Earlier this summer, Houston got word that the Dallas–Fort Worth Regional Transportation Council had struck a deal with Virgin Hyperloop One to explore building the Lone Star State’s first hyperloop line, which would run from Dallas to Laredo, with stops in Waco, Austin, San Antonio, and Fort Worth—just about every large or large-ish city in Texas except Houston. The news bummed out a lot of people here, but not us. Here’s why:
We don’t know how much this thing will cost.
Backers maintain that construction will be downright cheap, but keep in mind: Executing Elon Musk’s it’s-so-crazy-it-might-just-work idea—a system of depressurized tubes that would work not unlike a drive-thru bank-teller system, shooting pods of people and shipping cargo from one place to another like bullets from a gun—won’t be the only expense. Getting the land to build it on (or, in some cases, beneath) will cost a fortune. If a city ends up on the hook for that, all the better that it be Dallas.
We’ve already got bullet train plans.
Texas Central’s high-speed Houston-to-Dallas line has been in the works for years now. Assuming it becomes a reality (there’s rural opposition to the plans), just imagine the horror of ending up with not one, but two major infrastructure projects converging on the Bayou City. If you’re not shuddering, you obviously haven’t driven on 290 recently. Better to take these things one at a time.
We might not even need it (to get to Dallas).
Sure, this hyperloop business is sexy and intriguing—who wouldn’t be into traveling at 700 mph without going through airport security? But the Houston-to-Dallas bullet-train line would be plenty attractive, too. We’d still be able to skip both the airport and that godawful drive, and we’d get to the Big D in 90 minutes, as compared to the hyperloop’s 46.
Why not let someone else be first in line to try out this new technology? All humans, even the smartest ones, can make mistakes, and when it comes to the hyperloop, even the smallest error—a construction angle just a hair off, the tiniest hole opening up inside the tubes—could cause an action-movie-level explosion, destroying every pod, according to former Cornell physicist Phil Mason. So yeah, let Dallas work out all the bugs.
We’ll get it eventually.
Not only have the folks at Hyperloop One already made serious technological progress, famed British businessman Richard Branson signed on as a key investor last fall. Still, they’ve got a long way to go, and this could all be a lot of sound, fury, and press releases signifying nothing. If it does happen, though, it will be pretty hard to leave Houston, the beating heart of the petrochemical industry and one of the largest port cities in the world, out for long. If hyperloop works, we’ll get it.