New President, New Hyperloop

No more Front Range Smog...

Without getting too political, The New York Times has an article how the Trump Administration could set goals for massive infrastructure projects.  In Trump-Size Idea for a New President: Build Something Inspiring, we read that Colorado is mentioned for one such project:

Denver I-70 east: Denver is trying to put a section of Interstate 70 underground to reconnect the city’s urban fabric and use four acres of the reclaimed space for parks, bike paths and walks, and farmers’ markets. The green space could be much larger, further reducing pollution. Cost: $1.17 billion.

I would like to point out that the Hyperloop is probably the cleanest and fastest transit option ever… but it would not necessary be on I-70 axis, more of a I-25 North-South corridor. But imagine less noise and pollution more Parks and GreenWays along I-25!

For investing improvements for I-70 and I-25,  CDOT needs to balance projected growth along these corridors and balance political views between rural and urban areas (read economic):

Cities are trending Democratic and are on an upward economic shift, with growing populations and rising property values. Rural areas are increasingly Republican, steadily shedding population for decades, and as commodity and energy prices drop, increasingly suffering economically.

The political divide goes even deeper than simply between the two parties.

“The urban-rural split this year is larger than anything we’ve ever seen,” said Scott Reed, a political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who has advised previous GOP campaigns.

Will people in rural areas feel that a city connecting hyperloop will benefit them? What kind of support will these groups give to a new infrastructure that includes city centric hyperloops?

Conversely, will city based advocates against costly highway lanes, but for pedestrian friendly cities support the hyperloop?

Also, to note is the role of national infrastructure advocacy groups. They will try and shape urban and rural transit policy. Yet these too are sometimes split in supporting new infrastructure goals for a new administration.

Finally, there would be those that would point to bolstering already present infrastructure and private  company services like Greyhound busses, espically within Colorado. 

So it is up to CDOT to plan on how to work with a new Federal priority list. But there is already chatter, and outright public backing of a certain hyperloop company, as well as in the greater Hyperloop community that a Trump administration might be pro-hyperloop.

Hickenlooper Focuses on Issues of Rural Colorado, Transportation in State of the State

Priorities of the Governor of Colorado, Transportation

Governor Hickenlooper’s State of the State address, the medusa like TABOR continues to drag any new Colorado initiatives to a legislative thrashing of poisonous paralysis. Even without TABOR, everyone, including the Governor is worried about traffic congestion, specifically I-25 and I-70:

Add to the equation 2 million more residents projected to join us over the next 20 years, and we’ve got a math problem.  Our population grew by over 100,000 last year alone, so we need to invest now to ease congestion and mobility for today and tomorrow.   

We have transportation issues up and down I-25, along I-70 and other high-volume traffic corridors throughout the state.  

If we’re going to get these projects done, we must find new funding sources and leverage partnerships to pay for them.

Perfect timing for a Colorado Hyperloop to alleviate traffic!

Here’s an idea: TABOR will only go away with the support of rural Coloradans. So if the hyperloop is built along I-70, rural areas will improve because the state wide tax base due to more populated front range cities will enable rural parts of Colorado to get more money out of their elected members.

The Colorado Independent has a great summary of the response from the Governor’s charge:

Gov. John Hickenlooper used his annual State of the State speech last Thursday to chide lawmakers for failing to compromise last session on the state’s most pressing issues: the state’s budget, which he believes will have to be cut in 2016-17, changes to a hospital provider fee that could free up $1 billion over five years for transportation and education, and reforms to a state construction defects law that developers say prevents them from building affordable condominiums.
Last year’s partisan gridlock was due largely to split control of the General Assembly. It’s the same for this year – Republicans have a one-vote majority in the state Senate, and Democrats hold a three-vote advantage in the state House.
While democracy “wasn’t designed to be argument-free,” it also “isn’t designed to be combative to its own detriment,” Hickenlooper said. “Our conflicts aren’t serving us,” either at the state Capitol or in Washington, D.C. “We used to take pride in compromise…but in today’s politics we revel in getting our way without giving an inch, and stopping the other guy from getting anything done.”
Coloradans excel at working together after a tragedy, but that shouldn’t be the only reason lawmakers compromise on the state’s biggest challenges, Hickenlooper said.
The budget will be the focus of this year’s session. While the state’s economy is among the strongest in the nation, lawmakers anticipate issuing refunds to taxpayers as part of the 2016-17 budget. Those refunds, according to legislative economists, could range from $25 to $125 for individual taxpayers, depending on income levels.
At the same time, however, the state is nearly $900 million short of meeting constitutional requirements for funding K-12 education, and more than $3 billion is needed for critical roads and infrastructure repairs. In addition, Hickenlooper’s budget proposes increasing the K-12 funding shortfall by another $50 million, erasing the progress made last year in reducing the shortage.
Those dollars won’t come out of nowhere.
Hickenlooper’s solution: changing the state’s hospital provider fee, a per-bed surcharge paid by the state’s public and private hospitals, matched with federal dollars and then re-distributed to hospitals that provide medical care to the indigent. Hickenlooper and Democrats want to see the fee reclassified as an enterprise, akin to a state-run business, a provision allowed under TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Were the provider fee reclassified, it would free up about $1 billion in revenue over the next five years that Democrats say could go to K-12 education and transportation. Hickenlooper pleaded with lawmakers to address the issue.
While Democrats, business groups and the governor believe TABOR allows the change, Republicans, including Senate President Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs and Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, oppose it, calling it a maneuver to get around TABOR.

