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The Smog To Fog Challenge: Settling the High-Speed Rail vs. Hyperloop Debate

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the let's-just-build-both dept.

Transportation 333

waderoush writes "Elon Musk thinks California should kill its $68 billion high-speed rail project and build his $7.5 billion Hyperloop instead. It's a false choice. We should pursue all promising new options for efficient mass transit, and let the chips fall where they may; if it turns out after a few years that Musk's system is truly faster and cheaper, there will still be time to pull the plug on high-speed rail. But why not make things interesting? Today Xconomy proposes a competition in the grand tradition of the Longitude Prize, the Orteig Prize, and the X Prizes: the $10 billion Smog to Fog Challenge. The money, to be donated by big corporations, would go to the first organization that delivers a live human from Los Angeles to San Francisco, over a fixed ground route, in 3 hours or less. Such a prize would incentivize both publicly and privately funded innovation in high-speed transit — and show that we haven't lost the will to think big."

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300 MPH flesh sacks of water (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594021)

What is the obsession with flinging your sack of water down a track at 300 miles per hour. In a world of diminishing cheap energy, why travel fast? You know, in many cities, the tram systems carried more people everyday than most cities now transport people in cars into the city from the suburbs.

Ding Ding!!

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (3, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#44594063)

What is the obsession with flinging your sack of water down a track at 300 miles per hour. In a world of diminishing cheap energy, why travel fast?

Indeed, in a world of increasing teleconferencing and telecommuting, you'd think the attraction of high-speed travel would be less pressing with each year that goes by.

I'm not saying that the human race is going to end up as a race of hermits plugged into virtual reality 24/7 and never leaving their homes like some science-fiction envisions, but at some point the amount of business travellers that these schemes depend on is going to fall low enough that it won't seem worthwhile.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (4, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#44594135)

Because at the end of the day, human beings are social creatures where a handshake in person still means something in business.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594309)

Because at the end of the day, human beings are social creatures where a handshake in person still means something in business.

In other words, let's use 10,000 year old primitive rules and notions to drive 21st century transportation expenditures.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594373)

Furthermore, for the 0.001% of people who truly need to be somewhere that fast, let them take their corporate jet to LA. Don't sink $70 billion to support a couple of hundred of sales people. Nobody else needs to get from LA to SF at 300 mph to see their relatives.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (3, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#44594721)

Furthermore, for the 0.001% of people who truly need to be somewhere that fast, let them take their corporate jet to LA. Don't sink $70 billion to support a couple of hundred of sales people. Nobody else needs to get from LA to SF at 300 mph to see their relatives.

Dude, your virtual Disneyland still sucks; how long have you been working on it now? Even Euro Disney sucks less than your virtual Disneyland.

Fix that, and we don't even have to talk about how much your virtual Grand Canyon and Virtual Arches National Park and virtual Machu Picchu and virtual Angkor Watt and virtual Great Wall of China and virtual Tunguska site suck, because if you can make your virtual Disney unsuck, you can probably fix those other things. Eventually.

Until then, I'm throwing my sack of water in a tin can headed to the physical reality of those things.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (2)

dkf (304284) | about a year ago | (#44594741)

In other words, let's use 10,000 year old primitive rules and notions to drive 21st century transportation expenditures.

Of course. We've not had telecommunications for nearly long enough (less than 140 years, with widespread telephone ownership for quite a lot less and videoconferencing for a lot less) for us to have evolved significantly to be happier using it than seeing people in person. Give it a few thousand years, say 100 generations, and I'm sure humanity will be far happier with telecoms.

Or all dead from some random passing apocalypse.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1, Troll)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year ago | (#44594341)

If you waste money to procure a handshake, you shouldnt be in business.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (3, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#44594453)

Ah, but I am. People remember other people when introduced in person. It's an extrovert thing. I doubt you would understand.

Understanding (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44594639)

If you waste money to procure a handshake, you shouldnt be in business.

If you don't understand the true value of a real face to face handshake is at times immeasurable, you DEFINITELY should not be in business.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594701)

If you have to nickle and dime your employees on travel fees, I don't want to sign a deal with you for anything more than petty spending.

Telecommuting is such a failure. (4, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | about a year ago | (#44594553)

This is true.

Nothing beats actual human interaction.

Telecommuting is such a failure.

Nobody wants their human interaction cheapened. If you ever want to build any kind of relationship (sales, groups, fucking, etc..), you actually have to meet people in real life.

Telling someone you want to telecommute is telling someone you aren't worth their time to do something expensive for them

Telecommuting is for people that want to cheapen relationships.

Also, 100% of the population needs to build relationships. It's not a salesman-only thing. You have to build relationships with your boss, your clients, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your government representatives, etc. basically anyone you want to do you good, you need to do good for them.

