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.”

Cleaner Hyperloop Innovations

Because its easy to make critiques at every new technological advancement, see the LED debate below, the Colorado Hyperloop would like to congratulate Gary Truesdale’s latest Hyperloop Efficiency Concept. The video below shows how he made a device that could reduce overall energy use of each hyperloop pod and tube sections by forcing air circulation in the Hyperloop system.

Hyperloop Test Fixture V2 information, Credit: Gary Truesdale
Hyperloop Test Fixture V2, Credit: Gary Truesdale

Good job Gary, keep up the innovations!

With innovations like the one above, the Colorado Hyperloop will be using the most energy efficient and lowest carbon renewable energy technology currently available. So it was interesting to read this Op-Ed in the New York Times about the recent Nobel Prize for the blue/white LED.

The winners, Shuji Nakamura, an American, and Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, both from Japan, justly deserve their Nobel, and should be commended for creating a technology that produces the same amount of light with less energy.

But it would be a mistake to assume that LEDs will significantly reduce overall energy consumption.

The I.E.A. and I.P.C.C. estimate that the rebound could be over 50 percent globally. Recent estimates and case studies have suggested that in many energy-intensive sectors of developing economies, energy-saving technologies may backfire, meaning that increased energy consumption associated with lower energy costs because of higher efficiency may in fact result in higher energy consumption than there would have been withoutthose technologies.

That’s not a bad thing. Most people in the world, still struggling to achieve modern living standards, need to consume more energy, not less. Cheap LED and other more efficient energy technologies will be overwhelmingly positive for people and economies all over the world.

But LED and other ultraefficient lighting technologies are unlikely to reduce global energy consumption or reduce carbon emissions. If we are to make a serious dent in carbon emissions, there is no escaping the need to shift to cleaner sources of energy.

New York Times

I agree. Determining whether new energy efficient technology increases overall energy demand is a mute point. The more people there are on the planet the more energy will be used. So we must use cleaner energy.

But this is having it both ways. They really need to make it clear that the formula is: efficiency gain vs cost (monetary and environmental).

For example, just as the individual LED is wonderful, more breakthroughs in lighting are just around the corner with OLEDS.

The next big thing in lighting could be glowing sheets that use half as much energy as an equivalent fluorescent fixture and can be laminated to walls or ceilings. The sheets will contain organic LEDs, or OLEDs—the same kind of technology used in some ultrathin TVs and smartphones.

OLEDs could be used in large sheets, because organic light-emitting molecules can be deposited over large surfaces. They also run cooler than LEDs, so they don’t require elaborate heat sinks, making a lighting structure simpler. OLED lighting is 10 to 100 times more expensive than conventional lighting, but as costs come down, it could eventually replace conventional fluorescent fixtures. MIT Technology Review 

The LED Op-Ed writers are from The Breakthrough Institute, which produces a journal that focuses on many things but also on Renewables, Innovation Policy and something called EcoModernism. From their website:

RENEWABLES

Renewable energy technologies – including solar, wind, hydroelectric, and bioenergy – are essential tools in the path towards modern, low-carbon energy systems. But like all energy technologies, they have significant costs and impacts. Understanding their scalability and effects on the landscape will prove essential in crafting renewable energy innovation policy.

INNOVATION POLICY

Economists have long recognized innovation’s central importance to economic growth, but have still not come to terms with the reality that “general-purpose” technologies like electricity, microchips, and the Internet often emerge from long-term public-private partnerships. And since no two technologies are exactly alike, case studies of successful innovation policy must be carefully analyzed to spur similar successes in the future.

ECOMODERNISM

Ecomodernism is a pragmatic philosophy motivated by the belief that we can protect beautiful, wild places at the same time as  we ensure that the seven-going-on-ten billion people in the world can lead secure, free, and prosperous lives. Ecomodernists are optimistic about humanity’s ability to shape a better future – a “good Anthropocene.”
TheBreakThrough.org

Anyway, they have a lot of smart people in that institute but they have yet to publish any findings on a future Hyperloop. Hopefully, the Colorado Hyperloop will be of interest to them.

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.