Hickenlooper spoke about rural Colorado concerns throughout the speech.
He highlighted the state’s Rural Economic Development Initiative program, which last year helped bring 100 jobs to Costilla County. Hickenlooper also discussed the effort to expand broadband services to “every corner and corral” in Colorado, by leveraging federal dollars, state assets and with the help of telecommunications reform laws passed in 2014.
Becker praised Hickenlooper’s frequent references to rural Colorado. “It’s rural Colorado that is suffering,” Becker said, adding that growth that has boosted the Front Range economy hasn’t made its way to the Eastern Plains.

Major Financing Funneling Into Hyperloop Development Companies

Hyperloop Tech

Seems like California and Texas are beating Colorado in development of Hyperloop technologies and routes. Below is the earth shaking news as reported by Bruce Upbin of Forbes:

Hyperloop Is Real: Meet The Startups Selling Supersonic Travel

From startup to the speed of sound: Hyperloop Technologies CTO Brogan BamBrogan and Co-Chairman Shervin Pishevar
The majestic Senate majority leader suite in the U.S. Capitol was still Harry Reid’s in September when he eagerly scooched his leather chair across the Oriental rug to gaze at something that, he was told, would change transportation forever.

Former SpaceX engineer Brogan BamBrogan (yes, that’s his legal name) pulled out his iPad for a preview. Two business partners, the half-billionaire venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar and former White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, carefully studied the powerful senator’s reaction. Even Mark Twain, a onetime riverboat pilot whose portrait hung over Reid’s desk, eyed the proceedings warily.

“What’s that?” asked Reid, sitting up, animatedly pointing at the iPad. BamBrogan’s home screen showed a photo of a desert plain with dazed and dusty half-dressed people wandering around at sunrise.

“Er, that’s Burning Man,” the engineer responded, then clued in the 75-year-old politician to the techno-hippie carnival that takes place pre-Labor Day in the Black Rock Desert of Reid’s home state of Nevada.

BamBrogan’s formal presentation was even wilder, a vision for efficiently moving people or cargo all over the Southwest, to start, and the world, eventually, at rates approaching the speed of sound.

At the end of the 60-minute pitch Reid sat back and smiled. That’s when Pishevar leaned in, asking the senator to introduce him to a Nevada businessman who owned a 150-mile right of way from Vegas to California for a high-speed train. Reid said he would, and they shook on it. And thus fell another obstacle in the group’s fast-moving efforts to actualize what until recently had seemed not much more than geek fantasy: the hyperloop.

You remember the hyperloop, don’t you? It’s that far-out idea billionaire industrialist Elon Musk proposed in a 58-page white paper in August 2013 for a vacuum-tube transport network that could hurtle passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles at 760 miles an hour. Laughed off as science fiction, it is as of today an actual industry with three legitimate groups pushing it forward, including Hyperloop Technologies, the team in Harry Reid’s office. They emerge from “stealth” mode with this article, armed with an $8.5 million war chest and plans for a $80 million round later this year. “We have the team, the tools and the technology,” says BamBrogan. “We can do this.” The 21st-century space race is on.

It’s hard to overstate how early this all is. There are dozens of engineering and logistical challenges that need solving, from earthquake-proofing to rights-of-way to alleviating the barf factor that comes with flying through a tube at transonic speeds.

Yet it’s equally hard to overstate how dramatically the hyperloop could change the world. The first four modes of modern transportation–boats, trains, motor vehicles and airplanes–brought progress and prosperity. They also brought pollution, congestion, delay and death. The hyperloop, which Musk dubs “the fifth mode,” would be as fast as a plane, cheaper than a train and continuously available in any weather while emitting no carbon from the tailpipe. If people could get from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 20 minutes, or New York to Philly in 10, cities become metro stops and borders evaporate, along with housing price imbalances and overcrowding. (Click image to enlarge graphic.)


The only thing this geek fantasy is missing: Musk. With his hands full simultaneously running Tesla Motors and SpaceX, he’s left it to others to make his theory a reality. He declined to comment for this story. But his fingerprints are on each of the groups vying to build the hyperloop, even though they couldn’t be more different.

Hyperloop Technologies is the Dream Team, enlisting a formidable lineup of Silicon Valley and Washington superstars, most with a strong connection to Musk. Pishevar, the 40-year-old poised to break into the billionaire ranks thanks to his investment in Uber, is a Musk intimate and the one who forced his friend to reveal publicly his hyperloop vision in the first place. His new Sherpa Ventures fund led Hyperloop Technologies’ seed round, along with Formation 8, overseen by Joe Lonsdale, another young (FORBES 30 Under 30) centimillionaire hyperloop enthusiast and cofounder of big-data colossus Palantir. Now add Messina, who oversaw President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign; cochairman David Sacks, who worked under Musk at PayPal before scoring big at Yammer; Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation, on whose board Musk sits; and BamBrogan, who until recently was one of Musk’s key SpaceX engineers. Musk has received regular updates from this group. President Obama has been briefed as well.

