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Hyperloop: A New Layer of Infrastructure?

Evolution comes from within. Revolution comes from the outside

Sometimes, people frustrated with the status quo within an industry come up with a better solution, much to the surprise of that industry's experts. Evolution comes from within. Revolution comes from the outside.

Wake up America - especially the politicians in California, Illinois, and anywhere else where they are considering implementing a high-speed train. High-speed trains are so "last century" and they are not cheap to build or maintain. If they are not used to their maximum capacities and there is only marginal ridership, they are a supreme waste of money and their residual value is just another money-wasting monument built to honor and perpetuate bureaucracy.

We cannot afford to waste billions of dollars in such a competitive global economy. We cannot afford to waste billions of dollars because at this point, we have no billions to waste. We need to explore new ideas that have merit, analyze them to ensure feasibility, fine-tune the idea, and then implement them.

We need a resurgence of big ideas made in America. If this Hyperloop has a $6 billion price tag and can do more than the bullet train project that is priced at $70 billion, we should be seriously looking at it. Even if it costs double or triple its original estimate, it's still a great alternative.

Hyperloop: An Alternative to High-Speed Trains
A new idea was proposed by Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors) to change out a project approved in California for a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The alternative he proposed is a high-speed tube infrastructure that can push people (and cars if a larger design is used) at 800 MPH.

People and cars? He has two different types of "pods." One is for people and one for a combination of people and cars. By having both options, you can use the Hyperloop as a commuter "mover" as well as for motorists in cars.

Remember the old pneumatic tubes that some banks and stores used to send documents or small packages from one place to the other? The Hyperloop works on the same principle. You have a tube connecting points A and B and people (as well as cars) are transported through the tube in a pod-like device.

In looking at his preliminary 57-page design document, a lot of design questions, feasibility issues and logistics are answered.

In comparison to the proposed high-speed train solution, the Hyperloop solution is more cost-effective and is less damaging to the environment. It can run along highway rights-of-way so there is no huge cash outlay for land acquisition.

Power is also thought out with solar panels on the roof of the tube to provide power to the infrastructure.

If the idea starts to gel into a pilot program, an integrated communications layer should also be looked at as an incremental cost increase that would also deliver high-speed broadband connectivity between the origination point and the termination point.

Re-Igniting American Ingenuity
There are already people doubting the project with their crass comments after some of the articles discussing this idea, but that is so typical. How many people questioned the Wright Brothers?

We haven't had an Edison (power grid) or the Wright Brothers (airplanes) in a long time.

If Musk's Hyperloop is a feasible mass-transit solution, he could be on the verge of creating a new layer, or at least a sub-layer of infrastructure. Let him tinker. We need a big resurgence in American Ingenuity for this century.

Hyperloop would become a layer or at least a sub-layer within the Platform for Commerce:

Chart 1: Platform for Commerce

Critical Layers of Infrastructure

Level

Layer

Dominant Initial Driver of Implementation Importance

8

Space (Future)

(Interplanetary)

JUST BEGINNING TO BE BUILT ([Space shuttles, station, satellite networks] Future - mid-21st Century, 22nd Century? US, RUSSIA, JAPAN, CHINA?)

7

Broadband Connectivity Network

CHINA, JAPAN, KOREA, NETHERLANDS

(beginning 21st Century)

6

Airports

UNITED STATES (mid-20th Century)

5

Power (Grids, Nuclear Power)

UNITED STATES (beginning/ mid 20th Century)

4

Telephone Network (Voice Only)

UNITED STATES (beginning/mid 20th Century)

3

Railroads

UNITED STATES (mid-1800s)

2

Roads/Bridges

ROMAN EMPIRE (500BC- 476AD)

1

Ports/ Docks/ Water

PHOENICIANS (1200BC-900BC)

EGYPTIANS (3000BC-1400BC)

Source: JAMES CARLINI, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Bullet-trains? That's so last-century. Hyperloop? Interesting, plus it was invented in America.

•   •   •

Copyright 2013 - James Carlini

More Stories By James Carlini

James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

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