SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition

A Hyperloop pod moving in a clear tube across the front range.

Major newsflash, SpaceX shows the Front Range of Colorado in latest information on the Hyperloop! Also, SpaceX will help build a wee test track!

THE OFFICIAL SPACEX HYPERLOOP POD COMPETITION

Since we first unveiled the idea for a new high-speed ground transport system called theHyperloop back in 2013, there has been a tremendous amount of interest in the concept. We are excited that a handful of private companies have chosen to pursue this effort.
Neither SpaceX nor Elon Musk is affiliated with any Hyperloop companies. While we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype.

For this reason, SpaceX is announcing an open competition, geared towards university students and independent engineering teams, to design and build the best Hyperloop pod. To support this competition, SpaceX will construct a one-mile test track adjacent to our Hawthorne, California headquarters. Teams will be able to test their human-scale pods during a competition weekend at the track, currently targeted for June 2016. The knowledge gained here will continue to be open-sourced.

Break a pod!

If you are interested in participating in the Design or Build competitions, please complete the form below.

All submissions must be received no later than 5pm PDT on Sept. 15, 2015.

Download the full SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition guidelines here.

The New York Times has more information:

SpaceX, Mr. Musk’s rocket launch company, has announced a competition to design passenger vehicles for the Hyperloop, a proposed high-speed ground transport system.

The competition is intended to appeal to both university students and independent engineering teams, according to SpaceX documents provided to The New York Times.

SpaceX also plans to construct a one-mile test track adjacent to its headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., which will be used as a testing and competition area for contestants, with a planned start date of June 2016.

Car infrastructure or new Colorado Hyperloop?

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Questions of whether we should build a Colorado Hyperloop shouldn’t be a zero sum game.

If you don’t know what zero sum means in game theory, look at this video by President Clinton.

So lets imagine a future different from the past. Cars will forever be around. Rail will always be around. Hyperloop will be new, but it will show our interdependence on the other forms of transportation. A hyperloop will reveal that we are interdependent to each other as well.

Colorado relates to this important higher level of thinking because CDOT will be embarking on some major infrastructure projects that will affect people. The 9News report below shows that interdependence of other transportation links are important, but more so are the people and lives that these projects change.

The reason why we must avoid the racist highways/transit projects that divided our cities for years goes back to what Clinton was saying in the above video. We have to believe in interdependence and we have to believe that we will be better off when we work together. Below is the report related article from the 9News article:

DENVER – Mayor Michael Hancock joined a group of other Denver city council members and other regional officials to express support for the $1.8 billion dollar project to improve I-70 east of I-25.

The Colorado Department of Transportation hopes to begin work on the project in 2016. Mayor Hancock sent a letter to CDOT asking the agency to study ways to minimize the negative impact of the project on people who live in the neighborhoods that will be directly affected by it.

“My number one priority is to ensure this project supports the Elyria, Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods,” Hancock said at a news conference Friday. “I am concerned that the impacts of this project could be born disproportionately by the surrounding minority and low income communities.”

CDOT calls its plan the “Partial Cover Lowered Alternative” because it will put a section of I-70 underground and establish parks and landscaping on top of it.

When I-70 was originally built through the area 50 years ago it created economic hardships for residents of the neighborhoods due to property values and other negative impacts of an interstate highway, which was a common issue for the U.S. interstate system when it was built.

Mayor Hancock believes the new project is an opportunity to “…really elevate the people in this area who really have been victims of environmental injustice from over 50 years…” He called the improvements to I-70 “a chance to redevelop these neighborhoods, improve their quality of life and create job opportunities and create access to healthier living opportunities including fresh food in the neighborhoods as well as a way to improve their standard and quality of life in these areas.”

We need a higher level of feeling and thinking. The Colorado Hyperloop would enable people to go along the whole front range, fast, unfettered and at very low cost for the masses. This would relate to another Elon Musk possible project:

This post was provoked by a NYTimes, Mark Bittman op-ed section below:

So we should not be asking, “How will we feed the world?,” but “How can we help end poverty?” Claiming that increasing yield would feed the poor is like saying that producing more cars or private jets would guarantee that everyone had one.