Even more surprising than the platinum-plated roster: Hyperloop Tech’s initial mission. They intend to go way beyond Musk’s original vision and focus first on freight rather than human transportation. This high-speed “cargoloop” could go over land or under water. Imagine submerged skeins of steel tubes crisscrossing the ocean or up and down the coasts hurtling shipping containers at near supersonic speeds. Need iPhones? Press a button and a container-load is on its way from Shenzhen overnight.

Against this establishment lineup of all-stars, Dirk Ahlborn’s scrappy crew feels like the Bad News Bears. Also based in L.A. and boasting a similar name, his Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has the numbers: 200 engineers, designers and others who for the past year have essentially crowdsourced the hyperloop. Launched with a call to arms on Ahlborn’s site JumpStartFund, HTT now has permanent moonlighters from Cisco, Boeing and Harvard who work strictly for equity. They’re organized into a federation of teams tackling different aspects of the hyperloop: financial models, route optimization, cabin and station design, capsule engineering. “At a certain point we’ll need a full-time team and to raise money,” says Ahlborn, “but right now it’s working well.” HTT plans to present its latest work at big railroad trade shows in Dubai and Johannesburg later this year.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn

Meanwhile, a group of Musk’s own SpaceX engineers have been agitating to get in on the action. So in January Musk announced cryptic plans to fund the construction of a hyperloop test track in Texas, with no date specified. Just as Musk “open-sourced” his initial hyperloop concept in 2013, he says he plans to make the track, which will be designed for scaled-down capsules, available to any group that wants to test a design.

The vision for the Texas test track is something out of Star Wars–pod racers flying through the air, would-be rebel forces facing off against the Empire. Which isn’t a bad analogy for this whole nascent business. “We’re peering into a process that hasn’t happened before,” says Pishevar. “It has risk, but this is an idea that can change the world.”

Sci-fi writers and other dreamers have long envisioned fast, tubular travel. Rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard in 1909 wrote a paper that wasn’t too far off from Musk’s proposal. In 1972 Robert Salter of the RAND Corp. conceived a supersonic transcontinental underground railway called the Vactrain. Shervin Pishevar was one of those dreamers. Back in the dot-com era he floated an idea called Pipex, a network of pneumatic tubes that would shuttle important documents around San Francisco. It didn’t go anywhere.

But Pishevar has. Mention his name around Silicon Valley and you might well get an eye roll. A big-hearted oversharer quick with hugs, tears and humble-brags, he drops the names of celebrity friends (Jay Z, Edward Norton, Sean Penn) likes dimes in a jukebox.

“He’s unquestionably a promoter,” says one Valley investor who’s done deals with him. “But there are many good things that come from being a promoter.” Ask anyone at Menlo Ventures, where Pishevar engineered one of the $4 billion venture firm’s greatest investments ever, in a then-small-but-growing taxi app called Uber.

Pishevar was initially turned down by Uber and its backers when it closed its second round of funding at the end of 2011. Pishevar was giving a talk in Algeria when he got a call from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, saying he was back in if he could come meet Kalanick in Dublin. Pishevar grabbed the next flight to Ireland. “I didn’t really know Shervin, [but] I was getting e-mails from him and intros from everybody he knows,” Kalanick told FORBES in 2012. “I met with him because I had to.” The two hit it off, walking the streets of Dublin for hours. They signed a term sheet in the wee hours of the morning. Menlo left with an estimated 8% of Uber, at a valuation of $290 million. The company is now worth $42 billion. “I always tell people: Lesson number one: Get on that plane,’” says Pishevar, whose Uber and other holdings are worth about $500 million.

That score is the capstone of this immigrant’s rags-to-riches American dream. Pishevar was six when his mother fled post-revolution Iran in 1980, toting him and his two siblings. His father, who had run a big part of Iran’s TV network under the Shah, had barely escaped a year earlier and was driving a cab in Washington, D.C. His mother, a teacher, got a job as a maid at a Ramada Inn. Pishevar’s English was so bad that his second-grade teacher threatened to hold him back until his father pressed her to let him move up. By the time he was 10, though, he was calling local radio stations and debating Middle Eastern politics. “I think he was born 40 years old,” says his brother Afshin, who sold his law firm to move to L.A. as Hyperloop’s general counsel.

After graduating from Berkeley in 1998, Pishevar returned to Maryland and started a series of companies, including an early operating system, WebOS, as well as the Social Gaming Network and, which eventually sold to Vistaprint for $117.5 million. In 2007 he moved to San Francisco and began writing small checks to startups on the side. Menlo Ventures hired him as an investing partner in June 2011, and he got the San Francisco firm into Tumblr, Warby Parker and Uber.

Two years ago Pishevar raised $153 million to start his own fund, Sherpa Ventures, with former Goldman Sachs venture investor Scott Stanford. Rather than only backing existing startups, their idea was to build new companies from scratch around talented people. One of the first ideas he put in motion: Hyperloop Tech.

