Hyperloop: Enabler of connectedness

Written by  Allie McCarthy

In order for the Hyperloop to be successful, it will need to be designed in a way that optimizes use. If engineers succeed in building it, and if people actually ride it, it has the ability to serve 48,000 people a day, said UCLA researcher Craig Hodgetts in our recent interview.

While advances in technology and communication enable instant exchange between people in different locations, there is still something to be gained from the physical movement of people form city to city. DHL, the worldwide mail delivery company, focuses patterns of exchange each year in what they call their “Global Connectedness Index[1].” While they focus on global exchange, many of the same principles can be considered while discussing the Hyperloop, which is now a domestic and intrastate venture.

The phenomenon of physical movement factors into their examination of globalization as an important indicator of connectedness. In addition to the exchange of goods and ideas through trade and knowledge exchange, “people flow” can have effects on economic development in regions. Student exchange, business travel, immigration, emigration and short-term vacation all constitute types of people flow[2]. With the Hyperloop, business, leisure and student travel would all increase because of its speed and proposed low price for travel. An LA executive could jaunt to San Francisco for a lunch meeting; a student could simultaneously take courses at UCLA and at UC Berkeley.

Policy makers also consider people flow it when constructing immigration or emigration policies, incentives or new transportation regulations (Freeman). The Hyperloop would reduce the barrier to traveling by omitting pesky tolls and traffic. Because Musk proposed building it within the state of California, this people flow may not affect sales tax. However, if build interstate, states would want to consider the effects of people flow and the implications of sales tax on buying Hyperloop tickets in a particular state over another.

Recent analyses of people flow in globalization studies suggest that it has an effect both on globalization and regionalization. Because the Hyperloop is optimal for transportation between two cities of a reasonable distance—in California, for instance—it would likely make tourism and business more regionalized by easing exchange between just those two areas.

The idea of “people flow” should be considered with the impending construction of the Hyperloop. What will we gain from easing the exchange of people between cities in California? While this may strengthen a sense of connectedness within the state, it is perhaps shortsighted as the world becomes more and more globalized.

[1] Ghemawat, P., & Altman, S. (2014). DHL Global Connectedness Index 2014: Analyzing global flows and their power to increase prosperity.

[2] Freeman, R. B. (2006). People flows in globalization (No. w12315). National Bureau of Economic Research.

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