Boston Olympics Needs Infrastructure, How About the HYPERLOOP

Boston is divided about the possibility of hosting the Summer Olympics in 2024.  Public concerns fall into three categories : How much will it cost?  Will it distract from other priorities?  What do we get out of this deal?  The cost estimates range from $5 b with no cost from the citizenry to $20 b.  Worries focus on distraction from the improvements needed in the Boston Public Schools and other urban school systems in the state.  What might we get out of this?  The short answer is improvements in infrastructure, particularly transportation.

What would it take to get yours truly on board?  Something imaginative, bold, worthy of a world class city bidding for the Olympics, something that makes a major improvement in our forlorn intercity infrastructure.  How about running with Elon Musk’s Hyperloop?  (see comments, below, for precursor efforts by Ernst Frankel and Frank Davidson to do this on the Boston/Washington corridor.)

Hyperloop, the ultra-fast tube transport dreamed up by SpaceX founder and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, could be ready for passengers in as few as 10 years.

The system would carry passengers in pods moving as fast as 800 miles per hour, reducing a 6 hour car trip to about 45 minutes.

On Jan. 15, 2015 Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced a preliminary plan to build a test track for the Hyperloop, his proposed high-speed transport system, in Texas. Musk first revealed the idea for this “fifth mode of transportation” (i.e., not a car, train, plane or boat) in August 2013. Since then, the billionaire entrepreneur has been fairly tight-lipped about how the project is coming along.

But during a speech at the Texas Transportation Forum on last week, Musk said he is planning to build a 5-mile (8 kilometers) track to test prototype versions of the pods that could one day travel the Hyperloop at speeds of up to 760 mph (1,220 km/h). After the announcement, Musk tweeted that the track will likely be built in Texas and will be “for companies and student teams to test out their pods.”

Musk says the Hyperloop is a great solution for traveling between congested cities that aren’t very far apart (no farther than 900 miles, or 1,450 kilometers apart, to be exact). The transport system could get passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 30 minutes, according to Musk, who outlined the basic design of the system in a paper posted to the SpaceX website in August 2013.

Details about exactly how this futuristic transit system will work are still fuzzy. The system could be an updated version of the Very High Speed Transit System that was originally developed by the Rand Corporationin the 1970s. The research institute proposed sending capsules propelled by electromagnetic waves through evacuated, or airless, tubes in underground tunnels. Others have guessed that Musk’s technology could be an altered version of the Lofstrom Loop, also known as a launch loop, a system for launching objects into space using electromagnetic acceleration that was originally conceived of in the 1980s.

In Musk’s paper outlining the Hyperloop, he suggested one possible design could be “some enlarged version of the old pneumatic tubes used to send mail and packages within and between buildings.”

Since Musk proposed his idea for the Hyperloop in 2013, at least one group of futuristic travel enthusiasts has stepped forward to design the infrastructure that would make such a transit system possible. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. was formed not long after Musk posted his ideas about the system on SpaceX’s website.

The company consists of about 100 engineers from all over the world who spend their days working for organizations like NASA, Boeing and SpaceX and their nights brainstorming ideas for the Hyperloop, according to a report by Wired. Students at the University of California, Los Angeles, are also working with the company to make the Hyperloop a reality.

Together, seasoned engineers and students are trying to figure out the best location for the transit system (they’re not sold on Musk’s Los Angeles-to-San Francisco route). They’re also designing the capsules that could carry Hyperloop travelers at super-high speeds, Wired reports.


From:  Elon Musk Reveals Test Site for Futuristic ‘Hyperloop’ System
by Elizabeth Palermo, Staff Writer, Live Science   |   January 20, 2015 01:22pm ET

UPDATE (2/29/15):

Could California drop the plan for a high speed bullet train in favor of the Hyperloop model?  According to THE WEEK, 2/27/15 the bullet train will cover 520 miles, travelling at 220 mph from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  Riders can make the trip in about 2 hours and 40 minutes.  But the bullet train construction is estimated at $68 million.

In contrast, the Hyperloop claims to move passengers through a vacuum tube between LA and San Francisco at speeds up to 760 mph, about half an hour trip, for under $10 million.

UPDATE (7/12/17):

Elon Musk makes transportation news again.  (Note:  We don’t count Tesla under transportation.   It is a demonstration of battery power for the future.)  The Hyperloop lets us imagine true long distance rapid transit, moving sci fi to reality, letting us speed across the planet’s surface.

According to a June 27 article by Nick Statt, The Verge, and forwarded by Musk fan, Ryan Davis,  Elon Musk has a new company preparing to drill transport tunnels under cities that would carry commuter cars on a modified sled at speeds of up to 124 mph.   This new Musk company, the Boring Company (yes the man does have an active sense of humor!) is in conversations with Los Angeles officials to start digging.  And yes, his Boring Company designed drill does have a name.  Godot.

(Hmmm.  Didn’t we see this first on Dr. Who, season 3?)

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4 thoughts on “Boston Olympics Needs Infrastructure, How About the HYPERLOOP

  1. I just got off the phone with Prof. Ernst Frankel, MIT, who reminds me that he and Frank Davidson (who successfully initiated the Chunnel project connecting France and England across the English Channel many years ago)had developed an early prototype of this vacuum tube travel. I recall conversations in 2011-12 with Frank about the prospects of renewing these tests in light of new federal interest in infrastructure funding under Obama.

    Unusual approaches to transportation like this one have, of course, had a difficult time getting implemented. In the early 1990s, researchers at MIT led by Ernst Frankel designed a vacuum-tube train system for a 45-minute trip from New York to Boston. He built a test loop around the playing fields at MIT. At the time, his team estimated that link between the cities would cost $6.8 billion, close to what Musk thinks his system will cost. He had discussions with Amtrak, but those went nowhere. At 89, he’s now an emeritus professor working from home, and was “totally surprised” when he started getting calls from the media about Musk’s system. “I hope we can do something,” he says. “We probably can’t get American government agencies and institutions to do it.” (from:

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