Only libertarian losers that believe in "freedom" think life shouldn't be about building relationships and think of life as for themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have to kiss ass to those in power if you want power back.

You can find these sorts of self-absorbed losers on computer sites like Slashdot and Reddit. There is a reason geeks are considered awful people.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (5, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | about a year ago | (#44594229)

Indeed, in a world of increasing teleconferencing and telecommuting, you'd think the attraction of high-speed travel would be less pressing with each year that goes by.

Since 1993, the number of journeys by rail has gone up in the UK every year except 2008.

Better teleconferencing and better journey times means more business happens, which more than compensates for the people who no longer need to travel. A manufacturer likes to have their suppliers nearby. The distance "nearby" increases with better railways, and the number of potential suppliers the manufacturer is aware of increases with better telecoms.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (2)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a year ago | (#44594391)

More likely the result of an increasing population and the London congestion charge.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594403)

Last I looked, California had lots of earthquakes. (not to mention huge fires and mudslides) Doing anything at very high speeds makes a disaster waiting to happen.

I don't think business travel will be the bulk of this, it will be tourists going from LA to SF and back. (or vice versa)

Cutting the 2 or 3 hours air passengers must arrive before a flight to 20 minutes would make things MUCH faster.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (0)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#44594527)

Indeed, in a world of increasing teleconferencing and telecommuting, you'd think the attraction of high-speed travel would be less pressing with each year that goes by.

High-speed rail is extremely attractive as a jobs program for union workers.

That it's a stupid and expensive form of transport is irrelevant.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (4, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44594647)

I tried telecommuting to Disney World, but it just wasn't the same. Your assumption that the only reason people have to travel someplace is to show up for a job, let alone one that can be done with tele* is at best a grossly invalid assumption. Just limiting the scope to business use we have at a bare minimum off the top of my head: Sales people; Field Engineers; CEOs. The list of people who cannot properly do their job by telecommuting is pretty long.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#44594101)

Three hours? All that money to shave away 120 minutes?

If it weren't for CHP, I'd make it in five, every time, no problem...

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44594295)

Not to mention... airplanes. So many billions would probably pay for an extra/improved airport or two. Airplanes don't require any infrastructure in between, and you could link the airports to the city center with regular rail at a fraction of the cost. For that cost, you could even set up some kind of pre-screening on the train that links the city center to the airport so that the train can deliver the passengers on the secure side of the airport.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#44594343)

So many billions would probably pay for an extra/improved airport or two. Airplanes don't require any infrastructure in between, and you could link the airports to the city center with regular rail at a fraction of the cost.

Airplanes produce an enormous amount of CO2 compared to trains. One is not really saving money with that externality involved. In the long run, it would be prudent for the state to support rail travel and discourage air travel.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44594743)

Airplanes don't have to be carbon polluters. You could run them on biofuels or capture the carbon. Carbon offsets are fairly cheap - probably under a buck per passenger per typical flight.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (2)

MITguy21 (1248040) | about a year ago | (#44594351)

Three hours? All that money to shave away 120 minutes?

If it weren't for CHP, I'd make it in five, every time, no problem...

Google Maps reports LA-->SF at 382 mi, 5 hours 35 minutes. To do this in 3 hours, on existing roads requires an average speed of 382/3 = 127 mph.

Tomorrow's NASCAR race at Michigan will be 500 miles and the winner's average speed is likely to be over 160 mph including pitstops and caution periods to clean up wrecks. A number of cars qualified (solo run) at over 200 mph. The Silver State Classic Challenge is held on closed public roads, http://www.sscc.us/history.aspx [www.sscc.us] and the current record for 90 miles now stands at 207.7801 mph.

If there is really a $10 Billion prize, that should be enough to bribe the CHP to look the other way for one fast trip. Where are the rules for this contest...?

Cannonball run comes to mind (1)

mozumder (178398) | about a year ago | (#44594489)

or Gumball3000 rally.

Given enough people incentivized to do it, someone will eventually win. ..oh they meant something legal?

He did say five hours... (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44594665)

Google Maps reports LA-->SF at 382 mi, 5 hours 35 minutes.

He said "if it were not for CHP, I could make it in five every time".

Shaving 35 minutes off a five hour trip is really easy if you drive reasonably (i.e. non-dangerously) fast.

In fact pretty much all the time I am somewhere five-ten minutes per hour faster than the Google estimate.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44594733)

If it weren't for CHP, I'd make it in five, every time, no problem...

Google Maps reports LA-->SF at 382 mi, 5 hours 35 minutes. To do this in 3 hours, on existing roads requires an average speed of 382/3 = 127 mph.

