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The way we move through and between cities is about to change. In coming years, advancements such as the hyperloop system are set to fundamentally shift how we choose to get from place to place. Smart companies in the transportation industry are monitoring these trends and planning business models which will embrace the coming changes. But first things first…

What is the Hyperloop?

The hyperloop is a currently-theoretical transportation system first proposed in 2012 by Elon Musk, best known as the CEO of Tesla. The hyperloop system is in essence a series of tubes that propel pods carrying passengers or cargo at high speeds—topping out at 700 mph. Described as a “cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table”, the hyperloop system levitates passenger pods in a near vacuum, greatly reducing friction and allowing high speed travel at a reduced cost. As an example of its potential speed, travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles is projected to drop from a seven-hour drive to a 35-minute hyperloop journey.

Where and When?

While there are numerous proposed locations in the mix, the hyperloop system closest to reality is projected to open as early as 2020 in Dubai. The first stage of the system, a 10km section of track, will be near the outskirts of the Al Maktoum International Airport. Other proposed routes include:

  • L.A to San Francisco, USA
  • Mumbai to Pune, India
  • A circular route connecting Cologne, Berlin and Munich, Germany
  • Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland
  • Toronto to Montreal, Canada
  • London to Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Cheyenne to Denver to Pueblo, USA
  • Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary
  • Seoul to Busan, South Korea
  • Mexico City to Guadalajara, Mexico

The race is on to perfect the hyperloop, with the winners poised to revolutionize long-distance travel. With rapid pod transit on the horizon, what should the taxi and transit industry do to prepare for the impact of hyperloop systems?

Friend or Foe? Hyperloop in the Transit Landscape

Hyperloop systems will affect the transit industry in a variety of ways, many of which are currently unforeseen. In the near future, the hyperloop will act like other forms of fixed long-distance travel—but on a much broader scale.

Booming Tourism

The ability to cover long distances quickly—and inexpensively—will open up cities in ways not seen since the commercialization of air travel. Like an airplane or rail system, the hyperloop will deliver passengers to a central hub: with ticket costs projected to be affordable—$30 for a ticket between LA and San Francisco—a massive influx of travelers can be expected. Taxi service providers will remain relevant and likely experience increased demand as they transport hyperloop passengers from the terminal to various destinations within cities.

New Demands for Transit Service

The hyperloop system is expected to massively increase the radius from which major cities may attract employment. As an example, a proposed hyperloop connecting Boston and Somerset (current population 18,000) would see the latter town boom as it becomes a bedroom community for the urban centre of Boston. The potential population influx to smaller communities will create new transit and taxi opportunities within those communities—opportunities which were previously unavailable due to a lack of population density.

Trouble on the Horizon

While the hyperloop system will bring benefits to taxi and transit providers, other industries will experience challenges. With hyperloop systems set to carry cargo at much more efficient speeds, the trucking industry will see declines: a four-day truck journey could be reduced to 16 hours by hyperloop. Likewise, other modes of long-distance transport, be it airplane, train, bus, or taxi, will also see declines. If a 90-minute journey between Dubai and Abu Dhabi could be reduced to 12 minutes via hyperloop and remain affordable, who would ever chose the former option?

Looking Towards the Future

Hyperloop systems still face major hurdles. There are many engineering constraints that need to be addressed, as well major political and financial barriers to be overcome. Advocates are optimistic that the hyperloop will arrive soon, and forward-thinking companies in the transit space are already considering the ways that this new technology will impact the industry.

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Image: Shutterstock / andrey_l