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.

NYC 2nd Ave Line Helps Front Range Hyperloop

Above is a very interesting video by the New York Times on the new 2nd Ave. Subway.

Key points that can be derived for the Colorado Hyperloop include alot of project finance but also good old human to human interaction.

  • Cities are difficult places when building transit lines
    • watch out for sewer, water, gas and even electrical lines.
    • Neighborhoods are impacted due to construction zones and often take a hit economically.
    • Density of people per square mile + daily ridership public transit = transportation system that makes the city exist.
    • New transportation will affect current offices, things will change, losses will be had by those who are in the path of the transportation project. The construction firm cannot give money nor cut taxes but must keep building.
  • Funding
    • Federal government will decide to invest in project.
    • Private companies and investment firms pool money.
    • Quick 7 year timeline unveiled.
  • Partners
    • Make sure neighborhood people have a voice
      • Actions must be taken to improve quality of life during construction.
    • Building Company
      • Change hours of construction noise.
      • Encapsulate construction areas that produce dust.
  • Leave legacy of new Transit, but also legacy of less impact
    • Hyperloop will give freedom of people to go whenever they want, wherever they want along the front range.

It is apart of a video series called Living Cities. Another interesting video talks about whether New York City should update the bridges that feed the city.

High-Speed Rail Needs A Hyperloop and Less Baggage in America

 

A map of the USA showing a hypothetical high speed rail lines across the continent
Artist and activist Alfred Twu’s image.

 

High-speed rail has been in the news in that its not working. The New York Times states:

High-speed rail was supposed to be President Obama’s signature transportation project, but despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere and the United States still lags far behind Europe and China.

Fairly obvious, but we all know why high speed transport will eventually happen:

 Andy Kunz, executive director of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association, thinks the United States will eventually have a high-speed rail system that connects the country. “It’s going to take some years after gas prices rise and highways fill up with traffic,” he said. “It’s going to happen because we won’t have a choice.”

The only thing lacking right now is American political will. But The Denver Post picks up with a press pool report from Senator Bennet:

Local and state officials Monday touted the importance of two huge transportation projects as keys to congestion relief and economic growth in Colorado.

But while the FasTracks mass-transit plan in the Denver metro area and the Twin Tunnels expansion in Idaho Springs are rolling along, those and others like it could be stymied by federal lawmakers who can’t agree on a long-term funding package for roads, said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado.

“It’s making me absolutely crazy,” Bennet said Monday. “There is this concern about the federal budget, but because of these temporary extensions, there is an amazing amount of money being lost that could be spent on infrastructure.”

Seems like everyone is touting the relief that Rail/Hyperloop will bring. But don’t forget Buses!

But when it does happen will we have the necessary know how to build it? According to a NPR article on the Construction Industry Missing Key Tool: Skilled Workers, NPR explains:

It’s a problem of supply and demand: There is a massive construction boom right now but construction workers are few and far between.

Largely fueled by the energy industry, tens of billions of dollars of development is in the works along the Gulf Coast and in the Midwest.

The Associated Builders and Contractors estimates the construction industry is facing a shortage of almost 2 million skilled workers by the end of the decade.

The hyperloop can be different. Automation and robotics can be designed to install prefabricated modular units of the hyperloop.

According to Melonee Wise, the manual laborer of the future has only one arm and stands just three feet, two inches tall. Such are the vital statistics of UBR1, a $35,000 mobile robot unveiled today by Wise’s startup company Unbounded Robotics. Though robots have long been a part of manufacturing, they have traditionally worked in isolation. But in recent years, thanks to advances in hardware and software, new kinds of robot have begun to appear among human workers in factories and warehouses. 

  Lets end with a quote and substitute the Mars stuff for a hyperloop: