybe it violates property rights, maybe something else. The decision is never final until every challenge to an agency or court is decided, which massively adds to uncertainty and costs.
$6.4 trillion in total government expenditures.
Largest welfare and entitlement programs.
Nearly 15% U6 unemployment. Collapsing labor force. Falling real incomes. 15% on food stamps. Massive fiscal mismanagement in every respect. Endless QE just to fund the government. 0% interest rates just to reach 1% GDP growth. Healthcare is clearly moving toward a completely socialized approach over time and completely away from any free market solution. Taxes are extremely high, between federal and state; typically higher than supposedly socialist European countries. America also has more economic regulations on the books than any other country (and that's rapidly expanding). The largest land owner in America is the government, by a drastic margin. Half of all mortgages are held by the government. And on and on.
Doesn't get any more old European Socialist than what America is today. It would be fiscally impossible to go any further.
And as I said in above comment, the $9.95 billion was for the initial bond issuance. The estimate on the ballot was $40 billion versus the current estimate of between $98.5 billion and $118 billion.
The estimate from the current Business Plan is $68.4 billion, not "between $98.5 and $118 billion."
How about large scale funding of science and technology is an "engine of innovation", whatever that term means.
On top of that, the government used to take such risks in unproven technologies, underlined by tolerating the non-trivial odds of spectacular lethal failure...but that was decades ago. Now it can't even make a bus door without plastering eighteen warning signs around it .
Exploratory spending is great when you have money to spare. We don't. Now we have to rely on Elon Musk et al to pursue outlier projects - and they only reason they can is because of the big literal payoff if it works.
 - Have you counted 'em? I have. 18.
... which closed a few years ago :(
If California ditches its HSR plans for hyperloop today and ends up with a 700 km/h line running in 30 years' time, busiest lines in Japan and China will have been upgraded to maglev or another 500+ km/h technology and they would have had 300+ km/h technology for the interim 30 years. Meanwhile California would have had what, driverless car trains on freeways going 200 km/h 5 years from now?
The Republicans haven't yet adapted to the people of the State taking away their ability to roadblock budgets from the minority, which is a crutch they'd come to rely on to avoid dealing with the difficulty of trying to build a minimum winning coalition in CA while at the same time toeing the line of the national party.
I'd be surprised though if they haven't started returning to being an effective opposition by the 2014 elections.
Not to mention safety. Nobody is going to just trust Musk to say it's safe. There will be a decade of trials to test it before it even gets green light approval for a small practically useable section.
Really? Because it looks like this is an attempt to derail CA HSR using a proposal for an experimental technology that offers a fraction of what CA HSR does, but is potentially faster.
CA HSR replaces/upgrades two metropolitan rail systems (Caltrain/Metrolink) in addition to connecting SF (as opposed to Oakland!) and LA, requires no R&D, is supposed to handle significantly greater ridership, has detailed cost estimates which include things like take into account electrification costs (because it does get cloudy), support facilities (because there is maintenance of these cars), administrative buildings (because someone has to run the system), bypassing/rebuilding overpasses (which are all over I-5) that are in the way and grading land.
Not to mention their estimates actually include going into downtown SF and LA, unlike Musk's $6B figure.
The East Bay (and even Oakland specifically) does not have a complete lack of moneyed NIMBYs. There are at least as many of those in the East Bay as in SF and the Peninsula.
And its actually a lot easier to "punch a line through" over land than over the Bay, and existing SF-Oakland transit capacity is fairly well saturated and expensive to expand (because, again, of the Bay).
You could maybe find some non-insane argument that extending Caltrain as conventional rail to San Francisco and running HSR to Oakland makes more sense than HSR to San Francisco and existing conventional rail to Oakland, but I doubt there's much case even for that; in any case, any sane strategy for rail is going to involve a fork with lines running up the Peninsula to SF and up into the East Bay separately.
Now compare to the kind of 19th-century legacy gazillionaires along the CAHSR route in Atherton.
