Mon 19 Dec 2016 - Impact
It’s a fact of modern geography that traditional political maps fail to capture the real outlines of American communities. Cities and states have for some time been slowly subsumed into economic megaregions created by people choosing to live and work at greater distances. For most people commutes are dictated by Marchetti’s constant, a sturdy observation that humans since the Paleolithic Era have always lived roughly 30 minutes from their work even as transport tech evolved from bare feet to carriage to train to automobile. Commuting rings just kept expanding outward. But Marchetti's Constant has broken down in most big cities. New data collected from the public transit app Moovit shows average round-trip commute times are now 93 minutes in Philadelphia, 77 minutes in San Francisco, and 86 minutes in Boston and Chicago. A third of the people in Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia say they commute more than two hours each day.
These outlines of U.S. megaregions are by now familiar: the Boston-to-Washington megalopolis, Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Chicagoland. But familiar ideas often take reality for granted. Do we understand the intricacies of commuter patterns within these regions?
"Transport should support and connect these dynamic economic zones to foster business formation, job mobility and personal economic freedom."
In a visually startling work of economic analysis published in PLoS ONE, Garrett Dash Nelson, a geographer at Dartmouth University, and Alasdair Rae, an urban planner at the University of Sheffield, recently published a series of maps computed from four million U.S. commutes from 2006 to 2010 as reported to the American Consumer Survey. It’s the first time anyone’s ever tried mapping this much data, and the results provide a crucial new tool for regional transportation planners looking ahead to an incoming administration that has vowed to invest hundreds of billions of dollars on new infrastructure. This analysis can start a conversation about which regional economic links matter for the greatest number of people and where we should focus investment for greatest impact, regardless of political boundaries and state lines. Just as the Interstate Highway System catalyzed the growth of metro areas after 1950, emerging megaregions will need new transportation modes such as the Hyperloop that serve population areas 200 to 500 miles across. Hyperloop can effectively turn regions into metro areas and provide seamless connections between all other existing modes such as commuter rail, highway systems, airports and sea ports.
Nelson and Rae’s first step was to transfer 40 million commutes into standard GIS software. That’s what you’re seeing in the map below, and it reflects some obvious megaregions clustered around major cities: Greater Chicago (light blue), Washington D.C-Baltimore (forest green), Greater Miami (sky blue), and Seattle (goldenrod). State borders blur often. Eastern Iowa is conjoined with western Illinois, Southwestern Connecticut is part of New York metro area, and Florida’s western panhandle is all but annexed by Alabama.
Using the same technique, Nelson and Rae produced the starburst map below of the Twin Cities region in Minnesota. High volume, shorter commutes make up the bright yellow core while longer and less frequent routes show in red. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, but it fails to show which trips are the most important for the economy of the Twin Cities region. “For real-world applications such as regional transit planning, where statistical accuracy is required,” writes the paper’s authors, it is “not sufficient” to rely on a visual representation alone.
Here’s a Northern California commuter map from Monterey in the south to Sacramento to the northeast, with the San Francisco Bay area as the epicenter. You can see Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto have their own centers of gravity yet are gradually merging into the Bay Area. It's hard to tell from this view the extent to which these links are statistically significant and whether this nexus of economic activity constitutes a single functional zone in and of itself.
To gain deeper insight, the researchers processed the same data through an algorithm from MIT’s SENSEable City Lab that ignores city locations and state lines and looks only at a trip’s relative strength within a natural community grouping. The software isolates the connections between each of the country’s 74,000-odd census tracts and considers those that connect more frequently as being more an economically significant link. Here’s what the same Twin Cities map looks redrawn on that basis. Suddenly the big starburst becomes a set of smaller pops, and previously assumed economic connections between southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin are not so strong after all.
For example, the mapping project found that, while southwestern Connecticut is, as one would expect, tightly linked to New York City, there is a clean break at the state border, creating a discrete Connecticut region that runs up the Connecticut River Valley into western Massachusetts, incorporating the region from Springfield, Mass., to the Vermont border. There are still plenty of commutes between Connecticut and New York, but there is a stronger “matrix of connections” on either side. They found a similar pattern along the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where the New York City region breaks almost perfectly into the Philadelphia region.