Keep in mind that the SF-LA high speed rail is scheduled to be under construction for thirty years before it is operational. By that time we will almost certainly have self driving cars that can do 127mph safely. We could build streamlined self driving buses that could go from SF to LA in three hours on existing interstate highways for about 1% of the cost of the HS rail boondoggle.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (2)

Ichijo (607641) | about a year ago | (#44594787)

Keep in mind that the SF-LA high speed rail is scheduled to be under construction for thirty years before it is operational.

False. The Initial Operating Section (220 mph or 350 km/h from San Jose to Palmdale) is scheduled to be operational in 2022, just nine years from now.

You must be thinking of the full build-out, from San Diego and Anaheim to San Francisco and Sacramento.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | about a year ago | (#44594623)

Goddam Ponch and Jon.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year ago | (#44594375)

What is the obsession with flinging your sack of water down a track at 300 miles per hour. In a world of diminishing cheap energy, why travel fast

Perhaps in a generation or two (or after a few energy crises) you could convince people to sacrifice a full day traveling from LA to SanFran, but for the moment, take it as a given that people want and, to a small extent, need to travel that distance in a short period of time. Given that, consider the available alternatives to Hyperloop or the proposed High Speed Rail: 1) traveling in a vehicle at 60 mph at several times the energy/passenger/distance cost, or 2) traveling in an aircraft at 600 mph (average speed, including TSA violations, perhaps 200 mph) at many times the energy cost. A third alternative, traveling at 80-120 mph on fairly conventional high speed rail at slightly less energy cost, I presently rate as not much of an alternative at all, because it simply doesn't exist.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594537)

Think of the escort service possibility.

Re:300 MPH flesh sacks of water (2)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about a year ago | (#44594593)

I'm sorry, but that's an idiotic attitude to hold. From a business perspective it's invaluable to meet in person. Telecommuting isn't all it's cracked up to be and often is detrimental to the workplace. But there are a multitude of reasons why people would want to physically travel somewhere. People move where the jobs and opportunities are. This often means separation from friends and family which in turn means that they're more likely to travel to see them. How about sightseeing and vacations? Who in their right mind wants to spend days on a trip that could potentially take hours? Imagine half of your vacation spend spent simply getting somewhere.

By your rationale we may as well go back to plying the seas in galleons. If 300mph is too wasteful, is 200mph acceptable? How about 100mph? Hell, I'm sure we'd attain incredible efficiency at 25mph; I mean, if it was good enough for steam locomotives it's good enough for us. But let's just take it to the next step and go back to the horse and wagon. That's pretty much the pinnacle of sustainability. Except that there's no way in hell it's sustainable with 6 billion humans on earth. So mass transit is essential and more efficient after all.

Why can't we strive for both efficiency and speed? If a 500mph Hyperloop is more energy efficient than air travel how is it not desirable? It seems like the best of both worlds to me, preserving speed but boosting efficiency. If nothing else, it gives us more options for power sources beyond fossil fuels.

It's a good thing the human race hasn't been so pessimistic and lacking ambition because otherwise most of us would probably still be in Europe trying to fend off the plague.

No. (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#44594027)

"conventional" high-speed rail is a proven concept in use today in many non-North American countries. Musk's idea, while based on things that are already being studies, contains a lot of unproven technology.

Even if we could do the necessary R&D in a *reasonable* amount of time, the 7+ billion price-tag is way too low.

It's a pipe dream - er, tube dream - to think this is a practical transportation solution right now or even in the near future.

Re:No. (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about a year ago | (#44594069)

contains a lot of unproven technology.

No, actually it doesn't. Obviously all this proven technology has never been combined in this particular way before, but there's nothing in the plan that's not available off the shelf today.

Re:No. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594163)

No, actually it doesn't. Obviously all this proven technology has never been combined in this particular way before, but there's nothing in the plan that's not available off the shelf today.

You know exactly what the Parent is saying, why waste your time being a tired pedantic?

Re:No. (3, Informative)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about a year ago | (#44594247)

Where to start...?

- Why should I accept what the Parent is saying if the Parent shows significant ignorance of the topic?
- Why should I give the Parent's armchair ramblings more credence than the 57-page write-up of one of the most innovative and successful entrepreneurs of recent years, which was produced with the help of some of the top engineers in the field?
- Why should I accept the Parent's arbitrary declaration that "the 7+ billion price-tag is way too low"?? (Would there be cost overruns? Almost certainly, but even at 2x the price, it's still a fraction of the projected cost of the proposed HSR line.)

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594267)

Because unproven technology is a lot different than proven technology with novel application. With proven tech, you already know most of its characteristics which allows you to maintain and install that tech a lot more efficiently. Obviously, you still have to do studies to make sure that the tech that works in one application is still useful and safe in the desired application, but you're at least working from an advanced starting point.

