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Will Texas Soon Be Home To The Fastest Train In The World?

A new start-up wants to use hyperloop technology to get you from San Antonio to Austin in just fifteen minutes.

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Japan's maglev trains, pictured here, are the world's fastest trains on record, but Transonic's proposed train would smoke that record by a few hundred miles per hour.
East Japan Railway/Getty

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.

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  • Just_Some_Gaijin_Scum

    1. The train pictured is not a maglev train. It is a fast train, but it uses regular ol’ tracks and wheels, not magnetic levitation.

    2. The proposed hyperloop system is not “frictionless.” It is a system that reduces friction, possibly substantially, but cannot be frictionless.

    /obnoxious nerd

  • Wurty

    Exciting stuff!

  • 5topAmnesty

    Austin to San Antonio is 73 miles. How long does it take to drive to one end, park, go through TSA, wait for the scheduled departure time, ride the system, pick up luggage (if needed), obtain a rental car (if on business), and then drive to one’s destination.

    About all that’s being promised is the 15 minute ride time. I know if I fly the rest of the times add up to 3 to 5 hours (depending on driving distances). So figure on that here…no reason to assume differently.

    If I take my car, the amount of time is roughly 90 minutes door-to-door (maybe 2 hours in bad traffic).

    There’s a reason they still have traffic jams in Europe, despite being TOTALLY LOADED with trains, many of which are high-speed.

  • Laura Lee

    While this is exciting, I strongly believe that we ought to look a bit closer into the company heading this project. The CEO is listed as Joshua Manriquez. In the article referenced above the writer states that “Transonic Transportation has experience in pipeline projects, demolition projects and emergency management projects among others, totaling over $1 billion. This is their first attempt to construct a bullet train. Eventually, the company would like to use the train for medical transport and crop transport.” However with less than ten minutes of research I found that Transonic Transportation was founded THIS YEAR. Just a few months ago. No projects have ever been completed by the company itself. The CEO is a 24 year old “civil engineer by training” who studied at LSU College of Engineering. Yet Joshua Manriquez is not listed as a current LSU student or Alumni. Does that mean the CEO of a company who “now has a team working on blueprints and patent pending technology for a Texas hyperloop train system.” has not yet completed his undergraduate education? I’ve read three articles who all say that he is a Civil Engineer and even an academia.edu profile which has him listed as an LSU Undergraduate in Civil & Environmental Engineering. While someone does not need to have a college degree or even graduate to do great things and have great success- you aren’t talking about an app or revolutionizing the way we communicate. We are talking about someone, who appears to have not yet graduated college, being the CEO of an engineering company attempting to build a hyperloop that travels approximately up to 600 mph. In a different article referenced above the reporter wrote “While critics argue that the logistics of building a bullet train into an already-existing infrastructure aren’t feasible, Manriquez counters that they have a plan to avoid any potential problems. He said that a big issue to look into involves heat dissipation, especially in the 100-plus degrees in South Texas. He noted that they are currently running tests in that area as well.” Who is “they”? Have they researched the environmental impact a hyperloop would have if using farmers land? Would the farmers be aware, in advance, of any risks that they would be taking by allowing this company to build on their land? And once again, I go back to the education topic. You can, of course, bring up Elon Musk who, at the age of 24, left a Stanford PhD program in applied physics and materials science. The difference, nevertheless, is that Elon Musk graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics and stayed for a second Bachelors of Science degree in physics where he was then ACCEPTED into a PhD program at Stanford University. I will be writing an article shortly shedding some light into the issues many people have with the idea of a hyperloop from San Antonio to Austin, but in ending this comment I must ask: If a hyperloop, like the one proposed above, can be brought to existence so easily why have other Hyperloop companies (Hyperloop One) not accomplished this feat? Sherwin Pishevar, a graduate of UC Berkley and the co-founder of Hyperloop One, along with DOZENS of other people on his team have spent years and years researching this type of transportation. Going onto the Transonic Transportation website there are is no page with a clear listing of the team. All I could find was this “As opposed to our competition at Hyperloop-One & HTT, our collective experience is in large-scale infrastructure & pipeline engineering. Our team members include the previous Civil Engineer for the Causeway Bridge (longest bridge in the world) and the Project Manager for Kinder Morgan’s $1B Palmetto Pipeline project. This experience in infrastructure allows us a greater insight as to what will be most effective for the implementation of a Hyperloop system. This also makes us the only hyperloop firm whose core team has experience designing, managing, & executing infrastructure projects in the range of $100M-$1B+.” Where are the names of the team members involved in this project? Where has this 24 year old undergraduate student received the type of experience in infrastructure needed for a project of this magnitude? I am assuming that the “core team” would include the CEO himself. What experience does he have “designing, managing, and executing infrastructure projects in the range of $100M-$1B+”? I understand that he can be the face of the company while not actually having to be in charge of the engineering aspect of it, but if that is the case we will need transparency when it comes to the Transonic Team and all involved with the project.