High Speed Transit Policy Blogs

The Front Range Hyperloop makes sense for Colorado. Its a straight North to South line though the most populous cities in the State. In Canada, most of the population lives along straight lines of connection too. Blogs like http://www.highspeedrailcanada.com/ do a great job in connecting the policy and technical dots, and deserves a hat tip from this humble blog. Well done, keep it up! HighspeedRail Canada  blogged about the Hyperloop and Elon Musk here: http://www.highspeedrailcanada.com/2013/09/hyperloop-magline-and-jetsons.html

 

Even though the post didn’t  delve into the positives of the hyperloop very much, it at least highlighted an important point. High Speed Rail should be a goal for both Canada and the US.  More needs to be done in eliminating the “cultural abyss” fear that investing in these technologies currently spark.

Hyperloop technology sparks the imagination. It could  be a superior mode of transport.

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

First, Colorado Hyperloop has a new Facebook Page! It can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/coloradohyperloop 

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.

 

 

Colorado Hyperloop Will Be Popular

More people in the United States are taking public transit, according to this NYTimes article by Jon Hurdle. The reason for the increase is complex but identifiable.

Stronger economic growth is playing an important role in the increased use of public transit, as more people are using the systems to get to an increasing number of jobs, the association reported, and transit agencies are nurturing growth by expanding their systems or improving services.

“We’re seeing that where cities have invested in transit, their unemployment rates have dropped, and employment is going up because people can get there,” Mr. Melaniphy said.

Could a Colorado Hyperloop be a jobs magnifier for the state? The article continues, not on New York City’s mega subway, but with RTD!

In Denver, the Regional Transit District topped 101 million passenger trips last year, its most ever, helped by an improving economy and an increasing acceptance that public transit is an attractive alternative to the automobile, said Scott Reed, a spokesman for the district.

One of the challenges is simply getting people to try public transportation, Mr. Reed said, but when they do, “they find it is so much easier than they had feared.”

The 14-mile light-rail W Line connecting Denver, Lakewood and Golden, Colo., opened in April, and by the end of the year, it was carrying about 15,000 passengers a day, as planned. The line is part of a FasTracks expansion program, which will consist of 122 additional miles of light and commuter rail, 18 miles of a bus rapid transit system and a doubling of park-and-ride facilities, all scheduled for completion in 2016.

The estimated $7 billion cost is being paid for in part with a 0.4 percent sales tax, which voters approved in 2004. Nationally, taxpayers are increasingly willing to finance public transportation improvements, Mr. Melaniphy said.

In the last two years, more than 70 percent of transit tax initiatives have succeeded, he said.

I think the tax debate muddles the article, but it is clear, if you build transport systems, people will use them. The Front Range is incredibly car heavy right now. We need to move to ultra fast, medium to far distance, cheap transportation. Coloradans have to start planning future transport like the Hyperloop.

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 .

I-25 Federal Upgrades vs Federal Experiment for Colorado Hyperloop

I-25 map in the United States

 

If I-25 is so busy, why isn’t there other transportation systems in place to relieve the volume?

The Colorado politician that now seek Federal funding for upgrades for I-25 once said that the Federal Department of Transportation isn’t needed.  Should we have confidence in our politicians to think a Colorado Hyperloop a priority?

The latest news on the situation, by Erin Udell of the Coloradoan, notes that communities along Northern I-25 section don’t even want the “upgrades.”

“Those communities worked tirelessly to make I-25 a priority and successfully got additional lane capacity, which they planned for, raised money for, worked hard for,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway. “Now, you have CDOT coming in saying, ‘Well, we need to add lane capacity up to Highway 14, and we’re going to toll it.’ ”

“That’s where the disagreement comes in. We’re saying it’s unfair,” Conway said. “These communities … they deferred projects, they prioritized I-25 and were reaping the benefits of years of planning when CDOT came in and said they want to take existing free lanes that have been bought and paid for by taxpayers, and they want to toll them.”

CDOT does not have the funds,  so the communities along I-25 are planning independently.

The communities involved in the coalition — Windsor, Mead, Berthoud and Johnstown — all line the north I-25 corridor and, according to Conway, must give CDOT their approval before it can move forward with any possible changes. Other communities that line the corridor include Erie, Fort Collins, Loveland, Dacono and Frederick.

“There isn’t a north-south split. It’s quite the contrary,” Conway said. “Fort Collins and Loveland have been very open-minded about discussing how we can deal with this issue.”

“I think, with the collaborative effort that’s been shown, we can come up with some creative solutions – some that are destined for success.”

The Colorado Hyperloop could possibly be a creative solution for the entire state!

