Categories
Miscellaneous

Will Loop and Hyperloop kill Metros and High Speed Rail?

I started writing the draft for this post last year as a follow-up to this post. At the time, I was quite heavily focused on technological solutions to transport and the climate crisis. Things have changed a lot since then. But before I go into how and why, check out the draft first paragraph I wrote before.

Hyperloop looks to be a serious threat to high speed rail. As a rail fan, this is a somewhat bittersweet realisation. But not only is Hyperloop a threat to rail, the Boring Company Loop system and the Tesla RoboTaxi Network that would operate within it is also a threat to metro systems and commuter rail.

I intended to write about how hyperloop and the boring company loop systems were going to give metro and high speed rail systems a hard time. I don’t want to write these systems off entirely, but now that we’re a year later and the climate crisis is looking like an imminent threat to the functioning of society, these types of solutions can’t be the priority. We have to drastically change the way we live now to be somewhat like full lockdown in terms of living more locally, with empty roads and more cycling. The time just isn’t there to be able to wait for self driving RoboTaxis to come along.

Perhaps the loop system could be great in the future when full autonomy is realised, but so far the Las Vegas Loop has been roundly criticised. Currently it’s being driven manually and quite slowly, so it’s not really doing anything a bus lane couldn’t do much better and more cheaply. And if we just banned private cars as I keep saying, then you’d get rid of the traffic which was the main driving force behind the loop concept to begin with.

With that said, maybe the Boring Company should instead focus on their plans for creating special small tunnels for running utility pipes and cables through. That really does seem like a great idea.

As far as Hyperloop is concerned, I saw a YouTube video that made me think a lot about it. It was on the channel “Adam Something” which I strongly recommend. I’m happy that I was able to still be open minded despite having most of my savings bet on Tesla (that might change soon, we’ll see). The video on Hyperloop compared it to High Speed Rail and maglev trains. Adam pointed out that Hyperloop cost estimates per mile are far lower than maglev, despite Hyperloop being effectively maglev technology plus a vacuum tube. The cost is therefore very likely to be significantly higher, and because of the way the vacuum tube works, you would assume that the maintenance will be a nightmare as well. Especially for really long routes.

From my perspective, if we’re to live more simple and low consumption lives, the most obvious thing to do for long distance transport would be to run more sleeper trains. We need to stop living the fast life and start enjoying the journey, not just the destination.

But for right now, the absolute priority must be to reduce emissions as fast as possible to zero. That doesn’t mean 2030 and it definitely doesn’t mean 2050. It means right now. During the first lockdown, we were told that global emissions dropped by about 13% during that time before climbing back up. If we were to do that on a permanent basis and improve from there, we might actually have a chance.