Hyperloop – our learning journey begins

This week, the regional business community begins a new journey — a journey to learn about the potential of hyperloop for our region and the southeast.

While I had heard of hyperloop previously, I did not know exactly what it was when we first asked Ryan Kelly with Virgin Hyperloop One about potentially speaking at our 2019 Regional Transportation Alliance annual breakfast. I have a better idea now of what hyperloop is, and I am intrigued by the possibility.

Hyperloop — if it works, and could be constructed to link our region with say Charlotte, Richmond, or Washington, DC. — would be transformational. The ability to consistently get from Raleigh to another southeastern or mid-Atlantic region in under 30 minutes will completely change the way we think about metropolitan areas and, to some extent, the economic benefits of agglomeration.

Of course — if we could consistently get from Raleigh to Durham in under 30 minutes during rush hour, that would be transformational, at least from a quality of life and planning standpoint.

The hyperloop concept by Virgin Hyperloop One proposes to use a number of existing technologies and conditions — magnetic levitation, electric propulsion, low pressure environment, surface transportation (vs. air travel) and so on — but combines them in a new way.

To be clear — hyperloop will not be a substitute for the vast majority of regional travel or transit . With station portals at least 10 miles apart, it would be somewhat analogous to the entire I-40/147 freeway linkage between Raleigh and Durham having only a single exit in the middle of the region.

On the other hand, hyperloop could make my previous musing about “combining” Raleigh and Durham — or at least uniting the downtowns of our two cities — a reality. You could travel between the Raleigh and Durham portals faster than you could walk the length of downtown Raleigh.

Hyperloop also has the potential to advance intercity connectivity in new ways — if we were to place our one mid-region hyperloop station at RDU Airport.

We will have a great series of presentations on Friday, including a veritable focus group on the potential of hyperloop. Our lineup of presenters and panelists includes:

  • Virgin Hyperloop One – Ryan Kelly, head of marketing and communications; Ismaeel Babur, senior civil engineer
  • AECOM – Alan Eckman, VP, and Sreekanth Nandagiri, VP
  • NC Department of Transportation – David Howard, chief deputy secretary; Jason Orthner, rail division director
  • Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority – Michael Landguth, president and CEO
  • Research Triangle Park – Scott Levitan, president and CEO
  • UNC Chapel Hill – Brad Ives, associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises and chief sustainability officer; RTA regional transit chair
  • MetLife – Geoff Lang, vice president and general manager, global technology and operations; RTA chair

Check back to the RTA Breakfast page following the event for links to the final presentations and Triangle hyperloop pre-feasibility report.

A special thank you to RTA Leadership Team member AECOM for all of their preparations for the breakfast, and to NCDOT for their ongoing partnership. And of course, to our guests from Virgin Hyperloop One.

Let’s learn more together. Our journey to the future awaits.

Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA Executive Director

RTA is the voice of the regional business community on transportation

post reference: th3.2019.28

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