Re:No. (1)

reub2000 (705806) | about a year ago | (#44594455)

If the technology is all ready then why doesn't he build a test track out in the desert to prove it?

Re:No. (3, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44594649)

If the technology is all ready then why doesn't he build a test track out in the desert to prove it?

Because he is busy running Tesla and SpaceX. He just proposed the idea, it is not his duty to "prove it". If it is a good idea, it should be adopted regardless of who proposed it.

Personally, I think neither HS-Rail nor Hyperloop should be built. They are both decades away, and by that time we will have self-driving electric cars. It would be far cheaper to build a streamlined self-driving bus that can do 120MPH on existing road infrastructure. It could go from LA to SF in about three hours. That is "good enough" and would be about 1% of the cost. The other 99% of the price tag for rail could be used to pay down our 14 trillion dollar debt.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594079)

High speed rail is a proven money hole that doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Re:No. (4, Insightful)

dan828 (753380) | about a year ago | (#44594149)

Especially California's high speed plan, which, at this point, is just a pay off to special interests and unions. It's neither going to be "high speed" nor actually in the cities that it is supposedly to linking. Basically, we're going to pay 68 billion dollars for a regular train system that is going to be slower and less convenient than just about anything else available now.

Re:No. (3, Informative)

westlake (615356) | about a year ago | (#44594487)

It's neither going to be "high speed" nor actually in the cities that it is supposedly to linking.

To be fair, Musk's proposed Hyperloop isn't city center to city center either. The rental car or shuttle service is still required. I want to know more about many passengers the loop can carry and how much it would cost to ''terminate'' the route downtown.

It is the difference between practical and efficient mass transit and a $6 billion dollar thrill ride.

Re:No. (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about a year ago | (#44594767)

It's neither going to be "high speed" nor actually in the cities that it is supposedly to linking.

The above statement is only partially true. In 2022, the Initial Operating Section will run at full speed (220 mph or 350 km/h) from San Jose to Palmdale, requiring a transfer to Caltrain in the north and Metrolink in the south.

Later in 2026 (Bay to Basin), the bookend from San Francisco to San Jose will run on electrified Caltrain tracks, eliminating a transfer at San Jose. And in 2029 (Phase 1 Blended), this bookend will run on dedicated HSR tracks.

The other bookend from Palmdale to Los Angeles will also be complete in 2029, eliminating the need to transfer to Metrolink.

Re:No. (5, Insightful)

IICV (652597) | about a year ago | (#44594189)

Yes, the actual high speed rail technology is a concept that's been done before - however, stomping over all of that privately owned land between LA and SF is a political concept that's completely infeasible at this point in time.

Although Elon Musk is using a bunch of existing technology in new ways, his plan is politically feasible - and it's not like we would just start building the Hyperloop without doing a proof-of-concept first. If it turns out that the idea doesn't scale, we'd do something else.

Re:No. (1)

bkmoore (1910118) | about a year ago | (#44594481)

Yes, the actual high speed rail technology is a concept that's been done before - however, stomping over all of that privately owned land between LA and SF is a political concept that's completely infeasible at this point in time.....

It's called right of way. The government has used right of way before to build the highways (freeways in CA). The only difference is CA has become much more densely populated in the last 60 years, so more than just orange groves would be displaced.

Re:No. (0)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#44594245)

"conventional" high-speed rail is a proven concept in use today in many non-North American countries

Yes, it is quite "proven": proven to be an expensive, money-losing boondoggle in Europe. Something that allows the well-off to travel in comfort between city centers where ordinary people can't afford to live. For ordinary people, high speed rail requires feeder lines that make the whole trip slower than driving, and the tickets are more expensive than (the already expensive) gas or flying. Why would we possibly want this in the US?

The US has an active rail system bigger than European nations combined. It's primarily used for freight, which is the most efficient way of using a modern rail system. Europeans are misusing their rail system for inefficient passenger transport while putting a lot more freight on the roads.

Proven that it's wrong for that area (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44594609)

"conventional" high-speed rail is a proven concept in use today in many non-North American countries.

I have used high speed rail in Europe, including Germany.

It's nice but usually slower than planes.

The hyperloop has the chance to be significantly better than airplane travel, at a reduced environmental (and noise) impact compared to a train.

I am totally against the California rail project because even the current high estimates are probably 5x lower than actual cost. But if we build the hyperloop, we advance all kinds of technology and leapfrog the state of the art in ground travel.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594695)

The best HSR of today can operate (not the speed test) around 300-350 km/hr (186-217 mph). Assuming that this is what CA wants to build for $68B.

