If you don’t think of North Texas as being on the cutting edge of transportation, consider this:
The 200 mph Texas Bullet Train between Dallas and Houston is set to be the first project of its type in the nation.
The project inched closer to the goal of becoming a reality in September by securing of a loan of up to $300 million.
Texas Central, the company implementing the high-speed train between Houston and North Texas, announced last month that it has secured the loan from the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corp. for Transport & Urban Development, or JOIN, and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.
Texas Central will use the funds to move ahead on permitting, design and engineering, as well as other preliminary work needed to launch construction during 2019.
The interest-bearing loan along with the equity provided to date – mostly coming from Texas entrepreneurs – will provide enough funding for all activities required for the project to reach financial close, Texas Central said.
The Texas financial backers include developer Jack Matthews and former Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr., among others.
The Texas project will inject an estimated $36 billion in economic benefits statewide over the next 25 years, including creating 10,000 direct jobs per year during construction and 1,500 permanent jobs when operational, the developer’s release said.
Bullet train backers continue to chip away at financing, environmental concerns, property acquisition and other challenges that must be overcome for the project to happen.
The high-speed train from Dallas to Houston, if it becomes reality, will cut what is now a four-plus hour drive to 90 minutes for its projected 5 million annual riders. Officials hope that it will open as soon as 2024.
The project will cost $12-$15 billion by Texas Central’s estimate. Others say it could cost $20 billion.
Dallas-Fort Worth is one of three places on the planet where Uber's flying urban taxis will launch.
Uber’s urban air taxis are set to debut on a demonstration basis in three test markets — DFW, Los Angeles and Dubai — in 2020, Uber spokesman Travis Considine told the Dallas Business Journal in an earlier interview. Commercial flights are targeted to start in the test markets in 2023, he said. From there, Uber plans to roll out the service in large urban areas worldwide.
The San Francisco-based company, through its program called “uberAir,” is working with aircraft, infrastructure and real estate companies to create and operate the taxis that will fly people on fixed routes between city hubs. The service will work through a new option in the Uber app.
The car-for-hire company is planning a network of electric-powered aircraft and skyports that will provide transportation and delivery services in large cities worldwide. Initially, the aircraft would have pilots at the controls, but eventually they would operate autonomously, or without a human pilot, Uber says.
The aircraft will be a cross between helicopters and airplanes. They would operate at an altitude below helicopters and commercial planes, but above that of drones.
Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopters is one of a handful of aircraft manufacturers working with Uber to develop and build the flying taxis.
Uber is also teaming with Fort Worth-based Hillwood Properties to develop skyports, called vertiports, with plans to create two to five ports in NorthTexas within the year. The first vertiports will be located at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and in Frisco, Hillwood said last year. Other vertiports could eventually be built at Victory Park in Dallas, near AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park in Arlington, and on the Trinity River in downtown Fort Worth.
DFW sits at the apex of the Texas Triangle, which is a finalist to be an inaugural route for Virgin Hyperloop One’s 650 mph tube travel system that would make the trip between Austin and Dallas in 20 minutes or less.
High-speed capsule travel, the Hyperloop is the brainchild of Tesla and PayPal founder Elon Musk, which would zoom folks long distances in vacuum tubes at 700 mph.
The Texas Triangle route is a 640-mile system that will, if it becomes a reality, connect Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, with a leg down to Laredo. The route was chosen as one of the top 10 proposals worldwide by Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One. There were more than 1,000 initial submissions representing six continents worldwide.
The pressurized tube system would whisk passengers along a magnetically levitated track from Dallas to Houston in 46 minutes or Dallas to Austin in 19 minutes. From Austin, add 8 minutes to get to San Antonio or 16 minutes to Laredo.
Having a hard time envisioning it? Think of the pneumatic tubes now used in bank and pharmacy drive-throughs. Now imagine yourself as the debit card or medication bottle inside.
The cost of taking the Hyperloop would be roughly comparable to prices of daily transportation options like a metro, train or bus, according to a statement Hyperloop One. "It needs to be a form of transportation that consumers can afford to take every day," the company has said.
Autonomous vehicles are now being tested in Frisco by California-based Drive.ai. Driverless shuttles — the first autonomous transit vehicles — were tested in Arlington more than a year ago.
But when do we enter this world of high-speed rail, flying Ubers, warp-speed tube travel and cars that drive themselves? What barricades stand in the way of these projects becoming reality?