Home / NEWS / Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Could Take Trump From the White House to New York in 30 Minutes. But Can He Build It?

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Could Take Trump From the White House to New York in 30 Minutes. But Can He Build It?

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop could be very useful for a certain someone in the White House.

The Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur claims that his planned supersonic subway could bring passengers from Washington, D.C., to New York City in 29 minutes. Currently, traveling between the two cities takes around three hours by train or a one-hour flight.

Such an innovation could prove very useful for President Donald Trump and the first family. Since taking office, the president—a New Yorker, born and bred—has only visited his home city once, with friends estimating that his time in office constitutes the longest period Trump has spent outside the Big Apple in his entire life. On his sole visit to New York in May, the president didn’t even have time to visit Trump Tower, despite Melania and the couple’s youngest son, Barron, staying there until the school year ended in June.

U.S. President Donald Trump greets Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla CEO, as presidential adviser Steve Bannon (L) watches before a policy and strategy forum with executives in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on February 3. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

It looked as though Musk’s dream of a 760-mile-per-hour, underground vacuum tube transportation system had taken a giant step forward on Thursday. Musk—who recently quit as a presidential business adviser —tweeted that he had received “verbal [government] approval” for The Boring Company—the tunneling wing of Musk’s empire—to proceed with the project.

The only problem: No one seemed to know who gave Musk that “verbal approval.” and in any case, verbal approval does not necessarily mean a revolutionary infrastructure project is about to begin.

Without wanting to cut Musk down, the White House was cautious when asked about whether the businessman had been given the go-ahead. “We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector,” said a spokesman, according to The Washington Post.

Others were more openly dismissive. The deputy spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that “nobody in City Hall, or any of our city agencies” had been in touch with Musk about the Hyperloop proposals.

Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, DC, appeared to back Musk with a supportive tweet, pointing out that a journey from the capital to Baltimore—a journey that is around a fifth of the distance from Washington to New York—currently takes 29 minutes.

But a spokeswoman for Bowser, LaToya Foster, clarified to The Guardian: “This is the first we heard of it. We can’t wait to hear more.” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh similarly expressed that she was “excited” by the news, but her spokesman said that Musk’s tweets were the first time the news had emerged.

Two hours after his original announcement, Musk toned down his rhetoric, saying there was “still a lot of work” to be done to get formal approval:

And a few hours after that, he urged his millions of followers to contact their local politicians with support to expedite the project:

So what to make of Musk’s backtracking? It seems that his team and the White House have made progress on the issue. “The Boring Company has had a number of promising conversations with local, state and federal government officials,” a spokesperson for the company told the BBC, adding the company have received “verbal support from key government decision-makers” for tunneling plans including a route from New York to Washington DC.

But such a major project would likely lead to extensive planning, regulation and environmental reviews, and would require state level approval, not just a thumbs up from the White House. In Musk’s plan to build underground tubes, capsules levitate above magnetic tracks using air bearings, which has raised concerns about the system’s ability to withstand earthquakes. And the speeds and gravitational forces to which passengers would be subjected will no doubt require much attention as the project comes closer to reality.

The Boring Company spokesperson said that they expected to “secure the formal approvals necessary to break ground later this year.” And the company has already completed a first successful test of the underground electric sleds that would be used to transport cars at 125 miles per hour in Hyperloop tunnels. Other companies working on Hyperloop have predicted the first system will be in place by 2020.

All this suggests that, despite Musk’s optimism and signs of progress, travelers are not likely to be able to hop onto a Hyperloop train before the end of Trump’s first term. Sorry, Mr. President.


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