But more to the point, it's costed through the straightest, least dense, cheapest part of a "SF to LA" route. It's shown with 3 km of tunnel west of Dublin and you'd need at least five times more to get to usefully located stations. This isn't how real infrastructure projects are estimated unless you're purposefully trying to arrive at a low cost estimate.
Oakland was chosen to make this thing look cheaper, not because it makes sense from a civil planning perspective.
Instead, I think of it this way... if it's so cheaply do-able, then - do it! Sounds like an easy money making idea if you can build it for the figures proposed. While you may only need to charge $20 each way to break even, why not charge double what it costs to go the next most fast, convenient way, and you would make bank! I mean, who wouldn't do this if it works as envisioned? It's a genius business plan, right!?
So do it! Some rich bold genius! Build us a hyperloop - so cheap and obvious and do-able! And whenever we get to HSR, we'll build it so it connects to the awesome LA-SF express hyperloop.
Did Musk say his Hyperloop wouldn't be tied to the grid?
I've lived in China for over 3 years, and spend countless hours riding the HSR system. HSR combines the speed of a plane, with the cost and convenience of a regular bus. Traveling through the countryside of China at 380km/h made me feel like I was in the future. Coming home and seeing the the sad state of our infrastructure was a harsh reality check.
Granted China has a massive manufacturing/mining complex and cheap labor. But if we hadn't squandered 5 Trillion on "War on Terror" and domestic spying, I'm sure we could kept our lead in infrastructure and still has some left over to boost education / R&D spending.
In the past 20 years China's moved their mountain. Hopefully the hyperloop will help us to catch up.
Sadly, I think the first place a Hyperloop will be built is China. Chances are there are engineers there looking it over now, and figuring they can knock out a test system in a year or two.
Until a major accident at least like with Fukushima and nuclear.
The problem with CAHSR isn't the "HSR" part, it's California's utterly dysfunctional political system, and going faster and putting the track up on pylons isn't going to cut through that morass without a stronger group of people standing up and saying YES, WE NEED THIS.
At the price point I suggest, the operator is STILL effectively going to be making 150% margins, so there is a lot of room to lower the cost, but that just isn't going to happen unless there is a competitive pressure to keep lowering the price.
If that's not "social justice" enough for you, then consider that at least the thing is going to be run nearly 100% if not better than 100% renewable.
You mention that he considers the alternative as supersonic jets, and discusses why they don't work for SFO-LAX.
If I could take one of these from SF to LA in a weekend to take my kids to Disneyland, that would be awesome. As it is now, that's a multi-hour process on each side of the trip. Reducing that to 30min (+ some logistics time) would be wonderful. Especially if they can reduce the amount of time required at the terminals.
If the Hyperloop works as Musk imagines, then it'll be more like hopping on the subway: go to the station in the middle of town, wait maybe 10min at most, ride, get off in the middle of town.
On the other hand I sure don't wanna be crammed in that recliner looking at a ceiling five inches away from my feet for a half hour. Room to stand up and stretch please.
Well, except that the termini aren't even close to the "middle of town" (at least, not of the cities motivating the plan). There way out on the fringes of the metro region, and unlike CA HSR, none of the costs of improving connecting systems are part of the plan.
The low cost estimate is due in large part because it gets you from the place people aren't to the place people don't want to be. (On either end)
Which is one (of the many) reasons its not a serious alternative to HSR -- even if the technology was ready, what Musk is proposing fails to do the hard part of transportation improvement: connecting the places people are with the places they want to get.
Yes, preventing a debacle is a win.
It's mind boggling to me that the California HSR isn't being built from DC to Boston instead.
Upgraded high-speed rail in the Northeast corridor (where the US's only existing HSR is located) is being planned.  California HSR being built in California doesn't preclude HSR from being built/upgraded in other parts of the US.
A major premise of the California HSR plan is that it isn't just about the main HSR lines, but upgrades, improvements, and new lines for connecting conventional regional and commuter rail, light rail, and other public transit.
The difference is, we already have the Acela, so it just needs a speed upgrade.
Boston (4.5M metro area)
New York (8-20M depending on how far you stretch the metro area)
Philadelphia (6M metro area)
Washington D.C. (5.7M metro area)
It seems pretty clear that California needs it and generally HSR is a pretty sensible infrastructure investment.
