Egomaniacal engineer Brogan BamBrogan’s Hyperloop startup Arrivo plans to test its vehicle carrying Hyperloop in Colorado. Arrivo and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) are planning a test-track and lines in the Denver area.
“We’re calling it the High-Speed Super Urban Network, which isn’t as good as Hyperloop,” Brogan told The Denver Post on 15 November. Despite BamBrogan’s claims, the system is a Hyperloop.
Like Hyperloop One’s system, it is a large tube through objects are whisked at high-speeds. The company’s website is even called Arrivo-Loop, which makes it pretty clear this is Hyperloop. Who does BamBrogan think he is fooling?
Is Arrivo a Front for Elon Musk?
The conceptual artwork on the Arrivo website shows freight and cars speeding through tubes on high-speed sleds. The concept looks suspiciously like Elon Musk’s proposals for a subway for cars.
It is not clear if Musk, SpaceX, or Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) are associated with Arrivo. There is a strong possibility of that because BamBrogan used to be an engineer at SpaceX. Unfortunately, Denver Post reporter Tamara Chuang failed to ask BamBrogan about a Musk connection.
BamBrogan is trying to distinguish his new company from Hyperloop One, (now Virgin Hyperloop One) which he helped found. BamBrogan left Hyperloop One last year after a nasty dispute and lawsuit with the company’s founder Shervin Pishevar. Arrivo has actually been around for about a year, but this is the first time it has announced a project.
Better Traffic Management or More Car Dependence through Hyperloop
“But we’re a pack of engineers,” BamBrogan said. “We’re open for branding. Really, our focus is on ending traffic. That should be catchy enough for anybody, especially in Denver.”
Actually what BamBrogan is promoting is better traffic management. He intends to make traffic more manageable by moving it off the roads and into a controlled environment. Traffic would not be eliminated it would simply be brought under control.
Note: this can be achieved right now by simply cars on railroad flat cars. A more efficient method would be to have people park their cars; and take a train or pod, which is what Hyperloop One is planning.
Arrivo’s current plans call for a test track near Denver International Airport (DIA) and lines connecting DIA with Downtown Boulder, Downtown Denver with Boulder, the far south Denver suburb of Lone Tree with Downtown, and the Denver Tech Center with DIA. Arrivo has received $760,000 from CDOT’s strategic fund in exchange for promises to invest $4.4 million at a research center in the working-class Denver suburb of Commerce City to create 152 jobs.
Predictably BamBrogan did not say where he was going to get the $4.4 million or $10 million to $15 million for other research he mentioned. One has to wonder if this is a good use for Colorado taxpayers’ money, especially since Hyperloop One is investigating the possibility of building a faster and more advanced system here.
Is a Car Carrying Hyperloop a Good Idea?
BamBrogan’s scheme raises a host of ethical, political, social, practical, and philosophical problems which he predictably ignores.
The biggest of these is a car-carrying transportation system a good idea. After all, the idea behind mass transit is to get people out of their cars and into cheaper and better-managed systems that take up less space. Spending money and resources to move cars around town faster, seems wasteful.
Another obvious problem is social, part of the reason for mass transit is to build transportation systems everybody can afford to use. Of use is a transit system that people affluent enough to a late model car can afford? Spending taxpayers’ money to whisk some rich guy’s Mercedes around town is just stupid.
This actually points to a serious flaw in Denver’s existing rail and light-rail transit system. That network largely serves affluent areas like the Tech Center and Downtown. It also raises the question why is Arrivo needed when light rail and commuter rail already serve those areas.
Car Carrying Hyperloop Bad for the Working Class
In the new Denver, the upper class gets to live in pleasant pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods a short walk from the train station. The working class is exiled to dismal car-dependent suburbs far out on the edge of town; that they need to own a vehicle to reach.
That creates a city in which engineers and bankers making a six-figure income can afford to go without cars, while the cleaning lady, the janitor, and the fry cook have to spend all their extra cash keeping the broken down old beater on the road. If the beater breaks down they may have no way to get to work besides their thumbs.
Sadly enough BamBrogan’s scheme only magnifies those dilemmas. Working people would probably end up paying additional taxes in order to finance the upper class’s newest play toy. Yet they would still be stuck in traffic on a congested freeway, praying their battered old crudbucket does not break down while watching the executive’s new BMW whiz by on the High-Speed Super Urban Network.
A big advantage to a full Hyperloop is that working and middle-class people would be able to use it to commute from farther-out communities with lower-housing costs to cities with jobs. For example, Denver workers would be able to live in Pueblo, Cheyenne, or Trinidad; where housing is far cheaper, and ride Hyperloop to jobs.
Would Arrivo’s System Pay for Itself?
A final question comes up is how would the High-Speed Urban Network pay for itself? Would anybody really pay big money to put a car on it just to arrive at work five or 10 minutes faster?
Another obvious problem is that better traffic management, toll lanes, or autonomous cars might achieve the same goals at a fraction of the cost. Something to note here is that many highways, already have toll lanes which most drivers refuse to use.
The Hyperloop One System might pay for itself by hauling freight and long-distance passengers. A tremendous use for Hyperloop One’s system would be to haul cars cross country. This is already done through the Car Train between Washington and Florida on the U.S. East Coast and the Chunnel under the English Channel between France and the United Kingdom.
Although, simply renting a car or using Uber at the final destination; would be a cheaper, more logical, and efficient solution. Using new technology to make people more car-dependent makes no sense.
Why is anybody spending money on Arrivo’s system? Although it might be a front, BamBrogan may be planning a full-scale Hyperloop he just hopes to get enough support and funds for it by offering this car friendly scaled version.
Hopefully, the money earmarked for Arrival’s system will be spent on one of the full-scale Hyperloops being planned by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Virgin Hyperloop One, or the Dutch Haardt Global Mobility instead.
What is needed is a solution that meets all our transportation needs not a new toy for the rich. If all the Arrivo system can carry is cars, why does anybody want it?