The concept of the hyperloop represents one of the greatest new advances in public transportation since the subway line. Able to route fairly substantial numbers of users over a reasonably long distance with incredible speed, the hyperloop may well make a cross-country commute a matter of routine instead of a ludicrous notion. Now, the state of Missouri is getting involved with hyperloop systems, and recently inked a deal with Virgin Hyperloop One to see if it’s worth going forward.
The hypothetical, at this point, Missouri hyperloop would run along the current I-70 highway, and connect the cities of St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City. The current travel time, at last report, between the route’s two endpoints—Columbia is located between the two—is roughly four hours. With a hyperloop in place, that would drop to a meager half-hour. About five million people would suddenly become interconnected, and have a comparatively easy way to access any of the three points.
While the terrain isn’t perfectly flat, it’s said that I-70 itself is already an easy route among the three cities, so setting up a hyperloop should, theoretically, be a simple task. Given that the state is already eager to ramp up Missouri’s transportation capabilities, a hyperloop may be just the ticket.
Of course, one has to consider whether or not linking St. Louis to Kansas City would represent that big of an economic impact to begin with. In objective terms, not so much, but in relative terms, it would likely represent a windfall for the state. Word from MissouriEconomy.org notes that the entire state’s gross domestic product (GDP) was a little over $300 billion. Of that, St. Louis kicked in about half at $159.9 billion and Kansas City threw in $129.2 billion. Between the two cities, that’s $289.1 billion, or almost all of the state’s GDP.
Connecting the two halves of what amounts to the state’s economic engine would certainly encourage further growth; it’s a safe bet that the two are already fairly closely linked economically, and if what might be an eight-hour round trip could suddenly be reduced to just one hour, it stands to reason that further economic growth would follow. Quantifying that growth would be a tall order; after all, how much growth is dependent on face-to-face meetings in an age of videoconferencing, web-based real time communications (WebRTC), and cloud-based collaboration tools?
However, this speculation doesn’t even factor in the potential edge that Columbia would experience being able to travel to one of these two major cities in the space of roughly 15 minutes. This could open up new opportunity for Columbia, having extraordinarily ready access to two clearly substantial markets.
So, while pinning down the exact amount of growth would be the stuff of speculation at best, giving one more advantage to a pair of cities that represent such a large part of the overall economy could be a valuable point. It would almost be a bigger surprise to find that Missouri isn’t planning to go this route.