Who among us hasn’t said a silent prayer (or uttered a string of expletives) while mired in the daily traffic logjam that is I-35? As Austin continues to grow at an amazing rate, the cars on the state’s major north-south passage continue to add up, with travel times getting longer and longer as a result.
But there’s some relief in sight, as long as you’re the patient type.
A San Antonio-based company has announced it’s in the early stages of research on constructing a hyperloop-type “bullet train,” inspired by designs by entrepreneur Elon Musk, that could transport thousands of people between Austin and San Antonio every hour with a 15 minute trip between the two cities. That shaves around an hour off of the travel time by car and some estimates say that a train of any kind between the two cities would remove 18,000 cars off of I-35 every day.
The bad news is we’re at least a decade away from any actual construction, but officials with Transonic Transport are bullish on their chances of making the project – which would charge around $10 per trip – work without government funding or the need to use imminent domain to secure land.
It’s a tantalizing possibility that would have a lot of ripple effects for both cities and their residents. Let’s consider a few…
1. We’d become a megalopolis faster
Demographic studies already have the combined population of the Austin-San Antonio corridor growing to nearly 6 million people by 2030, and leaders from all communities in between have been talking for years about a single giant airport somewhere in between to serve the whole area. A bullet train makes that idea very feasible, and would allow for redevelopment of the property currently housing Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Commercial and residential growth is already headed southeast in Austin, so in 15-20 years we could have another Mueller-type development ready to go.
2. Everyone would get some added economic mobility
Everybody and their brother wants to live in Austin these days. San Antonio; not as much. But the overabundance of talented digital workers in Austin routinely forces wages down compared to similar jobs in other tech and creative hubs. Easy transport to another major city would open up lots of job opportunities for Austin residents, and suddenly give Austin businesses an additional supply of workers. That creates opportunities on both ends, and could help flatten out some of the wage and culture/creative gaps between the two cities.
3. It would go a long way toward reducing car culture
Once riders of a bullet train emerge from the tube, they’ll need a way to get around. That means making bus and regional train systems more robust to handle demand, and it’ll be a boon to cab and rideshare companies. Which means Austin will have to get its act together when it comes to regulations on Uber and Lyft and ride sharing services in general, but that’s a whole other story.
What do you think about the proposal for a hyperloop-style train in central Texas? Austin voters have rejected new public transport options in recent years, but perhaps they will find this to be a more appealing option? Sound off in the comments below.