A Boring Transportation Story

The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) has a problem. How can they link the busy Ontario International Airport to the regional rail network?  The closest Metrolink station in Rancho Cucamonga is nearly three miles away.

Initially, the SBCTA sought to develop a railway extension that connected airport passengers directly to Metrolink’s network of stations. This idea would reduce congestion on San Bernardino County’s freeways, which is at an all-time high. SBCTA estimated the cost to be in the $1 billion to $1.5 billion range and it would take at least a decade to start.

A Boring Solution?

But then SBCTA’s Board of Directors received an unsolicited bid from the Boring Company–backed by Elon Musk–to build a hyperloop.  And it’s not as crazy as it sounds.  Musk’s proposal would cost roughly half the cost. Teslas, produced and provided by Musk as part of the project, would carry passengers through the hyperloop.

The proposal was good enough to take a closer look. The board asked staff to analyze the costs and environmental impacts in a report due later this fall.

The hyperloop would link the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station to the airport. It would consist of a 2.8-mile tunnel system at about 35 feet below ground, allowing Teslas to zip to the airport at speeds of up to 127 mph, covering the entire trip in less than two minutes.

As explained on The Boring Company’s website, a hyperloop is “an ultra-high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported at 600+ mph within a vacuum-sealed tunnel.” 

Photo provided on The Boring Company’s website

What Happens in Vegas . . . Strays From Vegas?

A similar hyperloop transportation system is currently under construction in Las Vegas, Nevada to move people around the Las Vegas Convention Center. The hyperloop met with some skepticism when it was first introduced. But Steve Hill, the CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the hyperloop will meet the evolving needs of visitors and  “…usher in the future of transportation in Las Vegas.”

With the favorable price point of the hyperloop, compared to a railway extension, in June the SBCTA Board of Directors voted to drop the original study and concentrate on researching the hyperloop’s feasibility. County Supervisor Robert Lovingood told Mercury News that this project is “a great way to inexpensively improve transportation corridors.”

In a Mercury News story, the Boring Company and County Supervisor Curt Hagman suggested that San Bernardino could be the first to test out Tesla’s electric vans. The Tesla electric van would have the capacity to hold up to 12 people and luggage, meaning the hyperloop could transport more than a million people per year. 

County leaders hope that using more multi-modal transportation options can give commuters alternatives.  “It gets us thinking in a new way,” County Supervisor Curt Hagman told the Mercury News. “This is something that can be done relatively quick and inexpensively”

Innovation in Regional Planning

To address our future transportation challenges, regional transportation planners have to be open to “new ways” of thinking and innovative technologies.  The hyperloop proposal is still under consideration; Despite the apparent cost efficiencies, SBCTA may determine that it is not the right solution for their transportation network.  

But the SBCTA board was right to study the innovative– if a little unconventional–proposal. And even though it involves additional analysis and careful assessment, there is nothing boring about the project. 

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