With Elon Musk’s announcement of a far more technically sophisticated and purportedly faster and cheaper alternative to California’s High-Speed Rail “Browndoggle”, the city of Anaheim has a blockbuster opportunity to look at how this 21st century technology could positively impact its resort and convention business.
A little out-of-the-box thinking would see the Hyperloop as solving one of Anaheim’s (and Disney’s) oldest transportation issues — the time, cost and inconvenience of moving tourists and conventioneers from the deteriorating LAX Airport. When he was Mayor, Curt Pringle coveted the idea of a fast connection to Ontario Airport from Anaheim (about 35-45 miles dependent on freeway choice) to attract air travelers who knew of the issues and delays with LAX and couldn’t use the OC’s John Wayne Airport. Ontario has all the facilities that JWA lacks: three modern terminals, two 10k+ foot runways to handle heavy, wide-body aircraft, 24-hour access and the desire and ability to attract east coast and international flights (never mind that El Toro could have provided all this, Irvine stole it).
Unfortunately, ONT is in a nasty political battle with the City of Los Angeles that actually owns it and treats it like a red-headed step child. LA World Airports, an LA city department, has been intentionally hobbling ONT for years, preventing its growth to protect its more parochial interests in LAX. Traffic is down; flights have been reduced and those remaining are more costly.
A project like Hyperloop could turn ONT back into a viable portal AND dramatically increase its usage by funneling tourists, Disney guests and conventioneers into Anaheim. As well, Hyperloop would be an attraction of its own — imagine a “horizontal elevator” moving folks and their baggage to the Resort and Convention Center in a few minutes rather than using a shuttle or taxi. These folks are coming — Disney will eventually build a third Park along Katella Ave. and just today, the Register actually did some local reporting on 14 new hotels (3,770 rooms) being built in the Resort area.
Using Anaheim’s ill-conceived $174 million ARTIC train station for something useful, like a terminus for Hyperloop from ONT, would actually, finally, justify its cost and retroactively provide an non-fabricated reason for it having being built. We can be sure that the otherwise useless ARTIC is never going to see Brown’s Bullet Train — just this morning the Register (outside Paywall: D.C. could derail California’s high-speed train) put another nail in its coffin. A viable use for ARTIC would also save some embarrassing questions at City Hall after the turkey is finished.
From the New Yorker, no less, is a sensible discussion of why such an idea needs to be a private affair: Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Is a Political Manifesto, Not Just a Tech Trick. Key paragraph (emphasis ours):
Lost in the debate about the Hyperloop’s feasibility, or lack thereof, is the fact that Musk’s plan — which he’s admitted may never materialize — is not primarily a technical proposal directed at consumers, but a political statement aimed squarely at the Establishment. By proposing a new way to provide mass transportation that is both cheaper and faster than anything approved by state authorities, Musk is taking aim at the government’s monopoly on large public works projects. He’s saying to policymakers in Washington and Sacramento alike: I can do your job better than you.
Government, and government sycophants (and HSR supporters) like the Orange County Business Council, would never consider actually supporting an engineering or tech firm (including their own membership) to plan and finance such an enterprise. The OCTA dinosaurs would dismiss it as a pipe dream, but Anaheim’s Mayor Tom Tait would understand it as he runs a successful engineering company in real life. Ontario Councilman and President of the new Ontario International Airport Authority Alan Wapner would get it. And Disney’s accountants would certainly understand it. Maybe they all know each other.