This article was never published in The Eye of the Hurricane and is unfinished and unedited. It was planned to have been released for the 2020 Spring Edition, but was indefinitely delayed due to the cancellation of school because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many cities across the United States have been plagued by very limited inter-city methods of public transportation. There are currently three ways to travel between Pittsburgh and Chicago, for example. It takes 7 hours to go between the two cities by car, $60 and 10 hours by train, or $110 and 2 hours by plane (in-flight time only). For transportation in Pittsburgh’s surrounding suburbs, however, there is little to no public transportation. The only way between Pittsburgh and New Castle is by car or bus, and even in Pittsburgh’s suburbs, there are only buses and light rail. However, a new method of transportation is coming to Pittsburgh, and it will revolutionize transportation in Pittsburgh and its surrounding cities.
It’s called Hyperloop. First conceptualized by a joint team from Elon Musk-owned companies Tesla and SpaceX, it is essentially a pressurized tube that a pod travels through using magnets at high speed. In the concepts, they are projected to reach speeds of up to 760 miles per hour. The project was open-sourced, meaning any company can create their own concepts for Hyperloop and develop the technology and routes. There are three main companies researching and developing hyperloop in the United States: Virgin Hyperloop One, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, and TransPod. Of these companies, Virgin Hyperloop One is the only one to have already constructed a test track, while HyperloopTT and TransPod are building test tracks in France.
One of the first Hyperloops to be built in the United States will likely be built between Pittsburgh and Chicago. Two of the aforementioned companies, Virgin Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, are studying two separate routes between Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Virgin Hyperloop One intends on building their Hyperloop from Chicago to Pittsburgh via Columbus, Ohio. They are also planning stops in Marysville Ohio, Lima Ohio, and Fort Wayne Indiana. It is reported to have a one-way ticket price of just $93 and transport passengers and cargo to Chicago from Pittsburgh in just under an hour. The completed route is planned to open in 2050, opening in smaller segments before then. Construction is planned to commence in 2024.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, or HyperloopTT for short, intends on constructing their Hyperloop between Chicago and Pittsburgh via Cleveland. They are planning to have stops at Pittsburgh International Airport, Youngstown Ohio, Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, Toledo Airport, and South Bend Indiana. Pittsburgh was chosen as a hub city due to its manufacturing base, and potential future connections to Northeast Corridor cities. They expect the route to cost around $25 billion to construct, with 2028 as a possible date for construction to commence.
Transportation in the Future
Just because a new form of transportation is being experimented with does not mean that it will replace all other means of transportation. While short-distance flights between cities will become obsolete, long-distance flights will likely still exist.
Additionally, we are seeing trends in favor of public transportation rather than private vehicles. Modern urban planners highly support public transportation such as light rail, commuter rail, and high-speed rail. I think we can expect plans within the next decade for commuter rail routes between smaller cities such as New Castle and large cities like Pittsburgh.
I also predict interstate highways will likely be reserved for autonomous vehicles and trucks by 2050 in order to prevent and reduce crashes, while also speeding up traffic. Autonomous vehicle technology is currently developing, with many car brands already featuring semi-autonomous systems in new vehicles. Tesla is the current leader in semi-autonomous vehicle production, with seven models being sold which includes two SUVs, two sedans, a coupe, a pickup truck, and a semi-truck.
Other brands are getting involved in semi-autonomous technology as well – most of which are luxury car brands or only available in specific trims of cars at a premium. The least expensive car with semi-autonomous features is the Toyota RAV4. Toyota, Volvo, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Nissan, and most famously Tesla produce semi-autonomous vehicles.