By George Austin
The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Hyperloop” is a new potential mode of transportation that moves freight and people quickly, safely, on-demand and direct from origin to destination. Passengers or cargo are loaded into a Hyperloop vehicle, or “pod,” and accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube.
The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.
Want to have dinner in Washington, D.C., tonight but you’re home in Dartmouth and Westport? No problem. Just hop in the Hyperloop and you’ll be there in a half hour. After dinner, the trip back home will be just as quick.
Well, not yet.
Holly McNamara envisions a future where that kind of travel is not only possible, but commonplace.
The Somerset woman has been following a start-up company called Hyperloop One since it was founded in 2014. She met Shervin Pishevar, the co-founder and executive chairman of the company, at a conference and was taken by his innovative and energetic approach to life. She also closely follows entrepreneur Elon Musk, who she said is the brainchild of Hyperloop One.
So when she learned of the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, which allowed the public to submit location proposals for what could be revolutionary mode of transportation, she decided to enter.
She hired John Myron, a 2016 Somerset Berkley Regional High School graduate, to be a part of a local Hyperloop team. Their plan proposes a corridor for the Hyperloop that would stretch from Boston to Somerset, then branch down the East Coast.
The plan is no pipe dream. Out of 2,600 submissions, the Somerset proposal was named one of 35 semifinalists.
“I’ve obviously been very passionate about Somerset and the surrounding area,” McNamara said. “We were born and bred a power-generating town and a distribution area. I’m very passionate about rejuvenating Somerset and these surrounding towns and I think Hyperloop will do just that.”
Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation that moves freight and people quickly, safely, on-demand and direct from origin to destination, according to the company. Passengers or cargo are loaded into a Hyperloop vehicle, or “pod,” and accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube.
The pod quickly lifts above a track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. Hyperloop systems would be built on columns or tunneled below ground to avoid dangerous grade crossings. The system would be fully autonomous and enclosed, eliminating pilot error and weather hazards, according to the company. It has no carbon emissions.
McNamara said the Hyperloop could transport a person from SouthCoast to Boston in less than 10 minutes. She said the transportation also could get a person to Washington, D.C., in 35 minutes. She said the average speed of the transportation would be 600 miles per hour.
While she is a Select Board member in Somerset, McNamara said she made the proposal as a private citizen. McNamara is a civil engineer who works for Partner Engineering and Science, doing due diligence countrywide for major banks in real estate transactions.
The Hyperloop, McNamara said, could benefit the local economy because of the accessibility it would provide to other major cities. McNamara said people commuting to Boston by traditional means have to wait in daily traffic for hours.
“Imagine going from here to D.C. and back multiple times during a day and being back home for dinner,” McNamara said. “It would be like bringing fresh blood to Somerset and surrounding towns, revitalizing their industry. Massachusetts has its roots in innovation and creation, and for a long time, has been a hub for economic success. A lot of cities in southeastern Massachusetts were a part of that success and now are struggling. The Hyperloop can change that.”
To enter the challenge, McNamara said teams had to fill out proposals, answer questions and provide spreadsheets with hypothetical data points about where the Hyperloop would go. She said applicants must explain why they chose a certain corridor for the Hyperloop and why they think that location should be one of the first for the transportation.
Some of the language from the proposal that she and Myron submitted to Hyperloop One included:
“I moved back to my hometown of Somerset to bring the knowledge and expertise I’ve gained, to the town that raised me, the town that was once one of the nation’s leaders in power generation, and to the town that once was one of America’s chief distribution points. I came back with the hope of bringing Somerset back to life and restoring it to what it used to be. We have what it takes. We just need the chance.
“Somerset’s waterfront location, its deep-ports and zoned designated port areas, accessibility, geographic location relative to major cities and highways, and its malleability, are all desirable traits that make us a viable candidate to lead the quest to bring Hyperloop One to the East Coast.
“This mode of transportation will totally disrupt the fabric our society is relying on and change it for the better. You could have a meeting in Washington, D.C., go to lunch in New York, and still make it back for your daughter’s soccer game at 5 in Boston. This incredible opportunity cannot be passed up, and if not now, when?
“It is much more effective to invest in a future than to renovate the present. Our location is perfect for Hyperloop. Our past demonstrated the success of these cities (surrounding Somerset and the neighboring areas), our present demonstrates the need for something to revive our cities, and our future will demonstrate the endless possibilities Hyperloop could have on the East Coast.”
The Hyperloop One Global Challenge kicked off in May of 2016 as an open call to individuals, universities, companies and governments to develop comprehensive proposals for using Hyperloop One’s disruptive transport technology in their region to move passengers and freight point-to-point, swiftly, and on-demand.
The semifinalists come from 17 countries, representing every continent except Antarctica. The U.S. has 11 teams left, India five and the United Kingdom four. Twenty proposals come with commitments of support from local, state and federal governments and agencies. The company expects to announce the handful of finalists by May.
“The Hyperloop One Global Challenge unleashed ideas from some of the world’s most creative engineers and planners, who care as much as we do about the future of transportation,” said Rob Lloyd, chief executive officer of Hyperloop One. “These are all solutions that can make a real and immediate social and economic impact.”
McNamara said she spearheaded an effort to make a submission to the Hyperloop One Global Challenge and then hired Myron. She said they have been a great team. McNamara said Myron, a Boston College student, helped her to write the proposal and is helping her with a few other projects.
“He’s incredibly talented beyond his years,” McNamara said.
McNamara said she has had several meetings with state Rep. Patricia Haddad, the chairperson of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation, and several senior staff members of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. She said the state can’t buy into the project this early in the game. McNamara said her next steps will involve finding out what the state needs to buy into the project. She said she would reach out to Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. McNamara is the only semi-finalist in the Global Challenge who has proposed a corridor for the transportation in Massachusetts.
A panel of judges chose the semi-finalists.
McNamara said she is waiting for Hyperloop One to inform her about the next steps, but she is forming a team that will further develop her proposal. She said that team could include students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and state and local officials. McNamara said she is already collaborating with other teams on the East Coast. She said more data will need to be collected and that she hopes to work more with the Department of Transportation and Joint Committee on Transportation.
McNamara said there is a potential opportunity to showcase her proposal in Washington, D.C., in the spring. She said the nation’s capital will be one of three places in the world where the semi-finalists will present their plans.
Last summer, McNamara said a small-scale test proved that Hyperloop is more economically feasible than high-speed rail. She said four differences have been named between Hyperloop and high-speed rail. She said the Hyperloop system would be two to three times faster; would be available on-demand, with pods leaving as frequently as every 20 seconds; is environmentally friendly with no direct emissions or noise; and would be less expensive to build with a different technology.
McNamara said trains need power along the entire track while the Hyperloop would not. She said the Hyperloop would achieve a higher performance for a lower cost. McNamara said the Hyperloop would be totally powered by electricity and would integrate seamlessly into the existing transportation ecosystem.
McNamara said if a corridor is awarded to an area, Hyperloop would bring the engineering to that location.
McNamara said a full-scale test model for Hyperloop is being built in the Las Vegas desert, adding that the company’s mission is to have three Hyperloop systems in service by 2021.
Hyperloop One is based in Los Angeles and has manufacturing facilities in Las Vegas and Dubai.
McNamara said she almost didn’t submit her proposal to the challenge because she would be competing with much larger teams. Then she realized the worst thing that could happen would be a “no” response, so she and Myron went for it.