The fight’in Greeley Tribune ends this post with their article: Gardner will try to secure federal funding for Interstate 25 improvements

He said he agrees with concerns raised by the North I-25 Coalition at a meeting this week and pledged to initiate discussions in Washington, D.C., regarding including I-25 in the transportation bill.

“At a time when the I-25 corridor has seen its traffic population grow by more than 425 percent over the past 20 years, it is now more important than ever to ensure that northern Colorado has the infrastructure to support our evolving economy,” Gardner said in a news release. “Local officials have estimated that the outdated interstate system has cost the area $56 million, proof that it is far past time to address this issue.”

Says the man who wanted to disband the Department of Transportation.

Will the cost in upgrading I-25 be more than the cost in building a experimental Colorado Hyperloop that follows the same route?

Perhaps we all could look into the future and see a need for a I-25 mirroring Colorado Hyperloop.

Colorado Hyperloop vs Upgrading Regular Rail

Wouldnt it be nice if the existing rail routes were just upgraded to higher speeds? Yes? How about we look at one route that might seem important: Chicago to Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief.

The New York Times’ Dan Frosch reports Small Towns in Southwest Fear Loss of Cherished Train Line http://nyti.ms/1fuwWW2 :

Amtrak, which has operated the Southwest Chief since 1971, has asked Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico to each pitch in $40 million over 20 years to help pay for track upgrades and maintenance it says are needed to keep the route viable. But some state officials are balking, saying that Amtrak, which draws financial support from the federal government, should cover the costs itself.

The Southwest Chief, which runs in both directions once a day, needs to reach 79 miles per hour wherever possible to make its scheduled stops on time, Mr. Magliari said. If old track is not replaced soon, he added, the train will have to travel at slower speeds for longer distances.

Colorado could lose stops in the towns of Trinidad, Lamar and La Junta, each of which has a population of less than 9,000. These towns, like their New Mexico counterparts, have seen fortunes fade over the years, as coal mines, a military base and a bus factory all closed.

Leroy Garcia, a Democratic state representative from Colorado, recently introduced legislation to preserve the train route and add a stop in the city of Pueblo. Under his proposal, which has drawn bipartisan support from Colorado lawmakers, a commission would be created to find funding and figure out the cost for an additional stop.

“By adding the stop to Pueblo, you’d now have access to 165,000 more people in the county,” he said. “We have heard over and over that rural and southern Colorado is really struggling for jobs — this could serve as a hub for growth.”

Amtrak said that ridership on the route has held mostly steady over the years, at more than 250,000 passengers a year for the last decade.

The Southwest Chief is one of its top financial performers for long-distance trains, the company said, and keeping the route would help boost the economy of the region.

What a quandry.  A front range hyperloop from Cheyenne to Pueblo would contribute so much more for the state and region than this line. Only thing to do is just raise more (Congressional) awareness.

New Space Tax Breaks Model for Hyperloop

The Colorado Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports that aerospace industries are pushing for more tax breaks. The aptly titled “Colorado spacecraft tax break gets stratospheric support” reports a bit of the lobbying effort by a couple of companies mainly spearheaded by the “Metro Denver Economic Development Corp”. Ed writes:

California, Florida and Texas all have similar tax breaks to HB 1178, sponsored by House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver and House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland — and are ahead of Colorado in their ability to store satellites and attract aerospace companies, several people testified.

…legislators spanning the spectrum from liberal to conservative all got behind the attempt to boost an industry that has been targeted by state and Denver-area leaders.

However, The Denver Post’s Kristen Painter reports on a very interesting political landscape:

The national aerospace landscape is shifting dramatically as a result of a number of factors, including federal budget constraints, which the state’s aerospace cluster has relied on heavily.

Colorado — which has long rested on its educated workforce, academic and research institutions, high quality of life and relatively low cost of living — is at risk of losing its place of aerospace dominance.

The state punches above its weight, employing the third-most aerospace-related workers, behind California and Florida but ahead of Texas and Arizona. Colorado is the only top-five aerospace state without a sales-and-use-tax exemption.

Kristen brings up a very important point. The Aerospace industry is already heavily subsidized and historically funded via federal government. Lean startups like the Colorado Hyperloop can’t act like a Space corp because there isn’t enough money. Thats why SpaceX has to radically cut R&D and launch costs just to even be in business. The hyperloop will need to follow the lean SpaceX model.

So with a proven space industry, and competition from other states that are incentivising New Space, Colorado seemingly needs to get in the “game.”

