Elon Musk Gets "Verbal Approval" for East Coast Underground Hyperloop

hyperloop fantasy

But as Mal said to Shepherd Book in Serenity, "That's a long wait for a train don't come."

It’s really hard, covering Elon Musk. He is obviously doing some great things, but the fanboys hang on his every tweet like they are messages from above. His latest tweet has everyone excited:

I often have trouble taking Elon Musk seriously. I scoffed at the Hyperloop (I still scoff at the Hyperloop), although nothing I wrote was as good as Alison Arieff’s takedown of what she called “transportation's mysterious new girlfriend -- mysterious, unencumbered, exciting, expensive. A wild card with potential. But does she have long-term potential? That remains to be seen.” And yet, entrepreneurs and engineers are racing to build it.

I scoffed at his tunnels and the idea that this was a solution to anything, titling my post Elon Musk gets stuck in traffic.

Boring Machine

© The Boring Companhy

I scoffed again when he proposed putting the Hyperloop in tunnels, titling my post Two of Elon Musk's silliest ideas, together at last. Really? Who is he kidding? This is a science fiction fantasy.

underground trains

© Klaus Burgle

And finally, I scoffed at the whole idea that one could actually do this in the real world, because transportation is not an engineering problem:

The engineering is just the start of their problems; the bigger ones are the meaty issues of right of way, land acquisition, expropriation, all those things that take a Robert Moses to do. It’s one of the reasons that building high speed rail in the US has been such a problem; not the technology but the politics.

hyperloop 1

Tesla Motors, Hyperloop Division/via

The politics are certainly tricky; over at Jalopnik they contacted all of the agencies and governments that would normally approve these kinds of ventures and nobody knew anything. It finally came out that the “approval” was from the White House, according to Bloomberg:

A White House spokesman confirmed that the administration has had “promising conversations to date” with Musk and Boring Company executives but would only say the administration is “committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.”

Transportation expert Gabe Klein nails it in conversation with Samantha Cole of Motherboard:

Hyping people's hopes about high-speed travel between the biggest cities on the East Coast is painfully easy. "But, big picture, verbal approval is meaningless in government," Gabe Klein, former director of the Washington, DC Department of Transportation and former commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, told me. "I say that with a lot of respect for Elon Musk and what he's trying to do, but keep in mind that he is a brilliant marketer and provocateur," Klein, who recently started CityFi, an urban management firm, added. "Part of what I think he's doing is getting people excited about the ideas."

Iron man cover

Musk as Iron Man/Screen capture

Perhaps I should stop scoffing already. A lot of people believe that Elon Musk can do anything; TreeHugger Mike used to liken him to Iron Man and he wasn’t alone. But really, this ain't gonna happen. As Mal said to Shepherd Book in Serenity, “That's a long wait for a train don't come.”