Texas has long been ripe for a high-speed rail system, but even the most ambitious projects, like the planned Dallas-Houston route that will shuffle passengers along at a solid 200 miles per hour, are slower than molasses compared to the high-tech tube train that a new start-up company wants to build connecting Austin and San Antonio.
Transonic Transportation promises it can get you from San Antonio to Austin in fifteen minutes, traveling at an astonishing 600 miles per hour. For perspective, the fastest train speed ever recorded is 374 miles per hour, set by a Japanese magnetic levitation train on a testing track near Mount Fuji last year. Transonic says it can shatter that record by using hyperloop technology, which, as we wrote in February, is an invention from Elon Musk that’s been around for a few years but has yet to be developed into anything tangible.
Basically speaking, hyperloop is a frictionless tube that makes things go reallllly fast. Here’s a clip from The Jetsons that explains the essence of hyperloop for all you visual learners, but instead of a cartoon George Jetson, picture a real-life train. If you prefer words to YouTube clips from 1960s cartoons, then fine, Einstein, go ahead and check out Transonic’s website, which goes into detail about how it plans to use hyperloop. For more on the history of tubular travel leading up to the invention of the hyperloop, here’s a good video by the Great Explainer, Vox:
The project is still in the very early research stage, and Transonic has yet to identify a specific route or decide whether it would build above ground or below. In addition to the hyperloop technology, there are a few aspects of Transonic’s plan that set it apart from others: most notably, a primarily privately funded investment model, and the promise that eminent domain wouldn’t be used to grab land for the tracks, which could be elevated rather than laid flat on the ground, thus keeping landowner’s access in tact. Transonic says it would run trains every 30 seconds 24 hours a day, and the trips would cost only $10.
If this actually happens, it’d be hard to argue with Transonic’s branding of the hyperloop rail as “the next great American project,” along the lines of the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. Transonic says it can have a contract in place and be ready to break ground in just ten years. That’s confident talk coming from a company with a name that sounds better suited for selling electric toothbrushes, but Transonic recently moved it’s main office from Louisiana to San Antonio, so they’re apparently pretty serious about this.