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Hyperloop or high-speed rail? Developer counts the benefits

One of the studies that the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission announced this week will look at the environmental impact of a proposed hyperloop route through Columbus.

"We're very confident that what the (environmental) study will wind up showing is the environmental impacts of hyperloop will be much less than other modes of transportation, like rail," said Hyperloop One's Dan Katz, head of North American projects.

Of course, it's his job to say that, but here are his reasons:


A three-year top official with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Katz visited Japan to observe the high-speed maglev train in Tokyo. Like hyperloop, it uses magnetic levitation, but in the open air.

"It was tremendously loud when it passed by because of the aerodynamics," he said. "It was like a jetliner coming through."

Hyperloop runs in tubes depressurized to simulate the atmosphere at 200,000 feet above sea level, nearly eliminating drag.

"Our noise is minimal," he said. "We've taken a decibel meter to the test track. You hear some vibration effects."


Locomotives are powered by diesel or diesel-electric hybrid. Hyperloop is hoping for solar and renewable energy to power its magnets and air pumps.


Tracks will be in viaducts raised on pylons, allowing wildlife or human traffic to pass underneath, he said. Also, because of the reduced air drag, the two one-way tracks can be placed much closer together than for maglev, which sends out an air wake that could rattle the opposite train off the tracks if they're not spaced far enough apart.

Whether his thesis bears out has to wait until WPS delivers its results in July 2019.

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