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.

RTD Too Expensive? Go Ride a Bike or Ride the Hyperloop!

Colorado Hyperloop Bike

 

There are always grumblings on RTD’s cost of tickets. An even bigger complaint is how complex they are in figuring out which one to buy. 9News and the Denver Business Journal follow up;

…pay for bus and train rides in the Denver area is probably going to change soon.
The Denver Regional Transportation District is working on a plan to simplify its fare system because it decided the current structure is just too complicated.

“It’s a mess,” argues rider Kathy Procopio ofArapahoe County. She has a point: there are three different kinds of bus fares depending how far you go, transfers to keep track of, and the light-rail system has four different zones with different prices.

So if people can’t figure out what to pay, how will they get the energy to use RTD? What if RTD needed a temporary fix for congestion? Well 9News and the Denver Business Journal have the scoop again:

If you drive along U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder, you know It can be tough to maneuver around the construction. A new program, though, is aiming to cut down on the number of cars on the highway.

It would combine RTD public transportation with employees who work in this corridor, and it won’t cost those workers a thing.

Programs like this have been shown to be a very effective way to change commute behavior,” said Audrey DeBarros, executive director of the non-profit “36 Commuting Solutions,” which is administering the program.
The EcoPass pilot program combines two things: RTD transportation, like buses and light rail, and employees who work at companies within a quarter of a mile of a Park-n-Ride station along U.S. 36. The idea is to get as many as 1,000 workers in this corridor to ditch their cars in favor of public transportation– at no cost to them.

Very novel idea, but I fear RTD has not done enough of this across the entire RTD network.

Also, to add to the confusion, people think the organization is confusing bus rapid transit into the US 36 corridor.

BROOMFIELD — That Bus Rapid Transit system being installed as part of a $438 million retooling of U.S. 36 from Denver to Boulder isn’t what local transportation officials say it is.

At least that’s according to a nonprofit group that helps develop sustainable transportation efforts across the globe. The New York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy promotes Bus Rapid Transit efforts and certifies projects deemed truly BRT.

What’s being developed on U.S. 36 and being promoted by the Regional Transportation District is not truly BRT, said Annie Weinstock, the institute’s regional director for the U.S. and Africa.

“I would urge them not to call it BRT,” Weinstock said.

The problem for Weinstock is that specially made BRT buses will share an express lane on U.S. 36 with High Occupancy Vehicles and motorists willing to pay a toll.

BRT systems certified by the institute mimic rail transit and travel only in dedicated lanes not open to other vehicles.

Thanks for the input, but the corridor will still be promoted as including BRT, say RTD and local officials.

“If it’s true that U.S. 36 is not actually BRT, then that’s fair to say,” said Boulder Mayor Matthew Appelbaum. “But it’s also fair to say that this is a good mobility solution that can include most of the positive characteristics of BRT for less money and it’s an approach that works best in an area like this.”

“If they don’t like us stealing that name, then help us come up with something else,” Appelbaum added.

The U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project calls for building an express lane in each direction of U.S. 36, in addition to two free general-purpose lanes. The BRT vehicles are boarded from rail-like platforms that are level with bus doors and also tend to carry more passengers and run more frequently than standard buses.

As part of the U.S. 36 project, new electronic display signage will be in place at BRT stations, while new, widened shoulders will allow buses to operate between interchanges to decrease bus travel time.

Crews will also install Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS, for tolling, transit and traveler information and incident management.

The whole idea behind the revamped U.S. 36 corridor is to provide people with options for travel, including BRT, standard bus service, toll lanes and even a continuous bike path, said Pauletta Tonilas, RTD’s spokeswoman for its FasTracks program.

“This is going to be a great example of a multi-modal transportation system,” Tonilas said.

Cheap multi modal transport is still a new idea in the US. The Colorado’s hyperloop will be built and connected to every single transport mode RTD has to offer, and other modes like biking. The below video is missing future transportation initiatives, like the Hyperloop.