The hyperloop startup has a typically Pishevar provenance. Over the past few years he’s inserted himself in Hollywood’s self-important diplomat set, traveling with Sean Penn to Benghazi to meet Libyan rebels who fought Qaddafi and to Tahrir Square to rally with Egyptian protesters. In January 2012 he and Penn were riding on Elon Musk’s private jet to Cuba to pressure the Castro government to release some American prisoners. En route, Pishevar pushed Musk about when he was going to tackle the hyperloop, a project the billionaire had been privately dropping hints about for almost a year.

“He said he didn’t have time to do it himself. So I said, I’ll do it. I’d love to do it.’” Over the next six months Pishevar kept on Musk to publish his hyperloop research, but Musk kept begging off, saying he was too busy. Pishevar being Pishevar, he forced the issue: In May 2013 at the AllThingsD conference, Musk had again avoided the subject of the hyperloop onstage. So Pishevar got to the microphone first for the audience Q&A [at 50:07]: “Elon, there is one idea you have that we’ve discussed before, which is hyperloop. I would love for you to tell this audience what this is and how it could change our world.” Suddenly on the spot, Musk stumbled through a description and reluctantly promised to release the report by August. The idea was now public.

A rendering of an undersea hyperloop tube. Hyperloop Tech is mulling the idea of a Pacific up the California coast (or even all the way to China).
A rendering of an undersea hyperloop tube. Hyperloop Tech is mulling the idea of a Pacific up the California coast (or even all the way to China).

And when he did release his report, the Internet exploded with commentary, praise and snark. No matter, as Pishevar began putting the hype in hyperloop. A major Democratic Party donor, he turned a meeting with President Obama at the White House into a 30-minute hyperloop pitch. The President vowed to read Musk’s report that night, according to Pishevar, and the next week asked the Office of Science & Technology Policy to review the idea. He pulled a similar stunt on Larry Page while on the Google founder’s yacht as they watched the America’s Cup race in San Francisco Bay.

Pishevar’s persistence began paying off. Lonsdale committed to invest money and time. Then came Messina, who was already an outside partner at Sherpa Ventures. “Shervin understood very early on it was a political challenge,” says Messina. “But this is not a typical sell. It’s one of those things that if we do it, it could change everything. If we think on our feet and start moving fast, this is doable. It’s not like flying to Mars.” And when Musk came to Pishevar’s 40th birthday party on a private 850-acre island in the British Virgin Islands, the VC got his blessing to pursue David Sacks, who had been Musk’s COO at PayPal and had just sold Yammer to Microsoft for $1.2 billion.

“I thought I was being asked to join a charitable board,” says Sacks, who eventually joined Pishevar as Hyperloop Tech cochair, “but I realized they were serious about turning this into a business.” While Musk was still officially keeping his distance from all hyperloop projects, he secretly met with Pishevar and Sacks for an update over dinner at the Sunset Tower Hotel in L.A. in April. “Elon felt that if we could prove it could work, even a two- or five-mile prototype, that would overcome any political challenges or regulatory issues,” says Sacks. “But we all agreed we had to prove it first with private money.”

That’s what Pishevar’s money is going toward. The $8.5 million will cover initial engineering and design, with the $80 million to build and operate the test track. But who will build it? Musk’s SpaceX engineers kept telling Pishevar the same name: Brogan.

As with his boss, it’s easy to poke fun of Brogan BamBrogan. The singular name came when the former Kevin Brogan decided last year to merge more than just lives with his new wife, Bambi Liu, now Bambi BamBrogan. He’s got a Sgt. Pepper’s-era handlebar mustache and wears deep v-neck T-shirts and a skeleton key around his neck. But get behind the pretension and you find a world-class engineer, who did all of the design work on the second-stage engine of the Falcon 1 and was the lead architect for the heat shield of the Dragon capsule. “He came up with a design no one had seen before,” says a former SpaceX colleague.

BamBrogan was initially uninterested in Musk’s idea. “I have no interest in helping rich people get from San Francisco to L.A. 20 minutes faster,” sniffs the well-paid engineer. But redrawing cities and the dirty container shipping industry, as Pishevar pitched it? BamBrogan was sold.

Dirk Ahlborn, a tall, easygoing German who bears more than a passing resemblance to Liam Neeson, comes to the world of transformative transportation theory through…pellet stoves. He had run an Italian company in that field, and helped launch an assortment of startups, including a gas-fueled turbine play, after coming to Los Angeles in 2009. When the JOBS Act passed in 2012, he hatched a plan to make the startup process completely open source. His two-year-old JumpStartFund encourages inventors to post their ideas and seek funding or partnerships from the public.

Musk’s white paper was pretty much a public pitch, and Ahlborn jumped on it. A partner introduced him to SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, and she gave the green light for HTT to call for proposals in October 2013. They quickly had a couple hundred volunteers to sort through.

Anyone who works at least ten hours a week gets equity in the company. Ahlborn, based out of Hermosa Beach, Calif., keeps the teams connected through weekly conference calls and shared Google Docs. “Some of them are reluctant to admit to their boss what they’re doing because they have full-time jobs,” he says. HTT has been refining aspects of the project for a year now, releasing its updates on its website. A group of math students at Harvard and other schools built a fairly advanced route-optimization model that plans the cheapest and least nauseating path to link any city-pair. An electric motor company in Portland is working on the capsule’s propulsion system. A team of UCLA architecture students have created scale models of passenger interiors out of wood–but it’s not clear what they’re going to be doing once they’re done with school.

