Urbanization is happening at a pace that has never been seen before in history. Experts predict that by 2050 the majority, approximately 75% of the world’s population will live in cities. In the future, we can also expect to see a dramatic rise in the number of megacities, which are formed when two or more cities merge together. For example, the Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou area in China is now home to more than 120 million people. So, what does this all mean? For starters, it means that city transportation systems will need to get a whole lot better to accommodate the needs of millions of people living in concentrated areas.
In a megacity, it is simply not possible for everyone to drive their own vehicles to and from work. The only way to truly solve the megacity transportation challenge is by creating a highly efficient, fast, and affordable train network. Achieving this goal, however, is no easy task. In order to move more people within a given time frame, trains need to go faster. Greater speeds, however, require more rapid acceleration and deceleration and this can make a lot of people sick. As trains accelerate, it also takes increasing amounts of power to push air out of the away. Finally, while many train manufacturers have designed trains that can tilt going into curves, they have found very little demand for this line of innovation amongst governments and private enterprises due to their hefty price tag.
Elon Musk’s interests are not limited to the electric car company, Tesla, or his spaceflight company, Space X. In 2013, Musk also unveiled his plans for the creation of the Hyperloop that utilizes “reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on a cushion of air that is driven by a combination of linear induction motors and air compressors.” Essentially, the hyperloop is a cross between a train and a plane that can potentially reduce the travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to just 35 minutes. This means that the hyperloop would be travelling at an incredible 1,223 kilometers per hour. Only a month ago, Musk tweeted that they are now building a test track in Texas. While they are many skeptics, it is never wise to underestimate the resources and vision of Elon Musk.
Urbanization and the growth of megacities is a force that cannot be stopped. If handled properly, then the average standard of living can be raised. If handled poorly, then the standard of living for millions of people can plummet thereby creating large slum areas and dangerous unrest. I think it is clear that trains on rails have serious limitations and involve enormous costs to install and maintain. The future of travel will involve the adoption of new technologies that could ultimately not just connect areas of megacities, but connect megacities around the world to each other. Who knows, maybe the hyperloop will shoot us to the moon and back.
For more information on the Future of Trains, please refer to the following articles:
The New Cold War Is Over Europe’s Energy Future, Business Insider, Bradley Klapper and Matthew Lee, February 3rd, 2015 (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-new-cold-war-is-over-europes-energy-future-2015-2#ixzz3R91UushR)
Russia's gas fight with Ukraine, BBC News, Paul Kirby, October 31st, 2014 (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29521564)
How Much Europe Depends on Russian Energy, New York Times, September 2nd, 2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/03/21/world/europe/how-much-europe-depends-on-russian-energy.html?_r=2c)
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