That said like you I would love to see a superior alternative to the current situation but CA HSR is probably not it.
Edit: added some references
The main cost of CAHSR will be the opportunity cost of not having built it.
I wonder: this is from an LA Weekly article from 2011 -- I remember it being an eye-opener when I read it back then :
The authority had projected that 41 million people annually would ride the train between Anaheim and San Francisco, for example. But currently only 12 million customers fly nonstop on the extremely busy air route between Los Angeles and San Francisco each year.
The article goes on to say that Acela gets 3 million riders in the very dense east coast NY/Washington corridor but in less-dense California they were projecting a ridership around 10x of Acela's (!).
The LA Weekly has had a bunch of articles about the project over the years criticizing everything from its cost to its leadership to its utility. If the picture they paint is mostly correct, perhaps the only way to win is not to play.
And it's not just the LA Weekly -- a third party independent review came to similar conclusions apparently, as described in this LA Weekly article from Jan. 2012 :
On top of skepticism from the state auditor, inspector general and legislative analyst -- as well as university researchers, federal transportation experts and this very news blog -- a "peer review group" for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, formed for the sole purpose of independent review, has declared the project neither physically nor financially feasible at this time.
The train's roster of supporters tells us everything we need to know:
"The project has won major support from organized labor, some big-city mayors and many state lawmakers," reports the Los Angeles Times today.
The article quotes the following from the report:
"We cannot overemphasize the fact that moving ahead on the HSR project without credible sources of adequate funding, without a definitive business model, without a strategy to maximize the independent utility and value to the State, and without the appropriate management resources, represents an immense financial risk on the part of the state of California."
And...so? California has dense areas in the north and south and a big (relatively) empty gap between them. California HSR is designed to connect those dense areas. The overall density of the state (or the corridor) is pretty much a side issue.
And, if your city is not on the Acela route, you may well be able, due to the area's density, to take a commuter rail or another train to get to a city that is on the Acela route.
Similarly for Acela's Boston-NY route -- New Haven is on the route, so people from Connecticut can likely get to it.
And, of course, people in NJ can easily pop into NYC and grab Acela as well.
By contrast, the lack of density in CA would mean that aside from LA - SF (and a bit of traffic to and from Sacramento), you wouldn't likely have that sort of potential passenger-base.
Actually, since California has a large total population, and its mostly concentrated in a few major urban areas, what that means is you have a natural constituency for high speed rail with few stops, spending more time at speed.
LA (and San Diego) to SF (and Sacramento) is a lot.
There might be a bit more interaction between LA's entertainment industry and the Bay Area's tech industry, but how many additional people would be travelling for this purpose?
I expect that, given that the northeast corridor comprises the nation's capitol, its financial capitol and its academic capitol (the latter two also being high-tech centers), one would expect movement between these places and would want high-speed transport.
I just don't see a similar dynamic operating in CA. Sacramento cannot compare to Washington, D.C. and LA and SF are pretty self-sufficient, as I expect San Diego is as well.
I don't believe that high speed rail will necessarily be a debacle.
But the route was largely chosen for political considerations. It was decided downtown San Jose, Fresno, and Bakersfield must have stations. (This requires an additional long tunnel, and urban construction is much more expensive.) The route takes a detour through Palmdale, an underdeveloped part of Los Angeles County.
The 'straight shot' route down I-5 that Musk proposes was also considered for HSR, and rejected even though it would have been much cheaper and simpler to construct.
However, CA-HSR chose the nearly the most complex and expensive route possible (even though they don't have a funding source), so we shouldn't make a direct cost comparison with Musk's route down I-5. HSR would also be much cheaper on the mostly unpopulated I-5 corridor. Also, the right-of-ways that Musk proposes to get into SF and LA are sketchy.
(Silicon Valley business interests wanted the HSR stations in San Jose & Mountain View, and apparently quite interested in using lower-cost areas such as Fresno for back-office activities. So while they will be impressed by Hyperloop's techno-wizardry, they may actually prefer the HSR project.)