America’s Finest News Source on Colorado Hyperloop

Just when I thought it was safe to check on really hard news,  I came across this:

Report: Stagnant Economy Forcing More Americans To Take Jobs As Infrastructure

WASHINGTON—Citing recent employment gains in the telecommunications, transportation, energy, and solid waste management sectors, a report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the sluggish economy is leading an increasing number of Americans to take jobs as infrastructure. “As job openings in traditional industries continue to fall short of expectations, many Americans have determined that their best option is to take up work as support equipment like wind turbines, telephone poles, and highway guardrails,” said lead researcher Calvin Mueller, noting that the number of adults currently serving as some form of load-bearing structure has grown by 38 percent since 2007. “Additionally, we found that Americans are inclined to relocate to secure gainful work, as reflected by the trend of unemployed citizens of the Upper Midwest and Plains States moving to North Dakota in the hopes of finding work as fiber-optic cables. While few of these people have experience shuttling data between two points at the speed of light, most have reported a willingness to learn a new skill and be buried three feet below ground in order to improve their employment prospects.” Mueller added that infrastructure employment appeared poised for continued growth, noting that California’s proposed high-speed train system alone could create as many as 200,000 railroad-track jobs.

Yes, I fear that the hyperloop will be incorporated into this job program as well. Of course there have been some rumors about the hyperloop for some time:

New Super-Fast Transport System Powered By Passengers’ Screams

But we know its true because:

Obama Has Colorado Appraised

WASHINGTON—Hoping to get an idea of what the 138-year-old state might be worth, President Barack Obama dispatched a team of appraisers to assess the value of Colorado this week, White House sources confirmed. “Colorado has a lot of great things going for it in terms of spaciousness and its convenient central location, so I figured I’d have it checked out by experts just to get an estimate,” said the president, noting that with its great views, abundance of natural light, and highly ranked schools, the Centennial State’s value could reach well into the 13 figures. “I’ll admit there’s a little bit of crime and some recent fire damage that might lower the value a little, but overall, I think we’ll find the state’s in very good shape and a valuable asset to the American people.” Obama added that to boost the state’s value even higher, the nation might want to consider upgrading some infrastructure and completely gutting the Pueblo metro area.

Yes, there is a lot of infrastructure that needs upgrading and a lot of new stuff that needs to be built. But then I came across the very real news story from the New York Times:

China Looks to High-Speed Rail to Expand Reach

…A rail project that would pass through the mountains of northeast Myanmar to the coastal plains on the Indian Ocean would give China a shortcut to the Middle East and Europe. For China, the strategic importance of the proposed line can barely be overstated: The route would provide an alternate to the longer and increasingly contentious trip through the South China Sea. 

“When the people of the mainland countries soon find through the convenience of high-speed rail that Kunming is their closest neighbor but a few hours away, the Yunnan capital will eventually become, in effect, the capital of mainland Southeast Asia,” said Geoff Wade, a visiting fellow at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University.

Ok well, when that happens I wonder if the Onion will make a new article on that… probably not because its just not funny…

New EPA Action Helps Colorado Hyperloop

EPA Logo

EPA Logo

The Colorado Hyperloop will benefit from the recent changes by the EPA force State’s to create power from other than high carbon dioxide sources.

According to CPR, Colorado is well positioned for the upcoming changes that President Obama had the EPA create rules to cut carbon pollution. The heart of the matter is this:

“Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion,” the agency says in a document accompanying the proposal.

“We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a news release about the plan. “Our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation and create jobs.”

– See more at: http://www.cpr.org/news/npr-story/epa-unveils-new-proposal-targeting-greenhouse-gases#sthash.Gj2Xokl6.dpuf

Specifically, for Colorado:

Colorado became the first state with a voter-approved renewable energy standard (PDF) 10 years ago when voters approved Amendment 37 (PDF). The law requires investor-owned electric utilities to provide 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, with 3 percent coming from distributed generation.

The law has forced energy producers to switch from coal to natural gas and the transition has been relatively smooth.

In 2013, 64 percent of the electricity generated in Colorado came from coal, 20 percent from natural gas and 17 percent from renewable energy resources, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Currently, Colorado has 12 coal plants.

– See more at: http://www.cpr.org/news/story/colorado-well-positioned-pollution-standards#sthash.dqPzowrD.dpu

A more detailed look at Colorado’s energy is below:

Colorado Quick Facts

Last updated March 27, 2014.

Basically Colorado has lots of Coal, but also a lot, and growing, renewables. Luckily, and hopefully, the Colorado Hyperloop will be powered solely by renewables.

Also, there was a OpEd in the NYTimes about taxing gas for maintaining the highway system. It can be found here, but more interestingly were the comments section. Specifically these two:

Mary Ann & Ken Bergman

Ashland, OR7 hours ago

Mr. Schank advocates using general funds to pay for maintaining and improving our transportation system, arguing that a good transportation system benefits us all, whether or not we personally use it. On the other hand, the nation needs to move toward greater energy efficiency and away from high CO2 pollution rates, and taxing gas-guzzling vehicles higher than others should be effective in making people switch to electric and hybrid cars or use public transportation if the gas tax is made high enough. Also, it’s not fair for those who leave a smaller carbon footprint to subsidize those who leave a big one through general fund taxation. The present gas tax serves a useful purpose; it just needs to be increased, with perhaps more flexibility in how it is spent.

