by Alex E. Tavlian/DPR Editor-in-Chief
Real-life Tony Stark and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk unveiled plans in mid-August for an advanced high-speed transit system that would outpace California’s multi-billion dollar high-speed rail system in terms of technology and affordability.
It’s called the Hyperloop and, for the moment, it’s an engineering document and likely will stay that way.
While California’s current high-speed rail project draws ire from deficit hawks, Republicans and the vast array of Central Valley farmers who stand to lose pieces of their farms to the rail line.
The state’s project, which was dealt a major setback by the Sacramento Superior Court in August, faces daily obstacles from Congress (which appropriates a large chunk of funding), and is also slowly dying a death of a thousand paper cuts from a PR standpoint.
The PR nightmare started when the cost projections for the rail project skyrocketed from roughly $9.95 billion (the estimate from Proposition 1A) to $98 billion then bounced back to $68 billion, the current number quotes by the California High Speed Rail Authority.
Of course, country roads in Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Kern counties have been littered with signs deploring the high-speed rail project as a “boondoggle” of Biblical proportions. Given the estimates, they likely aren’t far off from the truth.
Enter Musk and the Hyperloop document.
Musk, joining the anti-HSR choir, published the Hyperloop document to demonstrate the engineering needs to produce a mass-transit system that can transfer Californians from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 35 minutes.
And this map, courtesy of Musk’s deisgn, demonstrates a key point.
Farmers in California’s Central Valley are nearly untouched by the elevated compressed-air tubes that make up the Hyperloop. No need to execute eminent domain over thousands of acres of valuable farmland and damage California’s economic backbone.
The equation is simple: High-speed transportation – Rail + Tubes & air – Angry farmers = Hyperloop.
Of course, it will likely anger Central Valley entrepreneurs buying up land, high-rises and other property in the hopes that they can either sell it to the government or watch the value appreciate when the High-Speed Rail line finally cuts through Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield en route to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
But what does Musk care?