California has a very large amount of regulatory burden compared to almost anywhere else in the US. High speed rail there is likely to cost overrun by a massive factor, and under deliver by a massive factor, and both, for no actually good reason, instead, only theoretically good ones.
SPUR's data comes from the SF planning department, which is now under tremendous pressure to at least claim they are doing something. Data on the actual ground (IE real estate listings, etc) do not support their claims, as anyone who tries to get a residential unit in SF can tell you. I'd love to know what they consider a "start". It shouldn't take multiple years for a simple residential unit to be completed.
You are also talking about places where it takes months to get a tree removed from your property and requires approval from the "county arborist". It often takes years for people to acquire permits to do remodeling.
California also has significantly different and more stringent energy/building codes from all other places, in areas completely unrelated to things like 'earthquake protection' (or anything reasonably related to California issues)
It absolutely has a high regulatory cost compared to most other places, and past HN, i don't think i've seen anyone dispute this (IE AFAIK, California doesn't dispute it, they simply claim it's worth it)
I've been in plenty of places like SF, which, when under pressure, simply make up statistics or change what they mean.
It's simply not a "fact beyond argument", when the only source of this "fact" are a group with a very strong vested interested in high numbers and a history of not truth telling.
The 100-200 units number only came out after a lot of pushing.
They claim there are 22,000 units in planning/approval as of 2012, and we are 3/4 of the way through 2013.
Combined with the 4000 that were under construction, they should be visible by now somewhere.
Maybe you'd like to point out where you see 20k+ units under construction?
At that many, it should be blindingly obvious. SF is simply not that large, and does not have that much hidden space (open or otherwise).
If you are feeling exceptionally lazy and only have time to look outside your bubble once, go to Market between 7th and 9th. The new building on 8th between Market and Mission has over 1900 units (over 1400 units net of what were demolished) and the one at 55 9th Street has 300 new units on what used to be an empty field.
You also seem like a bit of a dick.
If you can afford to rent a car at the end of your train ride, you can afford a plane ticket.
In my opinion, most likely, the CA rail proposal is just a political folly being undertaken by corruptocrats who have ideas to profit from it.
Yes, the rail would be useful for poor people who want to visit family, but that is not a business case, and does not justify harvesting tens of billions from the innocent citizens of CA. (Even if a tyranny of the majority voted to do it.)
Which is one reason a not-insignificant part of the HSR plan in California is improving commuter rail and other connecting mass-transit systems that will interface with HSR, to reduce exactly that problem.
"A brilliant exploration of new ideas in business argues that government is behind the boldest risks and biggest breakthroughs"
I don't have much of an opinion on this topic, since it seems to me that any large concentration of money and smart people produces innovation (so do lone geniuses). But I thought this article was interesting.
What do most of us in the general public really know about how projects like the high speed rail get on the ballot. A lot of people have their suspicions, but we have to ask ourselves if there was a competitive bid process to determine the best solution.
I, for one, would have voted to throw money into future technologies over current rail solutions. Mostly because I shudder to think how much current tech will be old news in ten years when the high speed rail is completed (if at all).
If we pursue the hyperloop or similar tech, and whether it can be completed or not, at least it would be a first of it's kind and on the cutting edge.
For a major infrastructure product? No, even if they could secure all the requisite permits and funding, which I can only imagine would be a nightmare to all but the wealthiest entrants, urban development would make actually putting the thing in the ground its own immense obstacle. The government uses the long-established practice of eminent domain to ensure that its projects may proceed unimpeded. Private industry doesn't have that, and we shouldn't consider giving it to them.
Building railroads (road networks, etc.) over non-trivial spans of land is practically impossible without active government support. Even if California doesn't build HSR, private efforts without government involvement would be pretty much impossible.
Given how long it takes to build large scale infrastructure, and given that Hyperloop is still at a primitive stage as technology (the fact that the paper just released calls, as a next step, for reduced-scale testing to demonstrate the physics, whereas HSR is a widely-used, well-established technology with multiple vendors), its more of a long-term successor to HSR than a concurrent competitor.
