Our pipe dream: Why Nevada is perfect for the Hyperloop

Imagine a world where you can go from the ski slopes of Squaw to dinner on the Las Vegas strip in the same day. Imagine what Nevada’s tourism industry would look like with the ability to have dinner overlooking Lake Tahoe and then still catch a show in Vegas that same night. Imagine what could be done if it only took 30 minutes to make it from the Biggest Little City to Sin City  without the time, hassle, or expense of ever stepping foot in an airport. It’s not impossible or even all that remote of a possibility, and it has to do with the literal pipe dream of Elon Musk, the inventor of the Hyperloop. The Hyperloop is currently slated to make its first American appearance in California, running between LA and San Francisco, but this isn’t the best place to test this technology. Nevada, on the other hand, is an ideal pilot state for the miraculous technology that is the Hyperloop.

The idea behind this lightning-fast new travel option is fairly straightforward. High-speed rail is fast, but it’s limited by friction and wind resistance. There are plenty of ways to minimize these issues like magnetic levitation and wind-tunnel-optimized design, but they can only go so far. This is where the aforementioned pipe comes in. If we could run trains through complete vacuums, wind resistance would be nothing, but a complete vacuum is extremely difficult to maintain. The Hyperloop concept utilizes a tube that is nearly a vacuum inside, producing dramatic results over a strictly outdoor train and making it much easier to maintain over hundreds of miles. Instead of tracks, the capsules proposed for the Hyperloop would be zooming around the loop powered by compressed air, a bit like the pneumatic tubes at a drive-up bank teller–just far, far more advanced.

The Hyperloop stands to enter the field of competition with air and rail, two services utilizing 50-year-old technology here in the U.S. Eccentric billionaire and owner of Tesla Motors Elon Musk’s Hyperloop can travel at speeds of up to 800 miles per hour. According to Elon himself, “Compared to the alternatives, it should ideally be:

    • Safer
    • Faster
    • Lower cost
    • More convenient
    • Immune to weather
    • Sustainably self-powering
    • Resistant to earthquakes
    • Not disruptive to those along the route”

There’s a lot more to say about how incredible the Hyperloop is, but the issue we’re driving at here is how incredible Nevada would be as a test state for the program. Back in April, the first Hyperloop was announced. The route, scheduled to open in July of 2015, will run from Tel Aviv to Eilat and only take about seven minutes. With the way the technology is designed, the Hyperloop can transport 100 people every thirty seconds, far exceeding even the world’s fastest transportation systems.

Elon Musk was inspired to create the Hyperloop because of the California high-speed rail debacle. The long story short there is that California just isn’t great at getting large-scale infrastructure projects done in a timely fashion. It took the Golden State nearly a generation just to repair the Bay Bridge. Because of permitting and environmental impact concerns, it could take a lot longer than that to get the high-speed rail completed, which is, again, why the Hyperloop was conceived (it being less expensive and easier to construct, in theory). California is relatively densely populated, particularly around the two urban centers the rail system and Hyperloop are both looking to connect, so it makes sense that things are getting bogged down.

In Nevada, though, we have more wide open space than we know what to do with. The path between Reno and Las Vegas is a beautiful desert, but it is most certainly an empty one–and at speeds of around 800mph, the journey would only take 30 minutes.

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Leaving aside all of the shipping and standard business commuting than goes on between Nevada’s urban areas–notable in and of themselves–we have a massive tourism industry. According to the Nevada Commission on Tourism’s 2013 Nevada Tourism Insight report, “Tourism is Nevada’s no. 1 economic engine,” and in 2012 alone:

  • Nevada welcomed approximately 52.3 million visitors in 20122, up 1.6 percent over 2011.
  • Nevada’s travel industry generated $58.1 billion in total (direct and secondary) travel spending
  •  Nevada’s travel industry generated $2.7 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2012.
  • Nevada’s travel industry supported 452,000 jobs.
  • Nevada’s travel industry produced $20.2 billion in earnings.
  • Nevada’s travel industry comprised 30% of all employment in.
  • Nevada is 4.6 times more tourism-dependent than the U.S. average with tourism accounting for 12.4 percent of Nevada’s overall statewide Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • Total lodging tax collected was approximately $556 million.

The ability to connect our greatest cities, our most beautiful wilderness and parks, our airports, our roads, and everything else that makes this state great could be a game changer for us. Not only that, but Reno and Las Vegas are perfectly placed to be hubs for all of the major cities of the West. Smaller Hyperloops could connect us to Sacramento for easy access to the Bay Area, to Salt Lake City, to Boise, to Seattle, or to Portland. Most of the big cities in the West have very little room to grow, and their airports are already choked with flights.

In Nevada, a state that boasts 85 percent public land, the Hyperloop could be built quickly and easily maintained. It could be the next jewel in the Silver State’s crown, and it could connect the West like never before–which is exactly why we’re appealing both to Elon Musk and to every single Nevadan to rally behind this idea. As we’ve noted many times before, Nevada’s tech future is looking very bright. Throwing a Hyperloop into the mix has potential to take our fair state to supernova status. Let’s make Nevada the first U.S. home of a Hyperloop and change our world for the better at 800 miles per hour.