All modes of transport should cost as little as possible for the user and be good for the environment. Thus, is also interesting to see the recent initiative to build recreational bike trail from Wyoming to New Mexico. It is a goal set by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. From the bill itself:

MANY COLORADANS ENJOY BICYCLING AS A RECREATIONAL
8 ACTIVITY, THAT BICYCLISTS USE BICYCLE TRAILS ALONG AND ON EXISTING

9 ROADWAYS FOR RECREATIONAL PURPOSES AND TO ACCESS ADDITIONAL
10 RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES, AND THAT SUBSTANTIAL PORTIONS OF NET
11 LOTTERY PROCEEDS ARE CONSTITUTIONALLY DEDICATED FOR OUTDOOR
12 RECREATIONAL PURPOSES AND MAY BE EXPENDED TO CONSTRUCT AND
13 EXPAND RECREATIONAL BICYCLE TRAILS ALONG AND ON EXISTING
14 ROADWAYS;

Interesting and noble, but 9News also states, that its not a done deal:

DENVER (AP) – A recreational bike trail from Wyoming to New Mexico is a goal set by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

A proposal before the Colorado Senate Thursday could play a part in that goal.

The Senate Finance Committee starts work on a bill to encourage both the Division of Parks and Wildlife and local governments to spend a portion of the net lottery proceeds they receive to construct and expand recreational bicycle trails.

The bill wouldn’t be a mandate.

The sponsor is Republican Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa. He says bike trails should be a priority in spending lottery proceeds.

In conclusion, I think the trump card will still be speed of service. 

Colorado Walkable Cities Better for Humans and Hyperloops

Paris in Civilization Beyond Earth

The Denver Business Journal does not normally post things that might touch on Human-Centered Design but today they relayed the findings from a University of Colorado Denver  paper that walkable cities make for healthier citizens.  The study goes more into how the physical streets (not really sidewalks) have been designed, networked and planned over time and how that determines whether they have “good public health”. From the Denver Business Journal:

If Colorado communities were looking for one more reason to shift towards transit-oriented development, they may have found it.
Cities that have denser, more compact living conditions are likely to have lower disease rates and obesity rates, according to a new University of Colorado Denver study.
“While it is possible to lead an active, healthy lifestyle in most any type of neighborhood, our findings suggest that people living in more compact cities do tend to have better health outcomes,” said Wesley Marshall, assistant professor of engineering at CU Denver.

Good job CU Denver Department of Civil Engineering!

The news story is similar to the Colorado Hyperloop post on NASA monitoring the air quality above Colorado.  But it ties those kind of findings with a Danish way of life. Specifically, how to make healthy cities by Jan Hehl:

Cities of the 21st century should be lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities. Jan Gehl tells us how all of these qualities can be achieved through the policy of making walking and cycling the preferred mode of movement in the city.

To me, a sustainable city would be a very people-friendly city. It would be a city with good public spaces and a city that is rather compact. It would be a city that really invites people to walk and bicycle as much as possible. A good walking and cycling environment with a good public realm is also a good environment for public transport, so there is an important connection here as well. Strengthening public transportation will be essential in the future, in order to become less dependent on private cars and also in order for the city to become more people-friendly.

Having a hyperloop station in the most densely populated areas with best pedestrian and public transport access would be ideal. Im just not sure how that would work though…  but thats why we need to start thinking big.

But lets end on a high note. Read the excellent post on the Gehl Architects blog by Sustainia’s  Fabijana Popovic:

Where does health come from?

We tend to view an unhealthy diet and physical inactiveness as personal life style choices – but there are some important questions, we should be asking before we draw that conclusion. Is it easy to walk or bike from A to B where you live? Are there healthy foods available at your local grocery store? Are there enough green spaces, where your busy city mind can take a break and you can breathe in clean air?

Being unhealthy is only a lifestyle choice if there is an alternative. And there are many ways in which cities can encourage a healthier way of life.

The rapid urbanization puts pressure on city planners, policy makers and architects to create healthy, sustainable and socially-functioning cities for the 6.3 billions who will have moved to a city by 2050. One thing is creating homes for all these people, it’s another thing to create the spaces between the homes that encourage us to live healthy lives.

One thing is clear, healthy cities don’t just happen – they are built on purpose. When we don’t just consider health a personal issue, we open our eyes to the health potential in the spaces we share. We could open up for more outdoors classes for school children, and more walking meetings for the workforce. If we make active transportation a priority, we would build cities that make it easy to walk and bike around and thereby reduce commuting by car, and if we acknowledge that a healthy diet can prevent many chronic diseases, we would have more city gardens and the availability of local foods would rise. And if we build spaces that encourage different people to meet and have a conversation, we will have created a city with more cohesion and less loneliness.

Health is no more a personal issue than sustainability or traffic safety is. Furthermore, it is a cross-sector job, where different stakeholders need to work together in order to create a healthy city. Only in the space between city planners, architects, politicians, healthcare professionals and other vital societal arenas can we create cities that are truly forpeople.

