Sketches of the Hyperloop
Why not send the Hyperloop cars all the way to the Moon?
Like most people, we have many questions about Elon Musk's proposal to build a giant pneumatic tube between SF and LA that shoot pods full of passengers between the two cities at hundreds of miles per hour. That's not to say that we don't like the idea. This is California—we dream big here. Musk's pitch is certainly better than the usual "It's Snapchat, but for unicyclists" garbage coming from Silicon Valley these days. But it's not so easy to go from Isaac Asimov-style visions of the future to the nitty-gritty of an actual working system. Here are some of our most pressing questions about the Hyperloop:
1. Do we get peanuts? How about a Bloody Mary? From what we can tell from the schematics of the interior of the pod, there won't be any room for a flight attendant passing out moist towelettes and pouring ginger ales. Maybe we'll be given snack packs upon entry, pre-school-style?
2. Can we get wifi at 800 mph? Because, Jesus, if you aren't going to pour us a drink, at least make sure we can rip some torrents of our favorite 90s sitcoms while in transit.
3. What if we have to pee? We don't see a bathroom on board. Look, we know that the bridge of the Starship Enterprise didn't have one either, but we're not going to have the luxury of commercial breaks. Perhaps Musk is planning on handing out Stadium Pals for all travelers?
4. What happens if one of the pods stops in the middle? Musk says that for most of the journey, the pod will be coasting. That means that the chance that it gets stuck in the middle because of a power outage is minimal. But let's imagine something does go wrong—whether from an errant cow or a terrorist attack—and a pod is stranded near Fresno. Then what? Don't tell us we have to get out in Fresno!
5. Do we get to bring a carry-on? Though he promises us a two-item luggage capacity to be stored in a separate compartment, Musk is eerily silent about the whether or not we could bring carry-on bags. Let's be clear, if we can't bring our Kindles, snacks, and change of underwear, we're not getting on.
6. Who's going to pay for this? The beauty of being someone like Musk is that you can rapidly shift resources to new projects, like an electric car or a space plane. The government, on the other hand, isn't so nimble. Given all the capital already allocated to California's high-speed rail project, it's hard to imagine who would be footing the bill for start up capital. Even Musk doesn't seem to know the answer to that one. Maybe he should call Jeff Bezos.
7. Will it raise the rent at my SoMa loft? Urban planners have known for years that mass transit stations drive up the rents in buildings near them. After all, who doesn't want to live close to a station? But what happens when big LA money folks decide that they want a little pied-à-terre up in San Francisco? Maybe the Infinity towers can sop up the excess, but you don't exactly have to be a Bay Guardian type to worry about being the rents being too damn high thanks to the Hyperloop.
8. Why can't it take me to the Moon? Seems like a missed opportunity for the guy behind SpaceX not to have combined the two projects. After all, you'd just need to tilt the Hyperloop track skyward and open a hole in the top. Then you'd have an awesome Space Gun, just like we were promised way, way back by Jules Verne in 1865.