One main point of this work was to show that an algorithm blind to physical geography can identify megaregions just as well as a professional mapmaker can use a GIS-based approach. All it needs is enough commuter patterns and--voila!--functional economic regions reveal themselves per the clustering of labor markets.
Nelson and Rae’s work may not be accurate enough for regional transit planning and, as Laura Bliss of The Atlantic’s CityLab points out, the researchers’ work has some limitations. For one, the data stopped at 2010 (new ACS numbers came out on December 8), coinciding with the peak of the recession. Commute patterns may have been redrawn somewhat since, and there’s a risk of missing some local community wrinkles for planning purposes when viewing the country purely as a set of megaregions.
But the maps are great conversation-starters for transportation planners and policymakers pondering how and where to deploy the potential billions the incoming Trump administration wants to spend on new and repaired infrastructure. Investment decisions should consider the way people live and work across boundaries of culture, politics and electoral districts. Transport should support and connect these dynamic economic zones to foster business formation, job mobility and personal economic freedom. “We hoped to start a conversation about how the country functions from an economic, spatial point of view,” says Rae. We need transportation solutions in the image of how we move.
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We're a privately-held company on a mission to create fast, effortless journeys that expand possibilities and eliminate the barriers of distance and time.
There are too many people caught bumper-to-bumper in traffic, who have to make a hard choice with their family on where to live and work, and who are limited in their access to experiences and opportunities. We're building a system that will give back time and deliver the travel experience of the future.
The number of cars is set to double worldwide by 2040, same with air and trucking. We are already dealing with the effects of pollution, lack of access, and congestion. If we only invest in the same technologies we’ve had for more than a century, tomorrow will look like today, only much worse. It’s been over a century since the Wright Brothers first showed us human flight was possible. It’s time for a new era in transportation capable of carrying us forward for the next 100 years.
To date, we have received over $400 million.
A major investor of ours is DP World, a leading enabler of global trade who sees the potential of sustainable hyperloop-enabled cargo systems. Additionally, we are backed by the Virgin Group, an industry leader across rail, aviation, ships, and even spacecrafts. For more on our investors, visit the company page.
Virgin Hyperloop One is the only hyperloop company that has a strategic partnership with a mass transportation company, the Virgin Group, an industry leader across rail, aviation, ships, and even spacecrafts. Another key partner of ours is DP World, a leading enabler of global trade who sees the potential of sustainable hyperloop-enabled cargo systems. Other industry-leading partners include KPMG, Foster + Partners, Systra, BIG, SNCF, GE, Deutsche Bahn, Black & Veatch, McKinsey, Deloitte, Jacobs, Turner & Townsend, ARUP, and Steer, among others.
No, there’s no connection with Elon Musk.
We aren't just building a hyperloop; we're building a network of public and private partners to scale an integrated supply chain ecosystem. Our business model is based on partnerships that create local jobs and opportunities for those who choose to invest in this technology. We are working at the highest level of governments around the globe to put in place commercial agreements to make hyperloop a reality.
Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation designed to eliminate the barriers of distance and time for both people and freight. It can travel at speeds approaching 700mph, connecting cities like metro stops - and it has zero direct emissions. The journeys can be booked on demand so there’s no wait time or delays.
With hyperloop, vehicles, called pods, accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The pod floats along the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
On May 12th, 2017, we made history two minutes after midnight when we successfully launched our vehicle using electromagnetic propulsion and levitation under near-vacuum conditions at our full-scale test site in the Nevada Desert. We've since run hundreds of tests, acquiring validated knowledge that only comes from real-world testing. For more info on DevLoop, our 500 m test track, visit our progress page.
We estimate that the top speed for a passenger vehicle or light cargo will be 670 miles per hour or 1080 kilometers per hour. That is about 3 times faster than high-speed rail and 10-15 times faster than traditional rail. The average speed vehicles travel will vary based on the route and customer requirements.
A perfect vacuum would decrease the drag on the vehicle even more, but not significantly. We have already gotten rid of 99.9% of the air in the tube. Lower levels of vacuum than this are important if you are performing scientific experiments, but the cost would not be worthwhile.