One more thing, the featured picture/gif above is from the video game Civilization, Beyond Earth which might have mag lev or hyperloops in it… can’t wait to play it in October! 🙂

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 http://www.denverpost.com/#ixzz30IEMtMHa

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.

Colorado’s Aging Population, Transportation and Hyperloops

Colorado’s population is 6th in the nation for growth. But the growth of 65 and older Coloradans is far more dramatic.

“We’ve been talking with our local governments,” said senior planner Brad Calvert. “People are struggling with the immensity of the issue, how broad and deep the challenges are. The topic is so big, they don’t know where to start. ”

Between 2000 and 2010, for the first time in state history, the 65-plus population grew at a faster rate than the state population: 32 percent compared with 17 percent.

Nationally, about 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day until 2030. In Colorado, long home to a young population, the impact will be dramatic.

States like Hawaii and Minnesota have already created strategic plans for the aging population, but Colorado has not.

“There’s not been a long-term strategic plan on how we’re going to meet the needs that are already coming up with this aging population,” said Rich Mauro, senior policy and legislative analyst at DRCOG. “It’s not something we can put off any longer.”

Read more: Colorado’s cities and counties prepare for the “Silver Tsunami” – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25450206/cities-and-counties-prepare-colorados-silver-tsunami#ixzz2xRhHxvcv

Thus, more people will be using all kinds of transportation for the foreseeable future. In order to accommodate this trend, we must reimagine transportation for all kinds of population, but especially for the aging.

Initiatives like MIT’s AgeLab is doing exactly that. They take a systems perspective to make sure all groups are accounted for in predicting the future. The AgeLab found that  the vehicle and the driver must be enabled for a future of increasing immobility as drivers get older.  So in the video below they focus on infrastructure being the the most important and challenging thing to change for aging drivers.

How could the Hyperloop fit into this infrastructure? Autonomous cars will fill the gaps for aging people to commute to hyperloop hubs. But as mentioned in the video, people learning, adapting and trusting the new tech will be a major challenge.

Behaviour of people has the be the center piece for a hyperloop, not just the Colorado Hyperloop.  Luckily, Colorado is “home to one of the smartest, most productive and healthiest workforces in the nation, we have a strong economy with room for professional growth and our economic and business opportunities are diverse in industry and size.

 

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!

Kazakhstan will have Trains, Colorado will have Hyperloops

In deciding how to fund the construction of the hyperloop (and assuming that it can generate a profit after being built) we look to other models of economic growth, this time with Big Oil and Gas dollars. While Colorado has extensive Oil and Gas reserves, the country of Kazakhstan has much more. Colorado, with its currently slim majority pro-fracking population http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/blog/earth_to_power/2013/11/more-than-half-of-colorado-voters.html will need to decide how revenue from the private companies can fed back into state taxes. “The Quinnipiac poll, which was primarily focused on next year’s Colorado gubernatorial election, also asked: “If a candidate for governor supports fracking, does that make you more likely to vote for that candidate, less likely, or doesn’t it make a difference?”” Anyway, beyond the short term politics, Kazakhstan is thinking ahead and so should we.

The article I read http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/21/business/international/kazakhstans-bet-on-rail.html?_r=0 gives a very interesting take that the government in Astana is basically funneling all the oil revenue into creating a rail road state owned mega industry.

“The rail business, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, better known by its initials as K.T.Z., reached a deal this summer to build a $100 million freight and logistics center on the coast of China at Lianyungang port, roughly halfway between Beijing and Shanghai. The goal is to bring goods in and out of Central Asia through a combination of rail and sea freight, and help the region diversify its exports beyond an overwhelming dependence on Russia that has lasted for more than two decades after the demise of the Soviet Union.

The railroad has opened a second line from Kazakhstan to China that runs through a southern mountain pass that is less prone to the high winds and blizzards that bedevil a Soviet-era border crossing farther north built under the Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Brezhnev. The company is frenetically building new rail lines within Kazakhstan to distribute goods, too, and has more than quadrupled its annual investment in the last four years, to $3.1 billion this year.

Kazakhstan faces a difficult challenge in trying to spend its oil wealth in ways that will create prosperity beyond the city limits of the capital, Astana, and there is no guarantee that its emphasis on the rail industry will work.”

What if Colorado voters decided to funneled Oil/Gas taxes into a Colorado Hyperloop industry? The front range will be a key backbone of trade from Wyoming to New Mexico. I have no evidence, but I believe the investment in hyperloop technology will spur other industries and will have a larger return than even the Oil and Gas industries of Colorado.