Comment of the Day Runner-Up: How Houston Can Speed Things Along

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: HOW HOUSTON CAN SPEED THINGS ALONG “Can we replace the HOT lanes with hyperloop tubes? Who wouldn’t pay $5 bucks to travel from The Woodlands to Downtown in 5 minutes? It’d be cheaper than gas! That’d be a game changer. How about a hyperloop tube to Galveston? Think of how efficient evacuation would be with an on coming hurricane.” [Thomas, commenting on Headlines: Many More Dunkin’ Donuts; Free Metro Rides on Labor Day] Illustration: Lulu

14 Comment

  • Would have the same problem as high speed rail or any mass transport in Houston… once you get to your destination then what? Do you schlep a dozen blocks where you need to go? Do you wait on the side of the road to a connecting bus? Do you rent a car to finish your trip? Still worth taking your own car.

  • Commonsense: Don’t get me wrong, it’s silly to put too much effort into worrying about something that hasn’t been invented yet-but…don’t all forms of transportation have the exact same problem you describe? Unless you are able to park your car or whatever form of transport you take immediately next to the exact spot you work each day…I work downtown and frequently see people “schlepping” many blocks from their parking spot to their office. In fact, there are people in my office that have easier access to their nearest bus or light rail connection point than to the nearest parking garage.

  • Musk’s Hyper Loop proposal included a version that could carry cars – similar to a ferry. Who knows how the ultimate technology and economics look but maybe eventually you could run parallel tubes – one for just passengers and one with cars.

  • Son, a transportation system in Houston that doesn’t use fossil fuels? Get a rope.

  • @Gtg, parking lots and parking spaces are ubiquitous, so rarely (unless it’s pouring rain) do people mind walking 1-2 blocks.

    Of all the tube proposals I’ve heard, there are only two endpoints per tube and maybe at maximum a few tubes in between large cities. Therefore, there’s no way most people could arrive within 1-2 blocks of their destination.

    1-2 blocks: Easy. An additional 5 miles after “finishing” your journey: unworkable.

  • I’m a little dismayed by the condescension by supposedly professional journalists within the first few hours after this was announced, before ANY of the details were released. Sure it could be completely pie in the sky, but I’d rather see this debunked by a thorough economic analysis or engineering analysis – not by a gut feeling from a journalist who has training in neither.

    Anyway, while I’ve heard comparisons to rail, air, and roads about cost, speed, right of way issues, and safety, I haven’t really seen a comparison on overall capacity. What is the maximum amount of people they could move by tube per hour? I’d be interested to see that, even if it’s all at the theoretical stage at this point.

  • eiioi,

    All I saw from journalists was fawning praise.

    It is bunk.

    capacity is approx same as a freeway lane at 2 occupants per car average for long distance travel. Ctrl-f capacity to skip to that analysis, it is a long post.

  • Heck yeah, we should do something to make this a city people actually want to live in. How about one straight to NOLA and another to Schliterbahn

  • This is more of a Houston to Dallas idea,which would be great, assuming Southwest Airlines wouldn’t try to kill it. The solution to better transit between Houston and the Woodlands as one poster above asked has and always will be returning the Woodlands to the swamp and building and/or regentrifying the ample places closer to Houston. If a 26 lane highway can’t handle enough people then what makes you think a pair of tubes will be the solution to bottlenecking.

  • eiioi,

    It’s easy to criticize this idea because there is nothing new about it. The hyperloop concept is 1700s concept merge with modern technical capabilities.

    The original design was a pneumatics and a few tubes were built as subways.

    Elon Musk has the money to throw out big ideas and see where they go. He’s already mentioned he not pursuing this himself and made his white paper open to all that want to review or take on the challenge. I foresee his involvement to wane since he focused on Tesla and SpaceX.

  • I want to be optimistic about this technology, but I’d also REALLY like to see a proof of concept that would firmly establish the safety, operating parameters, and COST.

    That said, I tend to be an optimist about this sort of thing; and anything that will advance the public discourse beyond the horribly wasteful and antiquated focus on passenger travel over steel rails.

  • Like Niche, I want to be optimistic about Hyperloop. But the big problem that I see with it is scale. The tubes are only 7 feet high. The vehicles only carry about 14 people, and it’s unclear how many vehicles can share a tube.
    Think about air travel – the Concorde versus the Boeing 747. The Concorde was supposed to usher in a new wave of supersonic passenger air travel. But it’s operating costs were so high and the plane didn’t have enough seats to make up for it – that it never caught on. It was never more than a novelty for the very rich. The 747, by contrast, was supposed to be temporary but, due to its economics, it became the de facto workhorse for many airlines – even though it was a slow, traditional jet.
    Maybe if Hyperloop was bigger – with vehicles the size of train cars and linked together, like trains – and it somehow had the same costs to build and operate as the smaller scheme – I could see it gaining traction. If not, it’ll at best be a novelty for the very rich to try once or twice.

  • I started to think, this is probably just a publicity stunt that enables him to advertise for Tesla and to prop up an emerging cult of personality.

    The thing that got me thinking this was that for somebody that is supposedly into efficiency, solar panels are in general a waste of resources. It’s cheaper to power the system externally and he knows better.

  • Having done more research, I’m pretty firmly in the camp that says that this was a publicity stunt. The very low atmospheric pressures inside the tube and the extreme velocities of the vehicles traveling through them do not allow for the possibility of leaks. If there were a leak and a pocket of air pressure was formed, then when the vehicle struck the pressurized air, the tube would catastrophically explode. (Nature abhors a vacuum.)

    However, I am also deeply dismayed at how quick people were to react against the idea or anything like it. In California, it seems to the pro-HSR camp to be an unwelcome distraction from the momentum of their project, even if there might be a promise of superior technology or a threat of obsolescence. In the anti-HSR camp, any amount of expenditures are unwelcome and the cost estimates are viewed with incredulity. They seem to dismiss the idea out of hand, and for all kinds of badly abstracted reasons without actually having a conversation about physics, engineering, or benefits to actual people.

    I, for one, hope that California builds its shitty HSR and taxes itself into oblivion in order to do so. More jobs for Texas.