Technical Feasibility Update of Hyperloop Pods Good but Political Hurdles Remain

A reassuring update that the physics of the Hyperloop is indeed correct: http://m.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2013/09/18/dont-listen-to-the-doubters.html?r=full

“Ansys ran the specifications through its software and didn’t see any red flags, said Sandeep Sovani, the director of land transportation strategy at Ansys.”

Thats great! All we need is real working test hyperloop! However…. there is dark part at the end of the article…

“That means it’s probably viable as far as physics are concerned. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily make it commercially viable, or even doable given NIMBYism and CEQA lawsuits.

The laws of physics are not as demanding in some ways as the laws governing development, as California’s own troubled high-speed rail project proves.”

Will people mind graceful arches across the landscape? Sure would be better than a highway or freight railway in my opinion.

So at the end of the day, it is a political hearts and minds mountain to summit. That is why Colorado is perfect for testing the system, we are a mile high citizenry, our goals are set high.

More on Colorado Flood of 2013: Federal Agency Response on Railway Lines

Another article from the Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24106977/colorado-floods-wash-out-tracks-delay-train-service.

Due to the flooding, cargo and passengers are being rerouted and shuttled to their destination with delays and unknown status of various rail lines.  Its been interesting to hear the response to the disaster by various government entities.  “Federal Railroad Administration made a declaration of an emergency for Colorado because of the flood threat to rail lines.”

I didn’t even know there was a Federal Railroad Administration. I wonder what kind of agency would be created for a national hyperloop system, or would it just go under the Railroad Administration… is the Department of Transportation ready for such a new way of serving the country?

From the Federal Railroad Administration website
“The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. It is one of ten agencies within the U.S. Department ofTransportation concerned with intermodal transportation.  FRA promotes safe,environmentally sound, successful railroad transportation to meet the needs of all customers today and tomorrow.” http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L04759

Would it be better for a sub-agency under the DOT to be created to guide the development and maintenance of a national hyperloop system? What are the pro’s and con’s of the other great infrastructure projects federal management systems?

Could a hyperloop agency be more digital-online and more transparent than the railways currently?

I would hope so! 

Denver Post Editorial on Kinds of Taxes for Transportation

The editorial below lists some important points regarding regional transportation funding.

Could a hyperloop system in Colorado be funded and operated by entirely private organization? Is it better to have a transportation infrastructure project be paid for by citizens and government or something like E-470? (Wikipedia says E-470 is “E-470 Public Highway Authority, which is controlled by a governing board of ten elected officials, three from each county and one from Aurora. Construction and operation involves no state or federal funding or taxes.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-470

Despite technological hurdles of R&D, the total cost of the system by Elon Musk’s example hyperloop in California is significantly smaller than any other rail or transportation project. Surly there are examples of private transportation infrastructure.

At least the editorial provides a glimpse into how the current fiscal outlook for Colorado will be for the years to come. It doesn’t look very promising for rural areas in either their road and bridge repairs nor future projects like the hyperloop and its connection points to medium sized population centers.

For Colorado roads, fuel tax trumps sales tax – The Denver Post:

‘via Blog this’

“We’re glad a coalition of city and county officials across Colorado is talking about whether it’s time to ask voters for more money to fix our roads and pay for transit projects.

But we’re less enamored with seeking a sales tax hike to do it.

As reported by The Denver Post’s Monte Whaley, that is the current proposal being floated by MPACT64, a coalition that includes the Metro Mayors Caucus and groups representing counties from around the state.

The coalition is proposing a 0.7 percent state sales tax for up to 15 years to generate about $605 million a year, two-thirds of which would go into a state fund. Sixty percent of that money would go for state road projects while 22 percent would go to counties and 18 percent to cities.

The remaining third of the sales tax hike would go for transit projects, which could include helping fund items like the Regional Transportation District’s Northwest Rail Line from Denver to Longmont. RTD may not finish that project for decades with its current funding.

We don’t dispute the need for additional road funding. The Colorado Department of Transportation in 2010 said 52 percent of highways were in poor shape. CDOT estimates it needs another $800 million a year to keep up with road repairs, carry out rural road safety projects and relieve congestion.

Meanwhile, CDOT’s funding from the federal gas tax has been staying essentially flat because the tax has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. And the state fuel tax, at 22 cents per gallon, has not been increased since 1991.

Neither tax is indexed for inflation, so while the price of fuel has increased considerably since the early 1990s, gas taxes make up a smaller proportion per gallon.

Fuel tax collections also have been going down because cars are becoming more fuel efficient, and federal standards will require they become even more so. And for the first time in decades, Americans are actually driving less.

Still, we would favor an increase in the gas tax over a general state sales tax hike, which hits the poor hardest and doesn’t place the burden on those who use the roads.

Relying on a sales tax for road funding also limits the potential for local governments to ask voters to increase sales taxes to fund services that actually ought to be funded by the larger populace.

But as MPACT64 officials tell us, increasing the gas tax is unpopular with the public, polling shows. A sales tax hike polls far better, bad public policy aside.

