Which takes us to the Economist's initial reaction to the Hyperloop, which managed to get pretty much everything important wrong both in terms of frame and focus, despite coming out at about the story despite coming out after transportation wonks and conscientious journalists had largely debunked the fundamental claims.
If you read those first, you can make a fun little game out of catching the screw-ups here.
The Hyperloop would carry passengers across California at more than 1,200kph—faster than a jet airliner—allowing them to zoom between San Francisco and Los Angeles [No, from Hayward to Sylmar. Getting the route wrong is a telling indicator of what's to come -- MP] in little over half an hour, compared with more than two-and-a-half hours for CHSR. It would be solar-powered, would take less land than a high-speed railway [and have a fraction of the capacity -- MP], and would be cheaper to boot. Mr Musk’s notional budget is around $6 billion, less than a tenth of what the high-speed train is supposed to cost. [Almost no independent experts agree with this. Their estimates are higher by one to two orders of magnitude. -- MP]I'm going to drop the brackets now because this one demands its own paragraph. The level of misrepresentation and understatement here is stunning. The critics aren't poring over the cost estimates; they're looking only at the big stuff, putting in optimistic assumptions and still coming to the conclusion that it doesn't "pencil out," and that Musk's numbers are between one and two orders of magnitude too low. As for the parenthesis at the end, budget is inextricably intertwined with schedule and, more generally, with delivering what you promised when you promised it. As previously mentioned, Musk is notorious for over-promising. Furthermore, it's not entirely clear how much credit you get for coming in on budget when you've never made a profit despite raking in billions in subsidies.
That, at least, is the theory. There are doubters, of course. Some worry that passengers will not like the prospect of hurtling through a steel tube, in a cramped capsule [Let's not forget, probably reeking of vomit -- MP], at almost the speed of sound. And there are inevitable questions about safety, though the pods would have wheels that could be deployed if needed, allowing them to limp to their destinations using batteries if the power failed. [just to be clear, if you experience cascading failure traveling through a near vacuum in a pressurized pod at over 1,200kph, having wheels won't be much of a factor -- MP] But, its breathtaking audacity aside, the thing does look feasible as an engineering project. [We need to talk about what feasibility means in an engineering context -- MP]
The tube would be held above ground, on pylons, reducing the amount of land it consumed [the route mainly goes through the Central Valley farming country where the the relatively low cost of land would be small compared with the expense of building hundreds of miles of high tech elevated structure -- MP], and would follow existing roads, which should simplify construction and make maintenance easier. The proposed route features only gentle curves. [That a relative term at these speeds, particularly when you factor in the vertical (anyone else here familiar with the Tejon Pass?) -- MP] And the air cushion surrounding each pod should ensure that the ride is smooth. Moreover, although unexpected engineering problems would be bound to crop up, Mr Musk’s experience—and that of his engineers—with space flight and car design would bode well for overcoming them. [note that none of that experience involves large infrastructure -- MP]
Building it alongside existing roads would certainly cheapen things as well as simplifying them, but critics who are poring over Mr Musk’s cost estimates, for everything from land permits to the construction itself, doubt the numbers stack up (though to be fair, both his electric cars and his space rockets have come in on budget).