Imagine commuting to class or work at Ohio State from Chicago in 29 minutes or Pittsburgh in 18. With Hyperloop, it’s a possibility.
The Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh route was selected as one of 10 finalists of the Hyperloop One Global challenge in September. If selected as the winner among the finalists, Ohio State researchers could play a big role in its design and construction.
“My intention was to bring in the proper people … that are knowledgeable on the topic,” said Carla Bailo, assistant vice president for mobility research and business development at Ohio State’s Office of Research and College of Engineering. “Whatever expertise would be needed. Ohio State would help that in the actual deployment of the win.”
Hyperloop One is similar to a train in size, but it would fit inside a vacuum tube and reach speeds up to 671 miles per hour. These speeds are reached through a combination of electric propulsion, magnetic levitation and ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
Ohio State has played a small role in the idea stage so far, Bailo said. But she sees the potential of using university researchers and students and the benefits it would bring.
The whole corridor has this wealth of knowledge of young people that wants to contribute to the process. I feel like that is part of our future too, is really tapping into what these groups are doing in terms of innovation and pod design. — Thea Walsh, director of transportation systems and funding for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission
“For our region, for student involvement, for faculty involvement, all of these things we can win in terms of challenges are only going to help our economy,” Bailo said. “It will help us to produce students who are top-notch and ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow.”
Thea Walsh, director of transportation systems and funding for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, was in charge of the initial proposal and the stages moving forward after the Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh route was selected as a finalist.
Walsh said she sees many opportunities and benefits in bringing Hyperloop to Columbus and Ohio State.
“If you have a job here, you could live in your hometown of Chicago, or if you live here, you could work in Chicago,” Walsh said. “It also means that people who don’t have access to the big cities like even Columbus may have a way to get in here to access this job market.”
Winning the global challenge does not mean Columbus is guaranteed to get a Hyperloop corridor, Walsh said. However, Hyperloop One will bring its sights to the city.
“Winning means that they are going to be spending their resources as far as people power and possibly even funding to determine if this is the location they want to put up a corridor,” Walsh said. “I don’t think it guarantees us a future with Hyperloop, but it guarantees their undivided attention moving forward.”
Hyperloop would open the door to create a mega-region concept where resources from varying areas can be spread easily.
“When you have that kind of speed to move place to place, your place in general becomes bigger,” Walsh said.
Hyperloop would transport materials, products and food quicker, Walsh added. Food transportation would be extremely beneficial to regions that are considered food deserts along the Midwestern corridor.
Walsh added there are still many challenges to overcome in creating and deploying a new technology.
“We are the forefront, the cutting edge of something new,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you sit here and wait for it to get done. You got to help be a part of the process, which is very cool for me and my team. We are excited about that.”
Walsh believes colleges and students can play a large role in bringing the Hyperloop to the region, and some have already contributed to pod design and innovation.
“The whole corridor has this wealth of knowledge of young people that wants to contribute to the process,” Walsh said. “I feel like that is part of our future too, is really tapping into what these groups are doing in terms of innovation and pod design.”