Somebody didn’t get the obituary

Some people in Minnesota have a dream to make a popular commute easier — the hour and a half drive from the Big City of Minneapolis to the Major Medical Hub of Rochester, where the Mayo Clinic is located. These dreamers want a whole bunch of money to research a proposal to build a…hyperloop.

Hyperloop? Are they kidding us?

Hyperloop is a fantasy built up by Elon Musk that has never been implemented successfully, and when tried, simply sucks up a huge amount of money for transportation infrastructure to kill more practical ideas for mass transit. People are still considering it?

…group of high-profile backers is seeking millions in funding from the Metropolitan Council to help get the proposed project up and running.

The largely theoretical rail technology, known as hyperloop, was popularized in 2013 when billionaire Elon Musk published a white paper on the subject. Though some have expressed skepticism over the mogul’s seriousness about Hyperloop, there are active efforts around the world and in the U.S. to see it come to fruition — and Minnesota is the latest proposed site for such a system.

A nonprofit called Global Wellness Connections — whose board members include the mayors of Edina and Plymouth as well as former Secretary of State Mark Ritchie — is asking the Met Council’s Transportation Advisory Board for “most of the $2.5 million” needed for a feasibility study of a Minneapolis-Rochester hyperloop.

It’s dead, Jim.

Today, no full-scale hyperloops exist anywhere in the world. Musk’s test tunnel in California is gone. The man himself has become more enamored with endorsing antisemitic theories than solving the problem of car traffic.

The Boring Company, Musk’s tunneling operation, is still digging underground passageways in Las Vegas — but for Teslas, not hyperloops. The future, it would seem, is nearly the same as the present.

They want $2.5 million for a “feasibility study”. I’ll do it for a mere million dollars! Here’s the report I’ll send: “No, it’s not feasible, and has failed everywhere. How about building a regular commuter train?”


  1. says

    It worked well in Vegas, people who work in and around the convention center loved it. It shut down because it wasn’t making money, which is what tends to happen when you give a service away for free. Even a nominal fee of $1 wouldn’t have stopped users, it’s still cheaper and more efficient than the monorail or the bus. But as with most capitalist ventures these days, “tweak it” is always dismissed in favor of “fuck it”.

  2. raven says

    I had to look it up.

    What is a Hyperloop and how does it work?

    The hyperloop system consists of a network of tubes, connecting mobility hubs around the world, with pods traveling at ultra-high speeds in a vacuum. The low-pressure environment ensures energy-efficient operation thanks to low aerodynamic drag.

    About Hyperloop
    TUM Hyperloop › about-hyperloop

    There is nothing new here.
    Mag lev trains traveling in a vacuum underground have been a staple of science fiction for about as long as science fiction has existed.

    It would be a lot cheaper and more feasible to simply make a high speed rail connection between Minneapolis and Mayo Rochester.
    You might even be able to just upgrade existing railroad tracks.

    It’s done everywhere, mostly Japan, China, and Europe.

  3. raven says

    Here is the obituary.

    LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — When Hyperloop came on the scene in 2013, it was hailed as a transportation revolution — the “fifth mode of transport,” according to Elon Musk — with a test track in North Las Vegas that would stun the world with new possibilities. Now, the project appears to be dead.Dec 26, 2023

    Hyperloop One transport project dead, report says; North Las Vegas …

  4. Larry says

    What the backers of this proposal stand to gain financially should play a major part of the feasibility study. They aren’t in this out of their belief in the goodness of public transportation.

  5. muttpupdad says

    As long as they put their own money in and never ask for public funds for their fantasies I am all for them going ahead with these projects.

  6. tfkreference says

    The only potential upside is that if Melon Husk is behind it, the people of the land between Minneapolis and Rochester with the Let’s Go Brandon flags might take down their “No zip rail” signs.

  7. says

    Yeah, the hyperloop allegedly saves energy by having its trains moving in depressurized tunnels — but how much energy is needed to keep hundreds of miles of train tunnels depressurized 24/7? And what about the interface between pressurized boarding platforms and depressurized tunnels? This really looks like a lot of ridiculous effort and expenditure just to pretend they’re building some totally new, unprecedented and amazingly-high-tech-futuristic thing in place of something else that’s already been known to work for decades.

    And then there’s the safety issue: what happens if there’s a breach in a vacuum-tunnel? That’s one atmosphere of pressure plowing into a LARGE zero-atmosphere space — a train in that tunnel would be hit by a pressure-differential greater than that of the shock-wave of a nuclear blast. And there’s also the question of what happens when there’s a breach in the hull of a train when it’s moving in a vacuum-tunnel…

  8. Akira MacKenzie says

    Back in the late 80s and up through the 90s, Milwaukee’s mayor pushed heavily for installation of light rail that would service folks throughout Milwaukee-and-its-surrounding metro area. The reaction from local right-wing talk show hosts and white folks out in the suburbs was incredibly hostile for numerous reasons: Mass transit is Big Government communism! It will raise taxes! Who needs trains when you can buy a car?