In addition to fuel taxes, we’d be willing to look at other kinds of user fees, such as a vehicle-miles traveled, or VMT, tax based on how much you drive. Despite what you may have heard, there are ways to implement a VMT tax without Big Brother tracking you.

We understand polling may show voters would rather support a sales tax hike than increasing the gas tax, but we still think a user-based fee or tax is the right choice.”

Update on Colorado Flooding Natural Disasters

In a previous post I discussed different natural disasters that might affect the hyperloop in Colorado. After watching the incredible destruction of Colorado communities due to the flooding of the last week, I have revised the post to include: 

  • Floods (espically flast flooding in mountain areas, while rare, are to be taken very seriously)
The Denver Post has another great article on the history of flash floods in Colorado. 
Some people find it hard to reconcile floods with Colorado’s arid reputation, but they are a recurring problem. And as the Colorado Water Conservation Board notes, “flood-prone areas have been identified in 267 cities and towns and in all … 64 counties.”
Indeed, many of the dams best known to metro readers, including Chatfield, Cherry Creek and Bear Creek, were built with flood mitigation as a major goal.
This week’s floods recall some of this state’s historic flashflood tragedies, several of which actually took many more lives. The Big Thompson flood of 1976 was the deadliest, killing 144 and leaving many others injured.
Flood mitigation and communications have improved considerably since then, but not enough to overcome the brute force of nature. So the latest floods will be a learning experience, too, that hopefully can be put to use the next time the long rains arrive.”
Growing up in the Cherry Creek floodplain path, I have always been keenly aware that a disaster of the dam breaking could make a wall of water head straight for my home and Lodo. The very foundation of our house is on top of old sandy flood deposited sediments. 
I hope development into these floodplains are limited in the future, and future transportation systems are hardened if they go into these areas. 

Convert old unused rail line to a testbed hyperloop system in Boston

Using older rail lines to act as the future lines for the Hyperloop. Boston will be doing it, but using a self propelled diesel locomotive seems a bit crazy… its a three mile line. They should test out a new tech…. like a small hyperloop…

Also, the name of the locomotive is a Colorado Railcar. Seriously, a ” Colorado Railcar” should be the name a hyperloop pod!

http://www.wbur.org/2013/09/06/boston-seaport-train-proposal

http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/09/05/state-begin-innovative-rail-service-between-seaport-district-and-back-bay/oHUinYj30lzOV6KNCQUMEJ/story.html

The commenters in both articles balk at the use of a diesel locomotive for such a short distance. Unfortunently, Boston wants to keep costs down… even though they will make so much money of tickets. This is a great opportunity to test out cutting edge tech and will make Boston much more competitive. But let’s first do it in Colorado! 

Colorado HyperLoop System VS Colorado Weather

A Key aspect to the hyperloop is its resilience against weather that can knock out physical infrastructure, power and communications services.

The torrential rain overnight along the front range has led to a lot of damage and chaos and fatalities. Newscasters repeatedly said that they had never seen the diverse amount of traffic accidents, closures, and mudslides along roads in the corridors and plains.

http://www.9news.com/news/article/354818/339/Roads-washed-out-2-killed-in-flash-flooding

The hyperloop system depends on elevated tubing, which fortunately for flooding, will enable it to stay high and dry.  However if flooding or embankment erosion causes a pylon to fall or fail, the hyperloop tubing will fail as well. Washout areas will need special engineering for the pylons or possible bridges. Also, the station terminals would be at the base of the pylon and be at risk of weather.

But broadly speaking, lets look at other weather problems and gauge their effect on the hyperloop system.

Types natural disasters that might affect the hyperloop are color coded by severity, red being the most severe, yellow moderate, and green as least.

  • Drought 
  • Wildfires
  • Extreme Heat
  • Extreme Storms and Extreme Cold
  • Hurricanes
  • Thunderstorms and Lighting 
  • Severe Weather (micro bursts, blizzards)
  • Floods (espically flast flooding in mountain areas, while rare, are to be taken very seriously)
  • Earthquakes
  • Space Weather (could overpower electrical grid)
  • Landslides, Debris Flow, Avalanches
  • Tornadoes
  • Tsunamis (not a valid concern in Colorado!)
  • Volcanoes

The above will affect the hyperloop.  Some other weather that might not affect the hyperloop but will affect how people will access it and the stations:

  • Fog or Smog
  • Smoke
  • Cloudiness
  • Rain
  • Snow 
  • Ice
  • Sleet or Hail
  • Severe Crosswinds
  • Blowing Snow
  • Blowing Sand, Soil or Dirt
  • Sun Glare 

So it is important to note that the hyperloop system could be engineered in a way to avoid the chaos that causes other transportation infrastructure problems to highways, streets, rail, and flights it is indeed affected by the secondary weather effects listed directly above.

http://www.ready.gov/winter-weather

It is also important to note the Elon Musks hyperloop design was based on it being powered by solar panels ontop of the tube.