The bill includes the tax exemption for anything “QUALIFIED PROPERTY FOR USE IN SPACE FLIGHT”… now imagine if everything that says “Space” below could be changed for “Hyperloop”. I wonder if it could still get support:

(I) A SPACE VEHICLE AND ANY COMPONENT THEREOF;
13 (II) TANGIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY TO BE PLACED OR USED
14 ABOARD A SPACE VEHICLE, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SUCH PERSONAL
15 PROPERTY IS TO BE ULTIMATELY RETURNED TO THE STATE FOR
16 SUBSEQUENT USE, STORAGE, OR OTHER CONSUMPTION; AND
17 (III) FUEL OF A QUALITY THAT IS NOT ADAPTABLE FOR USE IN AN
18 ORDINARY MOTOR VEHICLE AND THAT IS PRODUCED, SOLD, AND USED
19 EXCLUSIVELY FOR SPACE FLIGHT.
20 (b) “SPACE FLIGHT” MEANS ANY FLIGHT DESIGNED FOR
21 SUBORBITAL, ORBITAL, OR INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL BY A SPACE VEHICLE.
22 (c) “SPACE VEHICLE” MEANS ANY TANGIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY
23 THAT HAS SPACE FLIGHT CAPABILITY AND IS INTENDED FOR SPACE FLIGHT
24 AND INCLUDES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO, AN ORBITAL SPACE FACILITY,
25 SPACE PROPULSION SYSTEM, SATELLITE, OR SPACE STATION OF ANY KIND.
26 (3) THE TAX EXEMPTION ESTABLISHED BY THIS SECTION MAY NOT
27 BE DENIED TO A TAXPAYER BECAUSE OF A FAILURE, POSTPONEMENT,
-3- HB14-11781 DESTRUCTION, OR CANCELLATION OF A LAUNCH OF A SPACE VEHICLE.

Wouldnt it be nice to have the lobbying firepower of something like this for the hyperloop?

The Hyperloop lobbying strategy should probably model off of this effort.

Also, it’s kinda ironic that the bill has the following:

SECTION 4. Safety clause. The general assembly hereby finds,
4 determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate
5 preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.

Spaceflight is a very dangerous! Surely the Hyperloop is necessary for the preservation of public peace, health and safety too!

Financing and PR Woes for CDOT

The biggest factors that the Colorado Hyperloop will have to deal with is public relations and financing. Nothing can happen without support of both interests.

So it is interesting to see what happened this week  with CDOT in on two of the busiest roads, I-70 and US 36. It goes from bad to worse for CDOT.

First, CDOT blames nightmare I-70 traffic on Colo. drivers on 9News. Bad weather, insane amounts of cars driving eastward and crazy confusing plans for avoiding the next bottleneck  created hours of waiting.

Second, CDOT: Better road could have been taken on U.S. 36 contract on The Denver Post.

Third, Lawmakers to grill CDOT on US 36 plan on 9News.

Fourth, Surprising CDOT, Lawmakers Push Back Over U.S. 36 Public-Private Partnership on KNUC.

Fifth,  Harsh words for CDOT at public meeting on 50-year U.S. 36 contract on the Daily Camera.

Sixth, well maybe there will be new push for building the Hyperloop? haha, woe unto me…

 

Energy Generating Hyperloop

If the design of the hyperloop tubes are stacked vertically vs side by side horizontally (double barrelled) it will alter the amount of area that solar PV can be installed on the top. The hyperloop will have a significant amount of space as it snakes the 317 miles along the front range.

calculating area of hyperloop solar pannels

 

Since there are so many solar companies in Colorado, it would be nice to give contracts to all of them since the work is fairly straightforward… but with utilities like Excel, and maybe Boulder’s own energy utility, it might be difficult to cut deals with these  entities.

Besides, solar is one component to the Hyperloop energy platform. What if there were Ultra-high-voltage electricity transmission along the backbone as well. This would enable power to flow efficiently for the whole length of the hyperloop and might provide redundancy if say in the north sections were snowed under, while it was sunny south of Denver.

These high efficiency lines could also bring sustainable energy from the north east of colorado (like wind energy) to the areas where it is need.

Japan has Maglev, USA got nothing

Just how far behind transportation is in the USA? Japan’s Maglev. Yet, even with their incredible transportation infrastructure, the Japanese are in a spot of trouble because the maglev project in incredibly pricy (but still not as expensive as normal-slow rail projects in the USA!).

Despite this, they are actively courting American leaders to set up the technology on the east coast corridor lines.

In my head, I still feel that the hyperloop would be cheaper to build. The smaller hyperloop pods, the sustainable solar PV on top, the Tubes arching above ground with minimal disturbance the land. All of these factors are why the hyperloop is a cheaper option than a Maglev. Also, we wouldn’t have to license the technology from Japan. Or we could work with the Japanese to build the hyperloop.

After a short googling on maglev vs hyperloop there are a number of technical challenges that both contend with. A good read  on the matter is this: http://evworld.com/blogs.cfm?authorid=173&blogid=1174