Hyperloop is an entirely new mode - think the best of trains, planes, and the metro. Hyperloop is on-demand, offering flexible travel schedules with no stops, no transfers, and no weather delays – all at speeds about 3 times faster than high-speed-rail and less cost. Hyperloop is highly efficient, with a smaller environmental impact than high-speed rail because the closed system can be tunneled below or elevated above ground, avoiding dangerous at-grade crossings. The VHO system is 100% electric and can reach higher speeds than high-speed rail for less energy due to our proprietary electric motor and low-drag environment.
Fast, effortless journeys go hand-in-hand with journeys where everything works reliably without interference, and where all passengers feel comfortable and safe. The Virgin Hyperloop is designed to be inherently safer than other modes, with multiple redundancies in place. Our system operates autonomously in an enclosed tube and is not susceptible to weather delays, accidents from at-grade crossings, human error, or power outages. Our proprietary high-speed switching architecture eliminates unsafe track configurations and moving trackside parts, a failure point of traditional rail with mechanical switches.
As new mode, we have to prove our safety case to regulators and work with them to develop a regulatory framework, so passengers can ride the hyperloop in years not decades. We are encouraged by the support we are seeing at the local and federal level around the world to support hyperloop certification based on the fundamentals of safe operating that are already standard practice. In March 2019, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, created the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council to explore the regulation and permitting of hyperloop technology to bring this new form of mass transportation to the United States. This Council is an important step forward in recognizing hyperloop is a new transportation mode and that we need to shift our mindset and acknowledge that this technology does not fit into a regulatory structure that is over 100 years old. The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DGMOVE) has also been leading discussions with hyperloop companies to advance regulatory standards and, in India, the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA), Prof. Vijayraghavan, has set up an independent committee called the Consultative Group on Future of Transportation (CGFT) to explore the regulatory path for hyperloop. For more, visit our regulatory progress pages.
While flying through a tube at more than 1000km/h might seem like a thrill ride, the truth is we are able to mitigate any uncomfortable acceleration forces within our controlled environment. The journey will be so smooth, you could sip a coffee the whole time without spilling a single drop. Normal acceleration and deceleration of 0.20 Gs will feel similar to a train. As a comparison, flooring a typical sedan gives between 0.4-0.5 Gs and commercial airplanes see 0.3-0.5Gs depending on the plane and load.
Pods will continue to travel safely to the next portal even with a large breach. Our response to a breach would be to intentionally repressurize the tube with small valves places along the route length while engaging pod brakes to safely bringing all pods to rest before it is deemed safe to continue to the next portal. A sustained leak could impact performance (speed) but would not pose a safety issue due to vehicle and system architectural design choices. This assessment is based in solid understanding and analysis of the complex vehicle load behaviors during such an event.
Without a massive leap forward, pollution from the transportation industry is expected to almost double by 2050 - well above the carbon budget. By combining an ultra-efficient electric motor, magnetic levitation, and a low-drag environment, the VHO system can reach airline speeds for 5-10x less energy (depends on route length) and can go faster than high-speed rail using less energy. In regions like the Middle East, we could power the system completely by solar panels which cover the tube. As fighting against climate change becomes an existential issue for cities across the globe, hyperloop will create a new, shared, electric mobility model for helping to permanently reform an industry with some of the world’s highest carbon emissions.
We are designing Virgin Hyperloop to be more efficient than other modes of transportation. Modern jetliners use up to 10 times the energy we use per passenger-mile over the entire journey. We can cruise at 500 miles per hour for less energy (per passenger) than an electric car doing 60 miles per hour. At peak speed, the VHO system consumes approximately 75 watt hours per passenger kilometer (Wh/pax-km). To put this in perspective, the fastest conventional maglev train travels at about half our speed and consumes 33% more energy.
Our system is 100% electric with zero direct emissions. We're energy-agnostic. Our system can draw power from whichever energy sources are available along the route and support a transition to a renewable energy-powered future. In regions like the Middle East, we can completely power the system with solar panels which cover the tube.
It’s similar those new electric vehicles that are so quiet they need to create noise to indicate movement. With hyperloop, we eliminate sources of mechanical noise, like wheels on track, and we actually have a sound barrier inherent in our tube design
DP World Cargospeed is a global brand for hyperloop-enabled cargo systems operated by DP World and enabled by Virgin Hyperloop technology. These systems will deliver freight at the speed of flight and closer to the cost of trucking for fast, sustainable, and efficient delivery of palletized cargo.