OTOH, its true that HSR being built would reduce the problems that provide the incentives to build Hyperloop.
not true at all, since, it would be too expensive to run at volume to help any significant amount of traffic and too expensive for most actual real-world commuters to use (they would just fly at that expense). It would reduce one problem: obtaining a right-of-way, by virtue of making it impossible.
We would owe a debt of gratitude to a hypothetical public transport project for helping to obstruct or kill a real public transport project?
Maybe I'm naive... or maybe Musk for all his genius is focused on the Government grants too much instead of being focused on the investors in the business world.
If this brings profit, everybody want to own piece of the pie, no?
(2) A CA-sponsored bond issue must be by far the lowest cost way to finance a $7B infrastructure project that's amortized over 30 years.
It's called a "public-private partnership" and it's not completely impossible but it does require some person or persons to cough up the cash.
Because you can't, in practice, acquire the rights of way necessary to build a substantial railroad/hyperloop/freeway or other major infrastructure project of that type without government (specifically, without use of eminent domain).
few investors would touch this. It doesn't fit into any investment category that's approved.
There are infrastructure funds but they're looking for sleepy assets. Stuff like toll roads and ports that have an established operating history and are supposed to be low risk.
This is a whole different animal. It's almost infrastructure VC. I don't see how this fits in any part of the institutional world. That leaves wealthy individuals and I don't think there'd be a lot of interest there. They're looking at Berkshire and steady growth vs. an investment in speculative infrastructure. I could see $10M investments but I think it'd be hard to get people to put a big chuck of their net worth into it, which is what you need (i.e. you need a couple people putting in $1-2B). Furthermore, historically public transportation hasn't been very profitable. Realistically you probably need the state to build it.
If you're traveling at 600 mph, you do not want to have that tunnel unexpectedly move even a foot sideways during an earthquake.
You still need government permission to use the median like that.
Not to mention it's got to be really close to a strait track so your more dealing with scraping forces than a direct strike.
Compare what would have happened if Tesla needed to raise $500m from private investment at the start. Musk would have been diluted up front.
This is a classic example of socializing the risk while privatizing the profits. Yes, Musk is a smart guy with plenty of great ideas and good execution. But he's also plenty good at funneling government money to himself.
The government makes these investments all the time. In fact, usually the (barely implicit) goal of government funding is to also encourage job and wealth growth. $12 million isn't much of a return, but even revenue neutral is a win for the average government investment. And, like the tax breaks to encourage people to buy the very cars the government was helping pay to produce, the idea is to help kickstart an industry that might not have the differential to self-start, but has the potential to eventually be self sustaining and bring outsize benefits compared to the investment. Basically the same reason we fund basic science research as well.
And again, this is highly selective outrage. You can disagree with the whole category of government-sponsored industry, but you have a bit of an uphill battle there. Meanwhile, there are far more "classic" examples all around, not to mention the two other major car companies that together received nearly 16x what Tesla received and have so far not exactly put in a great showing for the industry-creating change that money was supposed to help fund.
That said, the interest was low, but it was meant as a public good. Without Tesla, I very much doubt the big car companies would be pushing out their own EVs on nearly as aggressive a timescale.
They had a loan program to kick-start electric vehicles. One of their loans was largely responsible for the existence of Tesla and its ensuing success. The loan was paid back.
Should the government have been more profit-maximizing? Do we want civil servants taking large equity stakes in private companies? We fund research (both directly and through the university system) all the time with the understanding that the net benefits to society outweigh the direct costs of the programs.
AFAIC Tesla upheld their end of the bargain and society is up by quite a bit. This is in stark contrast to other bullshit that the US government has funded which is wasteful at best. War, war on drugs, war on privacy, bankers, ...
Or just have Jobs resurrected. This way we save $1B on the "fees" and he'll talk the Government officials into this for free. They'll think they get the best deal in the world once Steve is done talking to them and the Distortion Field is permanently present in the Government heads.
Someone get me his phone number right this moment.
When you consider the growth in air travel, and the fuel options for air travel, the Hyperloop IS effectively a low emission energy source. I suspect he's more than interested.