Now the Hyperloop is going to go 3 times faster for 1/10 of the cost. Even if it goes over by 100% in cost, that is still a lot cheaper. Build it on pylons over the I-5 and you save all that land acquisition cost.

Cars are good for short distances. Planes are great for long distances (I can't drive from Chicago to Tokyo). Trains are good for the middle. I currently drive any trip at 300 miles or less since air travel is a pain in the ass. If I had a train option that went at least 2x a fast as a car (60-70mph) then I would definitely consider that.

Live, unharmed and able to walk away unassisted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594031)

And no wet tanks or pressure suits!

TSA (5, Funny)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about a year ago | (#44594035)

Does that three hours include the TSA screening process?

Re:TSA (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44594317)

You are right, this thing might become a target, just like airplanes. Or maybe not... it depends how spectacular the failure is. I suspect it won't be very spectacular - a break in the tube would slow the trains immediately and reduce the damage potential. I think it would be like a normal passenger rail disaster... that is to say, bad, but not what terrorists are after.

Re: TSA (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year ago | (#44594525)

I suspect less bad than a typical rail disaster. I get the impression (without reading details) this is about individual cars powered externally. This would reduce the harm, though it'd still approach a plain (which a modern rail problem can surpass).

Lies, Damned Lies, and Estimates (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594055)

California's high speed rail was originally going to cost $33 billion. (2008's Proposition 1A was a $10 billion bond).

5 years later, the estimate is $68 billion and it won't actually be high speed.

the race (4, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about a year ago | (#44594057)

between hyperloop and high speed rail is a false race. YES we need fast trains to move people. What we need MORE is an electrified rail grid to move our stuff around. Most trains run off diesel. The age of cheap oil has been over for quite a while now. We need to shift our infrastructure away from fossil fuels, sector by sector. Moving ALL mass transport (cargo or live, vacuum tube or rail) to electric is of paramount importance, and it needs to start happening now, this way when oil started getting really expensive and scarce in the coming decades, we will be able to transport food and goods. What I think we should see is someone haul 100 boxcars of food from California's central valley to New York City using ONLY electrical engines, no diesel. That would be a landmark moment in history and a real beacon of hope for a future to technical civilisation.

Re:the race (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594115)

bio-diesel is cleaner than electric, once you remember where electricity comes from.

Re:the race (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594157)

nuclear?

Re:the race (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about a year ago | (#44594567)

Solar?

Re:the race (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594199)

How about a passenger rail system that actually connects cities?
Just try taking a train from Washington DC to Huntsville - you can't.
It's the same for many cities in the southeast - a remnant of the Civil War.

Re:the race (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about a year ago | (#44594569)

I completely agree. The American passenger rail system is dreadful.

Re:the race (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594579)

Why would anyone in DC want to go to Huntsville?

Re:the race (0)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#44594421)

between hyperloop and high speed rail is a false race. YES we need fast trains to move people. What we need MORE is an electrified rail grid to move our stuff around. Most trains run off diesel. The age of cheap oil has been over for quite a while now. We need to shift our infrastructure away from fossil fuels, sector by sector. Moving ALL mass transport (cargo or live, vacuum tube or rail) to electric is of paramount importance, and it needs to start happening now, this way when oil started getting really expensive and scarce in the coming decades, we will be able to transport food and goods. What I think we should see is someone haul 100 boxcars of food from California's central valley to New York City using ONLY electrical engines, no diesel. That would be a landmark moment in history and a real beacon of hope for a future to technical civilisation.

Unless you have figured out a way to get electricity out of the air, for the forseeable future, we are going to be using fossil fuel, whether it is to power a diesel engine to turn an alternator to run traction motors of a diesel train (that's all the engine does is turn either a generator or alternator to produce electricity) or that electricity comes from power plant, we are still burning some sort of fossil fuel. It will be a long time before solar and wind and other sources can replace fossil fuel plants.

While it may be more economical to generate electricity in a central point and then transmit it where needed, the maintenance of those transmission lines, particularly for thousands of miles of railroad track would more than offset the savings. Basically, railroads already did what you are proposing, 70 years ago, the only difference is that when they switched to electricity, they carry around diesel generators to supply it. That way, they don't have to rely on faulty transmission lines, brown outs, acts of nature, and a slew of other problems that would leave a train dead on the tracks. Yes, diesel fuel is expensive and will only get more expensive, but so with the production cost of all electricity.