One step that really needs to be taken is to get much of our commercial transportation out of large trucks on the road and instead onto rail. Tax the trucks enough to pay to improve the rail lines, which are in deplorable shape in many places. Shipping by trains instead of trucks would reduce CO2 pollution by as much as 90 percent and be cheaper in energy costs as well if rail lines were up to snuff. It would also make our roads, especially interstates, less crowded and safer.

If Mr. Schank thinks that raising the gas tax is a non-starter, he certainly should know that raising general revenue taxes is even more of a non-starter in our current Congress.

And the piece de resistance…

Meredith

 NYC 7 hours ago

Other modern countries use general revenues for transport, and for national health care. These these are crucial services directly affecting their economies and citizens’ lives. Same for their excellent education system, not relying on local property taxes. And not putting their grads in lifetime debt for college. 

Americans say, I don’t have kids in school, or I won’t get pregnant, or I don’t use that bridge–so don’t tax me for it. 

This idea that payment for something should come only from those directly using a service is destructive to our economy and well being. It’s been used to drum up opposition to spending across the board—transport, education, health care taxes, senior benefit programs, etc. Our political polarization and do nothing congress is a cause and result. 

Pres Obama’s recent infrastructure speech made stark foreign comparisons. The US ranks 19th in infrastructure/transport spending among nations. Europe spends 2X what we do, and China 4X. This spending creates jobs.
These facts didn’t get much media coverage. 

Obama said almost half of Americans have no access to transport. That means they can’t get to jobs, or even look for a job, or get to shops. Some may be past working age, or have to rely on others. But they’re stuck and isolated. What a negative ripple effect on the economy. So our lack of infrastructure spending is directly related to our wealth inequality, downward mobility, and weak consumer demand.

 

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 .

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.

 

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.

Hyperloop is the Tubes of the Internet Age

What if we didn’t have broadband, high speed rail (still do not have it in the USA) or airplanes?

Pushing for change is hard. Luckily, when the head of a federal depart, such as the FCC, wants change, things can happen pretty fast. However, they would also be in charge of regulating, and if that person(s) do not know what the hyperloop does or how it works, it will be bad.

I was happy to read this from the NYTimes article.

” “History has shown that new networks catalyze innovation, investment, ideas and ingenuity. Their spillover effects can transform society — think of the creation of industrial organizations and the standardized time zones that followed in the wake of the railroad and telegraph.”” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/business/media/fcc-chairman-calls-for-transforming-the-technology-used-by-phone-systems.html?hpw&rref=technology&_r=0

The Hyperloop is the broadband of the internet speed development. Take for example this sentence from the head of the FCC:

“The transition to broadband and I.P. services that has already begun is driven by consumers who are moving to the Internet and choosing to connect in ways not imagined just a decade ago.”

…and can be altered to…

““The transition to broadband high speed rail and I.P. airplane services that has already begun is driven by consumers who are moving to the Internet hyperloop and choosing to connect live in ways not imagined just a decade ago.”

So what if we transitioned to Hyperloop technology? What if the government in power were to push for the hyperloop?

Lets just hope we don’t get the same guy in government that thought the Internet was “a series of tubes.” Because that’s the Hyperloop.

Front Range Hyperloop Policy Highlighted by East CO Secession

The below post is mainly from material from this article in the New York Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2013/11/11/us/ap-us-colorado-secession.html?smid=pl-share

“New Colorado? Rural Voters Approve Secession Idea
The nation’s newest state, if rural Colorado residents had their way, would be about the size of Vermont but with the population of a small town spread across miles of farmland. There wouldn’t be civil unions for gay couples, new renewable energy standards, or limits on ammunition magazines.”

First, “conservative prairie towns with the more populous and liberal urban Front Range, which has helped solidify the Democrats’ power.” Interesting to note but not ground breaking.

Second, the Secession area is “five counties share borders, covering about 9,500 square miles and have a combined population of about 29,200.” Seriously, just 29,000 people is like a city population between Wheat Ridge and Fountain CO or even less than half of Burlington, VT. Small town.

Third, “More than 80 percent of Colorado’s 5 million residents live on the Front Range. The counties that voted to secede currently only have two state representatives and one state senator.”

If the Colorado Hyperloop is made along the front range I can imagine it would carry around 29,000 people in less than half a week. For example, RTD carries from January-December 2012 has a average weekday boarding of 328,109 and an annual boarding of 99,142,849. http://www.rtd-denver.com/factsAndFigures.shtml. These new commuters will change change how rural Colorado comes more into the fold.