Time to Invest in the Hyperloop
Only the Hyperloop Can Save us Now!
Last week, a new record was set for high-speed rail.
Japan's high-end maglev train, which looks really freaking cool, hit a top speed of 374.7 miles per hour.
To put that in perspective, at top speed, such a train could travel the distance from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, California in about six hours. Or about the time it would take to throw back a Xanax and watch the Jason Bourne Trilogy.
Now if you're a regular reader of these pages, you know I've long been a fan of high-speed rail. Although admittedly, to operate a profitable high-speed rail system is nearly impossible to do. Only a few high-speed rail systems in place today actually make enough money to maintain operational costs without direct injections of tax dollars.
Moreover, the high-speed rail agenda in the United States has proven to be a huge disappointment thus far.
With the Acela Express system that runs up and down the Northeast corridor, you can cut about 15 minutes off your commuting time by paying nearly twice the fee of the regular commuter train.
The Acela was initially boasted as a faster train that would offer huge benefits for daily commuters. While the seats are a bit nicer, shaving 15 minutes off one's travel time is hardly a reason to chest-pound.
Then there's the future high-speed rail system in California. This is the system that quickly went over budget – in a major way – and is still plagued with all kinds of political, social and economic hurdles that make the whole thing look like a complete clusterfuck.
Admittedly, this is something I hate to admit as I had high hopes for the California high-speed rail system when it was first announced. But now, watching how the whole thing has played out, and knowing that the top speed of this thing is projected to come in at around 200 mph, it's hard to be optimistic.
This is considerably slower than what China and Japan already have running on their tracks. And I suspect the price tag on this thing will continue to rise. That's how these things always work out.
To be honest, at this point, I think our only hope for a quality version of a modern, high-speed rail system rests in the hands of a small group of engineers and entrepreneurs now working on the hyperloop system, which in theory, could run as fast as 750 mph.
If you're unfamiliar, this is the system that Elon Musk first revealed as a bullet train alternative back in 2013. Here's a short demo of how the system works …
The good news is that the folks now leading the charge on developing hyperloop technology are among the brightest individuals in the world today. Guys like Elon Musk, Shervin Pishevar, David Sacks, Peter Diamandis, and Jim Messina.
I have to tell you, I have a lot more faith in these guys than Amtrak. And I say this as someone who actually uses Amtrak on a regular basis, and appreciates the service from Baltimore to New York. But the truth is, we can do better. We have to do better. Anything less would be an exercise in defeatism and complacency. And that isn't good for anyone.