Re:the race (2)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about a year ago | (#44594615)

The problem is: diesel is either made of petroleum (a very limited resource) or biomass (which has a low Energy Return on Energy Invested ratio, and is also based on a limited resource: arable land). Electricity can be generated locally (nuclear, solar, wind, water, tide, geothermal etc) and fed into a decentralised grid. Nuclear uses a limited resource as well, this is true, however, a switch to thorium fuel would permit a fairly graceful transition out of fossil fuel to a solar based (Because wind and hydro are also solar energy) system.

Hyper loop (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594073)

These "Hyperloop" ideas have been bouncing around since at least the 1950s. They are nothing new.

...if it turns out after a few years that Musk's system is truly faster and cheaper, there will still be time to pull the plug on high-speed rail.

"Musk's" system will not be cheaper and it couldn't be profitable - let alone break even. It'll be a HUGE money pit. It'll be the Concorde on land - or below land. It won't be able to carry enough passengers to make it worth while. The technology is unproven and doesn't even exist. It would be better to try it in the NE Corridor - NY to Washington DC.

High speed rail would be a better bet because you can carry more passengers at once, the technology is proven (Gee, high speed rail in an earth quake prone area - the Japanese solved all those problems.), the technology is off the shelf - nothing will have to be custom made (very little R&D), it'll be a hell of a lot cheaper to implement, etc ....

You know, the electric car was first invented in the 19th century, private rocket flight in the 1930s and Burt Rutan has been working on it for DECADES, and there were a few online payment systems before PayPal; so why is Musk considered this "visionary" again?

Oh high, great self promotion - like Edison, Jobs, etc ..

Re:Hyper loop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594167)

so why is Musk considered this "visionary" again?

Because he produced the first electric car that doesn't need massive government subsidies to sell?

Because he produced the first private rocket that has successfully made it to orbit and to the ISS?

Because PayPal is the first truly successful online payment system?

Re:Hyper loop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594261)

Because he produced the first electric car that doesn't need massive government subsidies to sell?

Other than up to $5,000-$10,000 in federal and state tax credits? And California emission credits?

Does not NEED them (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44594691)

Other than up to $5,000-$10,000 in federal and state tax credits

The point is the Telsa is the first electric car that does not NEED to subsidies to sell, not that they do not exist - people would still be buying the car without those credits.

Re:Hyper loop (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44594201)

"Musk's" system will not be cheaper and it couldn't be profitable - let alone break even.

Maybe, maybe not.

But 'profitable' in this era of large transit systems isn't a goal. The system that gives politicians the greatest opportunity to play hide the tax revenue will be the one that succeeds. The politicos will see to that. You need to ask the question: Which system will provide the most opportunities to skim funds for projects ranging from save the gay whales to housing for hobos? That will be the winner. The technology doesn't matter.

Re:Hyper loop (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#44594355)

"Musk's" system will not be cheaper and it couldn't be profitable - let alone break even.

Maybe, maybe not.

But 'profitable' in this era of large transit systems isn't a goal. The system that gives politicians the greatest opportunity to play hide the tax revenue will be the one that succeeds. The politicos will see to that. You need to ask the question: Which system will provide the most opportunities to skim funds for projects ranging from save the gay whales to housing for hobos? That will be the winner. The technology doesn't matter.

Well, then based on your question, the answer would be Musk's system, since it is all new and never been tried, there is ample opportunity to have cost overruns and blame it on the new technology that is paving the way for the future (whether that is true or not). The cost overruns with the high speed rail in California have nothing to do with the technology but everything to do with land acquisition costs and environmental impact studies causing delays. Musk tries to get around the land costs by proposing using the median down the interstate, one could run high speed rail down the median, too, at a significant cost savings. Musk will still have to deal with environmental impact studies and those costs and delays aren't figured in his optomistically low pricing.

High speed rail is not new it has been around for over 50 years in most ot Europe and Japan and is pretty much perfected. It is what the politicians and regulators are doing that are causing the problems with the project in CA. If you want affordable high speed rail, get the politicians out of it. Put differently, if you scrap high speed rail in favor of the hyperloop, there is no reason to expect that the politicians and regulators won't mess it up, either.

both lose (3, Funny)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44594105)

Just build teleporters! By the time they get this hyperloop thing running in like 2020 someone will have invented teleporters and then their business model collapses.

Re:both lose (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44594139)

Very funny, Scotty! Now beam down my pants!

Re:both lose (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#44594175)

Assuming teleportation can even occur (physics and energy requirements aside), expect it to be used exclusively for non-organic transport first. I'm expecting a lot of accidental transportation happen before it's deemed safe enough for people.

Viva Las Vegas! (5, Interesting)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44594113)

As a test, it might be better to try this out on the LA to Las Vegas route.
This is shorter and land acquisition costs across the desert would be very low.
The route today is currently very heavily traveled so there would be a good market for passengers.
The casinos would love it and would probably fund it.