A cost analysis team estimates conservatively that a two-way passenger tube will run $45.3 million per mile. “I believe we’ll find innovations with steel or other materials to bring the price down closer to $20 million per mile,” says Jamen Koos, a Cisco employee who is running HTT’s product management team.

Ahlborn says he has interest from the Mexican government for a 120-mile loop connecting Mexico City to Queretaro, but he’s a long way from firm commitments. Even so, he’s convinced that his crowdsourcing model will not turn off potential customers. “Our 200 people, who know what they’re doing, are performing better than 30 people full-time,” says Ahlborn.

The pros, meanwhile, are already trash-talking. BamBrogan predicts that HTT’s efforts “will be a great source of summer interns for us.” Since August, work at Hyperloop Tech has moved from BamBrogan’s garage, located (naturally) in L.A.’s hipster neighborhood, Los Feliz, to a 6,500-square foot former ice factory in L.A.’s gentrifying arts district, just down the block from a topless bar.

A big breakthrough came following the Harry Reid meeting. The senator introduced the group to Anthony Marnell, who has built all of Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas megaproperties and also served as CEO of the Rio Hotel & Casino. His real passion? Returning passenger rail from the West Coast to Vegas. “I’ve been chasing fast trains around the world for almost 30 years,” he says. Over the past 10 years Marnell and his investors have sunk $50 million of their own money into XpressWest, a proposed 190-mile high-speed link from Sin City to L.A.’s eastern exurbs, mostly to acquire the right-of-way. A hyperloop experiment would be far more interesting. Negotiations are ongoing. “There’s got to be a way for us to work together,” says Marnell.

A deal there would be important given that Musk’s original proposal–the S.F. to L.A. route–isn’t happening. Even discounting the political nuttiness that required 20 years just to get ground broken on California’s high-speed rail project, Musk couldn’t figure out a way to get tubes any closer than an hour from each city. Ramming rights-of-way through already congested cities remains a huge long-term issue with the project. HTT’s artist renderings show Hunger Games-style tubes on pylons crossing New York City’s East River in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. Good luck with that. “I’m convinced hyperloop is doable from a technical standpoint, rights-of-way notwithstanding,” says Justin Gray, an aerospace engineer at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. That’s part of why Hyperloop Tech is focusing on cargo: Since much of the eastbound cargo that goes into the port of Los Angeles travels via rail or road through Las Vegas, that route offers a natural test.

Those are just the beginning of the issues. On the technical side the ride could be a barf rocket at Musk’s upper limit of 4.9 meters per second squared (or 0.5g) of lateral acceleration. Japan’s Tokaido train tops out at 0.67 meters per second squared and goes only 180 miles an hour. You can also forget an entirely carbon-free loop. Musk envisioned lining the tube length with solar panels. According to BamBrogan, the drain from the hyperloop electric propulsion system exceeds what even that many panels could provide. There will need to be grid power, and that means coal.

The technical challenges are also pretty steep. Hyperloop Tech’s capsule is designed to ride on a cushion of air pushed out through the sleds below the capsule. The hard-drive industry offers some models, but no one has used air bearings that move at near transonic speeds outside of a lab. (BamBrogan’s team plans to build a test rig this summer in that area.) And they will have to build the equipment that will make the tubes themselves, since no such machine exists. “I need to hire people who are really good at figuring out what they don’t know,” says BamBrogan.

Such is life in a space race. Things that once seemed impossible have a way of getting done. Musk spent $100 million of his own money to build the Falcon 1 rocket, which failed on its first three times to reach orbit successfully. “It’s time to stop doing photo apps and start doing something for the planet,” says Hyperloop Tech board member Peter Diamandis.

Money won’t be an issue. Pishevar says that once he gets liquid on his Uber stake (IPO, anyone?), he will personally fund half of Hyperloop Tech’s $80 million round. If they or any others then show results, billions will flood in. “We’re looking at the end of one civilization and the beginning of another, and this transportation infrastructure we’re building is the beginning of that new lattice,” says Pishevar, as understated as ever. “There’s no turning back.”


Colorado Capital Can Roll Back Hyperloop via Renewable Energy Standards

News from the Colorado State Capitol of a Senate bill that would effect a solar powered Colorado hyperloop. Senate Bill 44.

The Denver Business Journal reports:

The bill would roll back Colorado’s renewable energy goals, currently set at 30 percent by 2020 for investor-owned utilities, to half of that — or 15 percent. The goal for rural cooperatives, which currently need to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable resources by 2020, would be rolled back to 15 percent under the proposal.

It is ironic that a small group Colorado citizens would want a small portion of their energy bills to contribute more to the “Brown Cloud” along the front range where most of Coloradans live.

Fight Colorado Suburban Sprawl with Hyperloops

The backbone of I-25 is broken. Millennials are wanting other methods of transportation, especially along the whole Colorado Front Range. In the future, new generations will want, use and live near diversified transit in cities that connect to other urban areas.

 Millennials rank access to public transportation a top factor in deciding where to live.

