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Are Bullet Trains And Hyperloops On A High-Speed Collision Course In Texas?

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Hyperloop One
Hyperloop One

The Texas Triangle was chosen as a finalist to be one of Hyperloop One's inaugural routes. The route proposed by Hyperloop Texas, a JV between engineering firm Aecom and public agencies in the state, would connect Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Laredo and Houston by pressurized tubes that would whisk passengers along at 700 mph. That means an 8.4-minute trip between Houston and San Antonio, a 19.5-minute trip between Dallas and Austin and a 46-minute trip from Houston to Dallas. 

Hyperloop One will look to tap into Texas' abundance of super-commuters — people who travel more than 90 minutes or 180 miles for work. An NYU study found DFW to Houston super-commutes have more than tripled since 2002; Austin and San Antonio to Houston super-commutes have both more than doubled. Texas Central High-Speed Rail is using the same fundamentals to back its Shinkansen Bullet train between Dallas and Houston. That could lead to serious competition for the growing demographic.

Th Hyperloop is nearly twice as fast as Texas Central's High-Speed Rail project already in the works to connect Houston and Dallas. To boot, the lightning-quick travel time is not even direct. The journey is routed through Austin, which would act as a hub connecting the Texas cities.   

Hyperloop One could also be operational before Texas Central's line. In its announcement, Hyperloop One declared its intent to begin shipping freight by 2020 and passengers by 2021. 

Hyperloop One XP-1 Transport
Hyperloop One XP-1 Transport

One major factor will be ticket pricing. Texas Central has not released specifics but expects pricing to be on par with airline prices. That will likely be far cheaper than the Hyperloop, which is expected to be around $330 one-way.

If Hyperloop One does move forward in Texas, it will likely face many of Texas Central's same growing pains; the company has met plenty of resistance from Texas landowners. Unlike Texas Central, which is developing its project privately, Hyperloop One will work with government agencies on development in some capacity. Though the specific arrangement has not yet been detailed, Hyperloop One is already working closely with the Colorado Department of Transportation and has said it intends to continue government relationships wherever it ends up.

A Hyperloop in Texas is still only a proposal, one of 10. With other major international routes proposed, like London to Edinburgh, Mumbai to Chennai and Mexico City to Guadalajara, Texas will have stiff competition. In total, Hyperloop One is considering 53 urban centers with nearly 150 million residents. 

Hyperloop One will now work closely with each finalist team on initial ridership forecasts, business case and preliminary technical analysis of the route and corridor, tailored to the needs of the individual route. 

HSR

Meanwhile, Texas Central is plowing ahead. Backers of the Japanese-style bullet train project said they hope to have all regulatory approvals and financing in place to begin construction next year. Texas Central has been busy acquiring land along the proposed route. 

A spokesperson for Texas Central told Bisnow the two projects are not in competition. Hyperloop One is not building a direct line from Houston to Dallas. Texas Central sees the two different modes of transportation as complementary, similar to airlines.  

Last month Texas Central took two major steps when it signed a memorandum of understanding with the City of Houston and chose its preferred design-build firms for the project. 

The future of Texas public transportation is approaching at high speed. 

UPDATE SEPT. 20 1:40 P.M. ET: The story has been updated to clarify the potential competition for super-commuters between Hyperloop One and Texas Central HSR.