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594233)

On the surface this sounds like a good idea, but the entity that owns the McDonald's in Barstow is gonna fight this tooth and nail. Good luck with that!

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (1)

MyHair (589485) | about a year ago | (#44594283)

Isn't LA-LV too hilly for a high-speed hyperloop at ground level or even ground level plus a few meters? I think it would be a vomit comet in a can.

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44594415)

Don't know what the engineering parameters are for the hyperloop but I imagine that they have figured out something reasonable that works with the real world which has hills everywhere.
Quick look at Google Earth shows max elevation 1475 meters with average slope 2.3% for the current I-5 route. I don't know if this is within their parameters but there is a lot of empty space out there for route selection.

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#44594297)

As a test, it might be better to try this out on the LA to Las Vegas route.
This is shorter and land acquisition costs across the desert would be very low.
The route today is currently very heavily traveled so there would be a good market for passengers.
The casinos would love it and would probably fund it.

The casinos have been pushing for high speed rail for years. Two obstacles - environmentalists and they want somebody else to pay for it. Other than that, they think its a great idea.

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (2)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44594475)

Interesting that there already is a proposal for a high speed rail link:
http://www.xpresswest.com/ [xpresswest.com]
http://www.xpresswest.com/network.html [xpresswest.com] (they have grand plans for the entire Southwest).
They have done a lot of work on it but recently hit a block when they couldn't get the Feds to loan them the money:
http://www.reviewjournal.com/transportation-insider/prospects-dim-high-speed-rail-link-la-vegas [reviewjournal.com]

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year ago | (#44594385)

If nothing else, the desert would make a good place to build a 50 km development/demonstration track. Open spaces, easy land acquisition, few neighbors to complain, relatively small environmental impact (it is built on pylons, after all), lessened earthquake risk, and abundant sunshine.

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594479)

That reminds me of another problem. Ever get into a car after it's been sitting out in the sun all day? Ouch! Now try it in the desert. Double-ouch!

Do the math (I'm an HVAC engineer). If you run it in the day, cooling costs will be expensive. Musk's paper ignores the issue entirely.

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#44594773)

hmm - Tube is shaded by a solar panel, plus you could have Insulation on the sides facing the sun. Partial vacuum inside the tube further insulates the pods. Heat due to all of the air compression the pods do might be a bigger problem.

Re:Viva Las Vegas! (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#44594703)

The casinos would love it and would probably fund it.

video poker games and minibars built into the seatbacks which activate as soon as the pods enter Nevada?

neither (2, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#44594137)

They are both a waste of money.

Re:neither (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#44594169)

They are both a waste of money.

Yes, that's how the Europeans feel about it as well.

Re:neither (0)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#44594279)

I can't tell whether you're trying to be sarcastic or not, but passenger rail in Europe is a constant political problem: it loses money, it is unreliable, and it carries only a small percentage of overall traffic. So, yeah, Europeans don't feel good about it either. And they would feel even worse about it if they realized how much it costs and how much highway congestion it causes (because all the freight traffic that isn't traveling by rail ends up clogging up the highways).

Re:neither (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594325)

I think you're wrong. Can you cite a news story? One that isn't in some right-wing rag?

Re:neither (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#44594287)

They are both a waste of money.

Yes, that's how the Europeans feel about it as well.

Not just the Europeans, but Asia, too. Pretty much the US is the only country that hasn't embraced high speed rail, something that has been available everywhere else for 50 years. Even the passenger trains of the 1920s ran faster than today's trains.

Re:neither (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594583)

HSR is reliable and breaks even / makes a profit in France. That's the whole point of public investment, you don't have to care about the next quarter's profit.
I checked the UN's report a few years ago, the US has sub-standard infrastructures, and it costs the economy dozens of billions a year. I'll find you the link.

The richest state not being able to provide basic infrastructure like efficient railways for political reasons is a sign a huge failure.
Countries like Algeria and Morroco are planning HSR here, South East asian countries set up projects as soon as they can. The US will be the last country in the world without it.

Idiotic (1, Interesting)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year ago | (#44594221)

What a truly idiotic proposition. A fixed route implies ground travel, which implies buying up tons of land, which implies god awful levels of politics and zoning, which implies buy in from the state and laws to make it possible, etc. etc. It's impossible to even get started. Any proposal has to be approved by the public. You can't just start digging up pristine forest or people's back yards for your rail.

Re:Idiotic (1)

guises (2423402) | about a year ago | (#44594515)

Have you read any of the proposals? Do you know anything about either the high-speed rail or the hyperloop? Do you think you're bringing something new to the table with this comment?

