The Hyperloop One Challenge is a multi-national competition set on developing a new mode of transportation to alleviate congestion within railroad, airport, and porting systems. In September, The Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh route was selected as one of the ten global finalists. Surprisingly, there is no current direct freight or passenger rail along this corridor, making the proposal an attractive opportunity for all cities involved.
While many have questioned the viability of sending people through a Hyperloop, individuals close to the matter think otherwise. “Initially, it will be primarily for goods until we develop a system that we have confidence we can transport humans safely,” explains Carla Bailo, the Assistant VP of Mobility Research and Business Development at The Ohio State University. “If you think about what this means for e-commerce and the opportunities for business to be able to deliver goods within hours’ vs days, it is a great improvement.”
The possibilities of what will be transferred through the Hyperloop are endless. “A big part of the Midwest project is focused on safe, fresh food delivery. We have one of the largest farming communities in the states, plus Indiana, and others. Allowing the farmers to be able to deliver their fresh food quickly makes sense when working to reduce spoilage,” says Bailo. An exciting change for farming communities along the route, the Hyperloop would increase prosperity not only for larger cities, but also places like Lima, Ohio and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Similar to the development of the railroad systems in the early industrial era, many cities along the route will see a positive economic impact with time. Population growth in mid-sized cities along the route will increase. The need for education and healthcare, along with additional manufacturing opportunities, will drive the local workforce. By connecting the cities, the Hyperloop One will increase the efficiency and cooperation of multiple economies, forming a stronger Midwest region.
When discussing the effect the Hyperloop will have on real estate markets and new business ventures for cities connected to the loop, Bailo stressed the importance of location. “Anytime you have the ability to ship your goods more quickly, it adds to the importance of location in real estate. I think this would increase the property value eventually, depending on how much of a transit hub is set up in that area.” Though it is still unclear as to how frequent the stops will be on the Hyperloop, it seems that developing a series of transport pods with a variety of diverging tunnels is the most reasonable format.
According to Hyperloop’s Board of Directors, passengers or cargo is loaded into the Hyperloop vehicle and accelerated gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The vehicle floats above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
It is difficult to say when the project will begin construction as the technology is still in the beginning stages of research. Project financing, environmental risks, and legal factors all pose threats to the project’s chances of becoming a reality.
Nathaniel Kaelin of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) touched on possible parties for future funding: “that is something we recognize will probably be a public-private partnership which will be heavy on the private side. At this point we have yet to work up a formula. There are foreign governments that look like they might be heavy participants when funding the Hyperloop, but looking at the current federal state of funding for all infrastructure, we expect it to be private funding. Maybe a few venture capitalists.”
According to Thea Walsh, Director of MORPC, the United Arab Emirates and India have agreements with similar transit projects and are looking at building lines in the United States.
An exciting idea nonetheless, there is surely work to be done. Although the project lacks governmental and societal buy-in at this point, those involved possess a unique sense of responsibility in providing a more sustainable mode of transportation for local communities. They hope such determination will guide them in the pursuit of fulfilling a bold mission.