According to recent reports, Elon Musk is now one more baby-sized step towards his dreams of creating a Hyperloop network.
After tweeting (opens in new tab) in July 2017 that he had received verbal permission to build a New York to Washington DC Hyperloop, the Washington Post (opens in new tab) states that Musk and his Boring company has finally received something on paper.
As you’d expect, the government hasn’t just given Musk permission to start digging tunnels from DC to New York without any further ado. Instead it’s granted a very limited permit for preliminary excavation and preparation at a single site in Washington DC.
When asked about the permit, a Boring Company spokesperson told the Washington Post that the “New York Avenue location if constructed, could become a station” in the wider Hyperloop network.
Looking at the fence-lined parking lot on New York Avenue, it’s hard to imagine any kind of station but according to the Boring Company “stations in a Loop or Hyperloop system are small in size and widely distributed in a network — very different from large-station termini considered for train systems.”
Clearly, this is a very small start and progress is slow. According (opens in new tab)to DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser's chief of staff, John Falcicchio, “We're just beginning, in the mayor's office, our conversation to get an understanding of what the general vision is for Hyperloop.” Telling Musk he can dig in an abandoned parking lot for a while seems like a good way to secure a little more time for thought.
If work on the Washington DC Hyperloop does get started, Musk has said that the system of high-speed tubes and pods will be able to carry people between the capital and New York in as little as 29 minutes. Given the current journey takes around three hours, this is impressive.
However, the kind of infrastructure required for the US-wide Hyperloop system Musk dreams of could take decades to build, and we’re barely out of the starting gate with this permit.
With that in mind, it’ll be a very long time before we see this become a viable transport solution. At the very least, Musk has the backing of the White House Office of American Innovation and a conditional utility permit (opens in new tab) from the state of Maryland to help keep things moving.