If the Colorado Hyperloop is built, it will be  another positive factor to incentivize young people to move to the state. It will guarantee economic development along the WHOLE front range, not just in Denver or Jeffco.  It also might help control city sprawl.

A New York Times Op-Ed by Vishaan Chakrabarti highlights planning positively for “urban mass transit” from one urban area to another for youths in the future. Below is his op-ed:

FOR all of the attention showered on hipster enclaves like Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Portland, Ore., America is only in the beginning stages of a historic urban reordering. After over a half-century of depopulation, cities have been filling up — and not just with young millennials, but with families and even older workers and retirees.

This reordering, should it continue, will have dramatic consequences for our politics and society — but only if the federal government undertakes its own historic reordering and shifts its priorities away from promoting the suburbs.

The influx of young people into cities is the biggest part of the story, and rightly so. The ranks of the so-called echo boom — the children of the baby boomers — constitute about 25 percent of the population. After nearly 100 years in which suburban growth outpaced urban, millennials are reversing the trend. Once only a fraction of young college graduates wanted to move to cities; now about two-thirds do.

In the past, many of those who moved to cities in their 20s moved to the suburbs in their 30s, where schools were good, crime was low and family-oriented amenities were plentiful. But those factors are changing in cities, too. Crime has remained low, while public schools and parks have been getting better in many places.

Meanwhile, the economic challenges of starting a life in the suburbs have grown. Mortgages and car loans are harder to get for millennials, especially as they deal with onerous college debt. Though rents are increasing, it’s easier to rent an apartment in the city and take a bus or subway to work (millennials are also delaying the decision to have kids, which makes compact urban living easier).

Environmentally, the traumas of Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon spill, the geopolitics of imported energy and the perils of domestic energy extraction all argue for a lifestyle that is more resource-efficient, particularly for parents focused on teaching their children to be aware of the world around them.

The same can be said for social values. Cities were once cast as dying places in contrast to the glowing suburban future; today, the future, inasmuch as it is tied in with issues like cultural diversity and marriage equality, is centered in the urban core.

It is significant enough that young people are choosing to start the next phase of their lives in cities. But increasingly, so are their parents. No less immune to the economic shocks of the last decade, and with longer life spans and bigger health bills before them, downsizing empty nesters are also discovering the benefits of more compact living.

Given these demographic shifts, we have an unsurpassed opportunity to transform the United States into a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable country by encouraging a more urban America.

A staggering 90 percent of our gross domestic product and 86 percent of our jobs are generated in 3 percent of the continental United States, namely our cities. The carbon footprint of most urbanites is substantially lower. And cities are providing, however imperfectly, many more opportunities to climb the social ladder than our increasingly impoverished suburbs.

Unfortunately, our state and federal policies continue to encourage the opposite. Sprawl didn’t just happen — it is a direct consequence of “big government.” Cities don’t keep the wealth they generate: Our major cities send billions more in tax dollars to the suburbs, via state and federal coffers, than they get back.

The largest subsidy in the federal system is the mortgage interest deduction, about $100 billion annually. Gas taxes don’t begin to reflect the costs incurred by automobile use, from pollution to depressed land values around highways.

By contrast, urban mass transit, school systems, parks, affordable housing and even urban welfare recipients receive crumbs relative to the vastness of government largess showered on suburbia. Is it any wonder that in bustling, successful American cities, our subways remain old, our public housing dilapidated and our schools subpar?

I am not arguing that people should not live in suburbs. But we shouldn’t pay them to do so, particularly now that our world and the desires of our population are evolving.

This need not be a divisive debate. With millions of Americans already gravitating toward cities, the real question is what it means for our collective future, and how we respond.

Some cities are already moving ahead: Chicago, Denver, Dallas and New York are all advancing policies to increase urban density, infrastructure and amenities. But with their citizens’ tax receipts still being sent to the hinterlands, these attempts remain half-measures.

Cities like Colorado Springs and Boulder have had painful fights with suburban sprawl. The Colorado Hyperloop will refocus efforts to control Sprawl and improve economic development by linking urban areas. Just look at this 2000 article from the Colorado Springs Independent below, where we see the cost of suburban sprawl:

In a pasture along Old Ranch Road, just a few miles from I-25 on the city’s northern city limits, a small herd of cattle graze among a series of newly bulldozed dirt roads — what appears to be the beginning of access roads for a future subdivision.

For those who decry the loss of ranchland or open space to suburban subdivision development, it’s a poster image. Move over little bossie, here come the SUVs.

As Old Ranch Road heads east, it weaves in and out between city and county controlled land, between swaths of open meadow and newly bulldozed subdivisions.

“One of the big problems is the cost of extending infrastructure out here,” says Fosha. “We’re not able to pay for the infrastructure that we’re having to build right now.”

China’s Model Train – 中国的模型火车, 科罗拉多超级圈

Rail map of China.svg
Rail map of China” by HowchouOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Model both as a toy and as a way of doing things. The high speed rail of China and its universal development in all corners of its country is a model that the Colorado Hyperloop could copy. But before we wholeheartedly take its at face value lets look at some current news on why they build these system:

Riding Beijing’s subway end to end: 88km of queues and crushes on a 20p ticket

With bullet trains as a new Silk Road, China tightens embrace of its restless West

URUMQI, China — The brand-new bullet train slices past the edge of the Gobi desert, through gale-swept grasslands and past snowy peaks, a high-altitude, high-speed and high-tech manifestation of China’s newly re-imagined Silk Road meant to draw the country’s restive west ever tighter into Beijing’s embrace.