    The most popular argument I heard at the time was “crime,” i.e. cheap transportation will allow blacks and Latinos into the white suburbs. I mean, they already left Milwaukee in the 70s after they started letting black people into town, now where will they go if it’s easy for them to travel?

    Many on the left claim that “change will not come from above.” Considering the low mentality of the working and middle classes, I don’t fucking see how it’s going to come from below.

  9. says

    Many on the left claim that “change will not come from above.”

    That’s never been true. The NEED and DEMAND for change often comes from below, but the actual policies, resource-allocation and leadership necessary to effect any significant change has to come from above.

  10. anthrosciguy says

    Plus they want to run this from airport to airport. I could see having a (train or somewhat high speed train) and could see a terminal at the Twin Cities airport, but the one in Rochester is south of town (or was 40 years ago). Why not a station in town, near the clinic.

    And regular trains, or high speed. It isn’t far. Knocking off the ride into town from the airport would cut down trip time. It’s an 80 mile trip from the Twin Cities airport to the clinic; Google says an hour and 15 minutes.

    All that said, it’s obvious this is simply a way for someone to pay someone else several million dollars from the tax coffers.

  11. numerobis says

    Musk said a stupid thing on Twitter, got called out on it, wrote a white paper that outlined a possible solution that even he didn’t believe in — he claimed he didn’t have time to develop it further. I mean, that’s not exactly like Elon Musk to leave a money-making opportunity on the table like that. He clearly didn’t think it would work.

    The teams that did try to build the idea in his white paper abandoned his idea very quickly and went back to the less fancy idea of a maglev in a vacuum. And that doesn’t really work well either.

  12. fergl says

    Here in Milngavie we had the Bennie railplane in 1932. It was a carriage with a big propeller hung below a metal frame, attached to the frame with wheels. Supposed to go from Glasgow to Edinburgh but unfortunately Bennie went bankrupt. You can still see the scaffolding from the prototype.

  13. euclide says

    You forgot to add that he launched all that hype to sabotage the California high speed rail he think is not good enough (but based on technologies that actually work in Japan, Europe and elsewhere

  14. lanir says

    Yeah, this is almost certainly corruption.

    Also probably worth noting that the reason maglev trains in vacuum tubes are present in sci-fi, particularly of a certain age, is that those same sci-fi have people living on the Earth’s moon and similar environments. Which is where a lot of those trains are located in the stories. Long tubes filled with vacuum are not such a big deal when they won’t implode upon exposure to the surroundings.

  15. robro says

    PZ @ 12: There was a hyperloop test in Las Vegas. From Wikipedia, “Virgin Hyperloop conducted the first human trial in November 2020 at its test site in Las Vegas, reaching a top speed of 172 km/h (107 mph).” [Citation: “First passengers travel in Virgin’s levitating hyperloop pod system”. The Guardian. 9 November 2020. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.]

    Virgin of course means Branson, not Muskoil and his boring project…yet another fantasy, I mean “project” to revolutionize transportation, and suck a lot of money out of Federal and State transportation budgets for pie-in-the-tunnel ideas.

  16. dodecapode says

    Highly recommend people check out the Well There’s Your Problem podcast episode about Hyperloops, the death thereof, and just what a completely bullshit idea they are.

  17. says

    dodecapode: Haven’t seen the video yet, but I sorta get the feeling #QElon wasn’t really doing anything more than randomly mashing ideas together until he got something that sounded both sorta plausible and more or less original, and then claiming it’s a totally new groundbreaking original idea that no one ever thought of before and was totally the way of the future! (the way of the future! the way of the future! the way of the future! the way of the future!…) And all he could come up with was something that no one had ever tried before for a good reason: it was ridiculous, unnecessary, unworkable and stupendously dangerous.

    George Carlin once said “If you can nail two things together that have never been nailed together before, some shmuck’ll buy it.” Late-stage capitalism + cutting-edge-techbro hucksterism may be reaching the limits of that maxim…

  18. Dr. Pablito says

    Strongly recommend the “Well There’s Your Problem” podcast episode on the hyperloop concept. The WTYP guys do go on at excessive length, but they get to the bottom of things.

    Short version: this concept is old, has lots of flaws, is dangerous, would be a great terrorism target, and is pointlessly much more expensive than actual trains. There is a strong suspicion that Elmo uses the hyperloop idea to justify slowing down spending towards actual high-speed rail.

  19. gijoel says

    PedoGuy created hyperloop to block work on a High Speed rail line. A lot of techbro, disruptive, transportation schemes seem to powered by their CEO’s deep antipathy to sharing space with other people.