The focus would be on high-priority, on-demand goods – fresh food, medical supplies, electronics, and more.
With DP World Cargospeed, deliveries can be completed in hours versus days with greater reliability and fewer delays. It will expand freight transportation capacity by connecting with existing modes of road, rail, ports, and air transport, and will provide greater connectivity with manufacturing parks, economic zones, distribution centers, and regional urban centers. This can shrink inventory lead times, help reduce finished goods inventory, and cut required warehouse space and cost by 25%. DP World Cargospeed networks can also enable just-in-time, agile manufacturing practices.
The Virgin Hyperloop is unique in that it doesn’t need to be passenger-only or cargo-only. We are designing a mixed-use system that fully utilizes system capacity while maximizing economic and social benefits. However, it is possible to run cargo commercial operations while certification and regulation are still ongoing for passenger use.
We are working with the most visionary governments around the world to make sure you can ride the hyperloop in years, not decades. Our goal is to have operational systems in the late 2020s. Our ability to meet that goal will depend on how fast the regulatory and statutory processes move.
We are working with visionary governments and partners around the world to make hyperloop a reality today. To learn more about our projects around the world, visit our progress page.
Capital and operating costs will range widely based on the route. We recently released a study that showed our linear costs are 60-70% that of high-speed rail projects. In addition, we expect the operational costs to be significantly lower than existing forms of transportation.
It’s simple – if it’s not affordable, people won't use it. We are looking to build something that will expand opportunities for the masses, so they can live in one city with their family and work in another. Currently, that kind of high-speed transport is not feasible for most people. The exact ticket price will vary for each route, but a recent study showed that riding a hyperloop in Missouri could cost less than the gas needed to drive.
We are in the business of serving local needs, not the other way around. Public and private support is key. In some cases, we will respond to solicited bids with partners when we feel the technology matches the project’s objectives. In other cases, we will make an unsolicited bid for a project when we see that hyperloop could offer a unique solution to market needs.
While the technology is different, the process for building a hyperloop is similar to that of building a highway, railway, or any other type of linear infrastructure. The first stage is project development. This phase includes feasibility studies, and then more detailed engineering reports and environmental impact studies. Once a project is approved to move forward, a consortium is formed to finance and deliver on the project.
Many infrastructure projects succeed or fail based on right-of-way issues. We are designing a system that requires only about half the right-of-way as high-speed rail and can more easily adapt to existing right-of-ways. At high speeds, the VHO system has a 4.5 times tighter turn radius compared to high-speed rail and can climb grades that are 6 times steeper, reducing the disturbance at crossings. Portals will be purposely integrated into and support existing communities and landscapes. Low noise levels will expand opportunities to build hyperloops closer to the city center.
Hyperloop also holds enormous promise for rural communities. Virgin Hyperloop systems can be built below or above ground, which means no one’s farm needs to be cut in half. Our system enables rural areas to retain residents, who can now have more access to urban job centers, educational opportunities, and health care facilities. Additionally, hyperloop could enable freight distribution centers to be placed in rural areas, leading to job growth and industrial clusters. After a system is built, there is the opportunity to add additional on and off-ramps, supporting a greater number of people along the route.
Transportation infrastructure has traditionally relied on extensive government funding. This is because the benefits of clean, safe, and efficient transportation are enjoyed by the entire community, not just the user buying a ticket. However, most existing mass transportation modes are unprofitable and hindered by existing infrastructure built in the past century or by legacy systems. We want to change that and are focused on public-private partnerships. By developing a new mode of transportation from scratch, we're able to leverage technological developments that have occurred in the last century, especially the IT revolution. We're able to keep maintenance costs low, energy efficiency high, and transport tens of thousands of passengers per hour. This keeps margins and accessibility high, contributing to more financially attractive returns than if the corridor was served by existing modes. These benefits aren’t just hypothetical. While this is an exceptional case due to high demand, a third-party evaluation found that our Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop Project could be funded 100% by private capital. In the U.S. we see enormous potential to attract investment from the private sector, leveraging public investments. Involving government stakeholders as well as potential private investors early in the project development process is critical.
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