With growing determination, China is spreading its wings to the west, across its own, vast and resource-rich province of Xinjiang, and toward Central Asia and its huge reserves of oil and natural gas.

The $23 billion, high-speed train link, which is still being tested in winds that can sometimes reach up to 135 mph, is just one symbol of that broader determination: to cement China’s control over its Muslim-majority Xinjiang region through investment and economic growth, secure important sources of energy and escape any risk of encirclement by U.S. allies to the east.

So it is a tool of energy production and extraction and social hegemony. The United States did the same in its history. But the Colorado Hyperloop might seem to initially be a human transport system only. In reality it will be a human transportation vehicle but also will be a energy (with solar panels along the top of the Hyperloop tubes) and quite possibly a efficient material transportation system similar to the paper delivery tubes at banks.

Another development besides above ground trains from Shanghai to London is the incredible subway of Beijing.

Riding Beijing’s subway end to end: 88km of queues and crushes on a 20p ticket
Beijing’s metro system has already grown bigger than the London Underground – and by 2020 it will more than double in size again.

Work on the Chinese capital’s first line started in the 1960s and the vast majority of it opened in the last decade. Yet, at 465km long, it has already outgrown the Tube network by more than 50km. By 2020, an extra 400bn yuan (£40bn) of investment will see it more than double to 1,000km, according to Chinese media. The addition of 17 new lines will make it one of the world’s longest networks.

Each day 9.75 million passengers ride the lines across Beijing: nearly three times as many as take the London Tube and twice as many as use the New York system. The subway’s phenomenal expansion reflects that of the city it serves. Over the last decade or so, Beijing has grown by roughly half a million inhabitants each year – the equivalent of adding the entire populations of Sheffield or Tucson annually. The city is already home to 21 million; by 2020, a report warned last year, it is likely to have added another four million, on a conservative estimate.

The subway is clean and punctual and has seen no large scale fatal transport disasters in recent years, though several workers have died during construction since 2007 and two passenger have died due to escalator collapse and electrocution, in addition to a number of suicides. (In 1969, the year it opened, a spate of fires killed between three and six people and injured at least 100 more, resulting in a two-year closure for reconstruction.)

But the strains it now faces reflect the country’s challenge in maintaining a decent quality of life in increasingly packed cities. At Xierqi, one of the busiest stations, platform attendants help to push commuters into carriages during rush hour. There’s a little shoving at the doors, but it’s a remarkably calm and polite scene given the crush of bodies.

Mao declared the city needed a subway after he visited Moscow. But the system was initially intended more for civil defence than commuter transport, said Wang. In the event of air raids – like the US bombardments of North Korea and Vietnam – the trains would be used to evacuate residents to the Western Hills, on the capital’s outskirts. From there, they could be dispatched overground to safer parts of China. A sample line was even built at China’s atomic test site at Lop Nor, to check the tunnels would withstand nuclear bombs.

The engineering team was supposed to travel to Moscow to study its metro. But as bilateral relations deteriorated, the Soviet Union withdrew its experts and halted cooperation. Wang and his colleagues finished the designs of the subway without ever having ridden on one.

China’s biggest cities are struggling to cope with their swollen populations, choked by traffic jams and pollution. They have attracted huge numbers of migrants – to clean the streets, construct homes and staff restaurants – but have not adequately catered for them or their children.

Now the government wants to accelerate urbanisation to boost domestic consumption; city dwellers spend more than rural residents. But its new strategy also seeks to tackle some of the problems that have emerged, creating a more sustainable model for city life.

The spending spree on urban rail follows similar binges on highways and high-speed trains, and will help to shore up economic growth. In just four months of 2012, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s economic planning body, approved 840bn yuan worth of underground and light rail construction; 22 cities already have subways and another 16 will have systems operating by the end of 2018. One official has said subway networks across China will total 7,000km of track by 2020.

Improved public transport should also reduce smog and traffic. Reforms to household registration will improve migrant workers’ access to services. But they are also designed to encourage people to move to smaller cities: the bigger the city, the harder it will be to register there. Even so, there is little doubt that the lure of the capital will endure.

“Ever since the 1980s, the [Beijing] government has been trying to limit the fast growing population, but all these efforts have failed. China has 1.3 billion people. Big cities like Beijing are bound to attract a significant part of the huge population,” said Li Tie, director general of the NDRC’s China Centre for Urban Development.

Tokyo accommodates 36 million residents in a smaller area, he noted: in theory, Beijing should be able to absorb another 10 million. But it does not feel like that to those who live and work here.

Even Wang, the tunnelling expert, believes much of the answer to China’s urban transport problems lies above ground. He would like to see more bus use and new rail links between the busiest train stations. He is unimpressed by the frenzy of excavation around the country: monorails cost around 150m yuan per kilometre to construct, he said, compared to the 500-700m yuan required per kilometre of subway.