Fundamentally flawed (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44594705)

Even worse the fundamental idea of is deeply flawed - Hyperloop, high speed rail, or anything else that requires serious infrastructure have most of their costs up front - in order to qualify for the competition the system already has to be fully completed. You could skimp on the trains/pods/etc, but those are a tiny fraction of the overall cost.

So what exactly would be the point of a competition? Even if you could somehow fund all the competitors, you're building a bunch of alternate solutions to a problem that can likely only financially support one of them, meaning that at best all other contenders ave been a colossal waste of resources, and at worst the competition drives *all* the solutions out of business.

It's not a fair test. (3, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#44594281)

It's not a fair test. Railroads could deliver that speed today if not for government regulation. Even today's high speed rail projects only get rail travel speeds up to what was normal 100 years ago. Now, if you remove all of the restrictions imposed by the government facing railroad then you level the playing field. In addition, it shouldn't be about getting 1 person there in 3 hours. What is more efficient, moving 1 or a small group of people from point a to point b in x amount of time or moving a large group of people from point a to point b?

The Concorde was very good at moving a small group of people from point a to b at a high speed, but it wasn't economically sustainable. The slower jumbo jets, because they could carry more passengers were actually more efficient. So, if your goal is to get a single person from point a to be as fast as you can, then neither high speed rail nor hyperloop are the way to go. Both would be a collosal waste of resources.

OTOH, if your goal is to move the most number of people from point a to b in a reasonably fixed period of time, then that is a different problem and would probably call for a different solution.

Basically, before throwing money at a problem, you should be sure you have defined the problem you want solved. Otherwise, you might just pay a lot of money for a solution that you don't really need.

Re:It's not a fair test. (1)

guises (2423402) | about a year ago | (#44594581)

You're complaining about safety regulations? The big bad government keeps fucking stuff up because it cares too much about people dying, eh? High speed rail in the US can't get up to genuinely high speeds because it's making use of old tracks which can't sustain those speeds. High speed rail in France and Japan manage just fine with their newer tracks, despite all that regulation weighing them down.

The reason why people like rail as a means of high speed transport is because you can move a large number of people relatively quickly and efficiently. If we didn't care about efficiency we could just keep using costly polluting planes to travel everywhere. This is in the hyperloop proposal, in fact - efficiency gains trail off at distances of greater than one thousand miles or so. He suggests sticking with planes to link cities that are further apart.

It's the Right of Way that's the problem. (1)

Above (100351) | about a year ago | (#44594307)

Right of way has always been the problem for transportation. Long narrow corridors intersect many landowners. One of the major reasons the transcontinental railroads were able to be built by private industry is that the US Government owned much of the land, and gave it to them. They didn't have to go buy small strips of land from thousands of land owners.

Follow a small road project in your area. Land acquisition will take years, decades usually. There will always be several people who just don't want to sell, either because they like where they are, or don't like the project. Eminent Domain laws in this country were designed in the early 1800's, and really don't fit a modern society at all. Worse, as we see in California, with long haul transportation there are political objections as well. Whole towns and counties that won't cooperate.

There is no practical way for private industry to obtain the land needed to build rail/road/hyperloop in 99.99% of the cases. That's why most private roads are really "public-private partnerships", government gets the right of way, and then leases it to the company for a hundred years or something. If we want more efficient transportation the thing that needs to be debated is eminent domain and how society as a whole handles these issues. Can the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one?

Re:It's the Right of Way that's the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594457)

Forget land, build it in the ocean.

The bullet train is dumb (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#44594361)

68 billion for this thing is madness. So anything that undermines the project and shuts it down is in the public interest.

Further, if we're going to build a silly vanity project, I'd much rather have the hyperloop. The hyperloop is at the very least cutting edge and not something out of the 70s. California is supposed to be cutting edge. We deserve better then an over priced crappy train.

Re:The bullet train is dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594467)

I agree. You deserve to pay for a much more expensive, "cutting edge" people mover. Oh, and thanks for building it, I may use it when I visit.

OP (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year ago | (#44594477)

Op is an idiot.

Everyone in California knows that the high speed rail project is crap. Over budget by miles. Will not go to LA or SF. Will not be high speed.

This should never be built.

Monorail.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594519)

.....Monorail.....Monorail.......Monorail......Monorail.....

Partial success == partial payment? (1)

mypalmike (454265) | about a year ago | (#44594597)

The money, to be donated by big corporations, would go to the first organization that delivers a live human from Los Angeles to San Francisco

So what do I get for delivering a dead human?

Science Fiction, meet Science fact (1)

Provocateur (133110) | about a year ago | (#44594707)

Commuting 300 mph to another city? That's science.

To work at a job there? Now that's fiction.

It's all wrapped up in the Name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594727)

"HYPE"rloop...

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