- Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO) could result in tremendous economic returns for the cities and residents it connects, officials said Wednesday at a press conference on Capitol Hill, where the tech is gathering bipartisan support in Congress.
- VHO Chief Technology Officer Josh Giegel said for every dollar invested in the new transportation method, people will receive $10 in economic benefits, derived from the cheaper price of a ticket and from the time savings. "There's a couple of different calculations that go into what we call wider economic benefits, but usually it's travel time, it's the connectivity to the actual people and jobs that exist, and then it's the overall productivity increase from people not being stuck in traffic and everything like that," Giegel told Smart Cities Dive in an interview.
- Several elected leaders said the transportation can help connect cities, but it is imperative to enact national safety standards. "We have to get busy in Congress," said Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-AR during the press conference.
Hyperloop technology has been talked up for several years, resulting in pledges to bring it to Florida, while feasibility studies are at various stages in North Carolina, Texas, Missouri and along a corridor between Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, VHO continues to test in Nevada and Los Angeles.
The company said its Experimental Pod 1 (XP-1), which was showcased at the press conference, hit speeds of 240 miles per hour in 545 yards of track.
Rival company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has promised commercial service by 2022, and with other competing technologies like maglev flexing their transportation muscles, it could be a busy few years in this space. However, concerns remain over cost and environmental impact.
The federal government appears to be preparing to play a role too. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) newly formed Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council. Giegel said there has already been "good progress… on the regulatory fronts."
"The NETT Council, we've had a couple of meetings, they've been moving, they've been organizing, which has been very helpful to start finding our home," Giegel said.
For elected officials, especially those whose districts are being examined as possible connections for hyperloop, the possibility of alleviating traffic congestion is an appealing one.
"We know that our cities are becoming more dense, we're becoming much more of an urban country, and as such moving population is incredibly important for the congestion that we face every day and being able to conduct our lives and do commerce is evident as you look at the red tail-lights across urban America, as you look at the emissions and the threat that we have to our environment," Rep. Mike Turner, R-OH, said during the press conference.