“Second-, third-, fourth-tier cities … those cities don’t need to build subways,” he said. “Even if they can afford to build them, they can’t afford to run them. But a lot of places think that if they have a subway, then they are a big city.”

Anyway, it is an incredible Guardian article. Lets home Colorado can learn from from the Chinese.

Recommends High Speed Rail, More Project Finance for Colorado Hyperloop

Great to see that there is still public support for infrastructure improvements. The New York Times  Editorial Board published this today, Making the Case for High-Speed Rail:

Most American passenger trains, including Amtrak’s popular Acela service, run at speeds that are far slower than the superfast European and Japanese trains that can zip along at 200 miles per hour or more. The main reason is that, despite modest investments, American lawmakers have not given high-speed rail the priority it deserves.

Critics argue that such services cannot survive without public subsidies and that the United States has few of the dense urban areas that have made such train services successful in places like France and Japan. But these arguments fail to acknowledge that most forms of public transportation are subsidized somehow by the government; the federal government puts up most of the money to build the interstate highway system. Skeptics also greatly underestimate the country’s long-term transportation needs. The Census Bureau estimates that the American population will cross 400 million in 2051, and the country is becoming more urban, not less. California’s population is predicted to top 50 millionin 2049. That growth will put an incredible strain on the nation’s highways and air-traffic system.

At the end of the opinion page is this nugget on private infrastructure:

In some states, the promise of high-speed rail remains alive and well. California recently started building the first phase of an ambitious project in the Central Valley, and it won an important legal victory that should help clear the way for an $8.6 billion bond issue. It has also dedicated a quarter of the revenue from its cap-and-trade program, which is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to the undertaking. Meanwhile, in Florida and Texas, private businesses are planning to build and operate lines between Orlando and Miami and Dallas and Houston. These efforts should be an inspiration to Congress.


Just yesterday Mohamed El-Erian, on NPR On Point, talked about On Our Uncertain Economic Future. Some economic arguments for investing in infrastructure are at 13min.

Mainly he says there are lots of common agreement areas amongst citizens but the politicians in DC are too divided. This seems to be common theme.

I will be posting more on in the coming week on a course I took (but did not get a grade) on Financing and Investing in Infrastructure by Stefano Gatti. The focus of these posts will be what I learned on the course and how they can be applied on a hypothetical Colorado Hyperloop. Below is a video by Stefano Gatti that gives lots of info on what happens in infrastructure projects.

Cautionary Budgeting for Colorado Hyperloop Because of DIA and RTD

Budgeting for massive projects like airports and regional surface transportation networks are never easy. Traditionally, these transit services are a financed because they are a public service. A good example of this is with RTD’s Denver Union Station project via the Denver Business Journal.

Regional Transportation District will celebrate the completion of the $480 million project that will form the hub of a transit network spanning the Denver metro area. Commuters will start rolling into the station on Monday, May 12.

“We’re ahead of schedule and under budget,” Jerry Nery, RTD’s project manager for the effort, said Friday during a media sneak peek at the project.

Sounds inspirational, but now take a look at the front page article on the Denver Post telling of a muted panic of the DIA project.

The estimated cost of Denver International Airport’s showcase project is climbing again, this time to as much as $730 million when “related” costs are included. On Monday, airport spokeswoman Stacey Stegman confirmed that overall project costs could grow 5 percent to 10 percent.

Read more: The Denver Post

Clearly these two projects are different, but because of the DIA project turning into a development for development’s sake project (looking at the pointless hotel), it will negatively affect the Colorado Hyperloop’s chance at being funded through the legislature. Seriously, why should the City of Denver fund something like this:

““We have a smaller range of things that can be value-engineered,” she said. “It’s not like we can lop off another floor of the hotel again.”
Day said DIA is leaning on the construction companies to help the airport keep costs as low as possible. DIA officials also reviewing the finishes in the hotel to see if there’s anything that can be trimmed from the budget.

What Costs More than the Colorado Hyperloop? Lots of things!

First, Colorado Hyperloop has a new Facebook Page! It can be found here: 

There is a great tumblr on what costs more than space exploration. The writers of the blog first pick a subject:

It’s impossible to say exactly how big the economic impact of the 2014 California Drought will be, but what is certain that it will be really, really expensive.

Then they compaire it to some type of space exploration:

Approximately eight days from now, the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory (GPM, for short) will launch on board an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.

With that they contrast the difference of the two costs and how space exploration can minimize the cost of the chosen subject. I believe it is pretty effective.

However, since the hyperloop isn’t built yet, it is pretty hard to compare prices. But here is a comparison that can be found here by Brad Plumer:

And here’s the best part: Musk claims a Hyperloop would be ridiculously cheap, with tubes from San Francisco to Los Angeles costing just $6 billion or $7.5 billion (depending on whether the pods could transport cars). That’s just one-tenth the cost of California’s tumultuous high-speed rail project.

What’s more, even if the price tag did end up 200 percent higher than what Musk is promising, that might be still a bargain.
This is more just a general note of caution. Early cost estimates for big new transportation projects are almost always wrong — and, at least if history is anything to go by, that’s not something that better technology will necessarily solve.