When Elon Musk makes plans he makes no little ones. And he feels California shouldnâ€™t either. This is the rationale behind Hyperloop Alpha, a supersonic, solar-powered, air-cushioned transit system (and future â€œNever Builtâ€?) he views as the bolder alternative to conventional high-speed rail. Itâ€™s not a train, exactly. Itâ€™s more a hybrid between high-speed rail and the Concord.
Itâ€™s Mr. Muskâ€™s answer to the ever-delayed and increasingly expensive bullet train being proposed by the California High-Speed Rail Project that was supposed to be â€œshovel readyâ€ in 2012. Turns out itâ€™s more complicated and expensive to build high-speed rail than anybody in the state ever thought. Could Hyperloop, more bullet and less train, be the answer? If itâ€™s true it could be built for less than one-tenth the cost of the $70 billion high-speed rail system, then perhaps yes.
For a mere $20 (Heâ€™s really thought this out) you would be able to strap yourself into a thin aluminum tube and get shot (at speeds of up to 750 mph) to San Francisco in about 35 minutes. The design doesnâ€™t feature any windows, so hopefully there will at least be some video monitors or soothing ambient lighting to relax passengers who are essentially locked inside a jet engine hurtling itself through an elevatedÂ steel pipeline.
In a conference call following the release of the 57-page PDF outlineÂ of the project, Musk said there could be a prototype ready for testing within the next four years.Â Perhaps itâ€™s time for the California High-Speed Rail Project to hire Mr. Musk and his team of engineers and optimists. At least then California could have some form of 21st-century transit underway before 2020.
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