Controlling the Colorado Hyperloop Environment

Color drawing of Front Range Hyperloop
Color drawing of Front Range Hyperloop
Front Range Hyperloop

The title of this post is Controlling the Colorado Hyperloop Environment.

Yes, controlling is a strong word. Does it mean physically or politically?

Also, environment means many different things. Is that social, or weather related?For a large transportation project that stretches miles over the horizon, the role of the environment (weather and politically) is critical to system stability.

Lets focus on Mother Nature. The hyperloop will be covered in a weather/waterproof cement like tube. These will be the main controlling factor to the environment inside the tubes. Other innovative systems are also trying to control the environment. Take for example a article on NextCity.org about MIT’s CityFarm.

Indoor farming sounds, at first blush, like a second-rate fallback option; perhaps it’s necessary, but it means forgoing the natural abundance of the elements outdoors. When Harper describes it, though, those elements sound more like uncooperative troublemakers. Reviewing the advantages he enjoys compared with his hypothetical counterpart out in the fields, Harper says, “The reason he uses chemicals, pesticides and genetic modification is that he can’t control anything. It’s windy, there’s not enough minerals. He tries to take that plant and any way he can make that plant a super plant to survive in an adverse world.” By contrast, “I’m trying to create a perfect world. So the plant can do what it’s good at, which is grow.”

“Indoors you can control everything. Outdoors you can control nothing. What’s better? Duh.” 

So a closed environment is good idea especially if you are trying to do certain, specific things.

Now lets talk about the political and city environment. When the hyperloop is built it will lead to a shift in citizens expectations. Controlling such an environment will not be easy, nor should it be controlled. Another NextCity.org article had some good thoughts on how the change in the potical environment of cities due to a Hyperloop:

2. Urban life is bending toward on-demand. Hyperloop, as Musk sees it, will be made up of pods, or capsules, capable of holding up to 28 passengers each. There will be no need to wait — the vision is for pods to leave every two minutes on average, and every 30 seconds during rush hour. 

That echoes what we’ve seen with services like Uber or Airbnb, when resources are broken up into discrete bits, whether they’re unused cars or excess rooms, and distributed when and where consumers want them. No more of the “pulsed situation” that we see at airports, Musk writes, where scheduling generates lines. The Hyperloop will, with its regularity, seem like a steady flow. One possibility is that, in turn, it spurs even more on-demand transportation options. If you spend just 30 minutes getting from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you’re unlikely to want to spend another half-hour on a taxi line once you get there.

3. Tapping existing infrastructure makes the impossible possible. It’s not the pods that cost real money, Musk argues. Nor is it the motors to power them. It’s the tubes themselves. In the case of California, though, it’s possible to build the path on pylons above ground, which means “you can almost entirely avoid the need to buy land by following alongside the mostly very straight California Interstate 5 highway, with only minor deviations when the highway makes a sharp turn.”

The use of public resources can drive down costs, something Google has found as it has sought to build out Internet access with its Fiber project. Where it’s necessary to build on private land, Musk writes, the advantage of building above ground is that Hyperloop would inconvenience landowners no more than having a telephone pole on their property.

4. Affordability is the key to sustainability. Musk made his first real fortune on PayPal, a peer-to-peer banking system that made it possible for even the smallest of businesses to collect and distribute funds — and which powered the explosive growth of eBay. Now with his Tesla Motors, Musk says that his ultimate goal includes producing “affordably priced family cars” to “help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy.” It’s clear that Musk’s ambition is for Hyperloop to be an leap ahead, environmentally, as compared to existing modes of transportation. For that to happen, he’ll need to pull cars off the road and planes out of the air, which means keeping ticket prices low.

5. Open source is the way ahead. Hyperloop is an “open source transportation concept,” Musk says, “similar to Linux,” wherein the plans are released absent the copyright we might expect to see. Musk has invited feedback, saying “iteration of the design by various individuals and groups can help bring Hyperloop from an idea to a reality.” In particular, he says, he could use help designing the control mechanism for pods and the stations themselves.

In their new book, The Metropolitan Revolution, the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley describe federal and state governments as “a collection of hardened silos” where transportation departments design transportation-centric solutions. Cities, meanwhile, are “organic communities” where shared responsibilities can come from anywhere. It helps if plans and ideas, then, aren’t held in a proprietary grasp. It’s an openness to openness that is, in fact, key to the seriousness with which commentators have treated Musk’s role as a transportation entrepreneur. After all, he’s just a man with an idea.

So it seems like city farms and hyperloops have more in common to each other than just “controlled” environments.

Keeping Users of the Colorado Hyperloop Happy

How to keep the users of the Colorado Hyperloop happy?  Fix things that people complain about! The Denver Post article describing how RTD had more complaints this last year than the year before is enlightening.

People mainly complained about the timeliness of the buses and also bus drivers being discourteous.

In order for the Hyperloop to be working efficiently, timeliness has to be fixed. It has to be better than Swiss, Germans or Japanese trains.

Security and personal problems will always arise with a massive transit system. Luckily there will be no drivers of the hyperloop as it be controlled by computers. Hopefully, the Colorado Hyperloop will be a model to other public transportation systems with the lowest number of complaints.

Finally, RTD and the Colorado Hyperloop will need to keep users with disabilities at the forefront of their customer service.

Bruce Abel, RTD assistant general manager, told the board the agency recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, over access issues on RTD buses. RTD drivers will now be more stringent about not allowing passengers with strollers or carry-on bags into wheelchair access areas in trains and buses, Abel said.

Read more: RTD gets more complaints about operations – The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25371571/rtd-gets-more-complaints-about-operations#ixzz2wRGECP9Y
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The hyperloop could be an amazing option for transportation for people with disabilities. With options like pre boarding into the hyperloop pods, it could minimizes time and hassle for their travels.

Colorado Hyperloop and the Denver Station

Denver will be critical in a front range hyperloop. It has the highest population, the busiest airport, and  possibly the most complex urban planning and laws. The precise location for a hyperloop in the city is of extreme importance. The incredible speed that the pods travel dictate a strait hyperloop shot into the city.  In my head, I thought it would be appropriate to put the hyperloop station next to I-25. That would also put it approximately next to Union Station, the epicenter of all public transportation in metro Denver and regionally.

The images of the recently updated Union Station are breathtaking.  The  platforms are totally futuristic. Unfortunately, the train/rail technology is totally not futuristic.  When Amtrak starts using the facility, as 9News reported,  it will once again feel like a hub of opportunity and possibility.

The “other” rail and transportation hub in Denver is nearing Completion. The RTD’s East Rail Line, from Union Station to DIA is said to be 60% complete. DIA’s unnamed station has some serious baggage. The project has taken a life on its own. First, is the fact that it wasn’t built when the airport was built. Second, is that the managers of DIA and the developers of DIA seem to be tapping into public funds at their own accord. The Denver Post wrote an eye opening piece outlining the underbelly of this mega transportation infrastructure.

“The $544 million price tag for Denver International Airport’s showcase hotel and train terminal construction project does not include at least $128 million in what airport management calls “additional related” costs, putting its real cost 34 percent over the $500 million budget proposed three years ago.

As the cost of the project rose, airport officials have insisted it remains on or close to budget. But in order to do that, they have excluded related costs and apparently cut spending in other critical areas. During the past two years, DIA management slashed more than $200 million from the airport’s runway-repair budget and other long-term maintenance projects, a Denver Post investigation found.”

Read more: Denver airport cuts maintenance as costs of showcase project rise – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25256976/denver-airport-cuts-maintenance-costs-showcase-project-rise#ixzz2uoWSXXWN
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Seriously, why build a pointless hotel when it will take money out of the runway-repair budget? I highly recommend the article. It touches on the interplay between DIA staff, Airlines, the Denver City Council and former employees. It ends on the quote:

‘It’s either a visionary project or a lesson for the rest of us.’

Hopefully, the Colorado Hyperloop will never be like the DIA project. But the echos of 1995, and DIA’s missteps are still sailent on this final upgrade to the DIA’s mega project.  http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/19/us/mistake-or-modern-marvel-denver-airport-set-to-open.html .

Making Systems of Safety

Safety is the most important aspect of any transport system, and especially of a new and untested Hyperloop. Thats why adding a device that will alert of any problems in keeping the trains at speed, distance and of whether the human/android is paying attention to the situational awareness.

So It is a bit scary that the lessons of past rail disasters have not been  taken into consideration, even if the rail line has been in use alot and forever.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/04/opinion/lessons-unlearned-on-rail-safety.html?_r=0

 

“The question for the rest of us is why that train — and thousands of other trains in commuter and freight railroads across the country — had no automated system to slow or stop it when it ran out of control.

The idea is not new.”

Exactly. Why is safety such a second thought in this country? The hyperloop must be the safest form of transport ever.