High-speed Hopes

This high-speed system could get you from Houston to San Antonio in just 20 minutes

High-speed system would go from Houston to San Antonio in 20 minutes

Hyperloop One Texas route
Travel across Texas in a flash. Photo courtesy of Hyperloop One

A Star Wars-esque innovation promises to put at least some of the nightmarish traffic on Texas’ most clogged roadways — I-10, I-45, and I-35— in our rearview mirrors.

On Thursday, a company called Hyperloop One named a proposed high-speed, L-shaped route linking Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Laredo as one of 11 U.S. finalists in a contest to develop a futuristic tube-based system for shuttling passengers and cargo. Hyperloop One says it’ll give three U.S. proposals the green light to proceed.

The 640-mile Hyperloop in Texas would stretch south from Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin, San Antonio, and Laredo, and would stretch east from San Antonio to Houston. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston would not be connected, as the state’s two largest metro areas tentatively are in line for a much-debated, high-speed bullet train.

Organizers of the Texas proposal say a trip from Dallas to Austin would take 19.5 minutes — a far cry from the current three-hour drive (if you’re lucky) between the two cities. It would take about the same amount of time to get from Houston to San Antonio. Top speeds would reach 700 mph, which is faster than a commercial airliner travels.

Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One explains that “passengers and cargo are loaded into a pod, and accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.”

Tesla and SpaceX mastermind Elon Musk introduced the tube-based transportation concept in 2013. (Last summer, Transonic Transportation announced plans for a similar Hyperloop connecting San Antonio and Austin.)

“The U.S. has always been a global innovation vanguard — driving advancements in computing, communication and media to rail, automobiles and aeronautics,” says Shervin Pishevar, executive chairman of Hyperloop One. “Now, with Hyperloop One, we are on the brink of the first great breakthrough in transportation technology of the 21st century, eliminating the barriers of time and distance and unlocking vast economic opportunities.”

Even if the Texas plan gets the go-ahead, a Hyperloop system wouldn’t be operating here for a number of years. And there’s no guarantee that the Texas system, or any other proposed tube-based transportation system, will ever be up and running. Hyperloop One is testing a 2-mile track in the desert north of Las Vegas.

A Dallas-based team from construction and engineering giant AECOM is overseeing the Texas proposal. AECOM built Hyperloop One’s test track in Nevada. In 2015, Musk had indicated Texas most likely would host the test track, but that idea didn’t pan out.

Backers of the Texas Hyperloop plan include the University of Texas at Arlington, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the City of Dallas, Austin’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Cap Metro), and the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce.

Pishevar, the Hyperloop One executive chairman, says his company “is at the forefront of a movement to solve one of the planet’s most pressing problems. The brightest minds are coming together at the right time to eliminate the distances and borders that separate economies and cultures.”