  20. chrislawson says

    Hyperloop was always a lie, intended to defund mass transit projects that would compete with Tesla’s business model, in particular the California High Speed Rail.

    Even the Virgin test mentioned above was a proof-of-concept engineering project that was never used by the public…and its test voyages were 300m long.

  21. microraptor says

    euclide @17: It’s not that he thinks high-speed rail isn’t good enough. It’s that he thinks he won’t be able to sell electric cars as the solution to transportation issues if there’s fast and convenient rails service in the US.

  22. unclefrogy says

    the truth about all of these ideas is all the motivation and incentives are not for solving any particular problem for the benefit of society or humanity or the environment. It is profit primarily. The only way any of these great world changing ideas ever come to be anything more then an interesting idea at best is if someone can figure out how to make money out of it. It does not have to solve any other problem but it must make money regardless of any thing else, including creating new problems which is often the case.

  23. Prax says

    @robro #19:

    There was a hyperloop test in Las Vegas. From Wikipedia, “Virgin Hyperloop conducted the first human trial in November 2020 at its test site in Las Vegas, reaching a top speed of 172 km/h (107 mph).”

    172 km/h? The French TGV service has been routinely exceeding 250 km/h for thirty years now. On ordinary wheels, in the open air. Surely Our Great Nation can master a technology that was around before cell phones?

  24. Kagehi says

    Anyone else have the momentary dark thought that this a) gets built, b) the first people on it are the rich idiots that paid to have it built, and c) its another badly made rich person submarine?

  25. says

    Hah, so this has become another Project Which Would Not Die, huh? Let me tell you about another such:

    In the Chicago area, where I grew up, there is a suburb called Oak Park. There is a limited-access highway running from the (north-)west into downtown Chicago, Interstate 290, locally called the Eisenhower Expressway, which passes through Oak Park along the way, in a trench well below the local ground level. For Reasons, the two local exits which are at the opposite sides of Oak Park are on the left instead of the right, unlike basically all of the others on the 290 (and on US highways in general), and largely as a result of this really stupid decision, traffic is horrifying there at almost all hours, both on the 290 and on the two streets where the exit ramps terminate. (There’s another horrifying traffic-causing design a bit further west, known locally as the Hillside Strangler, which was supposed to be fixed by some juggling a decade or so back but which I am reliably informed was merely pushed east a bit.)

    On the south side of the 290 in Oak Park there is the Blue Line L (light rail), and an apparently-disused freight track. Since traffic there is, indeed, horrible, IDOT always wants to widen the highway (I think it’s currently 3 lanes in each direction). This could be done without using extra land by converting the Blue Line to be elevated (as the other L line to Oak Park — the Green Line — already is)… and could be made easier by taking the disused freight rail tracks via eminent domain. But of course IDOT does not want to do either of those things, they want to take more residential land from the other side of the highway, which of course Oak Park does not want them to do.

    At some point, some bright spark in Oak Park got the idea that the solution was to build a roof over the Eisenhower. If the highway was converted into a tunnel, they reasoned, it would not matter how wide it was. And there could be a huge park over the top, which would look very nice and be a convenient recreational opportunity for (well-off) Oak Park residents. This idea quickly established a following in Oak Park — which has a lot of Reagan Democrat types and a group of Log Cabin Republicans; people with a lot of money who never let political issues interfere with their personal convenience. They convinced the Oak Park government to fund a lobbyist to the state government and a feasibility study for what became known as the Cap The Ike project.

    The feasibility study concluded, somewhere around 2006 or so, that the cost of building a roof over the Eisenhower would be so incredibly high that it was completely unrealistic — something like $1 billion per mile in then-current dollars (Oak Park is a mile and a half wide in the east-west direction). Since Oak Park’s total annual tax revenues were, at that time, under $100 million and the town — like most suburbs of Chicago — already had sizable debt and was already accruing more, you would think that the whole concept was now dead in the water.

    Not so! Since there was now a group of rich NIMBYists involved and a lobbying group who was making money from keeping the idea alive, the Cap The Ike project continued despite being explicitly totally unrealistic. When Obama’s stimulus funds became available, the Cap The Ike project suggested — with straight faces — that Oak Park should receive the necessary $1.5 billion (or however much it would have come to) out of the $2 billion which had been allocated for the entire state of Illinois. (Not even their heavily-funded-with-lobbying money state representative could take that proposal seriously.) I don’t know, because I no longer have relatives living in the immediate area and am not getting updates, what further proposals were made, but the last time I had occasion to hear political news from Oak Park was post-Coronavirus-lockdown in 2021, and the Cap The Ike project was still going.

    Once this kind of bad idea reaches a certain level of momentum, it can’t be killed.

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