March 8, 2017
I've worked with the Florida Department of Transportation before, and they're nice people. That being said, their organization isn't successfully transitioning Florida's infrastructure to meet modern needs. This is why I'm particularly interested in watching the continued planning, and now testing, of Elon Musk's Hyperloop transportation system through his company Hyperloop One. With a potential speed of nearly 700 miles per hour and the ability to move large numbers of people between any two hubs, a hyperloop may not be the sole answer that we need to address transportation woes, but it is one component within a larger system that can revolutionize the concept of physical mobility.
In all fairness to the Florida DOT, it is hard to keep up with a population that has doubled from 10 to 20 million individuals in roughly thirty years. Florida is now the third most populous state, directly behind California and Texas as first and second, respectively. Given the large size of both of those states, Florida is by far the most densely populated of the top three states, roughly 50% more dense than California.
Hyperloop One is currently building their first full-scale test track in the Nevada desert.
Back in Florida, our infrastructure and, sadly, politics are still conducted as if we're a deep-south state with good-ol'-boys in charge. This attitude starkly contrasts the reality of Florida as the diverse sub-tropical paradise and playground (and some swampland, admittedly) that it truly is. Unlike California with Silicon Valley and Texas with the supposed Silicon Prairie, Florida doesn't have many high-tech hotspots despite countless initiatives to bring technology, especially biotech, to the I-4 Corridor between Tampa and Orlando and further south to the Treasure Coast area just north of Miami. Personally, it's been a dream of mine to see a high-tech and ecologically neutral "Silicon Ridge" appear at some spot along the southern half of the Lake Wales Ridge between Interstate 4 and the Lake Okeechobee area. I continue to dream. That area remains the poorest and least educated part of peninsular Florida, with only areas in the panhandle and north Florida (both actually in "the south") performing worse.
With a voting population that has been attempting to implement high speed rail in-state for nearly forty years--and with all attempts to date thwarted by the afore mentioned no-good conservative good-ol'-boys--a technology like Elon Musk's Hyperloop would be ideal as a more modern take on high speed rail (err, high speed tube?). With regional hubs such as Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee that construct a great distributed network for testing, almost like a highly skewed spoke-and-wheel, Florida makes for an ideal test location prior to interstate or national service. Tampa to Orlando is a great regionally-sized analog for Washington D.C. to New York City. Miami to Tallahassee? You guess it, a smaller representation of west coast to east coast travel, albeit actually going north-and-south within Florida.
Twenty million people will become twenty-five. That, in turn, will likely become thirty. Not bad for a landmass destined to sink beneath the waves through the impact of human-caused climate change. Yes, the very same climate change that our politicians continue to deny. But, in the mean time, we still need to get from point-A to point-B.
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