Hyperloop is hard at work, killing taxes and public investment

Hyperloop TT
© Hyperloop TT

Cupertino kills a head tax that would have improved transit in favour of, as Mal said in Serenity, "a long wait for a train don't come."

Cupertino, California is home to Apple, the world's first trillion dollar company. It also has terrible transportation problems, as its population swells from 60,000 at night to 180,000 every day as the tech workers stream into town. So the city, like neighbouring Mountain View, home of Google, had been considering a "head tax" that companies would pay per employee.

In the end, the tax did not go ahead, and according to Business Insider, one of the reasons is the Hyperloop.

"We are talking to hyperloop to have a line, hopefully, along Stevens Creek from Diridon Station to DeAnza College," Cupertino City Council member Barry Chang said at Tuesday night's meeting, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal . "It's in a very early discussion phase. Right now we need to see what our options are," Cupertino Mayor Darcy Paul told Business Insider in an email. "Personally, I'd like to see forward-looking technology that is cost-effective to make and maintain."

Mayor Paul evidently told staff to come up with "transportation plans that would include a partnership with Apple — and possibly fund an expensive project like the Hyperloop."

But [Paul] said he believes there's a strong possibility that Silicon Valley tech companies like Apple would "heavily subsidize" construction of a cutting-edge transportation solution in their own back yard and that no new tax should be imposed until that possibility is fleshed out. There could be very significant amounts of private sector funds willing just to invest in an early line so that, you know, that particular sector or company can use it as a bit of a showcase.

hyperloop 1Tesla Motors, Hyperloop Division/via

So the Hyperloop has done what it was designed to do: kill a tax that would have covered public investment in favour of, as Mal put it in Serenity, "a long wait for a train don't come." We call it Hyperloopism: "The perfect word to define a crazy new and unproven technology which nobody is sure will work, that probably isn't better or cheaper than the way things are done now, and is often counterproductive and used as an excuse to actually do nothing at all."

You have to go back to when Elon Musk first dreamed up the Hyperloop, which he never intended to build. As Sam Biddle wrote in Valleywag five years ago:

Lost in the debate about the Hyperloop’s feasibility, or lack thereof, is the fact that Musk’s plan — which he’s admitted may never materialize — is not primarily a technical proposal directed at consumers, but a political statement aimed squarely at the Establishment. By proposing a new way to provide mass transportation that is both cheaper and faster than anything approved by state authorities, Musk is taking aim at the government’s monopoly on large public works projects. He’s saying to policymakers in Washington and Sacramento alike: I can do your job better than you.

hyperloop fantasyXray Delta One on Flickr/via

Hyperloop fantasies, like those of self-driving or autonomous cars, are being used by libertarian and right-wing organizations to kill investment in public transit across North America. As the New York Times noted in an article about killing public transit:

Supporters of transit investments point to research that shows that they reduce traffic, spur economic development and fight global warming by reducing emissions. Americans for Prosperity counters that public transit plans waste taxpayer money on unpopular, outdated technology like trains and buses just as the world is moving toward cleaner, driverless vehicles.

This is how it works: wild promises of future technology are used to kill something that would work right now. Meanwhile, a trillion dollar company avoids paying a dinky little tax that they wouldn't even have noticed.

Hyperloop is hard at work, killing taxes and public investment
Cupertino kills a head tax that would have improved transit in favour of, as Mal said in Serenity, "a long wait for a train don't come."

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