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Dallas Hyperloop – Transportation Innovation

Dallas Hyperloop – Transportation Innovation

Booming Transportation For A Booming Population

Dallas Hyperloop – Transportation Innovation. Flat geography. A booming population. And a business-friendly environment. Those are just three reasons why Dallas urban planner Steven Duong says Texas is an ideal place for the Hyperloop, a futuristic mode of travel that would use levitating pods to shuttle people and goods across hundreds of miles in minutes.

Steven Duong is a senior urban designer for AECOM, which is interested in bringing a hyperloop to Dallas. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)
Steven Duong is a senior urban designer for AECOM, which is interested in bringing a hyperloop to Dallas. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)

Senior Urban Designer for AECOM Dallas

Duong is a senior urban designer for the Dallas office of AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering, design and construction company. He led the Texas proposal that made it onto the shortlist of possible routes for Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company that wants to have at least one operational route somewhere in the world by 2021. Now, the hyperloop company will explore other factors, such as economic conditions and customer demand.

An Ambitious AECOM

AECOM has been behind other ambitious projects before including One World Trade Center, London’s Olympic Park and Etihad Rail, the first railway of the United Arab Emirates. The company pitched five of the 10 winning proposals in Hyperloop One’s challenge. It is also in conversations with several other companies that want to build hyperloop systems, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

How do you typically explain the concept of the Hyperloop?

I like to ask people a couple of things. The first is to imagine a larger-scale version of the pneumatic tubes at the banks. Imagine that on a much larger scale, but obviously, a lot more technologically advanced.

Just Envision

The other thing I ask them to envision is imagine taking a plane flying in the air. Take the fuselage and remove the wings and bring that fuselage down to the earth and have it move at about the same amount of speed. Now, you bring the low-pressure environment of the upper atmosphere down to the earth by putting it inside the tube. That’s essentially what hyperloop is. You’re moving at commercial airline speeds — in some cases, potentially faster — near the surface of the earth, so the actual riding experience, the sensation, to the rider is very similar to flying.

Why did your company propose Texas as a potential hyperloop route?

The distance between the cities in Texas is ideal for a technology like hyperloop. It kind of hits the sweet spot between automobile travel and airline travel. For an airline, the plane is going to have to burn a lot of fuel to go up into the air and then once you’re in the air, you almost have to come right back down because of the distance between the cities. And anyone who’s driven between Dallas and Austin and along I-35 knows how much congestion we have, so it’s not convenient for automobile travel either. So the actual distances between cities — which are somewhere between 200 and 300 miles or so — are really appropriate for a technology like hyperloop to service. Additionally, the Texas economy is very strong. The population is growing quickly. It’s a pro-business environment here, which all factors into the feasibility of bringing something like hyperloop here.

Do you see any other advantages to Texas vs. some of the other routes on the short list?

We have existing efforts that we can build upon, such as the Texas Central Railway (bullet train) effort between Dallas and Houston, which we’re hoping our Hyperloop Texas effort could build upon and supplement.

This rendering shows how the hyperloop could run parallel to Texas highways.(AECOM)
This rendering shows how the Hyperloop could run parallel to Texas highways. 

From a topography and geographical standpoint, we are well-suited to build out large infrastructure just because we can avoid things like the mountains and rivers. Dallas growth, in particular, along with Houston and Austin, is very strong and because of that strong growth, you can expect a very strong future market for something like hyperloop. 

Super-Commuter State

Texas actually leads the U.S. to what we call super-commuters, which are commuters who travel long distances between cities for work or leisure frequently. We lead that in the country already. That’s before we even talk about the potential market that a technology like hyperloop might induce. 

You said you see the Hyperloop as complementary to plans for high-speed rail. Tell me how that would work.

If you look at the way we’ve laid out the routes for Texas, we intend to flesh out the rest of Texas. Existing efforts for a Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail are well underway. They’re very far along. And it’s a great technology, but the idea we have here is to connect the rest of the cities and in particular, connect the freight ports, which is a key differentiator. We talked a lot in our proposal about what it would look like to connect something like the inland port of Laredo, which is a major inland port for the U.S., to the port of Houston and DFW Airport. By combining all of those together, you’re creating a mega-logistics hub that covers both land, sea, and air. 

What are some of the biggest engineering challenges involved with the Hyperloop, whether in Texas or elsewhere?

I actually think the engineering side is not too entirely difficult. If you look at the videos and the explanations for the recent hyperloop test they (Hyperloop One) did in Nevada, you see the technology itself is well underway and already sophisticated because it’s built on the backs of existing technology. … The real difficulty of delivering something like the Hyperloop is more on the policy side. With a new technology like Hyperloop, there’s not a lot of existing “go-bys” for how to implement a technology like this. We don’t have existing safety standards yet. Working with the local, state and federal government to understand ‘How exactly do we regulate and operate and maintain a technology like this?’ is the more difficult part.

Another challenge of any new technology is selling the public on it. How do you see hyperloop catching on?

<p>Here's a conceptual rendering of what the interior of a Hyperloop pod could look like. For people, the sensation would be similar to flying,&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 1em; background-color: transparent;">Steven Duong said.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 1em; background-color: transparent;">(Hyperloop One)</span></p><p></p>(Hyperloop One)

Here’s a conceptual rendering of what the interior of a Hyperloop pod could look like. For people, the sensation would be similar to flying, Steven Duong said. (Hyperloop One)

(Hyperloop One)

You can see the excitement people have about moving away from traditional automobile travel and the excitement over autonomous vehicles and how quickly Uber and Lyft have risen from a startup to a company with a higher market cap than General Motors and Ford. There’s clearly a lot of pent-up demand to move on to the next generation of transportation. 

It could potentially be used with freight first to build people’s confidence. Once they see it, understand it, they will be really open to using it. 

What makes you excited about the Hyperloop?

I personally commute to Dallas and San Antonio and other Texas cities quite a bit, so the idea that I could hop in and be at my afternoon meeting within 30 minutes certainly excites me. Also, as an urban planner, a lot of us want to work on the most challenging urban issues of our time. Transportation and accessibility are certainly among those, especially in the U.S. 

When do you think the Hyperloop will be a common mode of transportation?

You could certainly expect to see a working hyperloop system somewhere in the world sometime in the next five years or so. As far as widespread adoption, it’s hard to put a number on it, but I mentioned earlier that I think there is a strong pent-up demand for a new innovative transportation method, so I would expect a very fast adoption rate. 

Source Reported By Melissa Repko of the Dallas News Team

Meet the Dallas urban planner behind Texas’ pursuit of the hyperloop. (2017, September 19). Retrieved September 20, 2017, from