The kinds of weather that affect solar panels are:

  • Geographic location and sunlight
  • Snowfall
  • Cloud Cover
  • Smog
  • Air Density (Colorado has better solar exposure than sea level due to the light not being scattered in the dense air. 
  • Temperature
  • Fog Frequency 
  • Wind (Strength to damage the panels and its cooling effect) 

http://www.allsolarpanels.org/articles/8-climate-factors-affecting-solar-panel-performance/

Luckily, Colorado has over 300 days of sunshine a year. The flooding that has happened is terrible but a above ground enclosed transport system will prevent some of the damage to critical parts and function.

Crowdsourcing Hyperlink!

Yes! Just read http://www.ed.ac.uk/alumni/services/news/news/proscience and learned that a group wants to start finding it… but the article doesnt have a direct link, so waiting on that…

Could colorado find the money to build it too? Should I start the crowdfunding initiative?

ohhh just found a link with more details…

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markrogowsky/2013/08/29/a-southern-california-startup-is-trying-to-jump-start-elon-musks-hyperloop/
The Forbes article goes more in debth:

“The good news for those excited by Musk’s idea is that a small Southern California startup called JumpStartFund, which mixes elements of Kickstarter-like funding and the “wisdom of the crowd” to refine an idea has picked up the Hyperloop concept and will try to advance it closer to reality.

Musk developed the Hyperloop concept with the help of engineers from his two companies and it turns out Andrew Quintero, one of the principals at JumpStartFund, knows Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s President and COO. Through that connection, Quintero apparently suggested JumpStart could try to run with the concept and, literally and figuratively, get the elevated train-like system off the ground. For JumpStartFund, which itself is just getting going, Hyperloop is a bit more ambitious than most of its putative projects, but in a way it fits right in.”

So I guess its a go…How do I insert myself into it…

One Page Proposal, for Leading Edge Globalization

This is kind of a Sci-Fi post. In it I imagine Hyperloop systems. Having multiple Hyperloops enabled better and more efficient travel. 

Goal: 
Make the worlds fastest means to travel, that uses the least energy, enabled a new wave of globalization that was predicted but unimaginable in its rapid change. 
Summary:
By Connecting the major population centers, world politics changed dramatically because people were taken by surprise of the dramatic democratization that resulted in this seemingly expensive travel means. 
Via the cheap solar energy consumption of the hyperloop, it enabled incredibly cheap travel. The worlds population changed to become more aware of the environment, refugees, global health and lowering economic poverty. Tourist became a lifestyle. 
Status: 
Government became more transparent, the hyperloop strengthened community ownership via its many hubs and transfer points around the globe. The builders of the system forged strong partnerships with the carbon neutral engineers. The system is founded on its self-sustainable and efficient system. In a sense it enabled every citizen that the hyperloop whisked away to integrate social entrepreneurship into their lives. The maintenance and social interaction of visitors helped communities remain accountable to their own community, but also cultivated ownership of their new community. 
Action Requested:
 Money to make a test system in Colorado. Rapid testing and prototyping. 
Thus, the reason why I have such an optimistic and utopian view of humanity post hyperloop build is because of this: Survey of Earliest Human Settlements Undermines Claim That War Has Deep Evolutionary Roots. Specifically “research nonetheless contradicts simplistic arguments that war is the inevitable result of competition for resources or innate male aggression.” Hyperloop won’t eliminate war but I think it will indeed contribute to making wars smaller, exactly what Small Wars Journal mission is about: “War is never purely military, but today’s Small Wars are even less pure with the greater inter-connectedness of the 21st century.” about: http://smallwarsjournal.com/content/about

More Hyperloop and Safety Considerations for Airless Systems

Another 9News story on ET3.

http://www.9news.com/news/article/352342/339/Longmont-co-paves-way-for-space-travel-on-earth

Great to have the public hear more about this, but one sad thing is that the first test platform could be built in Las Vegas. Why not along the front range? Where it will be a demonstrator and useful for the inhabitants. Building it in Las Vegas reeks of tourist attraction gimmick, people will think its a gamble…

Also I wonder what happens when a capsule traveling through am air evacuated hyperloop encounters a breach or a mass of air molecules. Would it crumple the compartment? Would it force the air back out the whole and rupture the tube even more? All I know is that I like Elon Musk’s design with air. It provides at least a bit of safety margin if there is a rupture in the seal.

Anyway, any Press is good Press.

A Boulder County Monorail and two VIP Coloradioians

Did not know about this: SkyTran Colorado, a unit of Mountain View, Calif.-based SkyTran Inc wants to build a monorail between Boulder and Longmont. Good timing to ride on the wave of hyperloop PR.

SkyTran is a three person pod, and CDOT says they’re open to the idea not only on the plains but also in the mountains. More articles here http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2013/08/skytran_boulder_longmont.php and  here http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2013/08/hyperloop_daryl_oster_elon_musk_colorado.php, the general theme is that there two Colorado CEO that have invented this industry. the reason why these ideas of hyperloops and monorails are because:

Evacuated Hyperloop Transport, E3T, developed by Daryl Oster, in Louisville.

SkyTran Colorado CEO R. Paul Williamson.

Maybe these two companies should work together…or I should interview them…respectivly.

http://www.9news.com/rss/story.aspx?storyid=351517